9: TWO AGAINST FOUR
“Do we have an idea where Zator might have taken them?” AJ asked as they hurried down the corridor.
Nick shook his head. “I don’t know. I didn’t see much of this place when I was looking for you guys. I bet he’s given them to the Ersnai.”
“Probably,” Howie replied. “I think he wanted to take all of us, but he kept glancing at the door and he eventually him and his guards just took off with those two. If he hadn’t of been so worried that you would turn up and kick his butt, he would have snatched all of us.”
Zator was scared of him? Nick had never even dreamt that the powerful Zophacian emperor could fear him, but then again with the way Nick was feeling now Zator had better be on his guard. No one kidnapped his friends and got away without paying the consequences.
But at least he was not alone now and when he did encounter the Ersnai, the odds would be tipped further in his favour.
“Nick, help me!” a voice cried suddenly.
“That’s Brian!” Howie said.
Nick stared about him anxiously, trying to determine where the voice had come from. He jogged a few steps along the corridor until he came to a T-junction. Kevin hurried beside him and both of them glanced to the right and then to the left.
“Where did the voice come from?” Kevin asked.
“I’m not sure,” Nick replied. “Brian!” he called.
“Brian, where are you?” AJ screamed from behind them.
There was no reply.
‘Brian, where are you?’ Nick thought desperately. And even after he had found Brian, there was still his beautiful Zanell to rescue.
“Damn, which way do we go?” AJ said.
Howie bit his lip as he stared down each corridor. Both appeared to be identical…
“We might have to split up,” he said warily. “But I really don’t like the sound of that idea, especially if there’s clones of Kevin and AJ about the place.”
“Yeah, it’s not a brilliant idea,” AJ agreed. “But what else can we do? If we don’t find them quick then Zator might take them both up to his space ship and then how will we get them back?”
The terrified scream came from the right. Nick did not even waste time in glancing at the others before he tore off down the corridor, following the sound of Brian’s voice. What was Zator doing to them?
“Brian!” Kevin called, close on the heels of Nick.
“It came from in here!” Nick said, skidding to a stop in front of a door on the right.
“Nick, wait!” Howie said, grabbing Nick’s shoulder before he could hurl himself through the door. “It might be a trap!”
“What do you mean?” Nick asked. “He’s in trouble! We have to get to him quickly!”
“But there’s two Brians, remember?” Howie pointed out. “Who’s to say that it wasn’t the Ersnai screaming?”
Nick stared at the door for a second and then down at the sword in his hands. “We’ll just have to be careful. We can’t just ignore this.”
Kevin nodded in agreement. “We just have to keep our heads about us.”
“Yeah and what we mustn’t do is shoot a Brian unless we’re completely and utterly certain that it’s an Ersnai,” AJ added. “We don’t want to hurt our Brian.”
Nick shuddered at the thought of accidentally hurting his sweet, older friend. It would be just like Zator to trick him into killing his friend.
“Okay, we ready?” Nick asked.
The others nodded, each one with a grim look of determination upon their faces. Nick flexed his sword arm for a second and then pressed his other hand upon the panel to open the door.
Nick was through the doorway first and he found himself in a huge, rectangular room with silver walls constructed out of metal.
“Ooh, Nicky has brought some friends for us to play with,” a voice to his right hissed.
Nick jumped around, his sword ready to damage anyone who tired to attack him. The Ersnai versions of Kevin and AJ were leaning against a wall and at their feet was… Brian.
His face was pale and his eyes were filled with undisguised terror. A gag had been placed over his mouth and thick, blue ropes bound his feet together and kept his hands securely behind his back. His eyes widened in hope as they fell upon Nick and he felt his heart screaming with rage at the ordeal the Ersnai had put his friend through.
This was his Brian. That look of pure terror upon his face was real.
“Brian!” Kevin called in anguish as he took in the sight of his poor cousin.
The Ersnai Kevin leant down and patted Brian patronisingly on the head. “Is this what you’re looking for?” he enquired.
“Let him go,” Nick said, inching forward a few steps with his sword pointing at the Ersnai.
“Yeah, or be prepared to fight,” AJ threatened as he pointed his guns at both of them.
Ersnai AJ exchanged a look with his companion and Nick saw the smirks upon their faces.
“You’re outnumbered,” Nick said acidly. “There’s only two of you and – hey, where’s that stupid friend of yours?” His eyes lingered upon Brian for a second, where was the Ersnai disguised as him?
Ersnai Kevin shrugged. “What use is he without an amulet? We destroyed him.”
Nick glanced down at Brian once more and his heart began to contort with agony as he saw the fear in his blue eyes. Brian’s eyes flickered up to the two Ersnai and Nick knew that he was warning him to be careful.
“Whatever,” Howie said. “Just give us back Brian and Zanell.”
“Yeah, and then return to whatever intergalactic trash can you guys crawled out of in the first place,” AJ added.
“We don’t give up that easily,” Ersnai AJ replied.
“Neither do we,” Howie said icily.
“And we won’t give up until you give us our friends back!”
“Aw, you missing your girlfriend and your boyfriend?” Ersnai Kevin snickered, an evil smirk playing across his lips.
Nick gritted his teeth and then leapt forward for the attack. Immediately both of the Ersnai jumped away from his sword and Nick’s eyes widened as he saw both of them bounce off of the walls and then land harmlessly in the centre of the room. Obviously these creatures were more agile than ordinary humans. He remembered that they also had the ability to stretch their limbs and he wondered what other awesome powers they held.
“Wow,” Howie said, watching their acrobatic show.
“Let’s see you dodge this!” AJ cried, firing his guns at the two Ersnai.
His twin wasted no time in reaching for his own guns and as he leapt into the air to easily dodge the laser fire, he fired his own weapons.
Now did the battle begin. Nick smiled reassuringly at Brian before he was forced to quickly run to the right to avoid the dangerous and deadly laser fire from Ersnai AJ. He reached into the fold of his cloak and withdrew a shurikien before fiercly hurling it towards Ersnai Kevin. Unfortunately, the Ersnai stretched a hand out to an abnormal length and plucked the throwing star from the air. Nick’s eyes widened slightly as he watched the Ersnai smirk at him, before throwing the weapon at Howie.
“Howie look out!” AJ screamed, leaping on top of his friend to force him to duck and avoid the shurikien.
The Ersnai Kevin smiled at the two boys on the floor and then he hissed snake like as he stretched his arm towards them. Before Nick could even warn them, the hand had grown to an immense size and closed about the two friends. The fat fingers entwined about them, completely rendering them helpless.
“Nick, help!” Howie squeaked, his voice shaky as the fingers squeezed the very breath from his lungs.
Nick and Kevin ran forward to help them, but Ersnai AJ leapt out in front of them, a grin upon his face as he raised his guns. Nick brought his sword crashing down upon the Ersnai’s hands and the guns clattered to the floor.
“Get Howie and AJ!” Nick cried to Kevin, using his sword like a golf stick to whack Ersnai AJ’s guns across the room where they cold not be reached.
Kevin nodded and continued to run towards his own twin, but the Ersnai Kevin was prepared for him and stretched out it’s other hand to seize hold of Kevin. Kevin cried out as the arm wrapped about him like a vine almost and he struggled frantically, but he was trapped.
“You’re alone again now boy!” Ersnai Kevin laughed as he watched Nick jump into the air to avoid Ersnai AJ from smacking him as he stretched his arm out to reach him.
Nick jumped again as the arm came towards him a second time, determined not to be caught along with his friends. Ersnai AJ frowned in irritation as Nick evaded him and then stretched out both his arms at once to try and seize the annoying ninja.
Nick saw his opportunity and brought his sword down upon both of the arms, pushing down hard to force the blade to hack through the arms. The Ersnai squealed in agony as it withdrew its arms, not nothing but green stumps. Nick jumped forward again, his sword seeking a target.
He felt his sword plunge into the flesh of the Ersnai AJ and the alien screamed in pain as green liquid oozed sickeningly from the wound. Nick grunted and withdrew his sword before driving it into his throat. The Ersnai gave a gargling scream as green foam bubbled from it’s mouth before slumping to the floor where it began to scream frantically as it’s body started to dissolve and turn into green mush.
Nick quickly reached down and seized the precious amulet, wiping it upon his cloak for a second to free it of the green slime.
“NO!” Ersnai Kevin shrieked. Angrily, he threw all three of his captives hard at the wall and Nick winced as he heard the loud bang when they hit the metal wall, but he breathed in relief as he all of them slowly beginning to clamber to their feet, but rather unsteadily.
The Ersnai’s hands began to shrink down to a more normal size and his eyes became green orbs in his head that glared wrathfully at Nick. “You’re going to die!”
Lightening quick, he stretched an arm out towards Nick and the blond attempted to jump out of the way, but he cried out as he felt fingers seize his leg and pull it out from beneath him. He hit the ground heavily and then Kevin pulled him off of his feet and into the air. He gulped as he felt the Ersnai beginning to swing him around, intending to propel him at great speed into the wall where his body would surely be crushed on impact.
Suddenly he heard the sound of laser fire and heard Ersnai Kevin’s cry of pain. He seized to spin Nick around as he turned to find the source of this new distraction. Nick opened his eyes and saw AJ with his guns just in front of them.
Ersnai Kevin saw it too and he dropped Nick and stretched both his arms out to pluck AJ from the ground. Nick groaned and rolled over, too bruised to move for a moment. He lifted his head weakly and watched as Kevin’s arms crept closer to AJ.
“AJ!” he cried. “Look out!”
But Ersnai Kevin’s hands went straight through AJ as if he didn’t exist and then he faded and disappeared completely. Nick turned his head and saw AJ, Howie and Kevin standing behind him. Howie must have used his illusionary powers to create a false image!
AJ grinned at Nick’s smile and then began to fire at Ersnai Kevin again.
“Aim for the neck!” Nick said.
AJ raised his guns and the laser fire struck Ersnai Kevin in the head, causing it to explode in a ball of green slime. The headless body stumbled forward a few steps before falling to the floor. Nick watched as it slowly formed the same green pool of liquid the others had, leaving the amulet behind.
“How’s that for good shooting?” AJ said proudly.
“You were great, Bone!” nick said, pulling himself to his feet and running to his friends. “Are you guys okay?”
“A little bruised,” Howie grumbled. “Hitting a wall kind of hurts.”
“I’ve hurt my ankle,” Kevin complained, limping forward a few places. I think I fell on it.”
“You okay?” AJ asked.
Nick nodded, ignoring the hundreds of bruises that covered his body and the throbbing aches of his limbs. He immediately crossed over to Brian, still held captive by the blue ropes. His friend smiled at him in relief using his eyes and Nick smiled back as he struggled with the gag until he finally ripped the thing from his face.
“Nick, about time!” Brian said. “Are you all okay?” he asked, staring at the others behind Nick.
“We’re fine,” Nick assured him as he began to untie the ropes that bound him. “Brian, where’s Zanell? As soon as we find her we can get out of here.”
“Zanell?” Brian said as he rubbed his arms. “Well…”
Suddenly Brian kicked his legs hard up into Nick’s face. Nick screamed in pain and his hands flew instinctively to protect his face from any more punishment. As the others adjusted to the shock, Brian had already stretched an arm out to seize the Ersnai Kevin’s amulet from the floor.
He grinned at them as he changed into his basketball player superhero form. “I can’t believe you were stupid enough to fall for this!”