Chapter 8 :Testing the Waters
What Doug didn't know is thatGrey Leader heard everything he said to everyone else. How? GreyLeader's comm. system had been minorly sabotaged...so he heard everything. As such, he fled deep into the unknown territory and ran into Upsilon, who by this point had begun to work on weapons for the soldiers that would save the planet.Grey Leader had no idea who he had come across, but the deadly beryllium blade pointed at his throat made it quite clear that this was not a person to mess with. However, the fact that he wasn't dead meant that the stranger probably wanted something from him.But whatBlack Leader didn't knowwas that Upsilon only knew that he was a Stalker.
SoGrey Leader said "Please. Don't kill me. I'm the leader of the Stalkers and as such, have information that would be quite useful for you. I can tell you pretty much anything you want to know. Just don't kill me." Upsilon thought about this new information for a few moments, then made a descision.
Upsilon replied "I won't kill you. But I can't say as much for the rest of my crew. You'll have to pass five tests, a couple of which may or may not be of my making. You won't know the nature of the tests until you arrive at each one. If you fail, you die. That's all I'm going to offer you, so you have very limited choice in this matter. Of course, you could always choose death. That would please your old master quite a bit, wouldn't it?" For, you see, Upsilon had made the devices used to sabotageGrey Leader's comms. But he hadn't used them himself, only linked them to his own set up so he could listen in on the enemy's orders. He was, after all, a tactitian.
The two walked for some time, eventually reaching the clearing where the rest of the party had camped for the night. He said "I found this scrap of existence wandering a mite too close to my forge and I figured we might have a bit of fun before he dies. After all, nobody ever passes the Five Tests." This was a code, so the other three people knew that he had captured an enemy that had asked for mercy. Unfortunately for the enemy, justice can be quite merciless, as can the hatred of man. However, he was going to pass these tests, or so he had determined for himself. He figured that the enemy of his enemy was his friend and right now, Doug most certainly was an enemy.
The first test was laid out in the dark of night. It was an obstacle course, full of deadly traps and pitfalls, that was to be navigated by the light of the twin moons.Grey Leader got most of the way through it. Then, he realized something. The four that had been watching him had left him to his own devices. The idea was to see if he would run for freedom from his supposed captors, at which point he no doubt would find a beryllium headed crossbow quarrel planted in his back. Upsilon was a rather archaic creature, so it would be a crossbow that was strengthened rather than a more advanced weapon, like his lost razor whip. He finished the course and returned to camp, asking for the second test. He wasn't surprised to see surprise on at least one face in the circle. Then Upsilon said to Epsilon,"Pay up. He came back." Clearly, Upsilon wasn't surprised at all.
The second test was harder. He had to duel with Upsilon, using foils made out of a rather strange metal. Apparently, he was to be evaluated based on if he would kill Upsilon if given the chance, at which point he'd be killed; if he failed that is. The duel was long and hard, but eventuallyGrey Leader got the better of Upsilon and disarmed him. Then Grey Leader gave Upsilon his own weapon, which turned out to be a piece of junk. The duel had been a farce and he wouldn't have been able to kill Upsilon if he tried. Thus the nature of the second test.
The third test, which was archery, was to see if he would get upset when the arrows all missed the holographic target. After all, if he had a bad temper, they wouldn't get such reliable info out of him and he'd be a liability in future battles. He passed.
The fourth test was to get a very large log across a ravine using only ancient pulleys, rope, and wood. Obviously to test his wits in a very challenging situation. He passed that test, too, though it was a real pain to complete alone.
The fifth and final test was much simpler than the previous four. This test was to test his loyalty. He had to go into a Stalker base in disguise and plant an incendiary device. As he held no more loyalty for Doug and the other Stalkers did, he had no qualms about it. The last vestiges of the Stalkers on the planet were eradicated. But that wasn't even close to the end of the conflicts. Alas, it was but only the beginning of a larger game of chess.