Gate Jumpers Saga: Chapter Two

Kanthi B’Halli was, for the first time in his life, exactly where he needed to be. Hard to believe that he’d had to travel into enemy territory just to get there.

As a door opened, Kanthi withdrew into the shadows. He was hiding in the rafters, just out of view and safely out of range of the creatures beneath him. As they stepped into the room, lights snapped on, illuminating the room laid out under his feet.

Thagzars, half-lizard men he’d only ever seen before in his nightmares, circled below. They walked on two legs, their green scales glinting in the artificial light while their yellow eyes glowed. From what Kanthi’s people knew of them, Thagzars were mainly descended from two types of creatures, resulting in a very basic (but exaggerated) differentiation in the snout. Depending on their ancestry, they either had an elongated snout full of uneven rows of sharp teeth, or a flat face with two poisonous fangs.

There had always been endless speculation about which Thagzar was worse to meet, but as far as Kanthi was concerned, both were equally dangerous. They’d all earned the name of ‘snakes’ from his people. And he currently had ten in the same room with him, six flat-faced and four well-armed.

They seemed to be moving with purpose, approaching various tables and hissing at each other in calm tones. It was creepy – almost conversational.

Kanthi watched them, memorizing everything. He knew the room to be a laboratory, one that he had searched long and hard for because of what it housed.

Suddenly, the door opened, bursting with such force that it banged into the wall, bouncing off of it. A single Thagzar stood there, heaving with his arms outspread as the other creatures looked up at his entrance. Kanthi tensed, silently drawing out one of the knives sheathed in his armband, straining unsuccessfully to hear their words.

He wasn’t going down without taking a few of the demons with him.

Finally, the creature spoke, his hisses wheezy and out of breath. The other snakes chimed in with strangled hisses of their own, and Kanthi watched as they became increasingly agitated. Rather than keep up the easygoing pace they’d all exhibited minutes before, the snakes were rushing now, haphazardly placing jars and files all over the place. They were scared, which only worried Kanthi more.

Did they know that he had infiltrated their base? Had they found his camp? As the dozens of possible scenarios (all of them bad) buzzed around in his brain, he forced himself to sit quietly in the ceiling, and wait.

Within minutes, the reptilians were leaving the room, some at a run. They slammed the door, making Kanthi jump as he had half-expected them to throw grenades back inside at him. But, as the silence remained and no one was sent inside to find him, he breathed easier.

If the commotion just now hadn’t been about him, then he had to assume that some other poor bastard had just gotten their full attention, which meant that he may very well have a distraction on his hands while he raided their lab. In which case, he knew that he’d better act fast.

Kanthi left the ceiling much more easily than he’d hidden in it, taking off at a run to swoop down and literally hang from a banister, using the acceleration to swing his feet and let go so as to land in a tight roll, protecting himself from injury. In the end, he finished on his feet, crouched with his fists out and his eyes open.

Still, no one came in.

Keeping his guard up, Kanthi stayed low, sweeping the room with precision and detail. He may not know how to read their language, but he knew the Thagzar sign for what he was searching for: two harsh slashes inside a circle, something his people had come to associate with death.

As familiar as he was with it, he still almost missed it. It was in a small vial that was shadowed by far more impressive ones, hidden in the back of a test tube rack on a high shelf with a yellowed label. It seemed to Kanthi that it had been deliberately hidden; not much of a surprise as Kanthi’s people had been hunting for that single formula for decades.

It was a biological weapon, the best the Thagzars had ever created and the worst Kanthi’s people, the Eiztar, had ever been cursed with. It was an airborne toxin, designed to target female embryos and inhibit them from taking hold and, ultimately, result in miscarriages. It was a tragic thing, to watch mothers and sisters become pregnant, only to know that they would wake up one morning and lose the child, becoming forever scarred from the experience. It was a loss that touched not only the victims but everyone around them, a reoccurring tragedy that had been plunging his people into a planet-wide depression for decades.

Not to mention, now that it had been going on for over twenty years and his generation was old enough to see it, they were finding that the initial loss of life was only a small price in the toxin’s overall process. By targeting their women like this, the reptilians were ensuring the extinction of the Eiztar’s species, once and for all.

The reason for the toxin’s invention was, in Kanthi’s opinion, even more sinister. It had been less than thirty years ago – a generation – that his people had still been completely and totally under the rule of the snakes. They were aliens that had overtaken his own and four other planets long ago, too long to remember a life without them. Using their advanced weaponry and technology, they’d brought the five planets to their knees, ensuring a complete and total takeover in order to steal their natural resources.

But one generation ago, the natives – Kanthi’s people – had finally risen up from the shackles and managed to take back their proper place as master of their own world, killing and banishing every last Thagzar that had dared to ever control them. Kanthi knew that, at least on his planet, they’d acted quickly and carefully to steal as much of the alien technology as they could, advancing themselves leaps and bounds with war ships and space travel. Soon, they were even creating their own technology, specifically weapons and defenses that protected against Thagzar attacks.

Which was when their old enemy took the initiative and started dabbling in bio-warfare.

The council that ruled over the five planets’ alliance believed that it was the reptilians way of weakening them, and ultimately paving a way to reconquer them. It was why they were holding out hope for a cure – it would be far too great a loss to lose a slave force, so an antidote had to be available or, at the very least, possible. It was why the alliance had started sending out teams to hunt down Thagzar bases and seek out the formula, and why Kanthi, the leader of his squad, was stealing a vial of the weapon now.

He just hoped the alliance was right.

Taking an apron from a nearby table, Kanthi used it like a towel to pick up the vial. He was debating how best to transport it (pocket or boot) when a bang erupted outside.

Alarms suddenly burst through the speakers in the lab, leaving Kanthi stunned for a moment before he regained his wits. His main objective was the formula; he couldn’t lose it now that he finally had it, not when the fate of his people rested on it.

First, he locked the lab door, buying himself some more time. He couldn’t scramble back up to the ceiling, not before someone came in – besides, now that they were on alert, some snake might notice him up there and shoot him down. No, Kanthi would have to get caught if he wanted to make it out alive with the vial. Not that he could let them discover it on him; then they’d lock it away somewhere that he’d never be able to find and throw away the key.

A crash sounded, and then something hit the door. The Thagzars were trying to get in.

Kanthi made a hasty decision and stuck the vial in a separate test tube rack, hidden even better than it had been, hopefully away from the scientists themselves, too. Just until Kanthi could get back in and steal it properly.

A second crash, and the lock busted, the door finally giving way and falling to the floor with a loud thud as metal met metal. Kanthi put his hands up, his eyes on the ground, while the guards hesitated a moment at the unexpected Eiztar on their lab floor. They recovered quickly enough, though, and pushed him to the ground.

So much for being in the right place.

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