Unleash (continued)

The third book in Brock Eastman’s “Quest for Truth” series, Unleash continues the thrilling interplanetary adventures of the four Wikk children.

Taken (Quest for Truth #1)   Risk (Quest for Truth #2)   Unleash (Quest for Truth #3)

You can buy Unleash online or at your local Christian bookstore.

For more “Quest for Truth,” check out Taken (Book One) and Risk (Book Two).

Go back to Chapter One or jump ahead to Chapter Three.

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Chapter Two: Blood-Red Ruby

Oliver started to take off his diving suit. The tight-fitting outfit placed an uncomfortable pressure on his wound. Every twist sent an excruciating jab into his right side. His arm was nearly incapacitated, slowing his progress.

Reaching in a drawer near his bed, Oliver pulled out a long-bladed knife. Carefully he slit the sides of the suit and rolled it down to his waist, leaving his chest bare. Warm crimson liquid oozed down his right side. As much as it had hurt, the suit had acted like a bandage to compress the wound.

He took a shirt from his drawer and wiped away the blood. He grimaced as something rough caught under the shirt. He pulled the shirt away. A piece of glass sparkled in his skin. He looked closer.

It wasn’t glass at all. A shard of ruby had torn through the suit and lodged itself in his right side about halfway up his rib cage. If not for his ribs, the shard might have torn farther through him, damaging organs or causing internal bleeding.

When and how had the fragment of jewel found him? He hadn’t felt anything until flying the Phoenix. Hadn’t he been long clear of the underwater tunnel when it had been destroyed? Oliver sighed. Perhaps this was a stray piece of debris from the Übel missile strike.

Either way, he was injured, and unless Tiffany could do something about it, he’d be limited in his physical ability to lead the mission.

Oliver looked at the shard. It was as big as the top of his thumb. Were any other pieces still buried in his skin? Blood trickled down his side. He reached for the extra shirt and gently wiped the wound.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in.” Oliver was ready to get this over with.

“I’ve got the kit,” Tiffany said.

Oliver pulled the blood-soaked shirt away from his side. Tiffany frowned as she saw the wound and its cause.

“A ruby,” she said. “We’ll have to get that out first.”

“I know,” Oliver said with gritted teeth. “Just . . . just make it quick.” He winced as he moved.

“We need to numb it first.” Tiffany took out a couple of strips of NumbaGlu and laid the tacky numbing agent along each side of the wound. A piece of her long hair tickled Oliver’s side, and he flinched.

“Ouch,” he said.

“Don’t move.”

“Your hair tickled me.”

“Sorry.” Tiffany pulled her hair up into a bun and rewrapped her hair tie to secure it into place. She leaned in again and lightly touched his side. “Now do you feel that?”

Oliver shook his head.

Tiffany held a pair of tweezers over the exposed portion of the jewel. She leaned in, looking closely at the wound. “The fragment is jagged. I can’t tell how long it is. I’m not sure that the NumbaGlu will be effective that deep.”

Her talking wasn’t helping Oliver, though he knew it wasn’t for him. It was something his sister did while she concentrated. It was how she reassured herself during a difficult task.

“In other words,” Tiffany said, “this might still hurt.”

“I sort of figured.” Oliver clenched his fists as he tensed his body.

“Don’t do that,” Tiffany said. “That will make it bleed more. Try to relax.”

“Tiffany, there’s a piece of ruby in my side that’s as big as my thumb. And you said it’s jagged. How can I relax?” Sarcasm saturated his voice.

Tiffany sat up straight. “Oliver, I . . . just take a deep breath . . . I know you are in pain. I’m sorry. I’ve not done something like this before. The biggest thing I’ve removed was a pine needle from Austin’s cheek.”

Oliver closed his eyes. He tried thinking about something peaceful. His mind went to the pine forest behind their home on Tragiws. He placed himself on a stone outcropping just above the gorge.

A twinge in his side reminded him of Tiffany’s work. He concentrated harder. A lone eagle glided through the air along the stone cliffs.

Suddenly a black spacecraft dove into view.

Oliver opened his eyes. Even his imagination had been tainted by the Übel.

Searing pain wracked his side as he felt Tiffany draw out the ruby. He gripped the edge of his bed. His knuckles turned white.

“Done,” Tiffany said. Oliver looked at the red jewel lying next to him on the mattress. His blood stained the white sheet. “Oliver, since this is a puncture, you will need a couple of stitches.”

“Can you do that?” Oliver asked. The pain in his side had been reduced considerably. He didn’t like the idea of getting stitches, but he knew his sister was right. The wound would move a lot because it was on his side. Stitches were the only thing that could keep it closed from infection.

“I’ve never attempted it before.” She swallowed. “But I . . . I’ll try.”

“That’s the best I can ask for,” Oliver said. His slight laugh was a futile attempt to lighten the mood. “You got the jewel out.”

“First we should use some FlexSkyn to help the wound heal quicker,” Tiffany said.

Oliver was familiar with FlexSkyn: a faux skin patch made of plasma. It contained nano-bots that took the patient’s DNA and embedded it into the skin-cell framework within the patch. This caused damaged skin tissue to mend far quicker. FlexSkyn had transformed the medical science field nearly a hundred years ago.

Tiffany took a patch of FlexSkyn and laid it across the wound. The wound was long enough that she had to lay a second patch below it. “That should do it.”

She took out a small hooked needle, some sterile string, and two more strips of NumbaGlu. “I want to make sure it stays numb.”

Oliver nodded.

“Do you feel that?” she asked, her fingers pressing the area near his wound.

“No. Go ahead. We can’t delay too long,” he said bravely.

Tiffany frowned. “Don’t rush me.”

For the next five minutes, Tiffany meticulously stitched up the wound. Oliver only grunted in pain a couple of times. In all, twelve stitches were needed. Tiffany wrapped a long stretch of gauze around Oliver to enclose the wound.

“I don’t want to mention this to the twins,” Oliver said.

Tiffany nodded in agreement as she put the unused supplies back into the kit. “I’ll stick this in the laundry,” she said, taking his blood-soaked shirt in hand. “Are you going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” he promised. “Can you check on the boys? I only sent them ahead so I could have you look at this without making them worry. I don’t really think they’ll be able to figure the servers out. It’s a complex system.”

“Oliver, you underestimate them, I think,” Tiffany countered. “I think they’re more capable than we give them credit for. And you don’t always have to appear strong. You’re our brother. We know you have weaknesses.” She hadn’t said it in a way to offend him.

Oliver grunted, a painful twinge reminding him of his wound. “Maybe.”

A brief silence ensued.

“Also have them clean up the engine room while they’re down there.”

Tiffany nodded.

“I’m going to change, and then I’ll be down.”

Tiffany left, and Oliver gathered a fresh set of clothes. It hurt to remove the rest of the wetsuit, and he knew he’d have to be very careful over the next few days so as to not tear open the stitched wound. He put on some comfy Academy sweatpants and his hoodie.

As Oliver passed the engine room, he saw Obbin and Austin diligently putting things away. He poked his head in.

“It seems someone was messing around the Phoenix while we were in the basin.” Oliver looked at Obbin.

“I was bored,” Obbin said with a shrug. His spiky green hair bounced.

Austin raised his eyebrows. “Were you bored right before we took off from your planet?”

“I wasn’t as ready to leave as I thought,” Obbin admitted.

“Cold feet?” Austin asked. He worked a wrench on a bolt as he secured the ventilation cover back into place.

Obbin nodded.

“Well, you’ll be home soon enough,” Oliver said. He noticed several fur-covered satchels piled nearby. “Looks like you brought plenty of supplies for the trip. Was that where you stowed away?”

Obbin nodded. “I used some harnesses. Even though I’d never flown before, my father had told me stories of the ancient days when our people explored the universe. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I’d better be ready.”

“You continue to impress me,” Oliver said. “You’ve proven to be both brave and smart.” Oliver caught a jealous scowl on Austin’s face. “You’ll do well with my brothers. You all have a lot in common.” He hoped the compliment would keep Austin from sinking into rebellion again.

“Yeah, you can share my bunk with me, Obbin,” Austin offered. “It’ll be better than an air duct.”

“Thanks,” Obbin said, lifting his fur packs onto his shoulders.

“I’m going to check on Tiffany and Mason. You guys head up to the bridge and wait for us there,” Oliver said.

“Can we drop off his stuff in our cabin first?” Austin requested.

Oliver liked being asked. “Yes, of course.” He stepped out of view but paused when he overheard Austin.

“Obbin, I’ll help you carry your stuff to Mason’s and my cabin,” he said. “When you packed all this before the escape, I didn’t realize you meant you were coming with us right off the planet.”

“I wanted to fly, and after helping you escape I decided it’d be best to go away for a little while. It seemed like a better option than being grounded for the rest of my life.”

“What if you’d never made it back to your home?” Austin asked.

“I would have,” Obbin said.

“Wouldn’t you still have gotten in trouble?”

“Yeah . . . probably, but I’d be bringing back great stories and news of the outside world, so maybe not.”

“Are you worried about going back now?”

There was a second of silence. “No . . . I mean, I miss my family and . . . and it was wrong of me to do what I did. Creator would be unhappy. I need to go back and ask my family to forgive me.”

Who was Creator? Was it another name for the king?

Austin sighed. “I need to do that too.”

His confession made Oliver’s concern about insubordination seem irrelevant.

Footsteps told Oliver that the boys were leaving. Not wanting to be caught eavesdropping, he darted forward quietly.

*****

Tiffany had the e-journal out and connected to one of the servers. Mason had a large silver box out on a counter. Several wires connected it to a display. Austin might have been the tinkerer, but he worked primarily with gadgets. Mason and Tiffany were the brains when it came to operating systems or applications.

“So how bad is it?” Oliver asked over the sound of humming servers.

Mason shook his head. “Not that bad. We had to restart the system and transfer the prime-boot file to the journal, wipe the current server file, and reload it.”

Mason’s lingo and explanation were far more than Oliver needed or expected. Maybe Tiffany was right. Mason sounded like one of the guys headed into tech-ops at the Academy, always talking about servers and transfers. Oliver was on the path for pilot, captain, and admiral. Of course he didn’t trouble himself with the tech stuff. Perhaps Mason would end up serving under him on a star-frigate someday.

Oliver knew the basics of spaceship server systems from a course at the Academy, but he didn’t have the depth of knowledge Mason and Tiffany did. He was thankful for their detail-oriented personalities. He was thankful they paid attention in their courses.

“How long?” Oliver asked.

“Ten minutes at most,” Mason answered. “Just have to sync this server back to the system once it’s in the server rack.”

“Great. Tiffany, will you be able to get Jahr des Eises reloaded into the NavCom?” Oliver asked. “We need to get there right away. I don’t want to delay any longer than we must. The Übel are off to Enaid, I’m sure.” He left out mentioning their parents.

She nodded. “Right away.”

Footsteps on the metal stairs echoed in the corridor. Running. Oliver turned to see Austin enter the server room.

“Oliver,” he said, slightly out of breath. “It’s that guy you and Tiffany met. Mr. O’Farrell. He sent a message; it sounded like a distress call or something. He mentioned an attack.”

Oliver charged for the bridge, blowing past Austin, who followed. They raced up the stairs. Obbin stood by the console. Oliver took his seat in the pilot’s chair and pulled up the communications log. He replayed the message.

“Oliver and Tiffany, please. They’ve come for me. I’ve barricaded myself into a tunnel. I don’t have long. Use my signal to find me.” Something rumbled in the background. “Hurry!”

The message cut to static.

“That’s it,” Austin said.

Oliver heard Tiffany and Mason enter the bridge.

Who had come? The old man’s voice no longer held the calm, steady tone Oliver had known from before. He was in serious danger. If there had been any doubt that they should go to Jahr des Eises and not head immediately for Enaid, it was gone now.

Oliver had seen Vedrik’s treatment of the last set of clues. Obliteration. Although their destination was a highly populated planet, Oliver didn’t think the Übel would hesitate to blow up artifacts. Perhaps they might destroy the clues with a lesser display of power. In the end, that wouldn’t give Oliver and his siblings the information they needed to continue the quest or to keep up with their parents. This had been his concern all along, but Mr. O’Farrell’s plea was even more urgent.

Mr. O’Farrell was the key to understanding more of their parents’ mission. If he were captured and the Übel destroyed the clues, there would be no hope of ever finding them.

Oliver recalled the note his dad had left. He’d swiped it from the shelf in the chamber just before the entire underground cavern on Evad had been detonated. He recalled the Übel soldier Pyrock’s maniacal laugh.

“Austin, stay here. If we get another message, call me over the intercom,” Oliver said. “Is the server fixed?”

“Not qui—” Mason started.

“Then do it, Mason,” Oliver commanded, sounding exactly like a general.

“Yes, sir.” Mason saluted.

“I need to get something from my cabin. Tiffany, meet me in the library.”

What happens next? Click here to read Chapter Three!

Copyright © 2013 by Brock Eastman. Illustration by Brandon Dorman.