Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Excerpt from The Crystal's Curse

Stargazer Space Station orbiting earth -1968

Lrence rubbed his sweaty palms on the sides of his pants. He swallowed, trying to ease the tightness in his chest. The others seemed just as nervous standing outside the vault waiting for Cnoc to input the access code. Lrence peered into the shadows of the dimly lit hallway and listened. The eerie quiet, which should have been reassuring, pressed in on him, straining already taut nerves. He felt Kafra shiver. He put his arm around her and leaned in close to whisper in her ear. “You don’t have to do this. It’s not too late to go back.”

She bit her lip and shook her head.

He glanced over at Demitri leaning against the wall feigning nonchalance, wearing a big smile like this was all a game. His fingers steadily drumming the wall behind him gave him away. Always up for a challenge, he’d been the most enthusiastic about the plan. Maybe because he had the least to lose since he had no family to embarrass or to leave behind.

Remnr wasn’t even trying to pretend. Running his hand through his dark blond hair, he stood close behind Cnoc, leaning forward as if by his very presence he could make Cnoc go faster.

Cnoc wiped the sweat from his brow, flicking his long black hair out of his eyes. He elbowed Remnr. “Stop breathing down my neck.”

Remnr grunted softly, moving back only a fraction of an inch.

Kubal stood rigidly next to Lrence, his hands in his pockets. Even though he’d assured them he’d taken care of the alarm system and redirected the surveillance cameras so they couldn‘t be seen, he kept glancing up and down the corridor. Ex-army and head of security, Kubal’s willingness to join this group still surprised Lrence. Even now, Lrence couldn’t help wondering if he’d set them up. If anything went wrong, there would be no way to explain their presence in this top security hallway.

Finally, the lock clicked and the vault door swung open. One by one, they followed Cnoc into the vault. The crystals lay in individual boxes on a raised platform in the center of the vault. Cnoc carefully lifted the lid of the first box. Lrence held his breath, waiting for an alarm. There was only silence. Quickly, Cnoc opened the next two boxes handing Lrence three power crystals. Lrence tucked the crystals inside a leather pouch. Cnoc opened the remaining boxes and passed three crystals to each of them, retaining the last three for himself.

As they turned to leave, a red light over the vault door began blinking.

“What’s that?” Remnr whispered nervously.

“Our cue to leave,” replied Kubal. “We have exactly thirty seconds before that door locks.” He grabbed each of them and shoved them through the door. As the last one out, he managed to slip through just before it clanged shut and triggered a cacophony of alarms throughout the complex.

“I thought you said you disabled all the alarms,” grumbled Demitri.

Kubal rolled his eyes. “If you’d listened to my briefing, you’d know there remained a chance removing the crystals would trigger an alarm I couldn’t disarm. Follow me and shut up, we only have about three minutes to get out of here.”

He led them single file through carefully programmed gaps between the corridor cameras, often holding up a hand to stop them until a camera swiveled away. Timing was the key. As the last one in line, Lrence waited nervously shifting from one foot to the other watching for Kubal’s signal to move forward. He found it hard to stand quietly and walk slowly between cameras with alarms ringing and the sound of running guards coming closer, the urge to run almost overpowering. Finally, outside the secured area, they ran to the transporter and beamed to the surface. They still had to hurry. It wouldn’t take long for the authorities to find the beam out signature.

Lrence, as the leader of the group, looked at each of his five comrades. This was it then. There was no going back. By stealing the crystals, they’d be labeled as traitors and hunted down. Standing in front of the portal, they had no time for goodbyes, having said all that earlier. They would only be safe once they stepped through the portal. Safe but marooned on an alien planet, thought Lrence. After tonight, they could never again return home. They had sacrificed everything, for what? Were they saviors or traitors? Even after all these months of planning and debate, Lrence still didn’t know the answer. He just knew that he could not stand by while his planet plotted to enslave the entire inhabitants of another system.
One by one they stepped into the portal and disappeared into earth’s past.

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