12: UNKNOWN POWER
Nick gulped slightly as he watched Zator’s eyes narrow as they took in his full height and the long length of his sword. Nick could feel the Zophacian emperor sizing him up and Nick fought hard not to flinch as he felt him staring straight into his eyes.
Could he do this? Could he fight Zator? And could he fight him alone?
“You want to fight me?” Zator said his voice laced with amusement. He threw Zanell aside and Nick felt his face burning with rage as he heard her cry out as she hit the wall. His fingers clenched even tighter about his sword and in that moment he knew; he knew it was time to show Zator how powerful he was.
He just hoped he was powerful enough to beat him. Zanell had said he was and so did the others, but were their predictions about him correct?
Awkwardly Zanell turned to face Nick the bonds still tightly binding her wrists together to prevent her from escaping. “Nick!” Zanell said, her voice pleading. She was scared, Nick could see it clearly in her blue eyes, but he could not allow her fear to affect him. If he was going to prevail, then he could not afford to doubt his abilities.
“It’ll be okay, Zanell,” Nick replied. “I can handle him.”
Zanell nodded slightly, her eyes shining with admiration for him. He could feel her pride and it filled him with strength to replenish his weary limbs. He would show Zanell that she need not fear her father anymore because Nick would be here to protect her.
“Nick, be careful. Don’t let him hurt you!” she called.
Nick smiled weakly at her to try to reassure her. “I can fight him,” he said confidently.
“Then why don’t you try it, ninjaman?” Zator hissed.
The emperor suddenly placed his hands to his belt and withdrew two daggers with golden handles etched with silver and sharp blades which glimmered magically in the light. Nick instinctively took a step back, unnerved by the way Zator’s daggers seemed to shimmer with an enigmatic light of their own. He could almost feel something within the blades calling out to him and filling his heart with fear.
“These were forged from the Mines of Asphen in the Sereia Galaxy and I assure you that not even that poxy bauble about your neck can protect you from their wrath!” Zator laughed as he tossed the daggers from hand to hand. Each time the light hit the blades; they seemed to change in colour and Nick was almost mesmerised by their flickering colours.
“No, don’t hurt him father!” Zanell begged, her eyes filling with terror. “Please!” She too seemed to sense the malevolence of Zator’s weapons.
There was something evil and wickedly cruel about Zator’s weapons. Nick could hear a humming in his ears that seemed to penetrate deep into his body and he knew that it originated from Zator’s daggers. Somehow they were trying to draw his strength away and replace it with fear.
Zator cackled slightly as he watched Nick eyeing the blades nervously. “Do you sense their power, boy?”
Nick shook his head to clear it from the haze that rapidly seemed to be engulfing it and refused to let his eyes rest upon those blades.
“You can’t defeat me,” Nick whispered.
“Don’t be so sure!”
Zator sprang forward, the sharp blades of his daggers reaching out like miniature swords. Nick yelped in shock and used his own weapon to quickly deflect the blows from both daggers, a terrible screeching noise filling the air as the metal blades clanged together.
The second Nick had blocked Zator’s first attack the emperor was striking heavily again, this time his weapons seeking Nick’s face. The blond easily spun his sword up to prevent either of the dancing blades from marking a mark upon him. He forced the daggers down with his own sword and then backed away to give himself more space.
“Having a hard time?” Zator teased tossing both of his daggers up into the air before neatly catching them and spinning them around so that the blades were pointing directly at Nick.
Nick replied by nimbly leaping forward with his sword and this time it was Zator doing the defending, his daggers stretched out to stop Nick’s sword from searing into his flesh. Lightning quick, Nick swung his sword and tried to attack Zator’s chest but the emperor saw the attack and his daggers rapidly deflected the attack, before he brought he attempted to bring one of them down upon Nick’s arm.
“Nick!” Zanell screamed.
Nick kicked his leg up and his foot connected with Zator’s hand before he had the chance to bring it slicing down upon him. Zator grunted in annoyance and he held his bruised hand to his chest. Slowly he raised his head and his black eyes stared at Nick with a cold yet burning hatred that Nick felt in his very soul.
Nick was trying hard not to pant and he stubbornly ignored the sweat as it slid down his face and plastered the blond fringe to his forehead. Zator however did not seem at all wearied by the battle.
“Time to turn the heat up a little, I believe,” Zator muttered. He pressed the blades of the two daggers together and they began to glow bright orange.
“Nick, jump!” Zanell yelled, her eyes widening in horror.
Nick immediately did as she said and leapt as high as he possible could before bouncing from the wall to then land neatly upon the safety rail. Just as he jumped, a stream of roaring flames leapt from Zator’s daggers and rained down upon where he had just been standing. Nick felt his mouth fall open in shock as he witnessed the true extent of the emperor’s powers. Zanell pressed her body closer to the wall and covered her face with her hands as the flames continued to spurt forth from Zator’s daggers.
“Zanell!” Nick cried his body turning cold despite the heat of the flames as he saw her fear filled face.
He wrapped his cloak about him and then leapt over the flames to scoop Zanell up into his arms. He turned and saw Zator using his daggers to aim another jet of flames at him and he glanced about, looking for somewhere to shelter.
He leapt down the ladder which led to the smaller walkway below. He gave a nervous glance above him at Zator and then kissed Zanell lightly on the head. Zanell raised one of her bound wrists and gently stroked his face for a moment, smiling at him tenderly.
“Be careful baby,” she whispered.
Nick smiled back before placing her on the ground. He would have time to be mushy with her later, after this fight was over. He was just about to try and untie her when he heard a clang in front of him. He raised his head and saw that Zator had jumped down form the walkway above and now stood before him, his deadly daggers still in his hands.
“You’re not taking her!” he shrieked.
He brought his daggers down upon Nick’s head and Nick only just managed to roll out of the way in time. He felt the entire walkway beneath him vibrate as the daggers connected with it and he flung his sword up as Zator tried to bring his dagger down upon Nick again. There was a screech as he pressed his sword against the daggers to stop them from carving into him and the daggers began to hum slightly.
Nick’s eyes widened as he saw the blades beginning to glow orange again and he pushed against Zator with all of his strength before rolling to the left and then leaping back up to his feet.
“You’re doing well,” Zator commented. “But you look tired.”
“There’s plenty of fight left in me still!” Nick replied venomously.
Zator suddenly flung one of his daggers at Nick and the blade spun in deadly circles as it headed towards him. Nick ducked and the blade spun over his head before heading back to Zator who caught it neatly in his open hand. He leered at Nick and then flung both daggers at him, each blade attacking him from a different angle.
Nick’s eyes followed the whizzing blades and he leapt to the left to avoid one, but before he could dodge the second, he felt it hit him.
Nick screamed as he felt the blade tearing into his skin. He could feel it almost burning him and the same agonising feeling seemed to travel through his blood and throughout his entire body. His sword fell from his hands and he sunk to his knees, his hands grasping frantically at the wound.
“Nick!” Zanell wailed in despair.
Zator laughed at his pitiful state and casually caught his daggers as they loyally returned to his outstretched fingers. Slowly he began to stroll over to the fallen Backstreet Boy.
Nick groaned in pain and a few tears found their way into his eyes. He could hardly move and everything around him had turned into a messy blur of colour and shapes that did not make sense. His arm felt heavy and he dare not move them or any other limb because of the shotting pain that flowed through him.
“Why doesn’t your bauble help you?” Zator sneered. “Perhaps the powers are not what they once were. Maybe they have been weakened because of the weakness of the bearer.”
His eyes stinging with tears and his body almost paralysed with fear, Nick forced himself to raise an arm and his hand weakly closed about his amulet. It was powerful, he knew it was. But maybe he wasn’t strong enough to use it…
“Say goodbye, Nick Carter. That’s all you are. You’re not a powerful super hero, you’re just a little boy who doesn’t know when to back down,” Zator said smiling in anticipation. He slowly raised his daggers and prepared to bring them down for the final blow.
“NO!” Zanell screamed. Suddenly she was standing in front of Nick. Somehow she had managed to stand and run over to him, despite her hands still being tied together. “Father, don’t!”
“Do you believe me now when I say that I am stronger than he is?” Zator snapped. “Does my own daughter respect my power now?”
Tears silently fell down Nick’s cheeks. Even if Zanell did talk Zator down, he would lose her now. Zator was bound to taker her away. Why did nothing ever go right for him? Why was he condemned to stay a little boy forever?
“I won’t let you hurt him,” Zanell said, bending down beside Nick and placing a hand on his face. “If you’re going to destroy him, then you’ll have to kill me as well.”
“No…” Nick croaked faintly. ‘No Zanell, no!’
No, he could never watch Zanell die. He could never let her die because of him. Zator could not hurt her!
Zator’s eyes narrowed at her stubbornness and he raised the daggers. “Then so be it.”
‘No, no, no!’
Nick’s hand clasped the amulet about his neck tighter, his sweaty hands gripping the alien alloy as if for hope. One of his fingers bumped against a second amulet and he held that one close too, knowing it to be Zanell’s. Perhaps the power of the amulets just wasn’t enough or maybe it was because Nick was nothing alone. He should never have tried to fight Zator alone…
Suddenly he felt his skin almost burning. He gasped in pain as he withdrew his hand and to his astonishment he saw that both amulets were glowing with a mysterious blue light. He looked down at his fingers and saw that they were too were now bathed in a pale sapphire glow.
Zator stared at him curiously, but Nick did not feel afraid no more. The despair, pain and tiredness had vanished into oblivion. He stared up at Zanell and felt a huge bubble of love burst within him at the sight of her face. Then his eyes slid to the dagger in Zator’s hand. The dagger that he was intending to kill her with.
“NO!” Nick screamed.
He raised his hand and felt an incredible strength resting there. He closed his eyes and focused upon that strange feeling within him and then he felt a tingling sensation in his hand. Suddenly a ball of blue light crackled from his fingers and smacked the daggers in Zator’s hands. For a moment, the daggers were bathed in blue light and then they shattered into thousands of tiny pieces.
Nick’s eyes widened as he watched the blades break, as if they were nothing but child’s toys. Zator’s eyes also widened in shock and he stared at Nick in astonishment and then he saw the fear creeping into those black orbs.
Slowly Nick clambered to his feet the weariness that had plagued him before was now gone and he felt only the tingling sensation within him. He picked up his fallen sword from the ground and the second he touched it, it began to glow blue and the entire blade throbbed with power.
“This isn’t possible!” Zator stammered. “Those blades are indestructible!” He snarled at Nick and went to move forwards towards him and his daughter, but Nick raised his sword and there was a bright flash of blue as something flew from the blade and something hit Zator in the chest, throwing him backwards several meters.
Nick’s mouth feel open in shock as he saw the extent of his own power. He glanced down at the amulet about his neck, but it was no longer glowing. Once more he glanced down at his hand and saw that the blade was shimmering in an entirely new light that Nick had never seen before. He swung the sword back and a jet of pure, blue energy sprang from the blade and hit the emperor.
Zator was flung back against the wall and he groaned in pain before his fear filled eyes focused on Nick. He gulped slightly as Nick calmly approached him, his blue sword held in his hand.
“Leave us,” Nick whispered. “And leave Zanell and my friends alone. Don’t mess with me again.”
Zator’s eyes flickered over to his daughter, but he knew he could never take her now that she was under Nick’s protection and he under the protection of the amulets. Nervously his black orbs darted about the room and then slowly he began to inch his way away from Nick.
“One day,” Zator promised, staring at Zanell hatefully.
“No,” Nick replied. “Not today. Not any day. Leave us.”
Zator said nothing, but then he leapt up into the air and onto the small space ship to their right. Nick watched as the cowardly emperor opened the hatch and quickly sealed himself away where Nick could not reach him.
Nick’s hands were trembling and he gulped nervously with his dry mouth. He had done it. He had beta Zator. He glanced down at the sword in his hands and saw that it had stopped glowing, but the metal blade still seemed to shine with a new light that flickered across the surface like the sunlight on a river.
Zanell smiled at him. “You did it,” she whispered. “I always knew you could.”
Nick returned her loving smile and then reached out to free her from her cruel restraints, but she moved away from him. “No, you’ll injure yourself if you touch them with your bare hands.”
Nick looked down at his sword and then gently pressed the edge of the blade against the binds. Immediately the blade cut through the rope and it dropped harmlessly to the floor. Zanell stared at her freed hands and then wrapped her arms about Nick tightly.
“Nick,” she whispered her sweet breath brushing against his neck. She ran a hand through his hair and nick sighed as her cool fingers caressed his damp, hot forehead. “Are you okay?”
He nodded and glanced down at the wound which Zator had inflicted, but it was gone. He touched the place on his arm curiously before glancing back at Zanell. “What happened? How did I beat him?”
“I think you somehow drew even more power from the amulet,” Zanell said, her fingers clasping about the gem in the amulet. “Perhaps as you evolve and change, it grants you stronger powers.” She tilted her head and smiled tenderly at him. “You really are extraordinary.”
Suddenly there was a tremendous roar from behind them and the room rapidly began to fill with cloying smoke. Nick turned and saw that the engines at the back of Zator’s ship had lit up with a yellow glow and were now throbbing with power. As he craned his head further he could see the window of the cockpit where Zator was glaring at the couple. Already he could feel the air about him beginning to heat up from the engines.
“Nick, we have to get out of here quick!” Zanell said urgently. “We’ll be vaporised if we stay!”
Nick nodded, but his eyes were still locked with Zator’s. He could hardly believe that he had defeated him and scared him in battle, but he owed some of that to Zator. Without the fear that had flowed through him for her safety, he doubted that he would ever have discovered the true extent of his own power.
He gripped Zanell’s hand and stared at the ladder, but the room was now becoming so hot and stifling that Nick doubted they would make it in time.
“Come on!” he said.
He pulled her towards the safety rail and then, his hand still holding hers, he leapt over the side. He heard Zanell’s quick breath of fear, but he was certain that they were safe with the protection of the amulets. Sure enough they both landed lightly upon their feet and after exchanging a brief smile they began to run for the door.
Nick coughed slightly in the smoke that was becoming so thick that he could not see the ship or Zator anymore. He tugged on Zanell’s hand until they finally found the door. Nick’s fingers felt across the smooth surface urgently searching for the wheel that would open the door. He was gasping from the extreme heat and his face was now soaked with sweat. Finally he found it and he fought to keep a firm hold upon it with his sweaty hands. He desperately tried to turn it, but it was stuck.
“It won’t move!” he gasped. He wrapped his hands within his black cloak and then tired to grip it again, but it still refused to turn.
“Hang on!” Zanell placed her hands upon the locking mechanism and then both of them began to try to turn it.
Nick felt light headed and it was difficult to breathe. The hot air felt as if it were burning his lungs and incinerating his throat. He pressed against the wheel even tighter, determined to escape after everything he had accomplished.
He turned his head briefly and saw that the ceiling above them was beginning to move to allow Zator’s ship to escape, but the smoke was too thick and the air too hot, They wouldn’t survive if they did not get out quick.
“It’s turning!” Zanell said.
Nick closed his eyes with the effort and turned the wheel until there was a click and the door swung open. He seized hold of Zanell’s hand and dragged her through the doorway before pushing it shut behind them. Zator could do nothing to them now.
Nick leaned against the wall and moaned slightly. He used his sleeve to wipe away the perspiration that had gathered upon his forehead in thick globules and took a deep breath of the cool air about him. The door behind him vibrated slightly and Nick guessed that Zator had escaped as well. He would be back to terrorise their lives, Nick knew he would but one day he would put a stop to Zator for good, he promised silently.
Zanell wiped her own face free from sweat and smiled as she leaned against Nick’s shoulder. Nick glanced down at her briefly and then wrapped his arms tightly about her. With one hand he unfastened her amulet from about his neck and placed it over her head.
“Thank you, Nick,” Zanell said, clasping the amulet with her hand. She pressed her head back against his chest and her arms slipped about his body. Nick sighed, enjoying the loving embrace she gave to him but there would be time for this later, or at least Nick hoped there would be.
“Come on, we have to get out of here,” he said softly.
“What about the others?” Zanell asked, her brow creasing slightly as she glanced about the empty corridor.
“Others?” Nick replied.
“Kevin and your band mates,” Zanell said. “Where are they?”
Nick placed a hand to his mouth. His concern for Zanell and his battle with Zator had pushed all thoughts of his friends out of his mind. He quickly reassured himself, there were four of them and they could fight Zator’s warriors off… couldn’t they?
“I left them fighting some of Zator’s men,” Nick said. “We better find them.”
“There not in too much danger,” Zanell replied. “Zator didn’t say anything about them and he’s gone now. They’re probably waiting for us outside.”
“Yeah,” Nick said. ‘I hope so anyway.’
He took Zanell’s hand in his own and slowly began to lead her back the way he had come, knowing that, at least for the moment, she was his and there was no danger of Zator taking her away from him again.