Chapter 17: Escaping a Mad Man
"Well, that doesn't sound good." Druhm announced carelessly. "We better get out of here."
Druhm moved entirely without grace out of the elevator, grabbing Carl by the arm and pulling him along, most likely trying to get away from No'wok.
"Not so fast!" No'wok said and grabbed hold of Carl's other arm. Carl felt like a toy being fought over by two children. Two very big and strong children, who could probably tear his arms off if they kept pulling.
"Could we maybe get out of here before the two of you argue about this?"
Both Druhm and No'wok had forgotten they were dealing with living being capable of his own thoughts and they were looking at Carl in surprise.
"He is right. I do not wish to be blown to pieces just yet." No'wok let go of Carl's arm, and then looked at Druhm accusingly. Druhm to let go, and then the three of them proceeded towards the entrance together. But, before long, they were hindered by an army consisting of many different species rushing into the building. Each one of them held custom made weapons designed to fit their species. One of them, a considerably tall being, with his head a part of his chest, eyes positioned at the shoulders, appeared to be their leader. He stepped ahead of the rest of the army and quickly noticed Carl, Druhm and No'wok just standing there, frozen in place.
"You three do not belong here." he said simply and stepped aside. "Get out of here."
They quickly scuttled past, but before leaving Carl stopped to warn the leader.
"Dakahb is going to blow this place into pieces. You might want to get out of here as well."
The leader figure looked at Carl in confusion for as long as he could still see him before he disappeared out the door.
Once outside, Druhm confronted Carl with a stern look on his face.
"Artemis, this is not our war, we do not want to pick sides more than we already have. Dakahb is not always going to be in charge, and when he is replaced, we still want to be on neutral ground."
"And, what if Dakahb turns everyone at the factory against us?"
"May I remind the two of you that there probably won't be a factory any more in, let's see– five minutes. And on that note, we need to move out of the way."
Carl nodded and Druhm grunted but started moving away from the building. Carl really hoped they could get far enough away from the building before it blew up. He imagined a building of that size must require quite a considerable amount of explosives to be destroyed, and he did not like that thought. Most likely, it would cause a lot of casualties, and many of those would be innocent bystanders. The longer he thought about it, the less Carl liked Dakahb, who seemed he would do anything to always have the upper hand. Though, he couldn't help but notice a bit of a logic gap in regards to the plan to blow the factory up. In the end, he felt he had been right to feel hesitant to a partnership with Dakahb.
Just a short distance away Hermes and Iris had just spotted the trio of Carl, Druhm and No'wok walking out the factory.
"There they are!" Hermes blurted out and stood up. "It's time to get a move on."
"Wait, hold on!" Iris said just as Hermes was about to leap across the room. "I don't know what has happened between the two of you, but if there is one thing I've learned, it is that Carl does not want to follow you anywhere. So, if we just rush down there, and appear in front of him, we're more likely to drive him away than get him to come with us."
This was one thing Hermes definitely didn't want her to be right about, but he knew she was. He knew, because he would never forget his disastrous meeting with Carl.
"So, what do you suggest we do?"
"I don't know." Iris' jaw dropped for a moment, and a moment was all she needed before her eyes started burning with determination. "We need to get back to the ship! We'll figure something out once we get there."
Hermes nodded uncertainly but went along with Iris, and they were both out of the building in no time at all. While rushing back to the ship, they made sure to stay out of sight from Carl, as they didn't want him to get suspicious. Before they had gotten particularly far their surroundings shook with the explosion of the weapons factory, that, as they turned around to look was a complete inferno. Just a few seconds later, a wave of dust, wind and ashes hit them, and Hermes could feel the wind tugging at his clothes.
"What the hell is going on here. That explosion was massive, if we hadn't moved, we'd probably be dead by now."
"I imagine a lot of people are." Iris said sadly, before she turned away. "But, we can't worry about that now. We need to get back to the ship."
The rest of their walk was made in silence.
The trio of Carl, Druhm and No'wok, on the other hand had been anything but silent. No'wok and Druhm constantly arguing despite everything going on, and Carl trying to no success to get them both to shut up.
"I don't understand why you keep following us. Carl isn't going with you anywhere." Druhm insisted, not bothering to look towards No'wok while speaking.
"I don't need your permission to be here. And, if I want Carl, I'll get Carl."
"I'd love to see that. What are you going to do? Pick him off the ground and carry him on your shoulders." Druhm chuckled, though it sounded more like a loud snore.
"I'm a bounty hunter, I'll figure something out."
"You know, I do have a will of my own." Carl shot in, though Druhm and No'wok ignored him.
"As long as I'm here, I'll see to it that Carl never goes with you."
Carl sighed deeply and hoped he wouldn't have to deal with people fighting over him for much longer. In that instant everything shook with incredible force, and and dust filled the air. They all turned around to see that the weapons factory had indeed been blown up.
"Dakahb really must be insane." Carl said quietly, before turning away from the fire that consumed the factory.
"I don't know who this Dakahb person is, but if he did that, then yes, definitely." No'wok's voice was monotone and emotionless. He too turned away from the fire. Druhm remained silent, but Carl could see the disappointment in his face. His eyes remained fixed on the burning factory, and his rough lips tightened in a frown.
"Let's go." he said eventually before he too turned away and started walking.
"Druhm. Something just occurred to me. What if the remaining artefacts are destroyed, or taken by someone else? What happens if they're no longer there." Carl simply couldn't avoid wondering what they could do if this happened somewhere else before they could get the artefact.
"Well, we better hope that doesn't happen. And, you can be sure I'll make certain this doesn't repeat itself. Now, if you don't mind, can we keep going, the crew is already waiting."
Carl nodded and they carried on in silence.
As the two groups proceeded towards the port of Tearasct, an absolutely furious Dakahb had miraculously survived the explosion simply by remaining underground, which had protected him from the blast. And now, after the fire had mostly gone out, he was digging himself out of the rubble that was the remains of the weapons factory. At least one thing had gone according to his plan. And now all that remained was to stop Druhm, and he would do anything it took to do so. His determination grew with every piece of rubble that he pushed aside, though he was still glad that most of the factory had been scattered over a large radius, thus leaving the area right above him fairly clear. And so, he got himself out in no time at all. The only one observing him as he pulled himself up, out of the rubble was one of the many homeless inhabitants of Tearasct. A short blob like being with three legs and exactly fourteen eyes scattered all over his body. Dakahb who didn't much care for the fourteen eyes staring at him casually pointed his blaster at the creature and shot him. And then he started a moderate run for the port. He had important work to do.
At the port the two groups consisting of Hermes, Iris, Carl, Druhm and No'wok had both just arrived. No'wok was surprised to find he was happy to see Hermes and Iris again. Hermes was mostly relieved to see Carl was in fact alive and well. Carl and Druhm were less than pleased though.
"So, the bounty hunter is with you then?" Druhm said, frowning and then looking disapprovingly at No'wok. "I should have known."
"You actually sent a bounty hunter after me? Are you insane? Did you actually think that would make me more inclined to come with you?"
"Actually..." No'wok began and looked at Carl, "I volunteered."
"Carl, listen to me. It is of vital importance that you do not go with Druhm. Can't you see he is using you for his own purposes?"
"Honestly, I don't care right now. Anything is better than being locked up." Carl didn't know how many times he would have to point that out, but staying in one place was not his thing.
"Hold on, I thought we were going to the Altar." Iris said as soon as she could, looking at Hermes who wished nothing more than to turn invisible for just a little while.
"I might not have had the chance to tell him that much yet." he said, backing away slightly from the gathering.
"What do you want with the Altar?" Druhm said in surprise and looked at Iris curiously.
"I've been looking for it almost my whole life. I'm a treasure hunter of sorts, and finding the Altar would be one hell of a milestone."
For a while everyone became silent as they were just staring at each other, Carl eyeing everyone with suspicion. Druhm looking at each one of them with calculating eyes. No'wok appeared mostly indifferent, as he was mostly along for the ride for now, not having decided quite what to do. Hermes was looking at Carl pleadingly while Iris was giving a stare of impatience. Then came a shout not far from there.
"DRUHM!" It was a voice of fury, of explosive anger. Dakahb had just appeared carrying what to Carl looked like a rocket launche, and he wanted nothing more than to see Druhm dead. "You will pay for everything you ever did to me!"
Without another word, Dakahb aimed his weapon and fired a plasma rocket at Druhm's ship and the ship soon went up in flames. Druhm's eyes widened at the sight of his blown up ship. For a moment, Carl thought he could see panic in his face.
"Run! I don't care where! We need to get away from here now!"
The group dispersed in many different directions and none seemed too concerned with sticking together. Meanwhile Dakahb kept firing plasma rockets everywhere, and the already crumbling ruins of old buildings were quickly decimated.
"I can do this all day!" came a shout from Dakahb and the tone of the voice told Carl he was actually enjoying this. Then came a plasma rocket flying right over his shoulder hitting some ruins ahead of him that came tumbling down into too many pieces to count. Carl dashed to the side to avoid being hit by the debris. Not far from there he saw Hermes on his toes, watching him with wide eyes, ready to rush to his rescue if necessary. Then came a yell from the woman Carl didn't yet know.
"We need to get to my ship! Follow me!"
As plasma rockets were flying everywhere, Carl tried to figure out where he was supposed to go, soon noticing both Druhm and the bounty hunter heading in one direction, with Druhm following the bounty hunter. Sneaking behind other parked ships, Carl did his best to follow them.
"We really ought to do something about the madman with the rocket launcher first!" came Hermes' voice from behind. Carl agreed. They didn't need a second ship blown up. Especially when considering it was their only way off the planet.
"Does anyone have a weapon?!" Carl yelled to no one in particular.
"I do." No'wok, the bounty hunter answered before he stopped running and took cover behind a particularly large ship. "I'll handle this."
With careful aim No'wok shot the rocket launcher out of Dakahb's hands and then proceeded to shoot his legs, causing Dakahb to topple backwards while screaming in pain. While Dakahb was down everyone rushed towards the ship. As quickly as they could manage they all got inside and the door slammed shut just as Hermes got his second foot inside.
"I'm Iris by the way." Iris said before she ran through the ship up to the controls.
"Why didn't you kill him?" Druhm asked, looking at No'wok, whose frown gave Carl the impression that he had been offended.
"I'm a bounty hunter, not an assassin. And besides, if I kill him now, he can't become my target later."
"And you expect him to?"
"You never know."
In that moment the ship's engines turned on and shook the ship. They were finally on their way off the planet. Just as the ship lifted off the ground another rocket flew past it, and through a window, they could see Dakahb lying down with the rocket launcher in his hands, though the pain made his aim shaky. And seconds later the ship had shot off into the distance, leaving the furious Dakahb behind.