13: THE CHASE
Nick was growing more and more concerned for the safety of his friends as they wondered through Zator’s base. It seemed to have been abandoned by now and Zanell said that most of Zator’s droids had probably fled using the other spaceships Zator had.
But what had become of the other boys? Nick did not enjoy the prospect of venturing up to Zator’s mother ship in orbit to rescue them, Zator could set any number of death traps.
He glumly stared about the corridor, but there was no sign of any of them. “Guys!” he called. “Where are you?”
“Don’t worry about them so,” Zanell said, gently touching Nick’s arm. “They’re powerful and I’m sure they’re all okay.”
“They maybe powerful, but the Ersnai still managed to kidnap them,” Nick mumbled.
“But they had to catch them separately. They could never defeat them all as a team.”
But they weren’t a team and they wouldn’t be until Nick joined them. He just hoped that he got there in time.
Zanell touched the amulet about her neck and the jewel glowed for a brief moment. “I’m certain they will be all right,” she said determinedly.
Nick nodded, her word good enough to assure him. “Do you know how we get out of here?” he asked becoming more lost and confused with each extra minute they were trapped within Zator’s base.
Zanell nodded. She clasped her amulet with one hand and took Nick’s fingers with the other. “This way,” she said leading him to the right.
Nick kept his eyes wide open as they drifted through the various corridors, begging for a glimpse of any of his friends. He did trust Zanell when she promised him that they were okay… he just needed to see it for himself.
At one point he was certain that he heard noises, a loud whooping sound but it had quickly died away in the distance and Zanell and Nick had pressed on with their search for an exit.
Eventually Zanell’s glowing amulet led them to a room where there was a darkened staircase that spiralled up through the wall. Nick peered into the gloom nervously but could neither see or here any sign of ambushers. He carefully withdrew his sword and then he slowly began to clamber up the black stairs, making sure that Zanell was always close behind him.
“I think we’re at the top now,” he whispered, not sure why he felt the urge to whisper instead of speaking out loud.
He stumbled slightly as he felt his way through a dark doorway and coughed as he threw up a cloud of ancient dust. He reached behind him for Zanell’s hand and felt her warm fingers tighten about his own. He pulled her through the doorway and heard her sneeze in the cloudy air. He recognised the musty smell from the deserted building where the entrance to Zator’s base had been concealed.
Nick stared about the darkened building but could see little because of the heavy gloom that had fallen upon the room. He placed a hand to the jewel in the centre of his amulet and immediately it began to glow red, casting a warm glow about the room. Now Nick could tell for certain that they were in the old building he had discovered before. He turned back and could see the staircase that they had climbed, almost hidden in the shadow of a huge, empty wardrobe that lurched to one side.
In front of him were two windows, but darkness had now fallen upon the world and they offered no light. He glanced about him but there was no doorway in sight and they were surrounded by dusty walls that were coated in messy cobwebs.
“Come on, we’ll break a window to escape,” Nick said, leading Zanell over to the larger of the two windows.
He motioned for Zanell to step back as he pointed his sword forwards. He pulled his red goggles down to protect his eyes from any glass and then leapt forwards with his sword. He felt the entire window shatter satisfactorily and he carefully used the blade to hack away at the remaining, jagged shards that still perched upon the wooden frame.
“Do you have to be so dramatic?” Zanell said with a smile. “You could have just tried to open the window?”
Nick looked down at his sword and the destruction of the broken glass upon the floor. Why does simply opening a window seem to disappear from your mind when you held a huge sword?
“Where would be the fun in that?” he replied with a grin of his own as he began to break away the glass that still remained in the window frame.
Finally he seemed to have cleared most of it away and he took Zanell’s hand again and helped her to clamber through the window and into the awaiting freedom beyond. Nick took one final look about the old room and bit his lip for a moment. Where were Brian and the others? Zanell said that she was sure they were safe, but Nick could not help but feel uneasy. He peered through the window into the dark night, but he could not see them out there either.
He sighed and slowly struggled out of the shattered window himself, wincing as he caught himself on the one remaining shard of glass that remained. As he tired to pull himself free he swore under his breath as he realised that the corner of his black cloak had snagged against a splinter of wood. He gave it a sharp tug and then tumbled out of the window, landing heavily upon the ground with his cloak over his head.
He heard Zanell’s soft laughter and he groaned in annoyance as he fought to untangle himself from his cloak as elegantly as he could, embarrassed at appearing so clumsy in front of Zanell.
“Very graceful, Nick!” she teased.
Nick deftly swept his cloak over his shoulder and wiped the dust from his face. He glanced up at Zanell and saw her smiling down at him and immediately his heart began to bounce faster and fasted inside of him.
“I’m graceful most of the time!” he complained as he slowly stood up. His eyes twinkled as he took a step closer to her, realising that this was the first time he had ever had her alone. He stepped forward again and then tripped over a rock causing Zanell to almost burst with laughter. “Today is just a bad day,” Nick groaned.
“Come here, you!” Zanell laughed as she leant down and helped Nick to his feet.
Nick dusted himself down and Zanell smiled as she pushed his fringe back from his forehead and tidied his cloak up for him. Nick slowly allowed his arms to slip about her waist and pull her closer and he could not help but sigh as she pressed closer to his body and placed her head against his shoulder.
“Thank you,” Zanell whispered.
“For what?” Nick murmured, his eyes closing as he blissfully held her close.
“For rescuing me.” She glanced back up at him, her blue eyes bright and wide to take in as much of his as she could.
Nick gently placed a hand upon her face and felt the warmth of her skin beneath his fingers. “I didn’t want to lose you,” he replied. “I thought Zator was going to take you away from me.”
“I’ll never let him,” she said softly.
Nick tilted his head and leant closer, his lips seeking to capture Zanell’s in a passionate kiss, but then the screaming began.
Very loud, high pitched screaming at them.
They both spun around to stare back at the old building and Zanell shrunk closer to Nick who immediately placed his hand on the handle of his sword, ready to fight whoever it was.
“Wait here,” he whispered to Zanell.
She nodded and Nick began to creep back towards the window they had exited from, his clammy palms holding onto his sword tightly.
The screaming grew louder and then Nick saw four figures fighting to urgently clamber through the broken window.
“Guy?!” Nick cried, his eyes recognising Brian, Kevin, AJ and Howie as they continued to scream in their escape attempt.
“Nick!” AJ cried as he fell even more spectacularly than Nick did.
“What are you doing?” Nick asked, sheathing his sword again and watching as the remaining three of his friends attempted to struggle through the broken window at once.
“Some of us don’t have time to fraternise with their girlfriends!” AJ said, eyeing Zanell behind Nick. “Some of us are running for their lives!”
Kevin pushed Howie out of the window and then turned around to seize hold of his cousin who had turned to stare at something behind them all.
“Brian, don’t stare just get out!” Kevin yelled almost throwing him out onto the ground before bonding through the open window himself.
“Are you both okay?” Howie asked, checking both Nick and Zanell over for any signs of injury.
Nick nodded and smiled shyly as he held Zanell’s hand possessively, but their joy was cut short as a whooping noise filled the air.
“What’s that?” Nick asked, staring at the old building in curiosity.
“That is the reason we’re running!” Brian cried, picking himself up from the floor. “Now come on!”
“But - ” Nick began, confused as to their nervous manner.
“Nick, come on!” Zanell said tugging at his arm.
Nick’s eyes widened as a group of red cloaked figured bounded nimbly out of the window and began to stare about the night for their prey. Their masked faces suddenly focused upon Nick and they began to chant excitedly and whoop in delight before dashing towards him.
“Woah!” Nick screamed as he began to follow his friends rapidly across the barren landscape. “I thought you were supposed to take care of those freaks!”
“If you haven’t noticed Nicky, there is rather a lot of them!” AJ replied.
Nick turned his head briefly and he gasped in shock as he saw that more and more and more warriors were piling out of the window and beginning to pursue them.
“Where are we going?” Brian cried.
“My truck!” Howie cried, pointing back towards the building. “What’s that doing here?”
“The Ersnai used it,” Nick replied. “Mine’s just behind that bush over there! Hurry!”
“But what about my truck!?” Howie cried.
“Leave it dude!” AJ replied. “It’s better than facing those jerks behind us!”
Howie grumbled slightly and Nick ignored him as he put on an extra burst of speed. He leapt over a few clumps of dead grass and then wrenched open the door to his truck as he reached it. “Get in!” he cried urgently as he slipped into the front seat and fumbled about for the keys.
Kevin, Howie and AJ piled into the back while Zanell jumped into the front seat beside Nick. Brian stopped for a second to stare at the oncoming horde of warriors. “Geez, there weren’t that many before!”
“Brian get your ass in here!” Kevin yelled.
“Aye aye!” Brian immediately leapt on top of his cousin as he squeezed inside the back with the other three slamming the door behind him.
“Nicky drive!” Howie hollered as the warriors stopped a few metres away and began to hum ominously. “They’re about to use their physic powers!”
“I can’t find the keys!” Nick cried, as his hands fumbled about the dashboard.
“What!?” AJ shrieked. “We’re dead if we stay here!”
“Are these them?” Zanell asked, holding up a bunch of golden keys.
“Yes!” Nick snatched the keys from here and jammed them into the ignition. “Hold on everyone!” He slammed the truck into reverse and immediately they began to back away from the warriors.
“Nick, the rocks!” Brain screamed causing Howie and the others to wince in pain.
Nick stared out of the windshield and saw that several nearby rocks were now bathed in blue light as they slowly rose from the ground and began to hurtle themselves towards the truck.
“Nick, move it!” AJ yelled.
Nick fumbled with the gear stick and then the truck shot away with a squeal of angry tires as he brought his foot down upon the accelerator. He spun the truck to narrowly avoid being crushed by one of the colossal chunks of rock and the others were flung about as he turned back towards the road.
“That was close!” Kevin said, breathing a sigh of relief.
Nick turned and saw Zanell pointing urgently at the wing mirror on her side. he glanced in his own mirror and groaned as he saw the warriors angrily pursuing them.
“It’s not over yet!” he warned.
“Hurry the crap up!” AJ shouted.
“I’m going as fast as I damn well can!” Nick replied frantically fighting to leave the warriors behind.
“Open the window,” Brain said leaning across Kevin whose lap he was perched upon. He slowly began to build up an energy ball in his hand as Kevin complied.
“Good idea Rok!” AJ said as he pulled his guns from his belt and opened the window on his side.
“Don’t hit my truck,” Nick warned.
“You’re worried about the truck? What about our lives?” Kevin asked.
Brian leaned out of the window and flung the energy ball at the warriors behind them, cheering as it hit the centre of the group of their enemies. AJ leaned out of his window and rapidly began to fire a round of laser fire at the warriors as they continued to whoop in delight of the chase.
“We’re pulling away from them!” Howie said. “Keep driving Nick.”
“What the hell do you think I’m doing?” Nick said as he continued to push his foot hard against the accelerator.
He glanced in the mirror again and smiled as he saw the warriors slowing down. He turned and saw Zanell smiling at him and he returned the expression. She reached across and gently clasped one of his hands as the others in the back cheered as the last of the warriors disappeared from sight.
“We’re free!” AJ yelled excitedly.
Nick tightened his fingers about Zanell’s. He had done it. He had rescued them all. He had no doubt that Zator would try other tricks against them, but for now it did not matter because they were safe and Nick had his friends back by his side.
And he would never let Zator take them away again.