8: ONLY THREE
Silently, Nick tiptoed about the building. Every creak or squeak caused him to jump with his sword at the ready in case it was the Ersnai or the awful droids with their violet energy balls. He was tired after the long drive and the fight with the Ersnai and his strength was rapidly failing.
Where were the others? His friends… he wanted his friends back. It had felt like his world had ended that day Brian had informed him that he was leaving the band, but that creep had not been Brian. His Brian was his best friend, the one who never turned his back upon him. He knew things had been very, very different since Brian had gotten married but they were still best friends and Brian was still there for him when he needed him the most.
But the Ersnai had tried to take him away. They had tried to take all of his friends away. The boys were his family and they were the world to him.
And then there was Zanell. The kind hearted, pretty daughter of the evil Zator but thank God that she did not take after the bastard. She was the one girl who made Nick’s heart beat faster within him every time he saw her. She was the one who understood him and loved him for who he was, not just for being a gorgeous, blond American pop star. And no one, not even her father, was going to snatch her from his arms.
He gulped and wiped his eyes for a moment as he thought of them all. He missed them. He didn’t care if the band ever split up, but the real Kevin and the others would still want to be his friends. They would never abandon him like the Ersnai had done.
As he came top a corner, Nick paused. He glanced behind him at the long corridor that he had just walked along. Several doors had led off from either side but Nick had decided to follow the corridor all the way to the end first, not wanting to be ambushed as he walked into a room.
Tentatively he peered around the corner, deciding it would be better to be cautious than captured. He froze as he caught sight of the two robot guards waiting outside of a door on the left hand side of the corridor. Quickly Nick pulled back to hide himself behind the corner. This place definitely looked promising. Those robots had to be guarding something!
He unsheathed his sword and took a moment to wipe the perspiration from his forehead that was rapidly beginning to soak into his blond hair. He was close to them now. He could feel it. Soon he would have Zanell back as well as his best friend Brian and his other brothers. He needed them back.
He took a deep breath and then sprang from behind the corner at the two robots. The first one turned and watched as he flung himself towards it. He raised a hand to try and stop him, but Nick dodged it before it could crush him. By now the second robot was also preparing to attack.
COME WITH US, it instructed.
“No!” Nick replied. He lashed out viciously with his sword and hacked at the legs of the second robot. The powerful blade sliced effortlessly through the dull metal limbs and the robot slumped to the floor, wires fizzing and crackling from its damaged legs. Obviously these weak robots were not as advanced or as powerful as the five humanoid droids that he had fought in that dark alley.
STOP, the remaining robot said. AND ZATOR MAY SPARE YOUR LIFE.
Nick ignored the robot’s demands and swung around with his blade at the ready. It plunged through the middle section of the robot as if it were made of nothing but hot butter. There was an awful groaning noise as the mechanics of the robot buckled and then fell crashing to the ground, only just missing Nick.
He glanced about him, anxious at the amount of noise he had made during the fight. He was frozen for a second, his ears working to decide whether the faint noises he could hear were parts of machinery or the ominous sound of footsteps.
His eyes burrowed into the door before him and he found that he could wait no more. He had to know if they were in there. He gave the corridor one last, nervous look before deciding that it was safe. He gripped his sword tightly in case any more robots were waiting for him inside the room and then tapped the panel beside the door, but it did not open.
“Come on!” Nick yelled in agitation.
Were they in there or where they not? Were they alive or were they…?
He thumped the panel violently with a sweaty hand, but still it refused to open, eventually he raised his sword and thrust it into the glowing display. The panel buzzed, furious at the treatment it had just endured and then it changed to a green colour, before the door whisked open.
He rushed into the room, his heart hammering so hard that it felt as if it might break through his chest any second. It was beating so fast that it physically hurt almost. His mouth was dry as he hurried along a small corridor which he could see opened out into a larger room beyond. He burst into the space and anxiously glanced about him, searching for the smiling, friendly faces that he loved so much.
“Nick!” a familiar voice called gratefully.
“AJ!” Nick replied.
Staring about him, he saw that the walls of the room were lined with prison cells. The door of each cell consisted of several yellow bars which appeared to be made out of pure energy. AS he peered into the nearest cell, he could see the dark haired face of one of his friends.
“Nick!” Howie cried from behind him. “It’s about time you showed up!”
Nick gave AJ a brief smile and then turned around to the cell behind him and saw Howie’s dark eyes staring at him anxiously. In the cell next him he glimpsed Kevin’s strong form behind the bars.
He turned again to stare about the room and noticed that the other two prison cells were empty. Frantically he glanced about him, searching for his two missing friends.
“Where’s Brian and Zanell?” he asked, his stomach feeling numb as he realised that thye were not in the room.
“We don’t know!” AJ replied. “Zator came in here about twenty minutes ago and took them!”
“Took them? Where?”
“We don’t know! He wouldn’t say!”
Nick fought hard to prevent his palpitating heart from bursting into tiny pieces. Everything was just so hard… He had thought that he had found them all, but now two of them were missing.
“Nick, we’ll find them,” Kevin said gently. “We won’t leave until we do.”
Nick nodded slowly, his hand touching Zanell’s amulet still safe about his neck. “Hang on, I’ll get you out of here,” he said. He raised his sword and attempted to slice through the yellow energy bars of Kevin’s cell. To his dismay though, the yellow energy travelled back up the sword and along his arm.
“Ow!” he screamed, dropping the sword as a huge electric shock seized control of him. “Ow, that hurt!”
“Try the box on the wall,” Kevin suggested pointing to a grey box beside the door. “Zator did something to that before he took Zanell and Brian. It made the bars of their cells disappear.”
Nick nodded and retrieved his sword, careful not to accidentally brush his arm against the violent energy bars. He slowly peered at the box and noticed a small handle upon the case. He tilted his head and cautiously opened it up to find several buttons beneath it. He moved his head closer and tried to read the tiny inscriptions below each button, but they were written in an alien language he had never seen before.
“Anything helpful?” Howie asked.
“Yeah, there’s lots of buttons but I don’t know what they do.”
“Try pressing one.”
Nick took a deep breath and then pressed the closest button. There was a faint bleep from the control box and Nick turned around, hoping to find that one set of the yellow bars had disappeared. Unfortunately, everything was just the same as it had been before.
“Okay, maybe not,” Howie said.
“Try smashing the damn thing!” AJ said.
Nick raised his sword and smashed it into the grey box. There was a tremendous clan and he ducked as sparks angrily sprayed from the box trying to find any part of him that they possibly could.
A whine filled the air and then there was a popping noise. The lights overhead buzzed and began to flash slightly, disorientating everyone in the room. There was a crackle of energy from the box again and then the bars of the prison cells began to fade. Just when Nick thought that they would vanish completely and free his friends, they reappeared again and buzzed with more power than before. He throbbed and grew in size and changed to a bright orange colour. The other three backed away from the fizzing bars and then they brightened one last time, before abruptly disappearing.
“We’re free!” AJ yelled leaping out of his cell in delight.
“Right, now we have to hurry and find Zanell, Brian and our amulets,” Kevin said.
“Way ahead of you,” Nick said grinning. He pulled the three amulets he had stolen from the Ersnai and held them out to Kevin and the others. “I’ve already managed to get three of them and we only have three of the Ersnai to worry about and they only have two amulets between them!”
He was no longer alone now and the Ersnai could not barely stand up to him, let alone his friends as well. They would rescue both Zanell and Brian and show Zator that he could not defeat them.
“Great, we’re gonna crush them!” AJ said.
“Is this Zator’s base?” Nick asked staring about the building wondrously. He could not help but marvel at some of the technology that surrounded him.
“He seems to have turned it into a temporary base,” Kevin replied. “It was easy for the Ersnai to bring us here than to keep trekking back and forth into space.”
“What happened to you guys?” Nick asked anxiously. “How long have you been here? I didn’t even realise you’d gone until Zanell turned into a monster!”
He had noticed the change in behaviour, but he had failed to act upon it. It had all seemed so irrelevant… the unreturned calls, the long days spent without a single word from any of them…
“The same thing happened to all of us,” Kevin explained. “We were all at our own homes and the Ersnai came to every one of us and kidnapped us.”
“It was awful,” Howie said. “I heard someone at the door and when I opened it, this green monster grabbed me! It used a tentacle to stab my hand and draw blood. Then I watched as it changed into me!”
“They took our amulets and sampled our DNA to disguise to take on the form of our bodies!” AJ cried. “Then they brought us here to Zator and he locked us all up. We’ve been here over well over a week, maybe two. It’s hard to keep count. It feels like forever, but I’ll bet it hasn’t been that long.”
“Over a week?” Nick gasped. He suddenly realised the pale faces and the grey circles beneath all of their eyes. They also seemed distinctly thinner and Nick guessed that they had not eaten much during their stay. “Did Zator hurt you?”
“He’s been keeping us alive on the bare essentials,” AJ replied. “But he didn’t want to kill us until you arrived. He said that he wanted you to see the ‘demise’ of your friends.”
“Your arms are burnt,” Nick said in horror, as he noticed the ugly brown and angry red patches that covered his friends’ arms and faces.
“Yeah, those yellow beams were powerful. We tried to escape, but Zator just laughed when we hurt ourselves,” Howie said.
“I think I need to get you all out of here,” Nick said. “It’s time you went home.”
“No crap!” AJ added. “I wanna know what that Ersnai has done to my home!”
“But we’ve got to get Zanell and Brian first,” Nick explained. “Oh God, you don’t think Zator is going to kill them do you?”
The others froze for a moment and Nick could see the dark thoughts as they crept across their faces, spreading despair and horror as they did.
“We don’t know… but he did mention that you had arrived…” Kevin said slowly.
“And he knows that Brian is your best friend and that Zanell is your… well, girlfriend,” Howie added, his voice quiet.
Nick felt cold. Ice seemed to crackle through his blood and freeze every part of him. When it reached his hart, he almost gasped. He couldn’t lose Zanell… he couldn’t lose Brian… he couldn’t lose any of his friends.
“Nick, we’ll find them,” Kevin said with certainty. “Zator is a coward and he wouldn’t dare kill them because he knows how angry that would make you!”
“What do you mean?” Nick asked.
“He hates you Nick. He hates you more than any of us!” AJ said. “He wanted you to suffer and he knew that he could get to you through us. That’s why he left you when he kidnapped us. The plan was that you would become too miserable to fight back and then Zator could easily take your amulet. He didn’t dare attack you. He knows that you’re too powerful and that he could never take your amulet. He wanted to weaken you. Believe me, he’s sacred of you Nick.”
“He wanted you to be alone,” Howie said quietly.
Nick closed his eyes, remembering the agony that had engulfed him when they had walked out on him after informing him that the Backstreet Boys were over. He had never felt such a tearing, ripping pain in his heart before.
But now he didn’t have to.
“I’m not alone anymore though. I’ve got you three,” Nick said. “Now we just have to find Brian and Zanell.”
“And we’ll do it together,” AJ said.