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Pirates Round Robin

Chapter 6 - Seldric Four

By Tanina Varagona

He reached the lab in record time. Panting, he opened the door. "Mel, I think you better..."

Then he looked into the lab.

Chris screamed.

Mel's body was sprawled across the floor; her skin deathly pale. In the corner of the lab, the crystal lay where it had always been, nothing strange or unusual about it.

With a sick feeling in his stomach, Chris rushed over and knelt beside Mel's prone form. Grabbing her wrist, he frantically checked for a pulse and for a few agonizing moments he felt nothing. Finally, he detected steady, but slow thumps as Mel's eyes cracked open.

"Thank God for that, I thought for a moment that you were dead," Chris said with a sigh of relief.

With a slight groan, Mel struggled into sitting position. She looked at Chris in confusion. "W-what happened to me?" she asked groggily.

"You mean, you don't remember?"

Thinking hard, Mel replied, "The last thing that I recall was seeing Glitz's face on the monitor while I was running some tests on that crystal. Then I heard this high pitched noise and there was a blinding flash, after that...nothing."

"It's a miracle that you escaped unharmed. I mean, after what happened to Thella..."

"Yes, but escaped what? What happened to me and why?" Mel interrupted. Chris had no reply to this so he just shrugged. Then his gaze fell upon the crystal and a sudden thought struck him. "Do you think she could have been protecting herself?" he asked but stopped when he realized that Mel was staring at him.

"She?"

Blushing slightly, Chris decided to change the subject. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, a little dizzy though." Mel rested her forehead in her palm. "And that's the second time that I've been knocked out today," she mumbled.

A voice came over the radio. "Everything all right in there?" asked Rakaar.

"Just another mishap with the crystal," replied Mel, allowing Chris to help her into standing position. "What's the problem?"

"Sabalom Glitz and his patriots."

The confusion on Mel's face was plain to see. "Patriots?"

Chris glanced at her and frowned. "What, you didn't see them? Wasn't the monitor on when you were running those tests?"

"Yes, but..."

Rakaar politely interrupted. "Um, I think you two should come to the main deck immediately, it's rather urgent."

"Ah, hello Mel." Glitz's voice greeted her as she stepped on deck. She glared at him while he continued. "Unharmed, I see. Consider yourself very fortunate. That other girl wasn't quite so lucky, was she?"

"But how could you possibly know about..." Chris started, but his voice faded out as Mel glared fiercely at the monitor.

"You knew that would happen!" she accused.

Glitz gave the crew a certain glance that Mel wasn't sure she liked the looks of. "I warned you guys not to mess with that crystal. It's got powers you can't even begin to understand or control. If you had just given it to me in the first place you would have saved yourselves a lot of trouble."

"And what about these "patriots" of yours, Glitz?" Mel asked.

Glitz nodded in satisfaction at the expressions of terror shared by nearly all of the crew. The sight of Glitz's allies wasn't something that they wanted to be reminded of.

"I was wondering when you where going to bring that up," Glitz said with a grin. The monitor switched angles and Mel got her first glimpse of Glitz's allies.

Mel gasped in horror and turned to Chris. "We're in big trouble!"

Before Chris could reply, the monitor suddenly fizzed and went blank. Mel dashed to one of the computer terminals to check for damages then swung around to face the crew. "Who cut communication?"

"We no stop chit-chat, they did! Is their fault!" Grinker shouted, indicating the monitor. The parrot analogue on his shoulder seemed to flap its wings in agreement.

Mel frowned. "But why in the world would they..." But her sentence was soon cut off when Krimda jumped up and pointed frantically at the screen. "Look! Look! Is going bye-bye!"

Mel turned back to the monitor. The screen had blinked back on, once more showing what was going on outside the Nosferatu II. The other ship was moving out into space, away from them.

"They're undocking!" Chris realized in disbelief. "But why the heck would they want to do that?"

"What are you doing!"

Glitz spun around and turned angrily to the figure next to him. "We were so close. All we had to do was threaten them a bit and they would have handed the crystal right over. Now you're just going to let them..." He stopped as a claw-like hand gripped his throat.

"You are not in the position to give orders, Sabalom Glitz," the figure hissed. "Since your method does not seem to be working, we would have to impose ours."

"Just give me one more chance, please!" Glitz managed to choke out. "I won't fail you, I promise."

"You have already failed us, Sabalom, a long time ago. Death is all you deserve." The figure prepared to give Glitz's throat the terminal squeeze but then had a better solution. "On second thought, maybe I will let you live a little longer. You might prove to be a different use to us." The grip on Glitz's neck loosened and he fell sprawling to the ground.

"Perfect! Now's our chance."

Tearing his gaze away from the monitor, Chris rushed to one of the computer terminals. Mel regarded him suspiciously. "Our chance to do what?"

"Get as far away from here as possible," he answered, reaching for the controls. Mel grabbed his arm gently.

"Chris, I understand how you feel, but I don't think that running from our problems is going to do any good."

"Well, from what I see I think it'll do plenty of good. Mel, you saw what those creatures looked like. They were hideous!"

"But is that any reason to just back out?" Mel argued. "I agree, we're in a difficult position here, but we can't quit now. So many weird things have happened during the past few days, so many questions still remain unanswered."

"But, Mel, if you only understood the danger that we're in..." Chris sighed and gave up on the argument. "Look, I don't know about you, but I'm going to get the Nosferatu II out of here." He tried to pull away from her grip but Mel still held his arm tightly. She looked at him, a very serious expression on her face.

"You're hiding something from me, Chris. Something about Glitz's new allies."

Chris said nothing and tried to pull away from her a second time but Mel wouldn't let him go. She looked him directly in the eyes.

"You recognized them, didn't you? You know what we're up against." Her voice had hardened and Mel realized how harsh she was being. She relaxed her grip on Chris's arm and softened her tones. "Please, Chris, tell me..."

Chris didn't say a word.

Not far away was a small planet called Seldric Four. Known to most in the galaxy as the World of Darkness, a planet of sudden death. Every survey team and scientist that have visited the planet have never returned and still no one knows why.

Lurking on the surface of the planet, It stood still and silent, waiting for Its rapidly approaching victims.

Waiting...

"Why pretend-move Mel hominid sit and do nothing?" asked Krimda curiously. Mel jumped at the sound of the voice. She hadn't heard the Sloathe approach.

"What is there to do, but wait?" Mel replied with a sigh. She nodded to the monitor that showed their opponents' ship, now silent once more. "While they're inactive there is nothing we can do at the moment."

"Pretend-move Chris hominid want to leave."

"I know," said Mel, she stole a glance at Chris who was seated at one of the computer terminals, quietly ignoring their conversation. Ever since she had last spoken to him, he had been avoiding her, taking orders without saying a word. "But we can't just back away and leave this whole mess without sorting it out," she continued. "We still don't know what that crystal is and what elements it's composed of. And I don't think I want to try running those tests crystal again."

"Pretend-move Thella hominid get very hurt when look at crystal. But pretend-move Mel hominid only get knock out very cold. Why?" asked Krimda.

"I'm not sure. Nothing having to with that crystal seems to make any sense and strangely, I can't seem to remember much that happened in the few minutes before I got knocked unconscious."

"All hope gone?"

Mel shook her head. "No, I wouldn't say that. There's still a chance that we might get one up on our enemies, but we just have to wait until we have that opportunity."

On the other side of the flight deck, Chris looked up from the computer terminal and glanced at Mel and Krimda. They seemed to have finished their conversation and were engaged in other tasks. He leaned back in his chair and pulled the crystal out of his pocket.

"Why do you insist on causing us so much trouble, eh?" The crystal hummed quietly in reply. Chris sighed.

Glitz sat in the corner of the ship's control room, rubbing his neck. The figure stared at the monitor and continued to ignore him.

Another creature entered the room and the figure turned to the new arrival. "Well," it asked impatiently, "What's the report?"

"The crew of the Nosferatu II seem extremely confused. They still can't make out what we're planning. We're no closer to acquiring the crystal than we were an hour ago, no thanks to this useless being," the other creature sneered, indicating Glitz.

There was an unexpected beep from one of the consoles. The figure went to check on it and turned back. "There is a small planet not far from here. If we can force them down onto the surface of that planet, we may have a better chance of getting the crystal."

"Perhaps," agreed the other. It checked the data banks. "Our sources identify the planet as Seldric Four. As far as I know, there seems to be no inhabitants."

Glitz's eyes widened. "Seldric Four? Now, wait a minute, I really don't think that this is such a good idea..."

"Shut up," the figured barked coldly, kicking him in the ribs. It turned and once more glanced at the screen. "Go ahead and fire. Don't try to harm them, just make it look convincing."

"They're attacking us!" Chris shouted. Everyone on the flight deck turned to look at the monitor. Energy beams started shooting out of their opponents' ship and sped past, narrowly missing them. Chris turned on Mel angrily.

"Now do you understand the dangers of staying here? We could get killed!"

Mel sighed. "All right, I'm sorry." She turned to the rest of the crew. "Okay, let's get out of here while we still can."

No one was in a hurry to argue.

"They're heading in the direction of Seldric Four."

The figure didn't even look up. "That's perfect, we have them exactly where we want them now. Follow and continue to fire, but don't hit them."

The other figure nodded and turned its attention back to the screen.

"Approaching unidentified planet," announced a Pakhar.

"Seldric Four," said Chris thoughtfully, recognizing the small planet from pictures he had seen in books written about this section of the galaxy. Mel glanced at him; he still hadn't revealed what he knew about Glitz's allies and it intimidated her to find that he had yet another piece of information of which he was aware of and she wasn't.

"Should we land?" she asked.

Chris shook his head. "Not if you know what's good for you. Seldric Four has been classified as a very dangerous planet. No one that has landed there has ever returned, though instruments say that the planet is uninhabited."

"Then what should we do?"

Chris shrugged. Well, Mel thought, at least he wasn't avoiding her anymore. "I don't know, but..."

Suddenly, the Nosferatu lurched violently. The lights in the room dimmed and the computers let out many beeps of warning. Seldric Four seemed to speed towards them on the screen.

Mel panicked. "What's happening! Is the crystal...?"

"No, it's not the crystal this time. It's some external force and it's dragging us towards the planet!"

"An external force?" echoed Rakaar. "But from where?"

Mel checked the computers. "Well, according to the instruments, it's coming from the surface of Seldric Four!"

"But I thought that Seldric Four was uninhabited?"

Chris winced. "Well, it's supposed to be!"

Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.

Chuckling at the thought, It continued to drawn Its victims towards Seldric Four. A few more minutes and they will be at Its mercy.

It shouldn't be long now...

Sirens were gong off all around the Nosferatu II. The crew was in panic, trying desperately to avoid a collision. During all of this, the planet of Seldric Four was still speeding closer to them.

"Stop! Stop!" screamed Lathra.

"We can't!" Mel shouted, pressing every button in sight, anything that will brake the Nosferatu II free of the unseen magnet drawing them further into the planet's atmosphere. "We're going to crash!"

Seldric Four sped closer and suddenly filled up the screen.

Mel screamed and everything blacked out.

Part 7

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