Trapped in a vortex, unable to escape the terrifying
force, Tarshan and Celeeshia are projected through time into a parallel
universe billions of years in the future. A tide of evil
envelops the surrounding systems. The Gorgonian
humanoids, and a Livvid brotherhood vaguely reminiscent of corpses notorious
for barbarity, personify two opposing aspects of chaos.
The Livvids concealed aims to destabilise the existing
social order of the masse; to apotheosise their own to Lords of the Galaxy.
In the blood-soaked labyrinth an corridors of the inner
city Tarshan and his legions take their vengeance on the fleeing Livvids
into an Underworld of appalling atrocity.
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Ebook version -
Number of pages: 454
Cover: Clive Dalkins
By the same author
John Stuart Sullivan
I dedicate this book to my two sons Mark and
Jason and families, my brother Phil and family, to my editor Marilyn, and
finally to Lucy, my Jack Russel, who never left my side while writing
CHAPTER 1 - sample
Every step taken along the narrow winding paths in the
Barshanian twilight the danger was an obscure presence until awakened. How often
had they been forewarned of the treacherous labyrinths in the forest, a transit
through infernal regions where few dared, yet their kind never ceased to amaze
him, the law-breakers their souls in turmoil adrift with dissent who lacked
perception and a disregard for the ravings of
madmen. Forbidding depths
played havoc with the conscious state bordering on modes of behaviour leaning
The giant spines had a voracious appetite aroused
by a sensory system receiving stimuli from the external approach of prey; they
sensed the sweating fear exuding like drops of blood in coagulation from the
nearness of the living unsuspecting.
Equidistantly-spaced cube obliterators
lined each side of the paths vaporising the molecular structure of life forms
they came in contact with. The intense beams nonetheless never interflowed
leaving a killing zone of thirty feet between. It was through these unswept gaps
the serrated spines covered in barbs and camouflaged stingers dripping hot,
stinging venom seized their prey, where the air reeked with the
ripped, decaying flesh and the suffocating odour of converted, carnivorous
plant. In the beginning there were four, hard men brutalised by a system bred on
hatred for inmates the controllers feared. Lewis was a blue skinned rapist,
having taken over a thousand women on the twin worlds of Neleh 1 and 2, a boast
he often came out with; in the minds of the sophisticated a deception deserving
Mag-Gil and Stone were mass murderers and worked as
a team in the dismemberment of humans in the hundreds. They went about their
murderous acts with a brazen assurance. Despite their formidable
there was one for whom they feared.
Towering over the three with a height of
nine feet six inches Tarshan was innocent of any crime. He happened to be
passing through a restricted zone which to the arresting watchmen was of no
consequence he should have known better. An invincible blood-alien, yellow hair
darker in tone than dawn light from a main-sequence star, fell over massive
shoulders. Four years previously, together with the murderers, he had been
transported to the dreaded penal moon Barshan from Ospray, a giant world of
rocky plains and high mountainous ridges overhanging depthless ravines swept by
icy rivers swarming with
insatiable creatures that cannibalized their own
Lewis was already incarcerated.
The vast hexagon superstructure
covered one fifth the moon’s surface with the forest periphery along two of the
straight grey-walled sides. Watch towers revealing clusters of beam weapons
radial spokes from revolving platforms, were situated at the
top end in the northern sector surrounded by fortified floor to ceiling walls of
shatterproof glass. From the sealed doors in each of the remaining four
a sand desert swept to a curving horizon that at certain times of the year
appeared to waver under components of light separated by degreesof refraction
lasting hours. The administrative staff suspected the phenomenon had to do with
the seasonal weather patterns on the uninhabited world the moon orbited.
all six wings five thousand holding cells bisected wide floors every two hundred
feet. A single cell barely big enough to stand up in was allotted to each
prisoner. Incorporated in the walls, a network of intersecting, electrical
currents remained fully operational at all times, which for those incarcerated
made life a living embodiment of perpetual suffering. To sleep the prisoner
needed to lie on his or her side, both legs drawn up close to the chest in a
foetal position provoking the onset of painful cramps if remaining on the floor
for extended periods of time. Either that or have their limbs come in contact
with the continuously
buzzing walls by relieving the spasms, therefore
inducing an even more painful stimulus to the affected areas. This and other
draconian methods of brutalism acted as a catalyst for what followed.
time chosen for a mass breakout occurred several hours prior to first light and
away from the beam towers when the prison controllers were at their fewest in
lowering stages of drowsiness. Not all knew about the illegal exodus except for
a minority of one hundred and fifty inmates from the first wing in close
proximity to the main doors facing the sand dunes.
Once on the outside
Tarshan chose a direction taking him to the right away from fleeing prisoners
into the desert; the most dangerous route others would reject as a suicidal if
not foolish undertaking not worth the risk.
He watched them go, a frenzied
mob bent on escape so reckless and ignorant of what the shifting sands
foretokened; a deceptive crossing to the unwary. If a few survived the hazards
it would not take the penal
staff in pursuit long to catch up. ‘The fools
take a direction that can only lead to disaster,’ he muttered to himself. He had
a notion the controllers would not consider the forest as a crosscut to freedom.
Nobody in their right mind would gamble irresponsibly fleeing through an area
where none came back alive. When they eventually caught up to the wretches going
east and found some missing it was not because they had chosen the most
dangerous region. He smiled thinly at the disturbing prospect and turned to go,
glancing up every now and again at the high walls on his right taking the
precaution of a close proximity to the hard stone. He need not have bothered the
walls were deserted this early. Two hours of darkness remained, sufficient time
to reach the first line of forest on the far side of the vast penal complex.
Streams of faint light raced across the sharpest ridges of the highest dunes
blanketing the hollows in slowly moving shadow from the horizon on the eastern
side. On the western side it was still dark due to
the vast structure between
when a palpable sense of intrusion entered the mind of Tarshan, an unwelcome
presence behind him. Listening for the usual drift of sound when being followed
he stood still. Turning slowly he perceived the outlines of three silent forms
standing motionless, unsure whether to approach him or not, their left sides
silhouetted against a backdrop of brightening pink sky.
moments they stared at each other, frozen looks linked with mistrust.
Reluctantly he gave a brief nod and the three knew they were invited to join
him. One was the blue man, the other two the
mass murderers. They had been
keeping to the shadows as effectively as possible hoping to go undetected for a
while longer, their train of thought a line similar to his: If they were to be
taken it would not be by the controllers.
As he came up ahead of Mag-Gil and
Stone, Lewis grinned, a toothless smile with a gravelly voice painful to the
ears. “You choose wisely, you could have taken a more direct route and gone
“I thought it impractical,” answered Tarshan indifferently looking
down at the small man and noticed that he had discarded his heavy prison issued
boots for light sandals. How he managed to keep them hidden from the controllers
over such a long period of time eluded him. Two of the straps on the left foot
showed signs of wear working loose and could prove a hindrance if they had to
move quickly. The yellow orbs of Lewis caught his attention once more. “You
already know the reason why without me having to elaborate.” He then set his
eyes on the murderers who had not moved under extremes of trepidation.
Rapidly changing expressions and darting glances towards danger areas was always
a barometer to the torment within.
“Why is it so damn quiet in there, no
sound, nothing moving?”
Mag-Gil complained to no one in particular, an
imploring look sealing his sweating forehead with a feeling of apprehension
overwhelming him that some formless creature was about to leap out and crush
eyes kept on darting first in one direction then another in search
of his imaginary beast, but it never materialized.
“Because everything’s dead
in there and has been for thousands of years,” Stone grunted with a sour twist
of his mouth. “That’s why they kept on warning us, day in day out even while
sleeping.” He looked
down at his hands aware they were shaking and felt
Above all else he despised those revealing any form of
weakness, now here he was lacking the true spirit of the courageous, in its
place a display of contemptible cowardice.
“Their continual warnings were
designed to scare us into not escaping, nothing more,” Tarshan said wanting the
murderers and the rapist out of his sight. “We are of no consequence to them
whether we live or die. They detest the idea of having to look for
inmates who continually turned a deaf ear to their warnings.”
He knew they
were wasting time standing around airing past grievances. “You can remain here
it makes no difference to me. I’m going in whether you want to stay or come with
me.” He turned briskly and strode towards the nearest path which was a mere
fifteen metres away where the smaller trees grew in little clumps unlike deeper
Listening to the irritating tones of three arguing amongst themselves,
their voices barely perceptible the further he drew away from them, he wondered
how far they had to traverse a region overgrown with dense forest before the
western periphery was within reach; if there be an end to the tangled
vegetation. A while back he could not help overhearing the controllers mention a
forty-five mile distance, a journey taking at least two days, or did the forest
overspread the entire moon.
“Wait for us, we’re coming!” Lewis hollered and
started running to catch up, his motion awkward on account of the sandals, the
murderers close on his heels not wanting to be left alone always looking
Tarshan gave a snort of disgust at the prospect of having them join
him again. In their present state he failed to see how he could rely on them,
and the first gap was just ahead. Realization dawned as he
glanced over his
shoulder at the obliterator; it was twenty five feet away and they were standing
on the demarcation line of the first killing zone.
Jumping back he shot his
eyes to either side of the path sensing the early stirrings in the slender
palpi-like attachments, their cue to go, and fast.
He knew they had four
seconds remaining before the symbiotic appendages alerted the monstrous killing
spines. Without further deliberation he sprinted across, a signal for the others
to keep with him or rise up to a higher place if they hesitated, he did not have
to tell them.
Airspace filled with the forest coming alive, distinct whack
sounds and that of hurricane winds sweeping the tops of tall trees,bending
branches under the strain sending down heavy rains of foliage to carpet
the surface and over time undergo fermentation. Giant spines, a dozen or so
metres long lashed back and forth, a frenzied attack to snare that which
trespassed on forest tracts. One thrust beyond the demarcation line and was
instantly vaporised permeating the air with the acrid odour of combustion
combinations. Surrounding the massive trunks smaller bushes began to shred
seeping streams of poisonous sap from ripped stems spraying showers of stinging
heat. The forest had changed: A different scene with everywhere thrashing belts
of intense motion.
First across was Tarshan not stopping until he reached the
second obliterator. Only then did he turn to look back uncaring for three who
had changed the lives of so many.
Well within the safety margin Stone was
vigorously patting himself down to see whether he had sustained any injury, an
immense expression of relief registering on his glistening face.
Mag-Gil followed by Lewis with his eyes bulging, his chest heaving, his breath a
convulsive wheeze as he bent over clutching both knees to inhale precious air.
One arm had a stream of blood
running down to his hand from a cut below the
elbow. He had started off ahead of the others but more of the sandal straps had
snapped loose slowing him down, the murderers having shoved him out of the way
to reach the safety margin more quickly.
“What happened?” Mag-Gil asked
paying Lewis a casual glance who was regaining some composure attending the
“One of the creepers had a piece of me, or tried to get it, a
superficial cut that won’t bother me in the least,” Lewis said stony-faced, and
shoved a pointing finger into Mag-Gil’s face. “Next time you put
on me it’ll be you two who stays behind.”
‘‘You keep on getting in the way
like you always did back there in that hell hole,” Stone snarled, an ebullition
of hatred imprinted across his face. “You’ll know now to keep your distance or
the same will
Deep blue eyes scanned ahead following a path
that went in a straight line for several hundred metres before veering to the
right out of sight. Tarshan then took note of the forest on either side: The
attack was becoming less violent, a deceptive lure to the
Satisfied, he turned to Lewis who was still working his arm,
having finally stopped the red flow. “You better do something about those straps
or they are going to be the death of you before the night is out.”
He felt in
no mood to pursue the matter the warning sufficient to put some sense into the