(July 4th, 1947)
(The Sephtafus - near San Diego, California)
Cuerena carefully prepared the human DNA for combination with the Antarian genetic material. When they had first started their search, they had stumbled on the Dupree man whose DNA she would use for Rath’s clone. Then five years ago they had found a brother and sister with the genetic abnormality, that she would use for Zan and Vilondra’s clones. The final donor had been located yesterday, and now they had all of the samples they needed to begin the cloning.
She carefully mixed the DNA with the Ganderium and injected it into the pods already containing the Antarian genetic material. In just a few hours, with the help of a rapid growth compound, the pods would contain what appeared to be normal human fetuses. The clones would have a human body and physiology but to make them compatible with the Antarian genetic material, their blood would be noticeably different. It would appear red if they were injured but stained and under a microscope, even a casual observer would be able to see the differences.
The scientists on Antar had ensured that the clones would regenerate more quickly than their human counterparts and they would have immunity to all of the planet's diseases. The structure of the human brain had also been slightly altered not only to accommodate the memories of the clones’ past lives but also to be advanced enough to use the powers the originals had possessed.
The clones would emerge from the pods as children and age at human rate until they reached maturity, then their aging would slow to the natural Antarian rate. Their bodies would continue to regenerate lost or damaged cells as human bodies did not and they would have an expanded life of up to 350 Earth years.
The clones would physically resemble their human donors but Cuerena left their coloring up to chance, interested to see if their Antarian genetic material would dominate the human DNA. She had kept image disks of the donors and carefully engraved the images of what she estimated the Royal Four would look like into the book, first as children and then as young adults.
A genetic code was added to trigger their sexual drives, in the tenth year of life after hatching from the pods, in the hopes that Zan would produce an heir. Kaldar, who had been studying the stars around their new home had discovered early in the tenth year, the system's second planet Venus, would move into a position that would make it appear to be aligned with four stars, producing the same 'V' pattern as the royal seal. Cuerena agreed that this coincidence would make a fitting start to the clone’s maturation cycle. As a back up, she programmed the communication orbs to also be activated by the planet Venus coming into alignment and release an additional trigger signal.
Queen Nedra had asked Cuerena confidentially if it would be possible to remove Vilondra's memories of her love for Khivar. Cuerena knew that such things were done with the living but the erased memories were rarely repressed permanently. They almost always resurfaced at some time. But the Queen had insisted she at least try to suppress Vilondra's memories and Cuerena had vowed she would attempt it.
She carefully separated the cells that had been taken from Vilondra's brain, removing those she knew to contain the memories, and with Kaldar's help she tagged a memory suppressant to the cells he felt carried the strongest memories of Vilondra's love for Khivar. Cuerena feared that removing the cells would create a hole in Vilondra's memory, and she was fairly certain at some point Vilondra would regain the memories, but perhaps by then she would be better equipped to deal with them.
Using the memory retrieval devices, the clones should remember most of their past lives. The only exception seemed to be the time near the subject's death. On Antar, Jensto had accomplished the cloning process several times with almost complete success in restoring the subjects' memories but all of the clones lacked the details of the last few hours of their life. Cuerena thought it was a good thing personally. She wouldn't want to remember her own death.
When she had finished implanting the pods with the DNA and Ganderium, Cuerena contacted Sodan in the command center. "The pods are prepared and ready to be transferred to the chamber."
"We will lift off immediately," he responded.
(Onboard the Leptes)
Nicaron waited impatiently for the latest report. They had been in orbit around Earth for over a month with no progress to report. He was afraid that the only chance they had to locate the Royal Four was if their protectors made a mistake.
His attention was drawn to the door as Major Nesta came rushing in. "Sir, we have them."
Sodan navigated the ship into the Earth's upper atmosphere to wait for nightfall to descend over their destination. Even though the human's technology could not detect them, they did not want any witnesses and the darkness would cover their approach.
Kaldar's shout caught his attention. "I am detecting a transport approaching us from quadrant five at rapid speed. It is of Antarian design. Khivar has found us."
Nicaron watched the transport approach them. "Lieutenant Sacor,” he called out, “show them our intentions are deadly. Send a shot across their command center."
Sodan attempted to turn their transport to engage Khivar's troops but they were hit by a blast from the other transport, crippling their propulsion unit. They were still in the grip of Earth’s gravity and immediately the transport started to fall back to the planet, rapidly gathering speed until it reached terminal velocity. Sodan struggled with the controls, attempting to control their descent, and using every bit of strength and his powers, he was finally able to wrest the transport back under minimal control.
Kaldar watched helplessly with a death-grip on the orb he was holding. The ground rushed up to meet them and he braced for impact. At the last moment, the transport leveled off and passed just above the tops of the mountains.
Sodan yelled over his shoulder, "I have the transport under control for the moment and I am attempting to bring us closer to the pod chamber but the propulsion unit is destroyed and I cannot slow our speed enough to land. I will try to angle the transport and slow us using the ground.
But instead of skimming the ground as Sodan had intended, the transport hit the rough sand like it had impacted a brick wall and the hull shattered, spilling debris in a long trench that it etched into the desert floor.
Nicaron slammed his fist against the console next to the Lieutenant. "I told you to shoot across them."
"I am sorry Sir," the Lieutenant tried to defend himself, "but they turned into the shot."
"We need them to lead us to the Royal Four. Sacor," Nicaron bellowed, turning to the navigator, "tell me you were able to track their descent."
Sacor cleared his suddenly dry throat. "Sir we lost them in the atmosphere ionization but I have the trajectory of their descent." He pulled up a map on his monitor. "They should have landed in this vicinity," he said pointing to an area on the map.
Nicaron looked at the label on the map where Sacor indicated. Copper Summit, Arizona. "We will start our search there."
(The desert outside Roswell, NM)
Cuerena stumbled through the rough brush, amazed at the amount of destruction. The transport had been completely destroyed and pieces of it were scattered as far as she could see.
She had no idea how long she had been unconscious but when she had awoken moments ago, she had started the search for the others. The first things she had found were the memory retrieval devices and she could tell with a glance that they would never work again.
As she followed along the top of the trench the transport had carved into the desert floor, she also found the healing stones and the book written in the Royal Code. Neither seemed to be damaged and Cuerena took it as a hopeful sign.
Suddenly, ahead, throught the bushes, she saw the pods containing the Royal Four. She rushed forward but was stopped by the sound of human voices. Dropping to the ground, Cuerena quickly buried the healing stones and the book and she watched as the humans approached the pods.
Sodan carefully rose to his feet and looked around at the remains of the transport. The pods were engineered to survive a crash but the amount of destruction around him made him doubt. He was not even sure how he had survived, but he began to search through the rubble for the pods and the others.
As he stumbled down the trench in the desert floor, he became aware of human voices. Sodan quickly ducked behind some bushes and crept toward the sounds. He spied the pods first and he noticed with relief that they appeared to be intact. Then he saw that the two humans had also discovered them and were apparently discussing what to do with them.
One of the humans picked up a stick and starting poking the pods containing the Royal Four, and at that moment, Cuerena rushed out of the bushes distracting them. Sodan used the opportunity to rush them from the other side. The humans attempted to draw their weapons but Sodan used his powers to throw the weapons aside before they could be used. Sodan grabbed one of the humans roughly and used his powers to heat his internal organs, quickly killing him.
Cuerena grabbed and killed the other human in the same way but not before he had cried out, warning more humans they could now see on the ridge above them.
The humans ran and Sodan knew they had only moments until they were captured or killed.
Kaldar awoke to paralyzing pain that ripped through his body, and for a moment he was disoriented. He was lying face down in the desert sand and then he remembered the crash. He attempted to move his head, but searing pain tore through him once again and he squeezed his eyes shut. He waited for a few moments, hoping the pain would become bearable, before attempting to move again. Carefully, he flexed his hand and realized he was still holding the orb.
Gradually Kaldar was able to sit and he looked around, but what he saw squeezed his heart and brought tears to his eyes. Debris was strewn along a trench in the desert as far as he could see. He knew the pods were designed to be tough, but could they possibly have survived an impact of this degree?
Suddenly he could hear shouts coming from the other side of the ridge, and pulled himself painfully to his feet. He lurched to the bushes for cover and watched as armed humans started to search the area. Silently, he moved away from them, but something was terribly wrong with him, his pain was too great.
In his current condition Kaldar knew he didn’t stand a chance against so many humans. The only chance he had to save the pods was to heal himself. He recoginzed that he was a couple of miles from the pod chamber, where he thought the healing stones were, and he used several bursts of super speed to quickly travel the short distance.
He noticed the new radio tower immediately and a brief thought went through his head that the humans must have built it while they had been looking for human DNA donors. But suddenly a blinding pain started in his head again and he collapsed to the ground at base of the metal tower, unable to go any farther. Kaldar could literally feel his lifeforce draining out of him and knew he would soon die, but he had to hide the orb so it would not fall into human hands. He just hoped the others survived to save the pods.
He could hear the humans coming closer as he dug a hole with his bare hands, and dropping the orb inside, he covered it, wishing he could crawl in the hole with it. From their years of living on Earth, he knew how paranoid the humans were about invasion and he had no doubt the humans would kill them if they were captured. But he knew he didn't have the strength to get away and hide, so he simply used his remaining energy to disguise the place where he had buried the orb, and then fell to the ground.
Cuerena turned to Sodan, "We must protect the pods."
Sodan looked around quickly, trying to get his bearings, "We are too far away from the chamber, perhaps two miles, but maybe we can disguise the pods, hide them here."
Cuerena looked around them and nodded. "We can use the rocks to shield the pods until we can get rid of these humans."
"Yes that will have to do," Sodan agreed.
They worked as quickly as possible, but the humans returned with reinforcements before they could finish hiding the pods, and the humans surrounded them with weapons drawn. Sodan and Cuerena looked at each other and knew they had failed. They could never hope to triumph against so many.
The circle tightened around them and humans came forward with raised clubs.
Cuerena awoke suddenly to find herself in the back of a truck. Painfully, she turned her head and saw an unconscious Sodan beside her. A movement nearby drew her eyes to another truck just as several soldiers loaded the two sets of pods into it and covered them with tarps. Two humans climbed into the cab of the truck and she studied them, quickly memorizing their faces. And as she helplessly watched the truck drive away, she slipped back into unconsciousness.
When Cuerena awoke again, it was full dark and she and Sodan were still in the back of the truck. But this time the truck was traveling and they were covered with a heavy tarp and surrounded by soldiers. She focused on Sodan and he nodded slowly, so as not to attract the attention of the humans, letting her know he was okay. Cuerena carefully reached for his hand and instantly connected with him so he could see what she did.
She used her powers to connect with the human she had seen driving the truck that carried the pods. It took only a moment and then she could and see through his eyes. Only one other human was in the truck and they were traveling through the desert. Cuerena focused her powers, attempting to disable the truck, but she was exhaused and injured from the crash and the beating, and was only able to dampen the engine’s power and slow the truck.
She carefully spun an illusion and sent it into both human's minds, showing them an image of Sodan in the road in front of them. The humans stopped the truck, believing they had struck the being and got out to find him. Cuerena watched through their eyes as they searched the area and then finally looked into the back of the truck at the pods. She had to get the humans away from the pods and then she and Sodan could concentrate on escaping to retrieve them.
Cuerena started to build her powers to send a fearful illusion to the humans with the pods, hoping to scare them away, when one of the human soldiers in the truck beside her, spoke.
"I am sure glad we’re almost back to the base. I don't know what is going on and I don't want to. But I’ll tell you one thing, we’ll all be safer when these things and those glowing sacs in the other truck are under lock and key back at the base."
Cuerena let the energy she was building disapate, understanding that they were being taken to the same place as the pods. She turned to Sodan, releasing his hand and carefully nodded to him.
When they arrived at their destination, Cuerena and Sodan were carelessly tossed into a cell and she watched as Kaldar and Letras' seemingly lifeless bodies were taken through a set of doors at the end of the corridor. And after a few minutes the pods were taken through the same doors.
Sodan turned to Cuerena, "Kaldar and Letras are here too. So we just need to liberate ourselves, get them and the pods and continue with the mission."
"Yes but there are obstacles," she replied, motioning to the guards. "Those weapons will not kill us but if there is no one to use the healing stones to bring us back, it could take weeks to heal ourselves."
Sodan nodded his agreement. "We will have to wait for an opportunity."
(Eagle Rock Military Base)
"Nurse White, rib-spreader," Doctor Wayne said distractedly. He had been told what he would be autopsying but the briefing had not prepared him for the reality. The being lying on the examination table was approximately four feet tall with gray skin and large black eyes. But the outside was relatively normal compared with what he had discovered inside. There were organs, if they could be called organs, some similar to the anatomy of humans, others that he could only guess at their purpose, and the skeletal structure was like nothing he had ever seen.
He noticed that the nurse was staying as far away as she possibly could from the being on the table. "Circular saw, please." He cut into the skull and lifted off the cap to examine the brain. It was similar in appearance and size to a human brain but the area comparable to the cerebellum, which coordinates muscular movements in humans, was much larger.
Doctor Wayne took samples of the organs and brain and preserved them for testing. Then he looked at the clock. It was approaching midnight. They covered the corpse and put it in storage with the other being recovered from the wreckage. The second autopsy could wait; the more pressing matter was the two glowing sacs that sat on a table in the corner.
(July 9th, 1947)
"Colonel Cassidy, with all due respect," Doctor Wayne said somewhat sarcastically, as he glanced at the silent man who sat beside the Colonel and Captain Cavitt. "We don't know what we have here. Cutting into those sacs could kill the things that are inside."
"Doctor, we don't know if the things inside are alive," Cassidy pointed out.
Wayne argued, "From all appearances..."
"Doctor," Cassidy interrupted, "you have been studying those things for two days and the best you can do is tell us that you think they are alive. There are two sets of sacs, cut one up and then you can observe the other."
"But the fetuses inside appear to be human," objected Dr. Wayne, "what if..."
"What if you are killing human children?" asked Cavitt sarcastically. "Don't make me laugh. Even if those things were human at one point they stopped being human when those creatures got a hold of them."
Colonel Cassidy watched the doctor leave the room, and as the door closed behind him the man at his side spoke for the first time. "You know that our orders are to learn what we can from the autopsies and the sacs and then destroy any evidence."
"Yes," Cassidy agreed, "but Doc Wayne is the best and he will cooperate as long as he thinks it is in the best interest of science."
"What do you think those things in the sacs are?"
"I am not one for idle speculation Agent Lewis but..." Colonel Cassidy lowered his voice and glanced at Cavitt before he spoke, "it looks to me as if this is the first phase of an invasion army."
"Why do you think that?" Lewis asked.
Cassidy shrugged, "What other possible reason could the aliens have to make beings resembling humans? It would be the perfect cover, they could blend in and overtake us from the inside."
Dr. Wayne entered the autopsy room and approached his waiting assistant, Don Harris. "We have been ordered to start a more invasive examination on the sacs."
"But the fetuses, we could kill them," Don said.
Dr. Wayne sighed. "The Colonel, in his wisdom, has pointed out that there are two sets and we can sacrifice one set for scientific advancement."
"We could refuse," Don pointed out.
Dr. Wayne shook his head, "They would just get someone else who would do it."
Don agreed sadly, "You're right."
Dr. Wayne motioned to the nearer set of sacs. "Let's start with an analysis of the fluid inside."
Sodan and Cuerena made their way quickly down the corridor to the doors marked Authorized Personnel Only, through which they had seen their comrades and the pods taken, two days ago. That afternoon the number of soldiers guarding them had lessened to two, and Cuerena used the opportunity to lull their captors into a trance of sorts, and she and Sodan had easily escaped from their prison.
Beyond the doors was a maze of corridors and doors leading into still more rooms and they checked each as quickly as possible, encountering no one.
Finally they found the room that held the pods. Two men were bent over the pods containing the Royal Four with knives, and Sodan burst through the door and immediately attacked. He killed one man easily, taking him by surprise, while he used his powers to hold the other man in place, preventing his escape.
"Please," Dr. Wayne begged, glancing at the pods. "We didn't mean any harm, and the others," he motioned to the drawers on the other side of the room, "were already dead."
But Sodan was beyond caring, and with a glowing hand, he quickly ended the human's life.
Cuerena approached the pods with a growing horror. "They have cut into the pods containing the Royal Four and extracted some of the fluid."
Sodan was immediately at her side, as she examined the damage to the pods, a concerned tone in his voice, "Are the clones damaged?"
Cuerena released a relieved breath. "They are intact and the damage to the pods is minimal. I can repair them."
As Cuerena worked on the pods, Sodan walked behind the screens and opened the drawers the human had indicated. He called out to her, "Kaldar and Letras are here but they have cut Kaldar open. Do you think we can heal him?"
Cuerena rushed to his side. She turned on a nearby lamp and shined it down on Kaldar, examining the damage to his body. "I don't know. If we had a healer maybe, but with only the healing stones I just don't know."
Sodan moved closer and silenced her with a gesture. He motioned toward the door and then she heard the sounds too, someone had entered the room. Sodan moved stealthily behind the cloth screen and she followed him closely, ready to attack. Sodan looked around the divider and saw only a single human. He stepped from behind the barrier as he quickly built up his power, causing his whole body to glow. His hand was outstretched, ready to defend his King and then saw the human's surprise at what the pods contained.
Hal Carver turned and saw the two glowing beings with outstretched hands and quickly ducked behind the pods, fearful for his life. The being in front withheld his fire and Hal realized the small being was afraid of endangering the pods with a misplaced shot. And the realization dawned that they were just protecting their own.
"Save them," he said and slowly backed out of the room.
Sodan changed his appearance to match that of the doctor and maneuvered a truck to the outside wall of the room where the pods were housed, using his powers to create an opening in the wall. He and Cuerena quickly loaded the pods, and Kaldar and Letras' bodies into the truck, and they drove out the front gate without any trouble.
They stopped in the desert near the crash site to retrieve the book and the healing stones where Cuerena had buried them. When they reached the pod chamber, they used the stones to renew Letras and Kaldar. Letras was immediately active but Kaldar seemed disoriented and they left him in the pod chamber while they installed the pods containing the Royal Four.
Cuerena had used her powers at the military base to seal the breaches in the three pods and noted that the humans had left only left Ava's pod intact. The pods were designed to compensate for unforeseen circumstances and she felt confident the minimal loss of fluid would have no adverse consequences on the clone's development.
She, Sodan and Letras changed the appearance of the army truck into a civilian one and loaded the pods containing the duplicates aboard. Kaldar had been assigned to be the protector of the duplicates but since he was injured and possibly permanently damaged, Cuerena offered to take Kaldar's place with the decoys. It had been decided that the decoys would be taken as far as possible away from the real Royal Four and the place they had chosen was New York. Cuerena would stay with the decoys until they had reached maturity and then she would return to the pod chamber on the appointed day, to rendezvous with the others.
There would be no contact between the groups, except under dire circumstances, to avoid leading their enemies to the Royal Four. Two of the three communication orbs had been on the ship when it crashed. Kaldar had buried one but he couldn’t remember where, and the other orb was missing. It was decided Cuerena would take the orb that had been left in the pod chamber with her, and Sodan and the others would try to retrieve the one that was buried, and search for the third.
Cuerena argued that they might have greater need of the orb than she, but in the end they convinced her to take it, confident that they would recover at least one of the others. Sodan, Kaldar and Letras took their leave and Cuerena drove the vehicle onto the highway and headed north.
Agent Lewis rolled the cool, metallic orb in his hands as he walked toward the lab where the alien sacs were being examined. After a good deal of thought he had to agree with Colonel Cassidy. What other reason would aliens have for impersonating humans except to take-over the planet?
He pushed open the door leading to the containment cell and stopped just inside the room. The door to the cell was ajar and the aliens were gone. He ran to one of the guards, who was still standing at his post. The man was alive but he seemed to be unaware of his surroundings.
Lewis shook him. "Corporal. Corporal, wake up," and when he received no response he struck the soldier across the face.
The man blinked and looked around as if disoriented.
Lewis shook him again, "Corporal, what happened to the beings in that cell?”
The soldier's gaze swung to the empty cell and Lewis saw the surprise that crossed his features. "Sir, I am not sure," he responded in a frightened tone.
"Sound the alarm," Lewis instructed the Corporal, as he crossed to the doors at the other end of the corridor. He quickly ran down the hall to the lab, and just as he had expected, the alien bodies and sacs were gone. He turned to examine the doctor and his assistant on the floor. Silver handprints were seared into their chests just the same as the other victims.
Captain Cavitt burst into the room. "How the hell did they get out of here?"
Lewis shook his head, "I don't know but I have a feeling that I know exactly where they are heading."
Sodan and the others knew that at any moment the humans could discover their escape and return to the site. They quickly searched the entire length of the trench that their crashed ship had cut into the sand, hoping to find the orb and salvage some of their equipment, but they were disappointed to discover that the only sign of the crash was the disturbed earth. The humans had taken everything.
Kaldar suddenly remembered where he had burried the orb and led them back to toward the pod chamber. He ran ahead, reaching the top of a ridge before the others and waited for them on the other side.
But suddenly the air was alive with noises. Several trucks filled with human soldiers drove into sight and Kaldar watched helplessly as Sodan and Letras were taken once again.
Agent Lewis listened intently to the voice of his superior on the phone.
"These beings have hidden the sacs containing the fetuses and we can only conclude they are a threat to national security. Agent Lewis, since you have been in on this from the beginning, I am authorizing you to form a special unit of the FBI that will deal solely with the study and interrogation of these beings and the retrieval of those sacs or whatever it is that comes out of them. This information is on a need to know basis only. Handpick your men and report only to me. You will transfer the beings immediately to your new base of operation, a facility near you that will be completely at your disposal; Eagle Rock Military Base."
END OF BOOK 1 - SALVATION'S CRUCIBLE (EARTH - THE CRASH)
In BOOK 2
BOOK 1 - SALVATION'S CRUCIBLE |
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Book 1 Timeline
BOOK 2 - THE SCOURGE OF HOPE
Alpha & Omega|
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