This story is set five hundred years after the Earther attack on Daniel’s world of Vakaria. When the “Earther” attackers split into two factions. Those wanted to conquer the planet (Earthers) and those that wanted to live side by side with the Vakarians (Humans). Now, the two races live side by side on the planet, although there are still some of each race that harbour a deep hatred for the other, and are willing to do anything to make the other race pay for what they class as atrocities committed by the opposing side five centuries earlier.
The first story is that of Dan.
ONE- Hall of Records
The “Office of Ancestry, History and Forthcoming Genetics” closed at 4pm every day. Dahlia and her friend Dan entered into the foyer, searching for the ancestry department. They knew they needed the truth before the offices closed at four.
The receptionist looked up from her desk. “May I help you?” she asked them with what could only be a forced smile. Dahlia looked at her, requesting directions, and then they made their way to take the elevator to the top floor.
As the doors closed, Dan breathed out and looked at his hands. Dahlia saw them shaking, and took them in hers, squeezing them as she looked into his eyes saying “It will be fine, Dan. The truth is here! We just have to find it.” Nodding, he lowered them, closed his eyes and took even breaths, focusing on the moment.
As soon as the doors opened, they made their way to the beginning of the records and followed names all the way up to the present. At the last branch, Dahlia looked at Dan, grinning broadly. His eyes lit up as she said: “you truly are a descendant of Daniel” and wrapped all four arms around him.
TWO – The Alley
Dahlia called Dan over, pointing to the form at the end of the alley, half hidden by a tarpaulin. She had two of her arms huddled around her chest; she clasped the other two behind her head, pacing across the mouth of the alley. Tears streamed from all three eyes. “Please, don’t let it be him” she sobbed. Dan laid a hand on her as he walked past. “Call the Enforcers,” he said as he made his way to the far end.
Using a nearby brick, he broke the lock and opened the gate so he could reach the form under the sheet. He could see the back of the head, and a blood pool under the cover. It looked sticky, so he guessed that the body had lain there for a while. He could hear Dahlia speaking on her phone to the Enforcers. Looking back over his shoulder, he made sure she stayed there as he moved the covering.
He staggered slightly as the head turned, “Help me!” implored the form. Dan squeezed his eyes closed and when he reopened them, the form remained in its original position. He could hear Dahlia at the far end as he removed the tarpaulin to see that the killer removed the upper eye, and amputated the lower arms.
THREE – Sanctuary
Dan knew that moving the sheet would reveal a missing leg. One of the Humans was an “Earther” like the ones his ancestor, Daniel, fought and gave his life to defeat them. He moved the sheet anyway, and confirmed his fears. Pulling the sheet back over the body, he walked up the alley to Dahlia and guided her out onto the main part of the road. She had tears pouring down her cheeks. He stopped and held her close, wrapping all of arms around her. She buried her head into his shoulder and wailed. Rocking her side to side, he made sympathetic noises in her ear and kissed the top of her head.
Glancing up, he saw the windows of a human church and led Dahlia inside. The human with a white collar stood up from one of the benches and ran to them.
“What’s the matter young lady?” the vicar asked.
Dan looked at him and whispered, “We’ve just found her father. We need your god to pray for him, as well as our own gods.”
“It doesn’t quite work in that way,” the vicar replied. “But I will pray to my God for him. Your friend will be safe here, I promise you.” Dan nodded and lifted Dahlia’s face. “I am going to find who did this, and they will be brought to justice. Whether an Earther or an Earther-Liker, they will pay. I promise you.”
Dan left the church for the Hall of Records.
FOUR – A Cut Above
Dan walked into the morgue with two of his hands in his pockets. He nodded to Sianne, the female pathologist as she looked up at him.
She stood and motioned for Dan to follow her. Having known him since his days in the enforcers and now as a Private Investigator, Sianne always helped him when she could. “I can tell that, thankfully, he was already dead when his limbs were severed. He was stabbed in the back of the neck by something tiny. It killed him before he had a clue.”
Sianne moved her robot around and set the arm to hold the severed stump and zoom in on the wound. “You can see by the striations that this was done by a very sharp weapon. Okay Beagle, you can let go now.” The circular robot released its hold and moved back to its housing.
“Listen, Dan. I think you will need help on this. With how clean these were, I don’t think Dahlia’s father was the first. I think we have a serial killer.”
She put her hands in her pockets and watched Dan as he turned and walked out the door. Continuing to watch the door long after it closed.
FIVE – A Moonlit Walk
Dan walked outside and glanced up at the first of the moons as it rose in the sky. He knew he had to find the killer of Dahlia’s father. He asked him to after death. It was not often the dead spoke to him, but when they did, it resulted in life changing consequences, and that terrified him now.
He looked up at the moon as the second, larger moon rose on its dark orbit, casting the first in shadows. It did not matter how many times Dan this, it still amazed him. Shaking his head, he brought himself back to the moment at hand.
His trip to the hall of records uncovered no clues, so now he needed to trawl the archives for murders like this across the planet. He started walking without thinking. The image of Dahlia’s father turning to him after death gave him nightmares, and he kept finding himself dragged back to that moment.
How could he? He needed some clue.
A Serial killer maybe as Sianne said?
Maybe a Vakarian framing a human?
“By the Gods!” he exclaimed and stopped as he remembered the hand held something. He turned around, and a fist was the last thing he saw.
SIX – Mangled
Dan opened his eyes to a feeling of immense pain in his face. He tried to touch his face but found himself strapped to a chair by his arms and legs. His left and upper eyes were swollen shut so he could only see in one dimension. A figure strode around the room just in the shadows so he could not make out anything from his captor.
“Who are you, and what do you want?” Dan asked, trying to sound authoritative but instead, his voice cracked near the end.
His captor, seemingly an Earther, ran and slammed his hands on Dan’s arms causing him to grunt in pain. “I don’t believe you are in a position to ask me questions. I’m going to ask you a question, Vak, and I believe I can withdraw the correct answer from you. I am going to untie your right upper arm now.” His captor freed Dan’s arm, fed his fingers between the wheels of the device beside him, and turned the handle.
Dan’s screams drowned out the sound of the gunfire and his captor hitting the floor. Someone grabbed his arm as someone else pried his fingers free. Through the tears and his one good eye, he could see the uniforms of the Enforcers and the priest from the church he left Dahlia.
SEVEN – Recuperation
Dan sat by the water looking at his reflection. After having his hand amputated following his torture at the hands of the unknown, and now very dead, assailant, he felt less than useless. Using his lower right arm, he rippled the water as a tear dropped in. Dahlia approached him, laid him down and wrapped all of her arms around him from behind. As they lay there, she could feel him sobbing so just kissed him on the back of the neck and laid there.
Four hours later, she noticed he had finally drifted off to sleep, so gently detangled herself from him and sat by the edge of the pool. In two weeks, someone murdered and mutilated her father’s body, and then Dan lost his hand to a torturer. If it were not for the priest speaking to a Human in the church, and running out to fetch the enforcers, Dan may not have survived the night.
Now, as she looked at her sleeping friend, she decided he needed all the help he could get. There was something more than just murder and mutilation here, and it chilled her to the bone at the thought of what may happen.
EIGHT – Give The Man A Hand
Dan found it difficult to move his prosthetic hand. He tried picking up a cup of liquid and crushed it so the water all shot out of the top and on the floor. Dahlia attempted to hold in a laugh as she saw anger rise in his face.
The therapist raised all four hands and told him to stop. “Think of it as an egg. Think around the hand not inside it”
This went on for several weeks before Dan managed to control the new appendage. Another week before the therapist dischargeth d him from daily reviews.
Dahlia walked with him to a local coffee shop and held his hand, telling him to hold hers. He did with barely a sensation on her skin. She let her hand drop and he stopped, staring off into the distance. Looking in his three eyes, she could only see a void, emptiness.
Three bodies lay piled one atop the other. Two Vakarian, one Human. The two Vakarians were missing two arms each and a leg each. The Human had two arms attached a leg attached. All three heads turned and spoke “help me!”
Dan staggered backwards as Dahlia caught him. “We have a problem” he trembled.
NINE – The Fog of War?
Dahlia looked into Dan’s three eyes trying to see the cause of the fear and worry he felt. He shook his head trying to remove the image of the dead bodies from his mind. Dahlia took his hands, his organic and prosthetic, and led him to the cliff overlooking the bay. They watched a fog roll in as she placed two of her arms around his shoulder and pulled him into her. She laid one hand on his waist, and the other stroking his head, running a thumb behind his ear to relax him.
As the fog covered the water, Dahlia’s hand stopped suddenly, causing Dan to awaken with a start. He followed her gaze and saw two small ships coming out of the low clouds with humans standing on prows with weapons that they pointed toward the beach.
Dan felt sick as memories of his history lessons and his ancestor, Daniel, sprang to the fore of his memory. Looking at Dahlia, he could see the fear in her eyes as well. Something told him that these were the ones responsible for the murders. Now, more would certainly follow. Many more. He hoped history was not about to repeat itself.
TEN – A Rocky Meeting
Racing to the shoreline, Dan and Dahlia hoped to alert the Enforcers of the imminent landing of the humans before they reach very far. As they turned one corner, they ran into a group of humans armed with laser rifles. Before they could react, the two Vakarians found themselves ushered into a building close by where two of the bipeds pored over a large map. They looked up as the tripeds entered the room.
One human, a female, chewing on a cigar walked around the table to examine her guests. “You must be the descendant,” she said as she looked into Dan’s eyes. “We need your help. Your people and my people are dying and someone in your Enforcers is responsible. If we walk in and make accusations, we will be branded as trouble makers.” She opened the rear door and waved them out. “You have been looking into it and we need to find who is responsible before Human / Vakarian relations turn sour and we all know the history of the times that has happened.”
They reached a huge pile of rocks that her men were moving. In amongst the rubble, Dan could see Human and Vakarian limbs.
ELEVEN – Down Remembrance Road
Looking over his shoulder, Dan made sure Dahlia was nowhere near, as he started moving the limbs. He recognised the tattoo on one Vakarian arm and felt ill. He dropped to a crouch and closed his eyes. He remembered his time as a Private Investigator, a case stuck out to him. Animals turned up with legs missing, eyes missing, some even with heads missing. The cuts on them reminded him of the cuts on the limbs here. Whoever this was has evolved. They have travelled down a road that there is only way out of, and he knew it was not going to be pretty. Before that though, he needed to show that this was not an attack and there was no “us versus them” starting again. Dan knew his old office was the only place that held all the records, and that held a lot of darkness for him.
Dan walks up the long winding road with a bottle in his upper hand. He staggers into a bin and apologises, laughing and shaking his head. Rounding the corner, he sees the woman he loves with the man he hates. He looks at Dan, and runs the knife across her throat …
TWELVE – Cigars and Friends
Dan asked the Cigar-Smoking woman if she could loan them an auto to visit his office and look through information on other murders.
A little later, a human sat behind the wheel of the auto whilst Dahlia, CS (as Dan called her) and Dan discussed the grisly finds and the information obtained by both parties. So far, eleven humans and thirteen Vakarians believed to be the victims of this sadist lay in the mortuary. Dan shared that he believed another three, all close together, would be discovered very soon. Dahlia nodded and CS looked at him quizzically before telling the driver to pull over outside a large apartment complex. After leaving the auto, Dan pulled out a card and slid it into a slot, and a humming sound erupted from behind the wall. Parts of the Perspex slid aside and an elevator extended. As Dahlia stepped forward, she stumbled and Dan caught her …
Dahlia lies on floor, one arm missing and blood oozing from the wound.
Her upper eye is gone and a contraption rests in the same area.
The spikes are wet from fresh blood.
She utters her last words: “Dan, help me”
He staggered back, vomiting and terrified.
THIRTEEN – His Elevator Doesn’t Go All The Way To The Top
Dahlia grabbed hold of Dan. His light green skin having drained to near white, and his hands shaking so much, she thought his prosthetic hand was going to come loose. Dan jerked away from her and she stepped back as if something hit her. CS glanced around with her hand on the grip of her pistol, trying to see what caused the reaction of the Vakarian. Seeing nothing that could be responsible, CS ushered them both through the door and into the elevator.
“I don’t know what’s going with you two love birds”, CS admonished, pressing the button to Dan’s floor. “But you had better get your head in the game. We need your bits before anyone else dies”
Dan held up a hand, waving her concern away and looked into Dahlia’s eyes. He threw all four arms around her, pulling her tight against him. “Don’t leave me. Don’t ever leave me. Stay where I can see you, always”.
“What was that about?” Dahlia asked and he shook his head and told her she did not want to know, but did not release his hold on her.
CS smiled and looked at the photos of oilrigs and ships on the walls of the elevator. Then the box they stood in jerked …
FOURTEEN – Raising The Bar
Using her knife, CS found they sat between floors with a solid wall in front of them. Looking up, she located the emergency hatch in the ceiling and prompted Dan to climb up and open it to find how far they were to the next exit. “I found the problem,” Dan called down after struggling through the gap. “Someone jammed the weather vane into the rollers and stopped it going further. We are right by my floor. Give me your knife; I can get the doors open.”
Handing the knife up to Dan, she told him to be careful. He nodded he would, as she helped Dahlia up through the hatch.
Dan managed to twist the knife into the seam of the doors and open them. He pushed his back against one door and braced one of his legs against the other. Dahlia climbed through as CS began climbing through the hatch.
A sudden “ping” followed by a “twang” sounded from above and the elevator lost its grip and dropped with no brakes. The last thing Dan saw of CS was a look of terror on her face before a crash from below and a blast of air rushed past him.
FIFTEEN – Office Visit
Dan and Dahlia staggered through the door, unable to comprehend the events that just transpired. CS no doubt was dead after the elevator fell.
Dan slumped into his office chair run his upper hand through his hair whilst Dahlia stared out of the window. She watched a pair of shoes swaying in the wind as they hung over a cable. In the last few weeks, she witnessed death, kidnapping, torture, violence, dismemberments and wondered how she was still sane. A humourless chuckle escaped her as she wondered if she really was still sane or if this was some mental breakdown from seeing her father dead in the end of an alley.
Dan swore and stood with such ferocity his chair flew backwards, bouncing off the filing cabinet, causing Dahlia to jump. He opened a drawer and grabbed a file, and then opened his desk. He handed Dahlia a bottle of spirit, asking her to empty it. As she walked to the sink, quietly slipped a handgun into the back of his jeans, hoping he never had to use it. Just before leaving, he threw all his other files across the floor, making it look like someone ransacked his office.
SIXTEEN – Human History
Reaching the Humanity Museum, Dan and Dahlia had to fight their way through a throng of humans waving flags of all different shapes and colours, with the majority being the flags with a blue rectangle covered with stars in the top left, with red and white horizontal stripes covering the remainder of the flag.
As they fed their way through the crowd, Dan tapped a human on the shoulder and asked what was going on. The man he spoke to grinned and said “On Earth today is the Fourth of July – a huge celebration for Americans so we celebrate it as well.” Nodding, as if he understood, they made their way to the escalator leading up through the replica of the planet Earth. As they reached the top, more humans milled around making it difficult to move, Dan reached back for Dahlia’s hand and weaved through the sea of people.
They finally reached the Serial Killer Historical Section and started looking through the list of killers, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Liu Pengli, as far up as Raymond Montgomery in 2235. He found one instance of a similarity, and the face with the name he found shocked him.
SEVENTEEN – Water Torture
Dan sat with his feet dangling in the water. Swinging his legs, he watched the ripples expand ever outward until they disappeared. He wiped a tear from his eye at the thought that he would never bring the killer to justice. When he looked through the reports of serial killers, he found an image of a similar killer from seven centuries earlier on Earth. The killer’s face could have been a clone of someone he met recently. CS … Cigar Smoker. When he spoke to her unit and asked her name, the last name they gave him matched that of the serial killer in human history.
Now, he knew the twisted mess in the wrecked elevator, escaped justice and Dahlia could never have closure. He knew her heart would be broken, not only for the fact that Zoe Keegan would never face trial for her crimes, but that she walked, talked and worked with the monster that killed her father.
Dan stamped a foot in the water and watched as the ripples folded over each other, hiding some ripples and causing others to be become more pronounced. He stopped kicking water and groaned as he realised he had been played.
EIGHTEEN – Truth Behind The Lies
Dan found Dahlia at the church, speaking to the priest. Every time he saw the man of the gods, Dan thought about how he saved him from the torture, but the loss of his hand would always be a stark reminder. He folded one pair of arms to hide the replacement.
He watched Dahlia throwing a ball in the air as she spoke to the priest, and judging by the rate that she threw the ball, was becoming more and more agitated. As he closed on them, Dahlia threw the ball screaming, and it hit the wall with such force, it exploded with a bang and fell to the floor.
When Dan reached the two, he gently placed one of his hands on Dahlia’s shoulder. “I have some good news and some bad news for you, Dahlia. The good news is, I found out who the killer is. The bad news is, she fell in the elevator”. Dahlia took an involuntary step back, and ran her upper left hand through her hair, “but she’s dead! What hope do we have now? There will be no…”
“She’s not dead” Dan interrupted her. “She faked it.”
NINETEEN – Sometimes No Answers Are The Best Answers
Dan told Dahlia he intended to find out everything he could about Zoe Keegan, the serial killer, so they could prepare fully for her, and try to hide the fact they knew she still lived.
They started at the base Keegan commanded. After the Sergeant at the door led them in, they sat and Dan politely refused the drink offered by Captain Manatee, the new commander.
“I want to prepare a memorial for Zoe,” Dan lied. “She helped us find information on the killer. We hope to have him soon. Can you tell me how long she was in command please?” he asked.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” replied Manatee, turning away quickly.
“How about if she was married,” Dahlia asked. “Did she have a husband?”
“If she did, I certainly never saw her with anyone,” the captain responded.
“Was she ever cited or slated?” Dan asked, exasperated.
“I am going to pretend I did not hear that. Now this interview is over. I want to hear nothing more of a memorial or anything. We will deal with things our way.” He pressed a button on his desk. “Sergeant, these two are leaving. Please make sure they reach the gates without incident please.”
TWENTY – Dead On Target
It had been five days since Dan and Dahlia saw Captain Manatee and questioned him about Zoe Keegan under the pretence of wanting to create a memorial for her. In that time, he set up hidden video cameras around the base to see if his hunch was true about Keegan still being alive, and that Manatee knew everything that went on with her.
He quietly made his way to where one of the cameras pointed at the buildings. He moved the foliage and swapped the memory cards, removing the one with recorded data and replacing it with a fresh one. He took off his prosthetic hand and slid the full card inside, and then reattached the hand back on to his wrist. He quietly moved away, making sure the camera was still hidden.
Dahlia started the vehicle as she saw Dan exiting the woods, and drove them towards the House of Worship. As they passed the outer area of the base, Dan pointed to an area that seemed to have been demolished recently, and judging by the angle, the camera should have at least some shot of it.
The vicar ushered them into the back room and Dan removed the card from its hidden compartment and placed it into the viewing machine. After two hours of watching, Dan’s hunch was proved true as Zoe Keegan stepped out of a door and met Captain Manatee, who seemed to have been expecting her.