The Merciless

The woman had been given a new identity by the authorities: Lina Chen. It was a name that felt foreign on her tongue, but she had grown used to it. She had settled into her new life on Mars, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that her past was still out there, waiting for her.

One day, as she was walking through the bustling streets of the Martian capital, she saw a familiar face. It was the Tiger, the man who had led the terrorist group that she and Astra had infiltrated.

Lina’s heart raced as she watched him disappear into a crowded marketplace. She knew that she had to act fast. She contacted the government agents who had helped her before and told them what she had seen.

“We need to take him down,” Lina said. “He’s the only one who got away, and he’s still out there, plotting his next move.”

The agents agreed to help her, but they warned her that the Tiger was a dangerous man. He was known for his brutality and his merciless tactics.

“He won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way,” one of the agents said. “You need to be careful.”

Lina nodded, knowing that she couldn’t let fear stop her. She was determined to bring the Tiger to justice, no matter what it took.

Over the next few weeks, Lina tracked the Tiger across the solar system. She followed him to the barren wastelands of Venus, where he was recruiting a new army of followers.

Lina watched from a distance as the Tiger addressed his new recruits, promising them power and wealth beyond their wildest dreams. She felt sick to her stomach as she saw the desperation in their eyes, knowing that they were being manipulated by a ruthless killer.

But Lina knew that she couldn’t let her emotions get in the way. She had a job to do, and she had to do it well.

She waited until nightfall, when the Tiger and his followers had retired to their camps. She slipped into the Tiger’s tent, her heart pounding in her chest.

The Tiger was there, sleeping soundly. Lina pulled out her knife, ready to strike. But as she looked down at the man who had caused so much destruction and death, something inside her hesitated.

She knew that killing the Tiger would be the easy way out. It would be a quick and simple solution to a complex problem. But it wouldn’t bring back the lives that he had taken. It wouldn’t make things right.

Lina lowered her knife and backed away from the Tiger’s tent. She knew that she had to find another way to stop him, a way that didn’t involve violence or revenge.

As she made her way back to her ship, Lina felt a sense of purpose and clarity that she had never felt before. She knew that she had found her true calling: to fight for justice and to protect the innocent, no matter what the cost. And she knew that she had the strength and the courage to do it, even in the face of the most merciless enemies.

Lina returned to Mars with a renewed sense of purpose. She contacted the government agents and told them about her decision not to kill the Tiger.

“I know it might seem foolish,” Lina said. “But I believe that there’s always another way. Violence only begets more violence.”

The agents were skeptical, but they knew that Lina was a skilled operative and that she had a deep sense of morality.

“We’ll support you,” one of the agents said. “But we need to be careful. The Tiger won’t stop until he’s taken down everyone who stands in his way.”

Lina spent the next few weeks gathering intelligence on the Tiger’s movements and plans. She learned that he was planning a massive attack on a government facility on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Lina knew that she had to stop him, no matter what it took. She gathered a team of operatives, including Astra, and they set out for Titan.

They arrived on Titan just in time to see the Tiger’s forces approaching the government facility. Lina and her team raced to intercept them, engaging them in a fierce battle.

The fighting was intense, and Lina knew that they were outnumbered. But she refused to back down. She fought with all her strength, her mind focused on her mission to stop the Tiger and protect the innocent.

As the battle raged on, Lina caught sight of the Tiger himself. He was leading the charge, his eyes blazing with fury and bloodlust.

Lina knew that this was her chance. She charged at the Tiger, her knife flashing in the moonlight. The two of them clashed, their blades ringing out in the night.

For a moment, it seemed as though the Tiger might overpower her. But Lina refused to give up. She fought with all her might, her heart filled with a fierce determination to protect the people she had sworn to defend.

And then, in a single swift move, Lina disarmed the Tiger. She held her knife to his throat, ready to end his reign of terror once and for all.

But as she looked into the Tiger’s eyes, she saw something that surprised her. She saw fear, and pain. She saw a man who had lost his way, and who didn’t know how to find it again.

Lina hesitated, her hand shaking. She knew that she had the power to end the Tiger’s life. But she also knew that she had the power to show him mercy.

In the end, Lina chose mercy. She spared the Tiger’s life, and handed him over to the authorities.

As she watched the Tiger being taken away, Lina knew that she had done the right thing. She had shown that there was always another way, that violence wasn’t the only solution. And she had shown that even the most merciless enemies could be redeemed.

Tree-Men of Mars

Jarmo and Leonore stood on the dusty red surface of Mars, gazing up at the sky. The thin atmosphere of the planet made the stars appear much brighter than they would on Earth, but that was not what they were interested in. Their attention was focused on a single point of light that seemed to twinkle in the distance.

“That’s it,” Jarmo said, pointing up at the star. “That’s where we’re headed.”

Leonore nodded, her blonde hair shimmering in the faint light. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked. “I mean, we barely came back from our last trip to Mars.”

Jarmo smiled. “That’s what makes it so exciting, Leonore. Besides, we have a new ship now. The Kaylyn is state-of-the-art. Nothing can go wrong.”

Leonore looked at Jarmo skeptically, but she could not deny the thrill of adventure that was building inside her. She had always been a bit of a risk-taker, and this trip promised to be the most exciting yet. The two Germans then started talking about the tribe of Tree-Men they were going to meet.

“They’re an ancient people,” Jarmo said. “No one really knows much about them, but there are rumors that they live in the trees. Can you imagine that, Leonore? A whole village in the trees!”

Leonore smiled, imagining what such a village might look like. “I can’t wait to see it,” she said.

Eleonore was then a little surprised when Jarmo asked her back into the ship. He set a new course. And then she understood. When he pointed to the distance, he didn’t mean a point on the surface of Mars. He had pointed to a point of light in the sky. A star or a planet.

“I don’t understand,” Leonore said. “Why did you tell me we were going to Mars?”

Jarmo shrugged. “I wanted to surprise you.” She looked at him skeptically. “Okay, admittedly, I wanted to set a false trail. Didn’t you notice? Someone is trying to follow us. The tree-men of Mars are gone, the tribe was destroyed in the last Solar War. But there are still relatives of them, on Venus. If we can find out more about their ancestors on Mars, it could be the discovery of a lifetime! And that’s why we are going to Venus now.”
“And you think, if someone has been following us, that the diversionary tactic will be enough?”
“I hope so.”

The flight from Mars to Venus on the new ship did not go very long. Excitement surged through Leonore as she and Jarmo flew down to the surface of Venus. They landed in a dense jungle, surrounded by towering trees. Jarmo pointed to one of the trees, which appeared to be the tallest in the area.

“That’s where we’re headed,” he said.

The climb up the tree was treacherous, but Jarmo and Leonore were experienced climbers. As they neared the top, they saw the first signs of the Tree-Men’s village. The houses were built high up in the branches, connected by a series of bridges and walkways. The villagers themselves were nowhere to be seen.

Jarmo and Leonore explored the village, marveling at the intricate designs of the houses and the ingenuity of the bridges. They came across a group of Tree-Men who were gathered around a fire. Jarmo approached them cautiously, speaking in his broken Tree-Man dialect.

The Tree-Men were wary of Jarmo and Leonore at first, but they soon warmed up to them. They were fascinated by the idea that there might be another tribe of Tree-Men on Mars, and they eagerly shared stories of their ancestors.

One of the Tree-Men told the story of a great hero who had traveled to Mars in search of a lost treasure. Jarmo and Leonore listened with rapt attention, imagining the adventure that must have been.

As the night wore on, Jarmo and Leonore began to feel a strange connection to the Tree-Men. They could sense the rhythm of the jungle around them, and the ancient wisdom of the Tree-Men seemed to seep into their souls. They stayed up late, listening to the stories and songs of the Tree-Men, until they finally fell asleep beneath the stars.

Over the next few days, Jarmo and Leonore continued to explore the village and learn more about the Tree-Men’s culture. They climbed higher and higher in the trees, discovering hidden places and secret paths that few outsiders had ever seen. They even helped the Tree-Men with some of their daily tasks, such as gathering fruit and weaving baskets.

As they grew more comfortable with the Tree-Men, Jarmo and Leonore began to notice a subtle change in the way they interacted with each other. They found themselves stealing glances and lingering touches, as if they were caught up in the magic of the jungle.

One night, as they sat around the fire with the Tree-Men, Jarmo leaned over and whispered in Leonore’s ear.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I feel like I’ve known you forever. Like we’re meant to be together.”

“I feel it too,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Jarmo took her hand and they shared a smile. The Tree-Men around them seemed to sense the connection between the two humans and they smiled knowingly.

As the days passed, Jarmo and Leonore’s relationship grew stronger. They explored the jungle together, climbed the trees hand-in-hand, and shared secret kisses when they thought no one was looking. They knew that their time on Venus was limited, but they were determined to make the most of it.

One day, as they were walking through the jungle, they came across a strange object. It was a small, silver orb that seemed to pulse with energy.

“What do you think it is?” Leonore asked.

Jarmo shrugged. “I don’t know, but it looks like some kind of technology. Maybe we should take it back to Earth and have it analyzed.”

They carefully picked up the orb and started back towards the village. But as they walked, they felt a strange presence watching them. They looked around, but they couldn’t see anything.

Suddenly, they heard a voice in their heads. It was not the voice of the Tree-Men, but something more alien and otherworldly.

“Give me the orb,” the voice said. “It belongs to my people.”

Jarmo and Leonore stopped in their tracks, their hearts pounding in their chests.

“Who are you?” Jarmo asked.

“I am a member of the Ancient Ones,” the voice replied. “We are the true masters of this galaxy. The orb belongs to us.”

Jarmo and Leonore exchanged a look. They knew they had to be careful. The Ancient Ones were an enigmatic race that few had ever encountered. They were rumored to be ancient beings that had existed long before humans, and that they possessed incredible power and technology.

“We can’t just give you the orb,” Jarmo said. “We don’t know what it does or what it’s for. We need to study it first.”

The voice in their heads grew angry. “You humans are always so foolish. You have no idea what you’re dealing with. Give me the orb or face the consequences.”

Suddenly, Jarmo and Leonore felt a surge of energy. They were lifted off their feet and thrown through the air. They landed hard on the ground, dazed and disoriented. As they struggled to stand up, they saw a figure emerging from the shadows. It was humanoid in shape, but it was taller than any human they had ever seen. Its skin was a pale blue, and its eyes glowed with an otherworldly light.

“We warned you,” the figure said. “Now you will suffer the consequences.”

Jarmo and Leonore knew they had to act fast. They scrambled to their feet and ran back towards the village as fast as they could. The figure pursued them, its long strides easily overtaking them. They burst into the village, shouting for help. The Tree-Men looked up in surprise, but when they saw the figure chasing Jarmo and Leonore, they sprang into action.

They attacked the figure with spears and bows, but it seemed to be impervious to their weapons. It advanced steadily towards Jarmo and Leonore, its eyes locked on the orb they carried.

Suddenly, there was a loud crackling sound, and the figure was enveloped in a bright light. Jarmo and Leonore shielded their eyes, but when they looked again, the figure was gone.

In its place stood an old man, dressed in strange robes. He held out his hand, and Jarmo and Leonore saw that he pointed at the orb.

“Give it to me,” the old man said. “It belongs to my people.”

Jarmo and Leonore hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do. But the old man’s eyes were kind, and they sensed no malice in him. Reluctantly, they handed over the orb. The old man studied it for a moment, then nodded.

“You have done well to bring this to us,” he said. “We will reward you.”

Jarmo and Leonore were stunned. They had expected the worst, but instead they had been praised. The old man motioned for them to follow him, and they walked through the jungle together.

As they walked, the old man told them stories of his people. He spoke of a great civilization that had existed millions of years ago, and of the incredible technology they had possessed.

“We were the masters of the galaxy,” he said. “But we grew too powerful, too arrogant. And so we started fights among each other.”

Jarmo and Leonore listened in awe as the old man spoke. They knew that they were witnessing something incredible, something that few humans had ever seen.

Finally, they reached a clearing in the jungle. In the center of the clearing stood a strange machine, unlike anything Jarmo and Leonore had ever seen before.

“This is a time machine,” the old man said. “With it, you can travel through time and see the wonders of our civilization.”

Jarmo and Leonore were hesitant. They knew that time travel was dangerous, and they didn’t want to interfere with the course of history.

But the old man reassured them. “You will be safe,” he said. “Nothing can change the path of time. And you will learn things that will change your world forever.”

Jarmo and Leonore exchanged a look. They knew that they couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this. Together, they stepped into the time machine, and the old man activated it. The world around them blurred and twisted, and they were plunged into darkness.

When they emerged, they were in a different time and place. They looked around in wonder, taking in the incredible sights around them. They saw towering cities of silver and gold, filled with machines that seemed to defy the laws of physics. They saw strange creatures that they couldn’t even begin to describe. And they saw the Ancient Ones themselves, towering beings of pure energy that floated through the sky like gods. Jarmo and Leonore were overwhelmed by it all. They knew that they were witnessing something incredible, something that would change their lives forever.

Finally, the old man motioned for them to return to the time machine. They knew that their time in the past was coming to an end, but they felt like they had been there for years.

As they stepped back into the time machine, they saw the old man smile at them.

“I hope you have learned something,” he said.

Jarmo and Leonore nodded, still unable to find the words to express their amazement.

The old man activated the machine, and they were plunged back into darkness once more.

When they emerged, they found themselves back in the village of the Tree-Men. The old man handed them a small device.

“This is a communicator,” he said. “With it, you can contact us anytime you need our help.”

Jarmo and Leonore thanked him and promised to use it wisely. As they made their way back to their ship, they couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder. They had seen things that few humans had ever seen, and they had made contact with an ancient civilization that had been there for millions of years. But they also knew that their journey was not over. There were still mysteries to be uncovered, and adventures to be had.

As they took off from the surface of Venus and looked out at the stars, they knew that they were a small part of something much larger than themselves.

And that, they realized, was the greatest adventure of all.

Tournament of Death

Jarmo Dorak and Tashana Oyan sat in a dark cell, deep in the heart of the X’tarec city on Venus. It had been one month since they discovered the sunken palace on Neptune, but they had no idea how they ended up here. Tashana was an amphibionid, a race of beings that lived in the depths of the oceans on various planets, including Neptune, but Jarmo was just an ordinary human.

Jarmo could hear the sounds of the jungle outside the cell. It was a strange world with strange creatures. The X’tarec were humanoid, but they were also alien. They looked like humans, but their skin was scaly, and their eyes were a bright green.

Suddenly, the door to the cell opened, and two X’tarec guards entered. They ordered Jarmo and Tashana to follow them. They took them through a maze of corridors until they reached a large courtroom.

The courtroom was filled with X’tarec dignitaries, including the Great Ruler himself. They were all dressed in elaborate robes and headdresses. In the center of the room was a raised platform, and on it stood a High Priest of the X’tarec.

The High Priest looked at Jarmo and Tashana with disdain. “You have been accused of helping thieves steal treasures from the Sunken Palace on Neptune,” he said in a deep voice. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”

Jarmo stood up and tried to explain why they were searching through the palace, but the High Priest was not interested in his explanations. “Silence!” he boomed. “You will be judged in the Tournament of Death.”

Jarmo and Tashana looked at each other in horror. The Tournament of Death was a brutal competition where teams played a game called Ulohmy, a ball sport, where the losing team would be sentenced to death. The X’tarec had adapted the game to their own culture, making it more violent and dangerous. Jarmo and Tashana had no choice but to participate.

They were separated into different teams, and Jarmo found himself playing against Tashana. The game was played on a field surrounded by a high wall, and the ball was made of a heavy but also bouncy material.

Jarmo’s team quickly took the lead, but Tashana’s team fought back fiercely. The game was brutal, with players tackling each other to get the ball. Jarmo was a good player, but he was no match for Tashana. She was fast and agile, and she moved like she was underwater. Jarmo watched in amazement as she scored goal after goal for her team.

The game was neck and neck, but in the end, Tashana scored the winning point, securing her team’s victory. The X’tarec spectators cheered and applauded.

The Great Ruler himself came down from his throne to congratulate Tashana. “You have earned my respect,” he said. “And the respect of my people. That’s why we’re doing something that we never do otherwise: You and your companion are free to go.”

Jarmo and Tashana left the X’tarec city, relieved to be alive. They had learned a valuable lesson about exploring strange planets and cultures. They knew that they had to be careful in the future and that they could never let their guard down.

As they walked back to their ship, Jarmo couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude towards Tashana. He had never met anyone like her, and he knew that he could trust her with his life. They may have been from different worlds, but they were united in their love of exploration and discovery. And that was all that mattered to them.

As they lifted off from Venus, Tashana turned to Jarmo and said, “That was close. I’m glad we made it out alive.”

“Me too,” Jarmo replied. “But I have to admit, you were amazing out there. I had no idea you were such a great athlete.”

Tashana grinned. “It’s in my blood. Amphibionids have always been known for our agility and speed. We can swim like fish and run like cheetahs.”

“I can see that now,” Jarmo said with a chuckle.

They flew back to one of the island on Neptune and spent the next few days on their ship, resting and recuperating from their ordeal. Jarmo spent a lot of time studying the data they had collected from the sunken palace. He was fascinated by the technology and architecture of the ancient civilization that had built it. They had come to Venus because there was a hint to a jungle planet and the cultures of Venus and Neptune overlapped. Jarmo had assumed that the beings who built Oogramosh’s Palace were somehow related to the X’tarec. That was probably not the case.

Tashana, on the other hand, spent her time exploring the depths of the nearby oceans. She would disappear for hours at a time, using her amphibious abilities to swim and explore the underwater world.

One day, while Tashana was out exploring, Jarmo received a message from an unknown source. It was an invitation to visit a planet called Tarsus. The message was vague and mysterious, but Jarmo had a feeling that it was important. He decided to take the risk and accept the invitation. He knew that Tashana would be hesitant, but he also knew that she trusted him. He would have to convince her to go along with him.

When Tashana returned to the ship, Jarmo told her about the message he had received. She was understandably wary. “Who sent this message?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Jarmo admitted. “But I have a feeling it’s important. We have to go.”

Tashana thought about it for a moment. She knew that Jarmo was a skilled explorer and that he had a knack for discovering new and exciting things. She trusted him, but she was also cautious. “Okay,” she said finally. “But we need to be careful. We don’t know what we’re walking into.”

Jarmo nodded in agreement. They set a course for Tarsus, a planet that was known for its lush forests and exotic wildlife. As they flew closer, they could see that the planet was covered in a thick layer of mist. It was eerie and foreboding, but Jarmo was determined to press on. As they landed their ship on the surface, they were greeted by a group of beings that looked like giant insects. They were friendly and welcoming, and they led Jarmo and Tashana to a large temple.

Inside the temple, they were met by a group of scholars who were studying an ancient artifact. It was a glowing crystal that pulsed with energy. Jarmo was immediately intrigued. He had never seen anything like it before. The scholars explained that the crystal was a key to an ancient technology that had been lost for centuries. They believed that Jarmo and Tashana were the ones who could unlock its secrets.

Jarmo and Tashana spent the next few days studying the crystal and deciphering its code. They worked tirelessly, trying to unravel its secrets.

Finally, after days of work, they were able to unlock the crystal’s power. The scholars were ecstatic. They thanked Jarmo and Tashana for their help and rewarded them with a small token of their appreciation.

As they left the temple and headed back to their ship, Jarmo couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. He had discovered something new and exciting.

Together, they boarded their ship and took off from Tarsus. Jarmo couldn’t wait to explore the secrets of the crystal. He knew that their work would revolutionize the way people thought about ancient technology.

As they traveled through space, Tashana turned to Jarmo and said, “I’m glad we came here. It was risky, but it was worth it.”

Jarmo smiled. “I agree. It’s always worth taking a risk when there’s a chance for discovery.”

Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash