By Richard Barrett
Lawson awoke to the dank stench of rot and the sight of utter blackness.
Up he sprang like a panther, his blue eyes narrowed deadly.
He had been sprawled upon a bed of cold stone, his shirt and jacket ripped from his body. The bed was encased in a chamber of black stone, a domed ceiling rising high and conical above the small room into darkness.
His slanted gaze shot downward: he was sprawled upon a bed of rock nigh three feet above the floor. Glancing right there was a wall. To his left laying upon an identical bed of rock lay the convulsing form of a girl.
In a flash he was at her side.
She was slender and willowy and voluptuous all at once, her dusky hair as black as the stone in the room, her ivory skin as white as the slender ceremonial gown in which she was swathed. She had high cheekbones and a nose of Aquiline, lithe pink lips, and wide eyes set beneath arched black brows.
Her eyes were deep dark wells of wisdom.
And they were trembling in fear.
Help me, her eyes begged.
Quickly Lawson glanced around the room again. This was some temple complex, dedicated to ritualistic murder for the sake of some sadistic alien race. This was a common practice among the barbarian monsters beyond the stars…blood lust for the other races.
Lawson’s fixed gaze returned possessively to the girl. His soul ached as his piercing gaze penetrated her deep dark wells of fear. He picked up her slender frame with ease.
“Can you walk?” he asked.
Slowly she nodded.
Lawson eased her to the ground. Suddenly, she spoke.
“What…what is your name?” she asked. Her voice was heavily accented.
“My name is Lawson Fuller,” he intoned. “And I’m going to get you out of here.”
He eyed her quizzically. She was calmer now, more at ease.
“What’s your name,” he asked her.
She shook her head ferociously, clinging to a sad and desperate dignity.
“I have no name,” she said simply
Lawson stared off into the darkness and thought for a moment. Suddenly he put his mighty hand upon her little shoulder, his piercing blue gaze returning to her deep dark wells.
“I’ll give you one,” he said.
A spark lit in her dark eyes, penetrating the blackness, as if kindled by the possession of his commanding stare. A smile grew upon her lithe, pink lips. The smile ignited her loving eyes.
“I would like that!” she said excitedly.
Lawson beamed full of mirth.
“Alright,” he said carefree, as jovial if they were in a cafe somewhere back at the Imperial Metropolis instead of a sacrificial temple chamber.
“How about,” he thought, “Vivacity?”
Her lovely little head tilted quizzically as she arched a thin brow.
“Why would you call me Vivacity?”
“Because under happier circumstances,” he said, “I can tell that you are passionate–and vivacious.”
Lawsons’ possessive gaze was gleaming full and content now as Vivacity’s deep dark wells gleamed with the light of a million stars from the bottom of her soul. She nuzzled her little head upon his broad chest as he reached around and held her with his mighty arm, his hand clasping hers.
If Lawson had had his way, they would have stayed like this forever. But in his soul he knew this was no place for love–not for long. They had to discover where they were.
“Now listen to me,” he commanded as he slowly stroked her silky black hair. “Who is holding you here?”
Suddenly her hand grew icy and her pulse quickened. She clasped on to his hand deathly tight and pressed her head desperately closer to his broad chest as her dark wells darted in terror around the room.
“Monsters,” she whispered desperately. “Monsters! Like you’ve never seen before!”
Lawson pulled her in closer to his chest protectively and continued stroking her hair.
“Did they hurt you?”
She held his hand tighter and said nothing.
Lawson’s steely gaze set. There would soon be hell to pay.
Suddenly a screeching sound filled the room. Inhuman. Lawson’s steely gaze shot across the room to the point of origin.
Two…Three…Four tentacles of wet pink muscle squirmed their way upward above the bed of stone, inching menacingly toward Lawson and Vivacity.
Lawson pushed Vivacity behind him and leapt like a tiger on top of the bed of stone. Over the side crawling slowly upon four limbs, was a strange, earthbound creature swathed in black with eight bony legs like a spider supporting thin bones running toward a strange misshapen head.
The tentacles extended from its puckering slit for a mouth, its eyes an otherworldly pale yellow as its skin of translucent aqua green covered a thick skull that seemed to raise with contours of two brains.
Lawson’s eyes glittered as suddenly he sprang from above toward its head.
He grasped the bony neck of the skull with his right fist and with his left slammed speared fingertips into its sick sallow eye sockets. The thing began to shriek as again and again and again he slammed into it. Desperately the thing began to reel back.
Now Lawson was on his feet as he slammed the skull upon the ground repeatedly like a rag doll. The thing screeched some more. He let loose his vice grip and stomped on the massive misshapen skull again and again and again with his black steel shoe heels.
The creature screeched desperately, its tentacles going convulsing limply as its skull smashed into bits. Then there was silence.
Lawson stepped back gravely. Sallow brain matter and saffron bile poured out over the black stone of the floor.
Lawson’s blue eyes glinted.
This was the price of threatening a human girl like Vivacity.
And Lawson had come to collect.
Suddenly a slow, rhythmic clapping echoed throughout the dark chamber. Lawson’s eyes narrowed, crouching like a tiger, his hands in guard, ready to strike.
Slowly all around him the surroundings now began to fade mistily…the beds of rock, the black walls, the domed ceiling of stone, even the putrid odor of the sacrificial chamber disappeared.
Quickly Lawson spun around behind him toward Vivacity. Slowly, ever slowly her form faded into mist, her deep dark wells gazing upon him distantly and lovingly from the other side of the altar. She then faded into thin air.
As the mist cleared, Lawson’s former surroundings suddenly gave way to a laboratory of buttons and metallic machines against the walls of dark mahogany, well-lighted by glowing yellow bulbs that hung from the ceiling and the walls.
Suddenly an oak-smoked voice spoke.
“Very good, Capt. Fuller,” the voice said, an air of satisfaction about it. “You’re the man for our job.”
The voice had the grainy quality of being projected through a speaker.
Lawson stood up erect. His blue eyes glinted coldly in disgust toward the speaker.
“And what job is that?” he intoned.