Rick Brooks

When the Bad force the Good into facing unknown forces, experience has shown that it always backfires on the Bad.

Oglethorpe's Universal Encyclopedia, Volume Seven

Jeb Johnston was having trouble seeing out of his remaining eye. The medunits clustered over his body could no longer damp the pain without knocking him out.

He needed to stay awake very much.

No one had ever escaped from the Syndicate's torturers. It didn't look like Jeb would be the first. But Jeb was as stubborn as a New Texas mule.

The Albert Sidney Johnston could fly itself. It now needed to. Jeb took pride in being a hotshot pilot, the best on New Texas. With only one arm and leg left, he wasn't much of a pilot now.
But he could still make decisions for his ship. The computer input behind his left ear, thank Houston they'd started on his right side, fed orders to the ship as fast as Jeb could think. The viewscreens in front of him showed the Sidney Johnston's course.

And the three Syndicate ships behind him.

Jeb blinked, then snarled. They were herding him too close to Corum, the proscribed planet. But maybe they had been too clever.

The Albert Sidney Johnston dropped out of hyperspace. Jeb almost blacked out. There was a yowl from the ship's cat.

The armored bulk of one of the Hellhammer class ships guarding Corum swelled before him. The Albert Sidney Johnston sent a complicated series of recognition signals and hurtled by the aroused Hellhammer ship.

Jeb's plan to get some of the living silver from the planet below was working. But he hadn't intended to be dying when he went down.

His mouth twisted in a wolfish grin as the three Syndicate ships tried to follow him. What looked like three solid bars of incandescent light came from the Hellhammer batteries. The three Syndicate ships instantly vaporized.

Then disaster.

One of the recognition codes wasn't quite right. He dived toward the planet taking wild evasive action. There was another indignate yowl. Jeb blacked out as the guard ship opened fire.

Due to the Albert Sidney Johnston's closeness to the planet, the guard ship was forced to use it's secondary batteries instead of the dreaded Hellhammers. So the Albert Sidney Johnston wasn't vaporized. But badly damaged and smoking, she entered the atmosphere. And crashed.

The robot brain of the massive guardship had orders never to interfer on the surface of Corum. The human component, once awakened, agreed.

Jeb awoke to hellish pain. Weird gnomes were huddled over his body. Vast golden eyes at the top of long wedge shaped faces regarded him emotionlessly.

Jeb fainted.

The gnomes toiled on.

Jeb awoke. He was lying flat on his back in his bunk aboard the Albert Sidney Johnston. Tom, the ship's cat, was curled up by his side purring.

Jeb looked at the ceiling. And his gaze went through to the storage area above.

He gasped. His heart beat faster. He levered himself up with both hands.

Jeb almost fainted.

Then he looked at his right side. A silver arm and leg seemed to have grown out of the stumps left by the ministrations of the Syndicate.

Jeb reached out his left hand and touched his right hand. The metal was warm. He touched his right ear. It too was warm metal.

He got up effortlessly. He realized that the pain was gone. No medunits were in sight.

Jeb walked into the refresher and looked at his face in the
mirror. He closed both eyes. But he could still see through the right one.

Jeb opened his eyes. He hardly recognized himself. One eye was still blue. The other was silver. Then the silver eye dialated to show something burning blackly within.

Jeb felt ill. His right eye became a ball of silver again.

Two silvery fangs met on either side of his mouth. Even his
hair was silver.

He abruptly realized that he couldn't hear the ship's engines. He ran toward the bridge.

He barely recognized the bridge of the Albert Sidney Johnston. The mad dwarfs of Corum had rebuilt it with living silver too.

Jeb realized that he and his ship were now a prize that any crook in the galaxy would kill for. A fortune in living silver.

He consulted the computer input. The Albert Sidney Johnston was in orbit around New Texas. He went through the data banks. Somehow no person or computer on New Texas had noticed him or his ship.

Jeb unsteadily went back to his room. He fell on his bunk and began to shake.

Responding to his distress, a medunit scurried in and touched his left arm. Jeb felt his cares vanish.

He went to the refresher and stared at his new face and body expressionlessly. Tom hopped up on the sink and gave a soft mrrrrew.

Jeb looked at his cat. The orange tom cat looked back at him with one green eye. And one silver one. Silvery claws
came out of silver toes on all four of Tom's feet, then retracted out of sight.

Silver fangs to match Jeb's showed as Tom yawned.

His right ear, torn in some long ago battle, was now whole and silver. So was the sharp tip of his tail.

Tom rubbed his head against Jeb, then hopped down and went about his business.

Tom went to the bridge and sat down to think. Even the little patch of Astro-turf he kept in one corner to remind him of home didn't make him feel better.

What had been done to him, his ship, and his cat? And how the hell did he get here, apparently undetected?

And what was he going to do next?

Jeb linked with the ship's computer and began to check out his ship. The dwarfs had improved the computer, too.

The he went over the ship from nose to tail checking everything.

He opened the armory just off his bunkroom and marveled at the new silvery weapons there.

Jeb sat in the control room gazing off into the space revealed by the ship's viewscreens. He became aware that Tom was on the arm f the chair beside him, rubbing against him.

He ruffled Tom's fur. Tom purred in a rasping rumble.

At least that was unchanged.

"Tom, despite being in orbit over New Texas, we really can't go home."


"I'm no longer Jeb. A dark star burns in my right eye shell. My right hand is a deadly weapon. I can hear and see more with my new eye and ear."

Tom began washing himself. He didn't lick his silvery toes and tail tip.

"Jeb is dead. He died back on Corum. Now I'm Darkstar
Silverarm. I think the Syndicate will have plenty of reasons to regret my transformation."

He gave Tom another pat and headed for the bridge.

Darkstar Silverarm brought the Albert Sidney Johnston down just above the surface of New Texas.

The Syndicate members had not expected him to escape. So he knew where their hideout on West Texarcana was. It was buried under the Black Mesa. But not far enough under.

One moment Syndicate members were watching empty detectors and viewscreens. The next moment, the Albert Sidney Johnston was hanging in front of the mesa.

Columns of energy scarely less potent than Hellhammers shot out. Most of the mesa in front of the ship vaporized. Stubborn walls melted and flowed.

Only two defensive batteries were left to the Syndicate base. Their energy blasts died before reaching the Albert Sidney Johnston.

Then return fire from the Albert Sidney Johnston took them out.

The Albert Sidney Johnston landed within what had been the Syndicate base. The port in the side opened. Something silver and orange shot out. A silver-haired figure wrapped in a silvery cloak carrying a silver wand in his left hand followed.

Two men, blasters in hand, rose to face him. Their eyes met his. One fainted. The other screamed and ran. He didn't get far. Like an archiac windup toy, he moved slower and slower until he fell.

Darkstar Silverarm raised his wand. Lances of fire dropped two other gunmen.

A third almost behind him, centered his weapon on the back of Darkstar's head. Hearing a faint sound, Darkstar moved with lightning speed and the shot completely missed.

Before the gunman could change his aim, a silvery and orange shape blurred toward him.

A silvery tail tip battered the blaster aside. Silver claws
slashed the gunman's throat. He choked and died.

Darkstar Silverarm proceeded more cautiously. Tom shot out of sight. But Darkstar knew where he was. With a little effort, Darkstar could even see through Tom's eyes.

He could also see into the base through durasteel walls.

He stopped and gazed at his feet. Something down in the ground. It looked like a bomb. He moved rapidly and thought into his computer implant.

It too had been improved by the dwarfs of Corum.

The Albert Sidney Johnston unleased a lance of fire into the
ground. In moments, the bomb was gone.

Tom found the computer room and slipped through the metal door that had been warped by the forces unleashed on the base by the Albert Sidney Johnston.

Two men were working on the computer. Three men with blasters were guarding them. But they never expected an orange and silver cat that moved like he was approaching light speed.

Darkstar saw a small ship hidden within a fold in the mesa wall. His weapon shot a narrow beam into the walls surrounding the ship.

He brought out a silvery device from within his robe with his
other hand. It shot out a dart of silvery metal that melted into the wall of the ship.

Darkstar hurried on his way.

When Darkstar reached the computer room, he took the edge of the door in his right hand. And pulled. Metal tore apart with a screech.

Three guards lay dead on the floor. None had gotten off a shot.

Two men sat in front of the computer viewscreen, their eyes fixed on an orange and silver cat that sat gazing with slanted eyes at them.

Darkstar walked up to them, his right eye nearly closed.

"I am Darkstar Silverarm. I want access to the Syndicate files."

His right eye opened briefly. One man gasped. The other screamed.

"What in Klono's name, are you?"

"An enemy of the Syndicate. Now give me access. Or I shall destroy your mind and take what I need from it?"

The men yielded.

Darkstar became a conduit between the Syndicate's computer and the Albert Sidney Johnston's augmented computer. As he transferred information, he felt and heard a rumble.

The Albert Sidney Johnston's detectors showed the small spaceship taking off. It stayed low and quickly disappeared from view. The Albert Sidney Johnston got in three shots at it, none the less. Carefully missing all three.

Soon Darkstar had all the information from the computer. Some had undoubtedly been destroyed. His ship's computer had outwitted and dismantled all the blocks hiding information.

So Darkstar had a decent idea of the Syndicate. But only on New Texas. The Syndicate was too clever to leave many traces to other worlds.

Tom stretched. The two men's eyes flicked over to him.

Darkstar touched both with the wand, then caught them as they slumped.

The Albert Sidney Johnston's detectors showed several New Texas Ranger ships approaching. They could handle the rest of the Syndicate on New Texas.

Darkstar and Tom left the computer room. Darkstar could now move faster than any man. But Tom steaked away from him.

Darkstar reached the Albert Sidney Johnston and wedged himself in the airlock. The outer door closed as the ship went straight up.

He entered the control room to find Tom asleep on the Astro-turf.

Darkstar watched as New Texas shrank behind them. The Albert Sidney Johnston entered hyperspace with scarely a tremor.

A spy device was now part of the hull of the Syndicate ship that had fled. And Darkstar was following it. He would give the Syndicate more reason to regret what had been done to him.