Truth and the Goddess Arl - Part Seven
"Yes!" Kai said, voice amplified so the entire crowd flowing around the stage heard everything. "Behold the power of--"
"Cheese," Alex murmured to himself, chuckling.
"--the Goddess Arl has saved us once again! These villainous monsters before you today were preparing to cause chaos in our community. We all know the stories of the Pure League and their 'tactics' for dealing with those eetees! We all know it's the innocent people-- those that the League claims to be helping--that are killed instead! And now they've brought their war here, to take our lives in some endless, useless quest."
Alex tried to lift his arms. How easy it'd be to just slip out of this contraption stretching his body--if only he could lift his arms. That didn't work, though. The paralyzing wire around his wrists had been attached to a belt around his waist. He glanced down the line and witnessed more of the same. Even if he could slip away--the shackles around his ankles weren't going anywhere.
The crowd roared and hissed when appropriate, feeding off the speechifying Kai. Her control on them endless like the sleep of death that loomed ahead for the Pure League members gathered on stage.
"Thanks be to the Goddess that looks out for us," Kai went on. "When she spoke to me, as when she always speaks to me, her warmth and love embraced me. I didn't fear what she had to tell me for I knew she was looking out for all of us."
Kai walked across the stage to Mama. "When I heard the truth... when the Goddess told me that one of our own, one of our beloved lurked in the shadows and plotted against it... I wanted to deny the Goddess, but I couldn't. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't turn away from the knowledge she had given me. Our very own Mama--a member of the League."
The crowd exploded in outrage.
"We all know her. The finest doctor this side of the universe. She even saved my life once when even Interpol's top doctors couldn't figure out the problem."
Kai turned to Mama, face contorted in pain--a false pain. Alex saw through the act with only a half-good eye. "What happened to you? Why would you betray your own people, Mama?"
Turning back to the crowd, Kai shrugged helplessly. "She has no excuses, nor does she deny it."
Past Bethany, Kai came to Anthony. "And this man. Rumored to be the true leader of the League at one point--officially he was only their spin master. He's on Interpol's top ten most wanted. Now we have it and we will punish him far more than Interpol ever would!" Kai raised her hands in the air. "Thanks to the Goddess we will show him and his kind what it means to kill innocent men, women and children!"
Alex braced himself. He was up next. If he had any chance, now would be the time.
Kai neared--and then walked right past him and Jared to the slumped, unconscious form of Franky.
"The Goddess has been kind to us, friends. Not only do we have a traitor and a rumored leader, we have with us another traitor. General Frank Oswald, traitor to all mankind. When we needed him most, what did he do? He abandoned his post and fled into the arms of the League. As a result, the eetees overran us and won the war. There would be no need for a League, humanity would be free, and humankind would be living in a utopian society watched over by the Goddess."
Making a show of being disgusted, Kai turned back to the crowd and walked away from her prisoners. Alex's one hope faded away with each step. Why did she skip him? He's not important enough to talk about? How rude.
"Who wants to see these people punished for their crimes against us all?" Kai asked the boiling crowd. The deafening response nearly blew Alex to the next solar system. "The Goddess has given me specific instructions on how to deal with these six--instructions I plan on following exactly as she's laid down."
A trap door dropped open in the middle of the stage and several men climbed up onto the platform. They were bare-chested with powerful arms and chests; black hoods covered their heads. None of that registered much. Alex's half-working eye centered in on one thing and one thing alone--the whips the men carried. A resounding wave of cheers rose through the crowd at the newest arrivals.
The drug given to Alex rapidly wore off. His entire body rolled with unbearable pain. At first he'd found the mental alertness and pain repression that the drug had given him to be a miracle, allowing him to devise a simple plan that could free them all. Now he found his simple plan nothing but a mere mocking thought, floating away with the last few minutes of his life.
As the whip men took position behind the Leaguers stretched along the middle of the stage, Kai continued with the yapping. "We've been given a glorious opportunity here. If Interpol captured these sickening excuses for humanity, they'd be tossed on a prison planet and live out the rest of their lives. What kind of punishment is that? No, we're going to show them exactly what it means to kill your own kind. We're going to make them all feel the pain they've caused. They will suffer like all their victims and their victims' families as long as we can keep them alive!"
Whips cracked in the air with enough power to rip away the surface of reality. Alex closed his eye and willed Death to take him swiftly. He had a feeling Death was enjoying the show and in no hurry.
"As you can see," Kai went on after the crowd died down in anticipation of the bloody display. "One of our esteemed murderers has already been through an ordeal."
Alex opened his eye at the sound of Kai's voice growing louder, closer.
"This man, Alexander Sterling, murdered one of our own just yesterday!"
The crowd didn't like that. The temples security forces pushed into action, doing everything they could to keep the crowd from rioting and rampaging right onto the stage.
"That's right! His superior attitude has gotten him several rounds of punishment already and the Goddess Arl told me specifically that he was to receive the harshest punishment of all!"
Kai stopped in front of Alex, mere inches. It was now or never.
"AvrilLavigneistheGoddessArl!" Alex shouted as fast as the words would pour out of him. "Lookitup!"
Alex smiled smugly. "Got you, bitch."
Alarmed, Kai stumbled backward--only for moment, but a moment that everyone in the crowd witnessed. Then she did her best to cover it up. "See! Now he blasphemes the Goddess! We will make him pay!"
The smug smile on Alex's lips transformed into a contorted scream of agony as searing pain and the serrated edge of a whip ripped through his back.
"AGAIN!" Kai screamed.
The crack of the whip echoed distantly in Alex's ears. The pain. It was all the pain. Nothing in his life ever came close to the unyielding terror shredding Alex's back. The crowd faded into the background. His vision--what was left of it--filled with a dazzling display of fireworks. Each lash of the whip brought him that much closer to the end of life.
"They're good as dead. We should get out of here."
Katlyn glared at Horus, shutting him up instantly.
They stood in the middle of the crowd, watching the horrific display on stage as each crack of a whip brought with it a rousing, bloodthirsty cheer from those watching. Katlyn struggled to keep her balance amid the chaos, pushed and shoved from all directions by people trying to get a better look at the action. The SoftPAD in her hand blasted through displays of information in a wild attempt at uncovering anything to prove Alex's message.
Hours ago the Elder returned Katlyn, Horus, Sela and Yerik back to the ship without much fanfare. He simply said, "You know the truth now. Do what you will." They appeared back in the same spot they'd left from--the corridor where Elder and search party collided.
The ship had been locked down, nobody aboard. Leaving was out of the question with the lockdown, so Sela sent Horus and Katlyn to find out what was happening with the others.
"Yerik and I will be recognized in a second," Sela said. "Especially if people are on high alert for League members present. You two aren't known, or very well known," she eyed Horus with a frown.
Katlyn and Horus slipped out through the maintenance repair dock. It didn't take long to discover the whereabouts of Alex and the others. A massive crowd all looking in one direction seemed as good a place to start as any. Moving through that crowd proved difficult, but Horus's size and intimidation factor helped there.
Looking up in frustration, Katlyn winced as another round of cracks joined the roar of the crowd. To add insult to the already devastating damage doled out, Mama's shirt fell from her chest, tattered beyond use. Two massive mounds of flesh sprang free, breasts exposed to the enjoyment of the crowd. Katlyn swallowed hard, trying to keep from hurling when she realized several people around her were masturbating to the gruesome display.
"There's nothing we can do," Horus said through gritted teeth. "Look at them. They won't last another thirty minutes. We need to figure out how to get the ship off this planet--and now."
She ignored him, once more returning to her search via the Goog.
"There has to be something on Avril Lavigne," Katlyn murmured to herself. "If she was popular enough to spawn a religion, there has to be some kind of information. How else would these people know about her?"
"Don't be dense," Horus said. "If this Lavigne chick was the basis for Arl, then you can bet your sweet little ass they've done everything they can to hide all information about her."
"We have to do something!"
"Like what? Blow them up?" Horus rolled his eyes.
Katlyn jerked away from the SoftPAD. "Yes! A distraction. Do we have any bombs left from the--the other mission?"
In the center of the temple, directly underneath the holographic display of Avril Lavigne, Katlyn found an opening to a cramped closet of a room filled with the machinery used to project the hologram. With the entire temple deserted for Whipfest, slipping down through the hologram proved effortless.
She placed the bomb up against the computer controls and set it for four minutes. Then she pulled herself back out of the hole and headed for the door.
As she reached the entrance, Horus came running down the hall. Blood dripped from his fingers, splattered on his shirt. She looked away in disgust.
"Run, girl," Horus said, aimed straight for the entrance.
Katlyn bolted through the entrance and down the street. Once Horus caught up with her and sucked in several gulps of air, they worked their way through the crowd once more. Horus, ever the gentleman, pie-faced several people out of the way as they wound through the mass of sweating, smelly people toward the stage.
Nearing the stage, Horus's hands dropped to the guns strapped to his thighs just as the bombs went off.
"Party time," he shouted in Katlyn's ear.
To be continued...
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