Chapter 4

Atuka, the self proclaimed leader of the Krist, was scanning the massive chamber hall looking for his next victim. He liked to cull the ranks from time to time, pulling out anyone that he felt might oppose him or manipulate one of the other soldiers to assassinate him in order to gain his position.

His favorite method was to hold a kneeling session. He would bring everyone into the chamber, demand that they all kneel before his might then scan the room for the first one to look up. Sometimes this would take hours. Today however, was a good day, it didn’t take long at all.

Toward the back of the room he noticed a male specimen about his size covered in tattoos of the Atrilla clan. They were one of the southern border clans and had recently been responsible for inciting riots in the core of the planet. Atuka thought this may be a good opportunity to kill two things with one sword, squash these rebels spirit and continue to prove he is worthy of leadership.

“YOU!” Atuka stood and pointed to the specimen. No one else dared look up, the room was silent except for the sounds of the soldiers running to grab Atuka’s current victim. The man sat in the back on his knees and patiently waited. The soldiers, doing their part grabbed him under his arms and drug him to the front where the crowd was already dispersing to form a ring. As the soldiers entered the ring they threw the man face down and began kicking him violently. With a raise of Atuks’s hand the soldiers stopped.

“What name young one” Atuka said. He started twirling his sword and pacing in a circle. sizing up his opponent. He was known for toying with his prey before he killed them. “I say, what name!”, he demanded. Pushing the man to the ground as soon as he got to his knees.

“I Torlak of the Atrilla” the man said. Atuka continued to stare and pace. Waiting for the man to make a move. Atuka stopped and stood behind Torlak and set the point of his sword on the ground. “Stand, be judged” Atuka said. Torlak had been planning this, waiting for this moment. His tribe had been preparing him for this battle for cycles, the deep scars on his body were proof of his readiness. Atuka knew this, he was ready for it as well. Torlak stood and turned to face his opponent. Torlak rolled his neck and pressed his hands together and pushed them forward. There was a loud pop sound as Torlak pushed his hands out. As if he had broken his own arms. When he let go he let out a scream that pierced the silence, Torlaks arms started to bulge and then split into two more arms. His legs, torso and chest all doubled in size and his head spawned a second set of eyes set a little farther apart and above his already existing eyes. Torlak stood and stretched his newly formed body out to show the crowd that he towered over his opponent. As the crowd backed and made more room, Atuka never moved. With a swing that cracked the air Torlak grabbed for Atuka but he was too quick. Atuka made a series of maneuvers that put him behind the creature, with his sword at the ready he was circling and looking for a week spot, somewhere to drive his sword. The longer it took to bring this giant down, the more his people would see him as weak and the more people would challenge his station. Atuka lept into the air with his sword swung back and ready to plunge it between two ribs, right about where Torlaks heart would be. When the sword hit the creature’s side it broke in half, causing Atuka to fall on his back and slide to a stop just under Torlak. The crowd gasped, “Deceiver!” Atuka shouted, scrambling to gain his footing, but it was too late. Torlak brought his foot down trapping his opponent. Atuka was facing up and couldn’t move, the only part of his body you could see was his head and shoulders, the rest was trapped under the creature’s massive foot. Atuka was screaming incoherently, squirming as he tried to set himself free. Torlak rolled one of his massive fingers out and the crowd watched as the nail at the end grew to a lethal point.

Atuka knew his time of reign was now up. This massive beast was going to end it. As he was clearing his thoughts and preparing for the final blow he noticed the crowd part and his second in command Za-At walk calmly out to the field. He laid his hand on the leg of Torlak and smiled. “You finished, I rule now” Za-At said. With one snap of Za-At’s finger Torlak swung his massive arm and severed Atuka’s head, letting it roll out to the floor where everyone could see.

Za-At slowly walked over to the throne and sat down, as he placed himself on the throne he rubbed the arms and looked around at his new station. Torlak walked over and stood next to him and let out a grunt as he took his place at Za-At’s side as his new royal guard. “A new order is at hand, We will Rebuild, We will grow and we will conquer!” Za-At said holding his hand high. The crowd erupted in cheer and started clapping, shouting and grunting. The slaves that were standing to the sides watching were motionless. They knew that this would not change their situation. In fact, it meant that there would now be new rounds of experimentation to be done. Za-At was not the strongest of the Krist but he was one of the smartest. The genetic process that took hold of their race did not fully take with him. Leaving him with his intelligence still mostly intact. That is as long as he could keep his rage under control.

Before the change, Za-At was also a master of Tra-dok. An ancient form of meditation that some in their race believed could bring them to a state of mental clarity and enlightenment. Only a handful of their race still practiced this and it was usually handed down from generation to generation. Za-At had been known as one of the foremost masters on the subject and was often sought out by other masters and young beginners that wanted to learn of the ancient ways of knowledge and wisdom. Some of the slaves believed that it was this form of meditation that allowed Za-At to keep the aggression at bay and allowed the intellectual side of himself to stay in control.

“Torlak, take 4 of your most trusted clan members and round up all of Atulla’s guards. I want them before me by the third rotation” Za-At said and waved his hand in dismissal. Torlak walked off and motioned to a few of his men standing to the side of the throne.

The crowd had all but disappeared and the slaves were still in their pens at the sides of the room. Za-At stood and slowly walked to the center where all of the slaves could see him.

“Here it comes” one of the slaves said. Za-At snapped a glare in the direction of the noise then stopped and smiled. “I have grand plans for all of you. I have been experimenting, as you see” Za-At motioned in the direction that Torlak had just walked out. “I have been trying to perfect a new breed of soldier. I learned unfortunately that I can not do much with my race and the genetic mutation that has plagued us is also keeping us from further correcting or perfecting our genetic make-up. Instead I had to turn to…you”. He waved his hand in a sweeping arch, over exaggerating his movements so that all of the slaves could see that he was clearly pointing at them. Murmurs and groans came from the cages and Za-At continued to smile and look over his new stock of test subjects. “Locked in your DNA is the key to the perfect soldier. The key to extending the reign of our great race. No more will we need to put our own people’s lives at risk in our journey to cleanse the universe.” He stopped and bowed his head. He had felt the rage building in him and he needed to focus to regain control of himself. He believed that he was the savior of their race but needed to ensure that he could control the rage that plagued them all in order to make his dream come true. Once he regained his composure he looked back over the slaves. “I have wonderful things in mind for you all.” Za-At finally said. After one final look and another big smile he finally turned and walked out of the room. Leaving nothing but the slaves and a handful of guards behind.

One of the slaves, a humanoid from the planet Brasta took a moment and looked around at the others in the pin with him. He was one of the older men in the stock and had lived this long by adapting. “Take head men, their experiments are gruesome. But none have managed to do anything but kill us. In my opinion, death is a blessing compared to a life of this” he motioned to dirt and squalor that they were all forced to live in. “Why are you still here old man” a young Tribarian shouted out. He was sitting in the corner because he was too tall to fit in the cage if he stood. Tribarians were generally about 10 feet tall and looked almost like a Giraffe, they had a third eye that they kept closed at all times. Except when they were in battle. The third eye allowed them to perceptively slow down all of the movements around them. Keeping it open for too long though caused wild disorientation and would eventually cause them to seizure. Young Tribarians wear a patch over their third eye until they learn to control it. Just by looking at this one, he was still learning to control his third eye as he sat in his corner and swayed slightly. “I have chosen to stay alive so that I can warn others that come. Teach them that death is the only option. As soon as someone else takes the charge, I will gladly leave this realm and pass to the next to be with my family”, The old man bowed his head and then sat in silence. The rest of the cage spoke silently, some of the newer ones making plans of escape while others sat and prayed or just took advantage of the down time and slept. Either way, none of them had any idea what was in store for them and whether they showed it or not, all of them were terrified of what came next.

Two guards came from the entry and walked to the first set of cages. The other slaves all hushed and watched. The guards opened the pen and pulled out a Traguarian, a humanoid being but with a thick skin, almost impenetrable.

The war with the Targuarians had been devastating to the Krist Ranks, the Targuarian planet was a jungle environment with a heavy gravity. The Targuarians were primitive but had developed high powered organic weaponry, and their warriors went through a ritual that gave them organic camouflage skills which made them hard to locate in the dense jungle. The Krist were not accustomed to the high gravity so they were slower than their foes. They were also not accustomed to fighting beings that could blend into any environment and had hide that could take an energy blast and not hurt the victim. However, it was these traits that the Krist wanted. After several years of conflict and heavy losses to the Krist ranks, they chose aerial bombardment instead of ground attacks. Within weeks only a handful or Targuarians were left and the planet was turned into a radioactive wasteland. Since the planet was so devastated the Krist could not reap any rewards from it. As they left the system they launched a star bomb. Setting the sun to supernova, destroying the entire solar system and ensuring that no civilization will ever rise there again.

Since the Targuarian was not used to the light gravity and thin air of the ship, he was very lethargic and was no threat to the guards. They drug him by has arms out of the pin and through the opening, we were sure never to be seen again.

After a while the lights in the grand hall dimmed signaling the end of a rotation and a break from the madness. It was time for all to rest and regain what little strength they could. For many, it would be the last time they would get any peace before death. For the rest, it would be years of pain and torture before they were broken and then discarded like trash.