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The Mill On The Floss 3 страница

Space Invaders

Geoffrey Matthews

Words, you might not know:

strongroom, bunk, grille, humming, harsh, hostile, compartments, eagerly, belt, measure, outer.


I am Omega


Varon pushed his way through the thick, wet grass of the swamp. Behind him, he heard the sound of loud voices. He tried to go faster, but the thick grass held him back. He had to push his way through it step by step. Varon had come about three kilometres from the Zeron strongroom and was very tired.

The first part of Varon's plan had been successful. He had got into the strongroom deep under the ground - he had found the crystal - and he had got out again. He had succeeded in stealing one of the most valuable crystals in the Universe. And no one had seen him.

But the second part of his plan had gone completely wrong. The guards on the planet Zeron had found his spaceship. Varon had been told that only the strongroom on Zeron was guarded. But now he knew that was wrong. There were guards all over the planet. The guards had been waiting for him when he got back to the spaceship. And now they were chasing him and there was no way he could escape.

Varon pushed his way through the grass and fell into a pool of dirty, green water. The shouts were coming closer. He had to keep moving.

Varon pulled himself slowly to his feet. His face, hands and overalls were covered in thick green mud. Varon wiped his hands on his overalls and felt in his pocket. The small, square box was still there. And in the box, there was the Zeron crystal. The crystal would make him rich - very, very rich. But first, he had to get back inside his ship. There was no other way he could escape from Zeron.

He now moved out of the long, thick grass. He was standing on harder, drier ground. There were some thick bushes in front of him.

Behind him, there was the swamp and the guards who were chasing him. Varon hurried towards the thick bushes.

'I must get back to the spaceship,' Varon thought. 'I'll have to find some way of tricking the guards. I can't escape from Zeron if I can't get back to the spaceship.'

Varon took two steps forward into the bushes. Suddenly he stopped. He knew he was not alone. He dropped down on one knee. There was somebody near him. His hand reached for the laser gun on his belt. 'Do not touch your weapon,' said a soft voice.

The voice spoke from behind a bush. Varon turned towards the voice and pulled his gun from his belt. He pointed the laser gun at the bush and pressed the trigger. Nothing happened. Varon pressed the trigger again. Again, nothing happened.

The quiet voice spoke once more. 'Your gun cannot be used. Put it back in your belt. You will not be harmed.'

Varon lowered his hand, but did not put the gun back in his belt. He rose slowly and took a step towards the bush.

'You are not permitted to move any nearer,' said the soft, quiet voice. It was a strange voice - neither friendly nor unfriendly.

Varon raised his foot to take another step towards the bush. But he could not move his leg forward. He tried and tried to move his leg, but it would not move. He could move backwards, but he could not go nearer the bush.

'Who are you?' Varon asked. 'What do you want from me?'

'I want to help you, Stefan Varon,' said the voice.

'You know my name!' said Varon in surprise. No one on Zeron knew him.

'Yes, I know your name. And I know what you do. And where you come from. And why you are here. I know every thing. I am Omega.'

The leaves of the bush were moved slowly to one side. A tall figure stood in front of Varon. The figure was made of metal. Its face was neither friendly nor unfriendly. It did not have a nose, mouth, eyes and ears like a human. It was a robot!

Varon was very surprised. He knew that the guards on Zeron did not use robots. He knew there were no robots on Zeron. Or was he wrong again? A robot was standing here in front of him.

'What do you want from me?' Varon asked once again.

The robot did not reply. It seemed to be listening to something. Its head moved round to the right. Varon heard the voices of the Zeron guards. 'He's over there,' a voice shouted. 'Near those bushes!'

Varon turned to the left and began to run. Omega raised one arm and pointed it at Varon. A bright, red light came from the metal arm and covered Varon's body. The red light quickly faded. When the Zeron guards reached the bushes, they found nothing. Varon and Omega had disappeared.



On the Spaceship


Varon opened his eyes and looked around. He was lying on a metal bunk in a small room. The bunk was fixed to a metal wall. The Zeron guards have caught me,' he thought. 'I am in prison.'

There was a small screen in the metal wall opposite the bunk. Varon got up and pressed a switch. The screen lit up and a picture appeared. Outside there were thousands and thousands of stars and planets. The biggest was a large circle of bright, yellow light.

Varon had seen the same yellow light when he was coming towards Zeron in his spaceship. Now he was looking at the planet Zeron from space. A short time ago, he had been standing in a swamp on its surface.

'I'm in a spaceship,' Varon said to himself. 'And it's not my spaceship. But how did I get here?' Then he remembered the Zeron guards who had been chasing him. And he remembered Omega. 'The robot has teleported me here,' he said to himself. 'But what about the Zeron crystal? Have I still got it?' Quickly he felt in his pocket for the small box. It was still there. He opened the box and looked at the red crystal lying inside. He was lucky. No one had searched his pockets. No one had taken his precious crystal. Varon looked around the room for a hiding place.

There was no furniture - only the metal walls and the metal bunk. There was the small visual display screen in one wall and above the bunk there was a small air vent. The air vent was covered with a metal grille. Varon took a small metal tool from his pocket. He pointed the instrument at the edge of the grille and pressed a button. There was a humming noise.

Varon pointed the tool at the grille and moved his arm round slowly in a circle. After a few seconds, he reached up and carefully lifted the grille away from the air vent.

He took the box with the crystal in it from his pocket and placed it carefully inside the vent. He put the grille back in place. He used the instrument again. In a few seconds, the grille was firmly fixed back to the wall.

There was no door in the room. But this did not trouble Varon. He pointed the metal tool at the wall between the visual display screen and the bunk. He pressed the button. Nothing happened. Then he turned round and pointed at the other wall. He pressed the button again and this time there was a soft sliding noise. Part of the wall slid to one side. Varon had opened the door.

The corridor outside the room was long and dark, but there was a light at one end. Very quietly, Varon moved down the corridor towards the light. The light was coming from an open door. Varon stopped at the side of the door and carefully looked inside. It was the control room of the spaceship. There was someone standing inside, near the open door. Quickly, Varon moved back and stood against the metal wall of the corridor.

A woman's voice said. 'It was a mistake to bring him up here to the ship.'

'Mistakes are made by humans. I do not make mistakes,' said a quiet voice. Varon knew the voice immediately. It was Omega's voice.

'You have made a mistake,' the woman repeated angrily. She said each word sharply and coldly. Varon very slowly moved back towards the open door. He looked carefully into the control room. He saw Omega standing in front of the controls of the spaceship. The woman was standing looking at Omega angrily. She was young, about twenty-five, and she had long, bright red hair.

'You must send this man back to Zeron immediately,' said the woman.

'I cannot do harm to a human being,' Omega replied quietly. 'If I send the man back to Zeron, he will be killed by the guards. I cannot send him back.' Varon smiled. He did not want to go back to Zeron.

'But you must obey my orders,' said the woman.

'That is correct,' said Omega.

'Then I order you to send this man back to Zeron.'

Omega stood quietly at the controls of the spaceship. He did not do anything.

'Obey my order immediately!' shouted the woman. 'Teleport this man back to Zeron.'

'I do not understand your order,' said Omega quietly. 'It is a simple order,' said the woman angrily. 'Send him back to Zeron.'

The woman now turned towards the robot. Varon could see she was very angry. Her eyes were bright and hard. She had raised her arms and her hands were tightly closed.

'Your order is not simple. It does not make sense. I cannot obey it.' Omega's voice was quiet and soft.

'Why not?'

'Varon is a human being. That is correct?' said Omega.

The woman agreed. 'I cannot harm a human being. If I send him back to Zeron, he will die. Therefore I cannot send him back. I cannot obey your order.'

'Good,' thought Varon to himself. He did not want to go back to Zeron to die. But he did want to go back to Earth. And this spaceship could take him there. He had to find a way to get control of the spaceship. Varon started to move back away from the open door. 'Stay where you are,' said a man's voice behind him. 'Do not move.'

Varon felt cold metal touch the back of his neck. He knew that the man was pointing a laser gun at his head. He stood very still.



Three Thieves


'Raise your hands,' said the man behind Varon, 'and walk slowly into the control room.' Varon obeyed the man's order.

'Now sit down on that seat,' said the voice. 'And do it slowly.' Varon stopped in front of the seat. He slowly turned round and sat down. Now Varon could see the man. He was tall and his black hair was cut short.

'What are you doing, Garth?' asked the woman. 'Why have you brought that man in here?'

Garth stood back against the wall. He held his laser gun loosely. But it was pointing straight at Varon's head. Varon knew that Garth could kill him easily and that he would enjoy doing it.

'I did not bring him here, Miranda,' Garth replied. 'I found him standing outside the door. He was listening to you and Omega.'

'But how did he get out of the room?' asked Miranda. 'I closed and locked the door. No one can open the door from the inside.'

'I can get out of any room if I have the right tool,' said Varon. He smiled at the woman. She looked beautiful, but she did not smile back at him.

'You're a fool, Miranda,' said Garth. 'You did not search him. Do it now.'

Miranda walked behind the seat Varon was sitting on. She leant forward and searched his pockets. She took out the metal tool and handed it to Garth. Garth looked at it carefully.


'You're right,' Garth said to Varon with a cold smile. 'You can get out of any room if you have a tool like this. It's a sonic key. It can open almost anything. Now, why do you need a tool like this?'

'For my work,' replied Varon.

'What is your work?' asked Garth. He was still smiling but it was not a friendly smile. Varon did not reply. Garth spoke to Omega.

'Who is this man?' he ordered sharply. 'Tell me what he was doing on the planet Zeron.'

Omega was standing quietly at the controls of the spaceship. He did not reply for a few seconds. Then he spoke. 'Varon is a thief. The Zeron guards were chasing him,' came the quiet reply.

'Why were the guards chasing you?' Garth asked Varon.

'Your friend knows everything,' replied Varon.

'Ask him.'

'Omega is not a friend of ours,' said Miranda. 'He is a robot.'

'I know that,' said Varon. 'But a robot can still be a friend. He must be a friend. He's controlling your spaceship.'

'This is not their spaceship,' said Omega. 'And I am not their friend.'

'Omega is right as usual,' said Garth, with a sharp laugh. 'The owner of this ship was his friend. Unfortunately, we had to leave him on Earth when we stole the ship.'

'You did not leave him on Earth,' said Omega in his quiet voice. 'You killed my master when you stole this spaceship.'

'And we found out how to control you,' said Garth in a cold, hard voice. 'Now you must obey our orders. We are your masters.'

Omega was silent. 'That's interesting,' Varon thought to himself. 'If I can learn how to control Omega, I can make him fly the ship back to Earth. I must watch the robot carefully.'

Varon looked at Garth and Miranda. The woman was beautiful, but her eyes were hard and cruel.

'Why did you steal this spaceship?' asked Varon. 'Because we needed it,' replied Miranda. 'We had to leave Earth quickly. We were being chased by the Earth police.'

'Why were they chasing you?' asked Varon. He was interested now.

'Because we succeeded in stealing the most valuable thing on Earth,' Miranda said quickly. Her eyes were bright with joy.

Varon laughed loudly. 'Then you are both the same as me. I am a thief too. We are three thieves together.'

'We are not the same as you,' said Miranda coldly. 'We are successful thieves. We only steal things of great value. What can you steal on Zeron? It is a poor planet. There is nothing to steal on Zeron. Everyone knows that.'

'Yes, Varon,' said Garth, 'we are not the same as you. We are successful thieves.' They both laughed.

'They are very stupid,' thought Varon to himself. 'They do not know the secret of Zeron. They do not know that a Zeron crystal is the most valuable thing in this Universe.'

Then Omega spoke quietly. He stood at the controls of the spaceship with his back towards the three humans. 'Varon is exactly like you.'

Garth stopped laughing. He turned sharply towards the metal figure. 'You are wrong, Omega.'

'I am never wrong,' was Omega's reply. 'And I can prove that Varon is the same as you.'

'I hope he isn't going to tell them about the Zeron crystals,' Varon thought to himself.

'Tell Varon why you and Miranda left Earth,' Omega said.

'You say you know everything,' said Garth to Omega in a cold voice, 'you tell him why we left Earth.'

'They stole the newest and most powerful computer on Earth,' said Omega in a quiet voice. 'They stole it. But the Earth police discovered that they were the thieves. They had to escape and so they stole this spaceship.'

'The most powerful computer on Earth?' said Varon. 'Then you are rich - very rich.'

'They are not rich yet,' continued Omega. 'They had to hide the computer on Earth. It is still on Earth.'

'So Garth and Miranda stole the computer but they have not sold it yet,' said Varon with a laugh.

'The computer is hidden safely,' said Miranda angrily. 'No one can ever find it. It will be there when we get back to Earth.'

'There are many people who want this powerful computer,' said Garth. 'And when we sell it we will be rich. We will be the richest people on Earth.'

For the first time Omega turned away from the controls. He looked at Garth and Miranda.

'Yes, you will both be rich when you get back to Earth,' Omega said. 'But first you must get back there. And that is why you are both the same as Varon. He too is rich - much richer than both of you. But he too must get back to Earth.'

Miranda and Garth looked at Varon with great interest. He was richer than they were. What did he have which made him so rich?



'You Need Varon's Help'


Here was silence on the spaceship. Omega was standing quietly at the controls again. Varon was thinking about how he could learn to control Omega. Miranda and Garth were thinking about what Omega had told them. Varon was richer than both of them. Miranda was the first to speak.

'So we all want to go back to Earth,' she said. 'Then let's go there. Omega, take us back to Earth, now.'

Omega pushed switches on the control panel. A low noise filled the room.

'Stop,' said Garth sharply. 'Stop, Omega. We cannot go back to Earth yet.'

Omega pulled back the switches and the noise faded away.

'You are stupid, Miranda,' said Garth. 'We have travelled millions of kilometres through space. We have been running and hiding from everyone for a long time now. But we can't go back to Earth yet. First, we must make sure that our plan has worked.'

'Plan?' asked Varon. 'What's your plan?'

'It's simple,' replied Garth. 'When we stole the computer, we knew that the Earth police were following us. So we stole this spaceship – the fastest spaceship that has ever been built.'

'The fastest and most powerful,' added Omega.

'When we left Earth, we flew towards the Moon,' continued Garth. 'The police ships were far behind. We fired a small missile at the surface of the Moon. By the time it exploded, we were thousands of kilometres away.'

'But what was the plan?' asked Varon.

'The police saw the missile explode,' explained Garth. 'We hope they will believe that this ship crashed on the Moon. Then they will think we are dead and they will forget about us.'

'A clever plan,' said Varon. 'But has it worked?'

'It's time to find out,' said Miranda. 'We have been hiding for long enough. Omega, find out if our plan has worked.' Omega moved to one side of the control panel. He stood in front of a large, white screen. He placed his arms on the controls at each side of the screen. Bright lights, red and green and blue, flashed across the screen. There was a humming noise. After a few moments, the bright lights faded away and the noise stopped. There was silence. Omega took his arms away from the control panel. He turned slowly towards Garth and Miranda.

'The Earth police have stopped looking for you,' he said quietly. 'They believe that this ship crashed on the Moon. They think that the ship was completely destroyed and that both of you are dead.' Miranda laughed with joy.

'The plan has worked,' she cried excitedly. 'Now we can go back to Earth and get the computer.'

'But what about him?' asked Garth, pointing at Varon.

'Take me back to Earth with you,' said Varon. 'I have some business there.'

'I am sure you have business there,' said Garth. 'But I think you've forgotten something.'

'What's that?' asked Varon.

'You are the only person who knows that we are still alive,' answered Garth. 'You are the only person who knows we have this ship.

If we take you back to Earth, you could tell the police. They will pay a big reward.'

'A big reward,' said Varon with a laugh. 'Haven't you forgotten something?'

'Tell me what I have forgotten.'

'You have forgotten what Omega has told you,' replied Varon.

'When I get back to Earth, I will be richer than both of you. I don't need any reward from the police.'

'You won't be richer than us,' said Garth in a harsh voice. 'You will never get back to Earth. I am going to kill you now.'

Garth pointed his laser gun at Varon's head. 'Don't kill him,' said Miranda suddenly. Her eyes were shining with greed. 'First, find out what he has got. Why will he be richer than both of us?'

'I don't believe Omega,' said Garth. 'It's impossible. There's nothing to steal on Zeron.'

Garth put his fingers to the trigger of the gun. But he could not close his fingers. Omega's arm was pointing at Garth.

'You must not kill this man,' said Omega. 'You must ask him to help you. You need his help.'

'Help?' asked Miranda sharply. 'What help?'

'If Varon does not help you, you will never get back to Earth!'



Under Attack


'What do you mean?' asked Garth. 'Why do we need help from Varon?' Omega did not reply. Suddenly there was a loud noise in the control room. Omega turned to the controls. Red lights were flashing on the control panel and the noise was growing louder. The voice of the spaceship's warning system suddenly sounded in the control room. 'Emergency - emergency. We are under attack. Hostile ships are approaching. We are under attack. Emergency – emergency.'

'It's the Zeron guards,' said Omega. 'They have found us here above their planet. They are looking for Varon.'

'Omega, I order you to teleport Varon back to Zeron,' said Garth.

'The guards don't know Miranda and I are in this ship. They want Varon.'

'No, don't do anything, Omega,' said Miranda angrily. 'Varon is rich. We must find out where his wealth is.'

'Omega,' shouted Garth, 'I order you to take him back!'

'Too late,' said Omega quietly. 'The ship is in danger. We must be away from here in fifteen seconds. Prepare for hyper-flight. Humans must go to the safety room.'

The voice of the warning system sounded again, 'Hostile ships in attack range in fourteen seconds ... thirteen seconds ...'

A door slid open on one side of the control room. Garth and Miranda ran towards the door. Varon followed quickly. They went into a small room with metal walls. It was like the room in which Varon had been a prisoner. But there were many metal bunks.

'.. . eight seconds ...' Garth pressed a switch in the wall. A tray slid out of the wall.

There were some large blue capsules on the tray. Garth and Miranda each swallowed a blue capsule. Varon swallowed a blue capsule too.

'... five seconds ...' The three humans lay down on the bunks.

'... two seconds ...' The door of the safety room closed. They were now shut tightly in the room. Varon felt sleepy. A second later, the three of them were unconscious.

Omega was now part of the controls of the spaceship. He had placed his arms on the control panel. He was a powerful computer controlling the ship. The noises became much louder and the lights in the control room faded. The control room shook violently. But Omega felt nothing. And the three humans felt nothing. They were lying unconscious on the bunks in the safety room. Omega increased the power to the controls. The spaceship began to move into hyper-flight. It was the fastest ship that had ever been built. The lights in the control room went out. The noise stopped.

There was complete blackness and silence in the control room. They were travelling out into space faster than the speed of light.

In a few seconds, they had left the planet Zeron far behind them. The spaceships of the Zeron guards could not follow them.

Slowly the lights in the control room came on again. There were no noises and no flashing lights. Omega moved his arms from the control panel. 'What do I do now?' Omega asked himself. 'If I do not wake them up, they will lie in the safety room for ever. But I am a robot. I am not free. I cannot harm a human being. I cannot leave them there.'

Omega pressed a switch on the control panel. The three humans woke up. The door of the safety room slid quietly open. In a few seconds, they were back in the control room with Omega.

'What is our position?' asked Garth.

'We have escaped from the Zeron guards,' replied Omega. 'Their spaceships could not follow us.'

'Good,' said Miranda. 'Now we can get back to Earth. We do not need to hide any longer.'

'It is too late to go back to Earth now,' said Omega quietly.

'Too late?' asked Garth in surprise. 'What do you mean?'

'I will explain,' replied Omega. 'Since we left Earth, we have travelled many millions of kilometres. When we reached Zeron, our power banks were almost empty. I took this ship to Zeron because I knew the secret of the planet. There is a source of power on Zeron.

But we had to escape from the Zeron guards. The escape used all the power we had left.'

'No power left!' said Garth. 'But that's impossible. What about power for the life support systems ?'

'You have exactly forty minutes left,' answered Omega. 'Then the life support systems will fail.'

'And we will all die,' said Varon. 'I will not die,' said Omega. 'But I will be left here in this ship for ever.'

'But you said Varon could help us,' Miranda said sharply to Omega.

'How can he help us?'

'Varon stole a crystal from Zeron,' replied Omega. 'Zeron crystals are the strongest source of power that has yet been discovered. One Zeron crystal in our power banks and we can go anywhere we want.'

Garth and Miranda turned towards Varon. Garth took his laser gun from his belt.

'Where is this crystal?' he asked Varon.



'Steal Another Crystal'


There was silence in the control room. Garth was pointing his laser gun at Varon. Miranda was waiting for Varon's reply. Omega was working at the control panel. 'Omega knows everything,' said Varon at last. 'He can tell you where it is. Why don't you go and bring the crystal yourself, Omega?'

'Zeron crystals are harmful to robots,' replied Omega. 'I cannot touch a Zeron crystal.'

'At last,' said Miranda. 'At last you have told us that there is something which you cannot do.'

'But you know where the crystal is,' said Garth to Omega. 'Tell me and I will bring it to you.'

'I'll go and get it myself,' said Varon. 'But first, I want an agreement.'

'What kind of agreement?' asked Garth and Miranda together.

'We need this crystal to get us back to Earth. That's correct, isn't it?'

Garth and Miranda nodded their heads.

'But I was going to sell this crystal for many millions of credits,' continued Varon. 'If we use the Zeron crystal to get us back to Earth, I will have nothing. And you will be able to sell the computer you stole.'

'What agreement do you want?' asked Garth.

'You're not going to get any share of our money,' added Miranda. 'It is ours. We stole the computer.'

'I don't want any share of your money,' said Varon, 'I want something much more valuable.'

'Tell us what you want,' said Garth.

'I must go back to Zeron.'

'Back to Zeron!' cried Miranda. 'You're mad.'

'I'm not mad,' said Varon. 'Think about it. Omega can teleport us down into the Zeron strongroom. We can steal another crystal.' Miranda's eyes looked cruel and greedy. Varon was not mad.

'Why only one crystal?' she asked. 'Why can't we steal one for each of us? Then we will be the richest people in all the Universe.'

'We may not have time,' explained Varon. 'It is not easy to open the compartments where the crystals are kept.'

'What do you mean?' asked Garth. 'Each crystal is locked in a compartment. There is only one crystal in each compartment. And it takes time to open a compartment.' Omega had been quietly listening to all they were saying. Now he turned from the control panel and looked at them.

'I must warn the three of you,' he said. 'There is great danger on Zeron. Death is waiting there for you.'

'There will be no danger,' said Varon. 'You can teleport us down straight into the strongroom. We will take a crystal. Then you can teleport us back.'

'We will take three crystals,' said Miranda.

'I cannot teleport you down to Zeron,' said Omega quietly.

'Why not?' asked Garth and Miranda together. 'I know that death is waiting for you on Zeron. I cannot send a human being to his death.'

'We will order you to teleport us down to Zeron,' said Miranda.

'I have already explained to you,' said Omega. 'I am unable to obey orders which I do not understand.'

The three humans looked at Omega. They each wanted to get back to Zeron. Each one of them wanted a valuable Zeron crystal.

'There is something I may be able to do,' said Omega after a moment's silence.

'What's that?' asked Garth. 'I may be able to change the controls of the teleporter,' explained Omega. 'Then you will be able to teleport yourselves down into the strongroom on Zeron.'

'And you will be able to teleport us back here to the ship?' asked Varon.

'I do not think I will be able to do that,' replied Omega. 'Why not?' asked Garth.

'I think you will all die on Zeron.'

'Nonsense,' said Miranda. Her eyes were bright with greed. 'Varon will open the compartments quickly. We will be in and out of the strongroom before the guards know. And we will each have a crystal.'

'Good,' said Garth. 'That's agreed. We will now go back to Zeron. We will teleport ourselves down and steal another crystal.'

'Three more crystals,' Miranda said eagerly.

'All right,' agreed Varon. 'We will try to steal three more crystals.'

Omega moved back to the control panel. A strong blue light was shining on the screen.

'Life support systems at danger level,' said the voice of the ship's warning system.

'You must hurry,' said Omega. The life support systems are beginning to weaken. You have twenty minutes left.'

'I'll go and get the crystal now,' said Varon. 'Where's my sonic key? I need it.'

Garth was holding the sonic key in his left hand. The laser gun was still in his right hand.

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