"Come on, Janet, give me back my book!" exclaimed Peter.
"Come and get it," was the lively response from his blue-eyed sister.
A cool, gentle breeze swept across the small clearing where Peter and Janet had enjoyed a picnic lunch under Axin's hot sun. Peter was now laying on the grass looking up at his sister who held out his book with a teasing gleam in her eyes. Peter closed his eyes and pretended to relax.
"What are you doing with the Book of El anyway?" Janet asked, disappointment showing in her voice. "You're not an Eler."
"I know, but the book has a lot of interesting things to say, besides it's small enough to carry with me."
Janet tossed the book at him, "Get out the Flying Disc."
Picking the book off his chest Peter commented, "I've just eaten enough to fill a Centaur and you want me to go hoping all over the place playing catch? Have a heart."
"You're only a year younger than I am so quit acting like you're fifty. Get the disc and play like a seventeen year-old should and I'll whip you."
"That'll be the day!" laughed Peter jumping up. He slid the Book of El into his back pocket. "Get ready for the fastest game you've ever played."
After fifteen minutes of running to and fro they collapsed on the soft ground. In a few minutes their laughter died down and they lay panting and soaking up the sun.
Soon faint voices reached their ears. As the voices grew steadily closer they realized the people were on a path which would take them right through the clearing. Although they didn't like the idea of having their picnic disturbed they paid no attention to the voices.
Suddenly they caught part of the conversation and it drove terror into their hearts. "This must be the biggest thing the U.R.'s have done in a long time." is all they heard...but it was enough. The U.R.'s - which stood for United Raiders - were the largest criminal organization in the known universe, the vicious pirates infesting the El Empire, and they would not hesitate to kill anyone who might happen to be in their way.
Scrambling up Peter yanked Janet to her feet and together they raced for the cover of the trees. They were too late. A group of six men walked into the clearing. Two of them were carrying an unconscious man. They instantly spotted Peter and Janet. "Grab those kids! Smith may have a use for them later, if not we can always use them to show the Captain we mean business."
Two stun beams shot out from the U.R.'s gang and struck Peter and Janet. They tumbled head first to the ground unconscious.
It was hours later before they began to stir. Janet was the first one to open her eyes. They were in a white cell with three white walls, at least, they was supposed to be white, but the three walls were so dirty they seemed black and brown. The fourth wall was an invisible force field.
Peter sat up with a slight headache and began softly rubbing a bump on his head. It must have happened when he hit the ground. The first thing he noticed was a man sitting in the far corner watching them. The man was about forty. The top of his head was bald but brown hair, with a few traces of gray, semi-circled the rest of it. He was wearing a bright blue, pull-on shirt which identified him as a member of the U.A.F. White letters printed on his left breast pocket read: CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER.
Janet was laying at his side. She began to stir. Peter touched her and she slowly sat up. As she turned to face Peter, she saw the man as well. Neither of them knew much about the U.A.F. except for a few basic facts such as; U.A.F stood for United Alpha Fleet and that a U.A.F starship patrolled and protected planets, like Axin, on the outskirts of populations centers.
The man smiled as he stood up, "Thanks be to El the U.R.'s didn't kill you."
Puzzled Peter and Janet stood up as well. Crossing over the few feet between them the man extended his hand.
As he helped them to their feet he said, "Hi, I'm Dr. Kana of the U.A.F. Courage."
"I'm Peter and this is my sister Janet." The terror of a few hours ago had left, but a subdued fear and confusion remained.
"I wonder why the U.R.'s kidnapped you?" said Dr. Kana, more to himself than to them.
Janet spoke up, "They probably thought we heard more about their plans than we did. Why they kidnapped us instead of killing us I don't know."
"El must not have wanted them to."
Janet ignored that comment. "What I would like to know is where we are."
"We're aboard one of their spaceships for sure." Dr. Kana shrugged his shoulders, "But that's all I know."
Peter had been thinking and now he said what was on his mind, "You're the real reason we are here. They took us because they thought we were in their way of escaping with you. So the important thing is why they kidnapped you."
Shaking his head slowly Dr. Kana sat down. "You're right, Peter, but I haven't the slightest idea why they kidnapped me. All I know is that I had just finished a meal at The Taste of Home with Captain Caspian, Rev. Flynn and a few others and decided to go for a walk. I was hardly outside the cafe before they grabbed me. I yelled. When the others tried to come to my rescue they were pinned down by fire from across the street. That's the last I remember until I woke up here. I guess it's all in El's hands now."
"How can you say that?" exclaimed Janet, "El's not here, He doesn't know..."
Dr. Kana spoke softly, he could see Janet was understandably upset, "El is everywhere. He is not seen, not always felt, but He's always there." A chuckle escaped from his lips. He tried to hold it back, but the way Janet had just glanced around the small cell made it impossible. "No, He's not a spook either."
"Even here you're spreading your Elniyn lies," laughed a man from the other side of the force field.
All three turned to look at the speaker. He was a middle-aged man with a hawk-like nose and big bushy eyebrows. He was dressed as a man of considerable wealth and he had a low slung gun strapped to his right leg. There was something about the man, something unexplainable, that gave off a feeling of evil.
"El can't help you now," the man continued mocking, "You're in my hands...the hands of The Boss."
Dr. Kana gave a short snort at this remark, but The Boss paid no attention and went on, "I want to welcome you aboard the United Raider spaceship: Death."
"Cheerful name," muttered Janet.
"You two Axinians are an unexpected addition, but you should consider yourselves very lucky."
"What do you mean?" asked Peter. Somehow he hadn't quite seen how being kidnapped by U.R's was 'lucky.'
"He means we're lucky he didn't kill us," said Janet, her blue eyes flashing.
"What?" responded The Boss in mock surprise, "Kill two perfect specimens of a past civilization?"
"Just because Axin hasn't taken the interest in some modern things other people and planets have is no reason to call us a past civilization," said Janet, her patriotic temper flaring.
"I didn't mean it that way, although it's true. Since your people, in general, haven't left your planet and moved about the universe you two are about to become part of a rare species." A wicked grin spread over his face.
Even though they weren't exactly sure what The Boss was getting at a feeling of horror crept over the three prisoners.
"That's right," said The Boss, enjoying every minute, "in an hour I will destroy the planet Axin."
"No one is that..." Janet couldn't think of a word to describe it, but looking at The Boss's sneering face she knew she was wrong.
"When you're caught you will be executed," predicted Dr. Kana.
"The greater the risk, the greater the reward."
"What is your 'reward?'" asked Dr. Kana.
With a casual wave of his hand The Boss bragged, "Fifty million Wefors."
"That's not much considering what you're doing," commented Dr. Kana, "but how are you going to get even that by blowing up a planet?"
"That's not for you to know...yet." The Boss turned and with a laugh disappeared down the hall.
Go to Chapter 2: Out Of The Fire...
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