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© Tejas Balaji

Children Drama Fantasy

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Chapter 1

Anish’s eyelids seemed to force themselves open as he squinted through the bright white light shooting into his eyes. He felt immobile - so immobile that he thought paralysis had taken a strong hold on his body. His limbs seemed to be stuck to the soft mattress that he was lying on like glue, and he began to have the feeling that he was in his deathbed, ready for demise to embrace him into its arms. He tried to take in a breath, and air suddenly rushed into his lungs. Anish began to feel nauseated as his lungs inflated and deflated like a balloon. His heart seemed to be beating faster now, much faster than before. He tried to get up, but groaned as his limbs screamed for him to stop moving.

“Anish Deshmukh,” a voice chuckled. “Former RAW agent and India’s most trusted commando at the age of twenty two.” Anish opened his eyes completely to see a woman standing above him. The woman seemed to be reading something next to Anish’s hibernation pod. She then looked down at Anish and grinned, showing her perfectly white teeth. She pressed something below, and suddenly, smoke began billowing from the bottom and sides of Anish’s little confinement. Within a minute, he was able to freely move his limbs as though it was just another normal day.

“Wh-Where am I? And who are you?” Anish croaked as he tried to get back his voice.

“My name is Lucia Alvarez, and I am the leader of this group of remaining humans,” a female voice with a Spanish accent replied. “I was the Prime Minister of Spain before we left Earth. We are currently in the artificial planet of Athonus, which is orbiting the star Sirius D3, our new sun, situated in the fourth universe. Oh, and I forgot to mention that you are currently over four hundred years old.”

“Huh?” Anish asked, completely puzzled.

“It will take you some time to grasp all this information. I suggest that you first climb out of your pod, freshen up, after which we can talk.”

“A-Alright,” Anish whimpered. He slowly climbed out and wiggled his arms and legs, which felt very wobbly and numb. The dizziness in his head was starting to ebb away like a tide moving into the vast sea. He found the nearest washroom and splashed water onto his face like there was no tomorrow, and then followed the exit sign out of the labyrinthine spaceship. When he got out, he gasped.

The land was painted green with blades of grass sticking out from everywhere as though the place was a savannah, and ponds seemed to peppered on patches of the greenery. The sunlight shone on the white walkways, illuminating any darkness which may be residing there. Anish could taste the orange rays of light in his mouth, and it tasted quite sweet. He looked up at the sky, which seemed to be blue as it always was, as though this place was nothing but Earth. Villas and bungalows lined a certain area of the land, which were filled with people having several conversations. Anish broke his gaze and began looking for Lucia, who was leaning on the side of the spaceship a few hundred feet away. Anish strolled towards her and began bombarding her with questions.

“Lucia, what is this place? Why are we here? How and when did we get here? And most importantly, how am I four hundred years old?”

“Calm down, Anish. As I said, this is the artificial planet of—”

“Artificial? What do you mean by that?”

“When we left Earth four hundred years ago, we were given a device that would automatically construct an entire Earth-like planet in just ten hours that could house a few million people. That device self-destructed after it created this,” Lucia waved her hand at the beautiful scenery before her.

Anish nodded. His memory seemed to be returning to him slowly but steadily. “Why did we even come here in the first place?”

Lucia’s smile disappeared and she gazed sternly at the horizon. “Robot uprising,” she said wearily after a few moments. “All the major leaders of the world decided that they could not let humanity and its great history sink into the ocean. Therefore, they all came up with a plan to send very few selected people anonymously to a universe far from Earth’s, so far that the robots would never find us.”

“So far, that it took four hundred years to reach there,” Anish added with a smirk.

“Yes. There are fifty of us, and everyone was put into separate hibernation pods when we left Earth. The pods supplied everyone with sufficient nutrients. The ship flew through several wormholes to reach this universe — the fourth universe. A few days ago, the other three crew members and I were awakened. We guided this gargantuan ship to its final destination, created Athonus and here we are.”

“This is pretty interesting, I must admit,” Anish said, grudgingly impressed.

“You find this amusing?” Lucia groaned with gritted teeth and stared into Anish’s eyes like a hawk.

“No,” Anish replied calmly.

“Good,” Lucia replied as a smile etched itself on her face again. “Now follow me. We will begin regular classes from tomorrow onwards.”

Chapter 2

Anish was given a three bedroom villa where he resided with two other passengers, Alec Johnson and Zach Reed. Alec explained how he worked in the CIA as a crime analyst and Zach described his experiences as a fighter jet pilot in the Royal Air Force. The next morning, one of the experts, who said that her name was Guang Zhang, knocked at the door and told the three of them to assemble at the meeting ground.

“So Guang, what did you do for a living on Earth?” Anish questioned as they walked towards the amphitheatre.

“Well, I was the field marshall for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army,” Guang replied softly. “Therefore, I am also the expert for warfare on this planet, and you will be attending my classes.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Anish acknowledged. When they arrived at the amphitheatre, Lucia was climbing up to the stage to address the whole audience.

“Good morning everyone,” Lucia began. “Today, we will commence classes for all you passengers according to your job profiles on Earth. We have three groups, and two experts for each - one head expert, and one supporting expert. The three other crew members and I will be monitoring the recent space movements in the control room to make sure we all remain alive. The groups will be - warfare and spying skills, military intelligence and technology, and leadership. Now, everyone please disperse to your respective groups.” Anish scanned the area for Guang and stood next to her. Beside Guang was another young man with shabby hair and a very well built and muscular upper body. Soon, there were about fifteen people in the warfare and spying skills group including Zach and Anish. They walked to a building about a hundred meters away and settled down when Guang began to talk.

“Let us all quickly introduce ourselves before we begin,” Guang commented. First to go was Guang and then the supporting expert, Moshe Bar Heim, who told the class that he was a Mossad agent on Earth. Anish remembered a few other names after everyone introduced themselves, such as Sarah Jones, who claimed to be a US Army sniper and Martina Alfonsi who was an Italian spy.

“Now that that’s settled, let us begin with target practice,” Moshe advised. The fifteen of them were divided into groups of three, with Anish, Sarah and Zach in one group. Anish slowly picked up his gun and fired a shot. The recoil caught him off guard and Zach sniggered.

“You said you were a sniper, but you seem to be missing a lot of shots,” Zach commented to Sarah with a laugh.

“Yeah, but I guess it will take some time for me to get back into shape. I actually retired from the military a few years before we left Earth, but I was still sent here solely due to my experience in warfare,” Sarah grinned.

“Oh,” Zach replied.

Suddenly, an alarm began to ring loudly and Anish slammed his palms on his ears as though he was slapping himself. The lights flickered and then went off swallowing the room in darkness. Panic ensued as shouts flew across the room. The sound of the alarm was suddenly drowned by the overturning of furniture. Guang screamed for everyone to get beneath their respective tables and keep quiet. After a few more seconds, the alarm stopped and the lamps flickered back on, enveloping the room in light.

“Argh!” Moshe bellowed at the class. “Haven’t you people ever learned to keep quiet in drills? If that was a real invasion, then we would long be dead!” Just as the word “drill” escaped Moshe’s mouth, sighs filled the room as relief flooded into everyone’s minds.

“You people are just hopeless!” Moshe roared and stormed out of the room.

“Well, he has a very short temper,” Sarah whispered in Anish’s ear.

“Yeah,” Anish agreed. Guang then told them all to increase the distance to their targets and continue firing until lunch came around the corner. Just as the session ended, Anish, Zach and Sarah rushed to the refectory as their stomachs seemed to growl in hunger. Sarah finished early and went to her room to refresh herself while Anish and Zach ate like there was no tomorrow.

“Hey Zach, Guang told us to change into our pilot suits right?” Anish asked Zach when they finished lunch.

“Yes,” Zach replied with a grin. “This is going to be fun. I’ll beat you all in air warfare.”

As they entered the classroom, Anish’s eyes fell upon Moshe’s face, and his eyes narrowed. He nudged Zach.

“Hey Zach, do you see those burns on Moshe’s face?” Anish whispered. Zach shifted his gaze towards the expert and gasped just loud enough for Anish to hear.

“There’s only one way he could have acquired those burns,” Zach pointed out.

“Electrocution,” Anish replied.

“Yes,” Zach replied. Then, it dawned upon him. “The control room. Moshe must have tried to get into the control room without permission. Entering the wrong passwords activates the electrocution machine. He must be a traitor.” Just as these words left Zach’s mouth, an alarm sounded and Lucia’s voice boomed across the room through the speaker.

“Attention! There has been a security breach! I repeat, there has been a security breach! This is not a drill!”

Chapter 3

The entire group gathered at the amphitheatre where the forty passengers sat on the seats while the four crew members and the six experts stood on the stage. Lucia began addressing the audience.

“Today, when I returned to the control room after lunch, I noticed something extremely perilous,” Lucia said smugly. Murmurs flew across the room and the amphitheatre erupted in chaos until Moshe screamed for everyone to keep quiet.

“Why are you shouting when you’re the traitor?” Zach mumbled with gritted teeth.

“Calm down Zach,” Anish whispered back. “We shouldn’t jump to conclusions so quickly, and we better not start a fight here. I don’t want to create an enemity or get into any trouble.”

“Stop being a wimp,” Zack replied.

“As I was saying,” Lucia continued, “there was a very hazardous breach that put our lives in the hands of our enemies.” Lucia took in a deep breath and said, “Our shields and weapons, including the invisibility shield, had all been disabled. We had been rendered completely vulnerable.” A smirk etched itself on Zach’s face.

“Zack, don’t!” Anish muttered under his breath.

“Lucia, what do you think explains the burns on Moshe’s face?” Zach bellowed. “There is only one way that he could have acquired those bruises, and that is the electrocution machine at the control room’s entrance. I SUSPECT HIM AS THE TRAITOR!”

Moshe’s face went red as a tomato. “How dare you suspect me!” Moshe thundered. It seemed as though a storm was brewing in the distance when this man spoke. “I will squash you under my—”

“Calm down, Moshe,” Lucia coaxed. She then fixed her eyes upon Zach and began, “Zach, Moshe got those burns because he tried to save us.”

“How is that, may I ask?” Zach barked back.

“Moshe’s access cards to the control room were stolen by someone else. When he tried to get in, he was electrocuted because he had the wrong card.”

“Wait a minute,” Sarah chipped in. “I thought that only Lucia and the other three crew members had access to the control room.”

“That is what we told you,” Lucia smiled. “Well, there are two more crew members, and they are Moshe Bar Heim and Guang Zhang. We kept their identities secret, until now.”

“Why was that? Do you not trust us, Lucia?” Zack hissed.

“Some aspects are better not questioned, Zach,” Lucia replied. “Now, please head back to your rooms.”

During the evening, Anish, Sarah and Zach went for a swim in the ponds. The weather was quite hot and Sarah insisted on a lemonade while they relaxed in the water. When they got back to their rooms, they were told that the crew members and the experts had organized a party to celebrate the success of the landing on Athonus after the long hibernation period. Lucia was with two other crew members, while Anish decided to hang out with Zach and Alec. Sarah was with Martina, Moshe and Guang, who were dancing to the 2000s music playing loudly in the background. Some other passengers had volunteered to serve drinks in the counter, and Anish had already downed two mocktails along with his friends.

“Hey Anish,” Alec called out. “Who do you think the traitor is?”

Anish shook his head. “Well, I don’t know man. Next thing you know, Lucia’s the one betraying us all.”

“Exactly,” Zach added with a smirk.

“Hey guys, you want to go back to the room? I feel I’m going to crash right here!” Anish suggested.

“Sure,” Zach and Alec replied together, and the three of them sauntered back to their quarters.

Chapter 4

The next day, Guang and Moshe guided the passengers towards the hangars where several military aircraft equipped with large machine guns and missile launchers had been docked. Five long runways spanned the length of at least a couple of kilometers, disappearing into the horizon where the sun was waking up from its deep slumber. Anish’s heart was beating faster than he could keep track of it, and fear rushed into him like a waterfall. He was scared to even pick up a weapon and fight, let alone flying a military aircraft. All fifteen students, and the two experts climbed into their aircraft and, one by one, took off into the air, flying like bullets. Anish spotted Zach performing a few stunts and racing ahead of the others. As Anish flew farther, his eyes fell upon a few targets strategically placed in the air. He tightened his grip on the rough, hard surface of the gun controller, took a deep breath, and began to fire. Bullets flew from the turret like sharp needles and pierced the target board, making it look like a decapitated corpse. Anish smiled, and he felt his confidence slowly returning to him. Suddenly, Sarah’s voice screeched through the speaker.

“Attention! Squadron leader down! I repeat, squadron leader down! Return to base immediately!” Anish veered back and brought his aircraft down onto the runway. They all gathered around the wreckage and gasps flew in the air. Anish looked around for Zach when his friend appeared in the door of the crashed airplane with Guang’s body in his arms.

“We have been hit with extremely depressing news,” Sarah began. “Ms. Guang Zhang, our expert, is dead.”

“Guang and I were bringing up the rear,” Moshe explained. “Suddenly, Guang’s engines burst into flames and she dove down like a rocket, crashing into the grass field below.” Silence filled the area and everyone’s head drooped down. Awkward silence settled for a long time, until Moshe spoke.

“Guys, let us get back to Lucia,” he proposed. “She needs to know about this.”

When Lucia heard the news, she burst out in anger. She balled her fists and overturned her chair as her face turned red. Her teeth were gritted and fumes seemed to coming out of her nostrils like smoke from a coal powered train.

“Who did this?” Lucia growled after several minutes of shouting and screaming.

“It was an accident, Lucia,” Moshe replied slowly, afraid of Lucia’s growing wrath.

“No, I’m certain it wasn’t,” Lucia barked back. “We have lost one of our most trusted and skilled women in a training session where sixteen other people were witnesses. No, Moshe, it was surely not an accident. It was planned - planned very smartly indeed, and whoever the killer is, I will make them beg me for death.”

Lucia then commanded everybody to go have lunch while she discussed matters with Moshe. Anish, Zach and Sarah ate together and discussed about the recent events which were getting out of hand. They even made hypotheses about who they thought the double-crosser was, and Zach tried to convince them that it was surely Moshe.

“Who else can it be? He was the one flying along with Guang, so it would be common sense that he took a shot at Guang’s airplane and brought it down,” Zach pointed out.

“Zach, the last person I would classify as a traitor would be a Mossad agent,” Sarah argued.

“I agree,” Anish added.

“Just wait and watch, you guys. It’ll surely turn out to be him,” Zach assured.

Immediately after lunch, Moshe came around and called everyone to assemble at the amphitheatre, which Anish did reluctantly. Lucia was going to give her speech yet again.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply sorry to announce that our head expert for the warfare group Guang Zhang is no more. Her demise was the result of an engine failure during training this morning, and her plane crashed into the grass field below her. I request you all to close your eyes, remain silent and mourn for five minutes.” Silence fell in the amphitheatre and once the mourning was done, Lucia told everyone to depart to their quarters.

A couple of hours later, Moshe and the other crew came around to call everyone for the de-atomization ceremony. Guang’s body would be placed into a machine which would make her atoms disperse into thin air and become part of the planet’s atmosphere. They all assembled near the main building and just before the ceremony was about to commence, Zach nudged Anish.

“What happened?” Anish asked, concerned.

“Look there,” Zach pointed out. Anish followed Zach’s finger until his eyes fell upon a cloaked figure entering the main building which housed the control room. Anish gasped.

“Come on, let’s follow,” Zach urged.

“Have you lost your mind?” Anish hissed. “We don’t have the access card, and neither do we have a gun. Lastly, I am a not a great fan of death, and I don’t believe you are either.” Zach smirked and pulled out a grey card from his left pant pocket, along with a pistol from his right.

“How in the world did you…?”

“Guang’s body,” Zach beamed. “I volunteered to bring her body out just so that I could get this card, and of course, I always come prepared. By the way, this gun fires immobilizing darts that paralyses the person within seconds. Lucia would want to interview the traitor, so we’d better keep them alive,” Zach held out his gun.

“Zach, are you sure about this?” Anish questioned.

“Just follow me,” Zach urged.

“All right. Let’s get moving,” Anish followed Zach reluctantly. The two of them removed their shoes to make sure they don’t startle the traitor by making noise. They crouched and followed well behind. The figure held out an access card and entered the fortified room, closing the door. Anish and Zach waited for a few seconds and then slowly tiptoed towards the room. Zach handed Anish his gun while he opened the door with the card. As soon as the door creaked open, Anish held out his gun, his hands firmly glued to the trigger. The cloaked figure was seated on a chair operating a device.

“Hands up!” Anish bellowed. “Turn around slowly and reveal yourself.” The figure slowly turned and suddenly, at lightning speed, took out a pistol from its right pocket. Just as Anish’s eyes caught this movement, he pulled the trigger and the figure dropped to the ground, unconscious.

“Wow!” Anish took a glance at his gun, impressed with himself.

“Well, let’s remove this hood,” Zach chuckled and moved towards the body. He pulled back the hood, and both of them gasped.

It was Moshe.

“I knew it!” Zach grinned, his face beaming with happiness and excitement. “I knew it all along, and none of you ever believed me. Here’s our traitor, my prime suspect, caught red handed tampering with the controls.”

“I guess I can’t disagree,” Anish replied. “Let’s get back to Lucia.”

“Lucia,” a voice boomed, “is already here.” Both Anish and Zach jumped. Anish immediately pointed his gun at the person behind him but lowered the pistol when he realised who it was.

“Lucia,” Anish whispered.

“You saw everything?” Zach questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“No,” Lucia frowned. “In fact, I just came here to check on the controls. So you finally found the traitor, did you?”

“Yes,” Anish affirmed. “And it looks like Zach was right all along.”

“Hmm,” Lucia scowled. “I need to know the whole story. Everything.”

“The story of what?” Zach asked, perplexed.

“The story of how you found out that Moshe was surely the backstabber, of how you got that pistol, and, most importantly, how you broke into the control room,” Lucia gritted her teeth on those last words.

“Alright, alright,” Zach coaxed. “Calm down. I’ll tell you everything.” Zach began narrating the whole story of how they got here and successfully took down Moshe. Meanwhile, Anish commenced the searching of Moshe’s body, looking for anything suspicious which might help them in any way. He looked in all the pockets and even tore the shirt to see if anything was hidden inside, but in vain. Suddenly, the corner of his eye caught something he never thought he would find.

“Hey, Lucia,” Anish called out. “Come and take a look at this.” Lucia marched towards Anish and gulped.

“An ear plug for communication,” Lucia snarled. “Moshe was not alone.”

Chapter 5

Lord Xanthor rested his large, strong arms of steel on the golden throne’s armrests and grunted as the messenger robot marched towards him, creaking loudly as oil dripped from his back. Xanthor smirked and boomed in a voice that made the palace tremble with fear, shaking as though an earthquake had hit.

“What is it, Zayn?”

Zayn gulped and answered, “My lord, our interceptor robots have picked up some unidentified signals from the fourth universe. We believe it is the humans who have made their camp there and —”

“Zayn, how many times do you want me to tell you that the humans are dead? They are no more! We have searched every nook and corner of this multiverse in vain!” Lord Xanthor growled.

“My lord,” a voice began, “Zayn is correct. The information that he presents to you has been verified by every single interceptor robot that we have.”

“Are you sure, Raven?”

“Always, my lord,” Raven replied with a smirk.

“In fact, general Raven was with us when we got hold of this signal. She sent me to deliver this jaw-dropping news to you,” Zayn added.

“Alright, then,” Lord Xanthor boomed. “Send in our best fighters to finish them off. Then, this multiverse will be ours forever.”

“I don’t think that is the best decision, my lord,” Raven put in.

“Why do you say so?”

“This could very well be a trap—”

“A trap?” Xanthor laughed. “Are you out of your mind? The humans are fleeing from us in fear. We are stronger than them, mentally and physically. They possess no weapons, and are small in number, not to mention miniscule compared to the size of our army. After all this, you think they would have the guts and wits to trap us and take us off guard? I don’t think so, general.”

“My lord, I would suggest that we wait for some more time.” Raven replied humbly. “Let us watch if anything else happens or if there is any other action. We might even get word from Sarah Jones, our spy.”

“Raven, we don’t even know if Sarah is alive,” Xanthor replied wearily. “She boarded that escape spacecraft four hundred years ago, and we have not heard from her yet.”

“My lord, it is quite possible that the humans have just found a great place for their new home and are setting up their planet now. We should be hearing from Sarah soon.”

“Alright, I will wait, but not for too long.”

“My lord!” an interceptor robot stormed into the palace. “We have a message from Sarah Jones!”

Xanthor smiled as he read the message. Sarah had given them all the information: her whereabouts, the weapon information and what they did everyday.

“Fifty remaining humans to kill,” Xanthor grinned.

“Sir, I can send in a small squad right away, if you wish,” Raven suggested.

“Not a small squad, Raven. I want to send my mightiest heroes to finish them off. Looks like they have Lucia with them as well. She will surely prove a challenge to our mercenaries. Her tactical skills are unparalleled. Raven, I need you to lead the army. Select one thousand of our best elites and nine thousand other soldiers. Take our best fighter airplanes with you and make sure you have as much ammo as you can muster. I need you to come back victorious.”

“As you wish, my lord. I will make sure that this battle will be rightfully won by us,” Raven replied and left with a bow. She then marched towards the military headquarters which law sprawling just beside Xanthor’s palace. Two large robots guarded the gargantuan gates, and upon sighting their general, immediately gave way and pushed the doors open. Raven stormed in and screamed at the top of her voice to get everyone’s attention.

“Good evening, lionhearts! Upon Lord Xanthor’s command, I come here to gather ten thousand warriors to fight the remaining humans who lay hiding in the fourth universe. All soldiers, assemble before me!”

The colossal mothership cut through the empty space, slicing it like cheese. Hundreds of smaller fighters followed, flanking the ship from all directions. Raven and the elites were on the mothership, while the fighters were guided by the other mercenaries. As they neared the final wormhole which would take them directly to the fourth universe, Raven addressed the elites.

“We are nearing the inevitable. Get ready, soldiers of Earth! We shall destroy the human race once and for all! Long live Lord Xanthor!” Raven pumped her fist high up in the air, and her soldiers followed suit. She then ducked through the door into the cockpit and the tiny planet came into view. It seemed as though it was painted green and blue, as though it was a carbon copy of Earth.

“Your end in nearing,” Raven muttered under her breath.

Chapter 6

Anish, Zach and Lucia marched out of the control room building with Moshe’s body over Lucia’s shoulder. A determined look was etched on Lucia’s face and Anish quite frankly looked worried. Just as they set their eyes on the dark horizon after exiting the building, Anish screamed.

“Guys! Look, an escape pod rising!”

“To the turrets! Now!” Lucia acknowledged. Zach and Anish ran to the nearest defense turrets strategically placed all over the planet. Anish took a deep breath, hauled the massive gun upwards and began to fire.

It seemed as though the pods were bullet proof as the bullets bounced off the exterior of the pod harmlessly. Well, there has to be a limit for how much that tiny wall can withstand, Anish thought and continued to fire. Zach also got to his turret and both began to pierce the pod with holes. After about half a minute of continuous firing, smoke began to billow from the bottom of the pod and it came crashing down. The two of them sprinted towards the downed escape vehicle and tore open the door, and Anish’s face went stark white.

Sarah’s wavy blond hair was spread out over the floor of the pod and blood was spewing from her head slowly but surely. The two friends quickly lifted Sarah’s body in their arms and carried it to Lucia, who took them to the infirmary. They placed Sarah’s body in the recovery machine. After about two minutes, Sarah squinted her eyes open.

“Where am I?” she murmured.

“Your deathbed,” Lucia growled. A wicked smile formed over Sarah’s face and she sniggered.

“So you finally found out, did you?” she laughed.

“What have you done?” Lucia snarled.

“Oh, nothing much,” Sarah frowned. “I just gave the robots your location, the number of people here, and what boring stuff we do everyday. Oh, and the military equipment we possess. Yeah, that’s about it. Let me also warn you that the robots will be here any moment now.”

“Were you using Moshe?” Anish raised an eyebrow.

“Oh yes, about that,” Sarah sighed. “The first time I broke in was alone. I had stolen Moshe’s access card during lunch one day, but then I thought it would be much easier to use one of the crew members themselves to do the job. The simplicity of how I managed it cannot be emphasized through words alone. You see, Lucia had conveniently organised a party, and that was when I struck.”

“You were with Moshe that time,” Anish gritted his teeth.

“Yes. I stuck that miniature earplug into Moshe ear, and the man didn’t even notice! Well, after doing that it was easy enough to pour the special potion into his drink - a large dose it was, mind you - and then, the job was done. He would listen and execute to whatever I commanded him to do, and that was the potion’s trick alone.”

“Who gave you this potion?” Anish questioned.

“Well, I made it. I was taught the recipe all the way back on Earth by the robots, and when my memory fully returned, I wasted no time.” Just as those words left her mouth, an explosion rocked the surface and the walls seemed to sway like flowers in the wind.

“Whoops! Looks like the robots are here! Good luck!” Sarah laughed.

Rage engulfed Lucia and wrapped around her like a cocoon. “How dare you!” she barked. She wrenched out a pistol from her belt, aimed straight at Sarah’s face and pulled the trigger. Sarah’s body went limp and blood oozed from her forehead like water from a small opening.

“That’s the end of her,” Anish noticed.

“Now let’s get to the guns,” Lucia urged. “We have a robot army to defeat.” The two of them ran towards the grounds where robot swarms were overwhelming everyone on the planet. Lucia took a turret while Anish rushed to the airfield. Zach was just getting on his plane when Anish arrived.

“Let’s do this,” Anish said confidently. He took a deep breath and got into his airplane. He had to make sure that he saved his people, his allies. He had to be a lionheart, ready for battle. The two of them took off and began firing missiles down at the swarms. The sound of machinery creaking brought an unpleasant sound to Anish’s ears, which was soon replaced by explosions and the lingering taste of orange fire. The robots noticed the firing from above and began releasing homing missiles at the two aircrafts, which Anish and Zach took down in mid air using the plane’s bullets. Anish made sure not to focus too much on the area where his fellow humans were fighting the machines and took down incoming swarms in the distance. Several spaceships had filled the no longer grassy and cheerful fields of the planet, looming down on the human soldiers. The robots seemed to keep coming like there was no end to them, large masses of steel marching down towards the buildings, sniffing for any presence of flesh. Suddenly, Anish spotted a fleet of aircraft storming towards him. He notified Zach, whose eyes had also caught this movement in the air. Just as he was about to focus his turret on the incoming planes, the fleet swooped down and began dropping several bombs at the robots, and the explosions were so loud that Anish could feel them high up in the air.

“Zach, they seem to be our allies,” Anish commented over the microphone.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Zach acknowledged. All of a sudden, the bottom of Anish’s plane rocked violently. The smell of smoke rushed into Anish’s nose and determination and bravery seemed to take control of him. His aircraft stooped downwards, its nose perpendicular to the ground. A huge robot swarm below him seemed to be celebrating the successful hit on his aircraft, and a wicked grin etched itself on Anish’s face. Zach’s screams of concern over the speaker were drowned by Anish’s willpower, and he increased the speed of the aircraft as it neared its doom in the ground below. Finally, he pulled the escape button.

Anish was shot upwards and he feasted his eyes upon the aircraft as it crashed into the large robot swarm, giving birth to an eternal fire. One by one, explosions welcomed the robots as they burst into pieces of machinery flying through the air like asteroids in space. Anish dropped to the ground and lay on his back. His eyes forced themselves shut and all went black

Chapter 7

The massacre of Raven’s army seemed to continue as though there was no end. Her eyes narrowed as she watched through the glass in the mothership, watched as the machines fell like dominoes as death pierced its scythe into their hearts of steel. Not fifty, but thousands of humans had assembled to battle the robots, as they even took to the skies to bring the army down. Missiles dropped to the ground like rain, decimating everything below them. The sky had darkened as war clouds gathered, and even these clouds seemed to back off when they witnessed the fiery battle below them. The robots fell in masses, their machinery blown to pieces, scattered around the battlefield and peppering the grass with lumps of steel. Anger rose inside Raven as she began to fume, her teeth gritted so hard that she thought they would break any second. Her steel fists were clenched and balled, ready to punch anyone that stood in front of her.

“Sarah! You traitor!” she screamed. “You double crosser, I shall ensure your death at my hands!” Raven had realised the grave mistake they had done. Sarah was never their spy, instead, she worked for the humans. Of course she would, considering that she was a human herself. The humans had employed her to do this, to act as the robots’ undercover agent but deliver information to the humans instead. They had used Sarah to deliver that message because they knew that the robots would trust them. There may have been fifty humans on that tiny planet, but that surely wasn’t the only human-occupied planet. There were more, many more, and the whole fight was a trap. Raven had led her army into an ambush, an ambush from which it was nearly impossible to escape. For the first time, tears seemed to formulate themselves on Raven’s metallic face, and she quickly wiped them off with a cloth. She didn’t want to die; she wouldn’t die, after all that she had done for the robots since their initial rebellion against the humans. Xanthor had to know about this, about how large of a manpower the humans had, and that defeating them would not be as easy as slicing butter. Raven took a deep breath, turned the spaceship around, and began to zoom towards the wormhole — towards Earth.

Chapter 8

Anish squinted his eyes open and a face with a beard and a handlebar moustache was inches away from him. He recognized this face as Moshe.

“The kid’s finally awake,” Moshe told someone standing behind him.

“Bien,” a voice with a Spanish accent acknowledged.

“Where are we? Is everyone safe?” Anish asked.

“We are in a spaceship headed for Gaia,” Moshe replied calmly. “To answer your second question, no, everyone is not safe. We lost two of our precious soldiers - Guang and Alec.”

Anish gasped. “I am deeply sorry to hear that. They were great people, great soldiers we will miss. What about the robots? Are they behind us?”

“No, we took them down along with Athonus,” Moshe said with a smile.

“WHAT?” Anish shrieked loudly. “Our home is gone?”

Lucia laughed. “It was all a plan, Anish. The whole thing. Sarah betraying us, Moshe getting electrocuted, and even the robots arriving at Athonus. We surely didn’t travel for four hundred years from Gaia. We made that up as well, considering that it has been four hundred years since the entire human species fled from Earth. We live on Gaia now, and that is our new home for the past two centuries. In fact, Sarah is still alive. Guang was never on that plane which crashed, but she lost her life to the robots. We wanted the robots to come to our planet so that we could blow them up. The robots only know about our group of humans and when they found out that we were living here, I knew they would send most of their elite troops to end us once and for all. We escaped just in time on this spaceship, and blew up the entire planet, taking down the troops along with it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Anish questioned, anger rising in him.

“Well, how do you expect me to tell you about a test? Our entire stay on Athonus was an exam for the passengers. On Gaia, we selected the most elite troops we could find and brought them here, along with the ten other crew members and experts. We purposely created a situation involving a traitor and intentionally lured the robots here to see how well you people would respond to such extreme situations, and how well you were able to wade off the robot army. Through this test, we would gain a lot of benefit - defeating a large portion on the enemy’s army, and conducting the exam to pick the best of the lot. Sarah was the only passenger who was told about this entire plan and was made an artificial traitor. The other planes that arrived were from Gaia, to save us if you all failed the test. Those who passed will be selected to lead the final anti-robot mission, a quest that will ultimately take us to the robot emperor so that we can end it once and for all.”

Anish pondered on this for a few moments and then asked, “What is Gaia?”

“It is the new home of the humans. It was built by the first humans who left Earth four hundred years ago, and Sarah and I were part of that group. All the other people on this spacecraft, including you, were born in Gaia. The planet of Gaia is so far away from the robots that they haven’t even begun exploring that part of the multiverse yet. It is several wormholes from the planet that we stayed in, and we are headed for Gaia now.”

Suddenly, memories of life on Gaia flooded into him like a raging river and searing pain wrapped around his head like a cocoon. It all seemed to be coming back to him, the fully artificial planet orbiting one of the brightest stars in that universe.

“Why am I having this sudden nostalgia of life on Gaia?” Anish asked curiously.

“Your memories of Gaia were erased when you were on the spaceship headed for Athonus. They were replaced by artificial memories of life on Earth so that you have no idea of the mission you were sent to accomplish. Enough talk for now. We are fast approaching Gaia.”

As Anish peeped through the window, a large planet came into view, covered by greenery and patches of blue. They had succeeded, but their true mission had only just begun.

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