In Anglesey Manor, in the heart of Norfolk, a being which looked normal to the humans around him, finished his duties as an under footman and hurried to his room at the top of the house. Locking the door securely behind him, thankful of the chance to divest himself of the restricting uniform his position forced him to wear. Concentrating his mind, he slowly shed his human appearance, morphing into his natural semi- amphibian body. Watching his hands change shape beneath rapidly appearing, scaly red skin, he allowed his claws to extend and flex; such luxury, anticipating the immersion of his body into an ice cold bath to rejuvenate his slowly drying skin. At the butler's prompting, Sir Jeffus had been kind enough to install small ice-making machines in each of the servants' rooms, making just enough ice for one bath a day. Compared to many households his brothers had reported on, Sir Jeffus made sure his staff lived in comfortable rooms, each with their own en-suite bathrooms, although the staff were expected to clean them themselves. A small price to pay, Ziggy thought as he watched the water fill the bath. Fetching the container of ice, he emptied it into the bath, switched off the taps and sank into the water with a groan of satisfaction, but he knew his peace would be interrupted soon. Banks was angry with him, and quite rightly so.
Ziggy had lost his temper with a kitchen maid and had almost given his real persona away. So what! He was fed up with this planet, and living so far away from any expanse of water worth swimming in. He was fed up with having to hide his identity all the time, and being in such close contact with these stupid humans who only had a few more months to live before they were wiped out. What were his masters going to do to him for the slip up? Send him home? That was okay with Ziggy even if it meant demotion. Father would understand, having brought him up to stand up for himself. As he lay here, thinking about his fate, he heard his bedroom door being unlocked. Only one other person had a key to that door. Raising his head above the water level, he sat up and waited for his angry master to tear into him.
Mog marched into Ziggy's room, fully intending to give the lad a severe talking to, but as soon as he saw him, sitting in the bath with a hang-dog expression on his face, his wrath faded. He liked the son of his best friend and had promised to keep him safe, and train him well in his duties, not just as a lowly under footman but as a trusted spy. Mog was ready to retire and go home and he hoped Ziggy would be experienced enough to take his place, both as a senior spy in this house and as a valued human. Shedding his uniform, he stepped up to the bath; morphing as he did so, as he too relished being in his own body. Grabbing hold of Ziggy by his neck, he yanked the lad up out of the water, knowing he had to show at least some authority over the lad. He pushed his snout into Ziggy's. "What did you think you were doing with that stupid maid?"
"I'm sorry, Master, I wasn't thinking."
"Wasn't thinking? Is that all you can say? One slip by any of us and we are finished."
"But there was nothing I could do. She came onto me."
"And you should have played along with her you silly Morgol. Had you thought things through you had the ideal opportunity to, 'get your rocks off' as these humans call it."
"But I'm not interested in...females. You know that."
"But it would have been a good cover, wouldn't it?"Letting go of Ziggy, Mog turned away as Ziggy overbalanced and fell back into the bath, sending water everywhere. He walked back into the bedroom and hunched down on the carpet. "Dry yourself and clean up that mess. We have to talk."
Once the lad was crouched beside him, Mog placed an arm round Ziggy's shoulders. "In our human form, we have to do everything human's do, even if we find it distasteful. Mind you, what you did wouldn't have been noticed if you'd have gone after that new kitchen porter. But that is not what is on my mind. Our masters have reported that their plans are still being disrupted. My brother failed in his attempt to remove the threat on that spaceship. He reports that there is an android with extraordinary abilities such as we have not seen in a long time. It was built on Earth over two hundred years ago, and remodelled many times over the years."
"But I thought we were after the twins?"
"We are; and this android is linked to them, and to Sir Jeffus. I was wondering how Sir Jeffus kept in contact with the ship, so I spotted my chance when Sir Jeffus asked me to fetch something from his private sitting room. I had a good look round and found a console hidden behind a painting; these humans are so stupid. It was exactly the same as described by my brother in the suite of the Quastorian Ambassador. I didn't have time to dismantle the console before I was disturbed by the parlour maid. Instead, I sent a message to my brother and he is going to destroy the console on the ship as well as the android. Then, with no interference from Sir Jeffus and his team, the way will be clear for him to destroy the twin on board the ship. He's already made several attempts but as failed so far. He is going to try again. This time hopefully, with that android out of the way he'll be successful."
"But wouldn't it be wiser to wait till the twin finds his brother, and kill them both?"
Mog thought for a moment. "You know Ziggy, you may be right. It looks like you are learning something at least, but it is too late to stop my brother's plans now. Okay, lad, better get back to our duties; we have guests arriving in half an earth hour. Time to line up the staff etc.; what!"Ziggy laughed at Mog's impersonation of a snobbish servant, but hurried to change into his own human form. Mog swiftly changed into his own human form while admiring Ziggy's human body. "Just a moment, Ziggy; come here."He waited till Ziggy stood close to him and put his arms round him. "There is really no need to get your claws into that kitchen porter, is there, Ziggy?"
Half an earth hour later, Mog stood outside the door to the morning room, straightened his jacket, and knocked on the door before entering the room. "Sir, the gate lodge as informed me that your guests have arrived and will be here in one minute. The staff are already assembled as you requested."
Sir Jeffus rose from his chair and, signalled to his family and minor guests to follow him. As he stepped out onto the front porch to welcome the King and Queen of the United Kingdom, he noted how smartly turned out the staff were, especially the young under footman he had his eye on for promotion. He nodded to Mog, appreciating how much he had turned the staff into a team even the royal guests would approve of, and said quietly, "Thank you Banks."
Kidat jerked awake to it, but could not work out where it came from; not at first. Curled up with P'pit in his arms, and surrounded by the warm, slumbering bodies of Baka and his brothers, he knew the threat could not be close. The Rogoch would have alerted him long before now. He lay in the darkness of the snow-cave the Rogoch had burrowed into for the duration of the blizzard, the fourth they had endured since leaving the village. With only five or six days left between them and Home City, they had plenty of time to take shelter from the worst of the storms. Kidat hoped the storms would run their course before they were at last through the mountain ranger and reached the vast plain of frozen lakes where they would be fully exposed to the weather, with no ice caves to shelter in, and a perpetual gale for company. Kidat pushed his furs away from his face and raised his head to gaze out of the hole at the far end of the entrance tunnel that allowed them air to breathe.
Outside the cave, a single star glowed in a coal black sky, and yet it couldn't have been a star; stars winked and twinkled because of changes in the planet's atmosphere, and this one remained constant. Kidat concentrated on it, letting his senses reach out to it; in his mind he travelled out to the glowing entity and felt a cold shiver of fear. He had found the source of the menace. As he neared it. the glowing light became a space ship heading towards Gpuchk, and inside that vessel he sensed beings of different sources, some of them human, some from Quastor and some of them from Gpuchk itself; some were made of metal with no living tissues in them but moved as living beings, but one entity he had difficulty in identifying as it kept on changing shape. He sensed the entity was hunting the ship for something, so Kidat focused on that entity's mind and sensed the being's anger. It had failed in its mission and was about to try again.
Kidat focused closer still and followed it as it moved through the ship, passing other beings as they went about their way not seeming to know it was near them. It was as if it was invisible to them. At last it stopped outside what Kidat took to be a sleeping quarter. Leaving the being, Kidat moved inside the room and found a young human lying on a bed with a mask over his face, and a man in a white uniform watching over him with one of the metal beings. The man intrigued Kidat as he moved forward to instruct the metal being about the use of a metal box by the side of the bed. The man looked human in appearance and yet Kidat could only detect small human parts in him, one being his brain. Kidat thanked the Great Gpuchk he had not used all of his time in the great library studying up on the writings of the ancients, and had found the biology of different species of known planets to be just as interesting.
The human on the bed, a youth about his own age with silver white hair, must be the target. Kidat had to warn him somehow. He focused on the sleeping human, willing him to wake up and, although the human's eyes did not open, Kidat felt a stirring of a brain almost identical to his own. Kidat almost lost concentration in surprise. "Brother?"a voice spoke inside his mind, and the link broke. Was this his brother?
Back in the snow cave, Kidat cursed aloud as he laid P'pit down on his furs and struggled out of Baka's embrace to push his way through the lower entrance to the tunnel. "What stirs you, little brother?"Baka's growl rumbled through the cave, causing the other slumbering giants to rouse at the first warning that all was not well. Only P'pit slumbered on.
"There is trouble, up there."
Baka moved around till he could poke his snout through the tunnel entrance, his movement raising grumbles from his brothers. "Where is up there, my brother?"
Kidat pointed to the spaceship. "There, in the sky."
"A star? There are so many of them. What is so troublesome about one little star?"
"That's not a star, Baka, it's a space ship and it's headed towards this planet."
"So?"Baka's mouth gaped in a yawn.
"My brother is on that ship and he's in danger. I have to warn him."
"How do you know this, little brother? It is too far away for you to have gone there."
"Sorry Baka, this is something new I've discovered about myself only recently. I have the mental ability to go anywhere I choose just using my mind, but I need to concentrate without any distractions; not from around me but out there on the ship. I focused hard on my brother and he spoke to me in my mind, and it shook me so much I lost the link. I have to try again, but with your family awake and growling, both physically and mentally; it's like being in a crowded room with everybody shouting in my ears. I have to go out there where it's quiet; the storm is abating so I should be alright."
"There is no need, little brother. Stay here; I will quieten their minds for you."
Shuffling backwards, Baka began a soft growl which seemed to calm the other Rogoch till one by one they laid their chins on their front paws and went back to sleep. Baka pushed Kidat's furs up the tunnel then settled down in his place, drawing P'pit into his own warm fur. Kidat wrapped his furs about himself and closed his eyes in deep concentration. Soon he was back in the spaceship and standing by his brother who remained as if sleeping. "Brother, I am here but only in your mind; I am Kidat."
"Oh, you are awake after all!"
"Of course; the poison raging in my body keeps me paralyzed except for my mind. I can't even raise my eyelids or use my mouth to speak. You are my only contact. What is your name, again?"
Kidat felt laughter in his brother's mind. "Your name amuses me, because my name is Tadik. I knew about you but not your name. You are on the planet Gpuchk aren't you?"
"Yes, but we have no time for introductions. You are in danger from an entity I can't describe except that it seems to be some kind of electric force. It's outside the door to this room and it's out to kill you."
"I know; that is why I contacted you. I'm too weak to deal with it alone, and I can't let Inmahn, the guy in the white tunic, know. We must work together to-."
"But how can I help? I'm only here in your mind."
"Do you know why we were separated?"
"Like you, I let my mind wander through the heavens and found a planet full of disease with no sign of life. I felt an affinity to the place, as if I had known it all my life. I searched it and found a building with rooms full of archives. I searched for the source of my birth and was shocked to read of our birth and the reaction to our kinetic abilities. We were so strong we crashed the main sources of energy in our screaming for food and attention. They had to separate us before we tore them apart. Someone put you in a spaceship and you were not heard of again, while our father, a man from Earth, took me home to live with his family. At that point the archives stopped being kept, except for a short coda which warned the planet was doomed and there were not enough ships to remove everyone before the virus wiped them out."
"What about our mother?"
"She died too, but that is for another time to tell about. First we must lock our minds as we did when we were first born, and create an electrical force greater than that thing out there."
Seconds later, the door burst open and fell in jagged pieces to the floor.
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