Chapter 4: The Verse

New York City, Federated States of America, Earth, 2045

Fred Abersham's thumb was getting tired from changing channels. He was sitting on his couch, remote in right hand, flipping from channel to channel. There wasn't anything good on. Abersham finally turned the set off, got up, and staggered to the window. He pulled back the curtains.

Earth is getting smoggy, he thought.

He sighed, and then walked to the kitchen to pour him a cup of orange juice. Nobody seemed to care about the environment these days. Even those who cared felt the situation was hopeless and abandoned their beliefs. Abersham was trying to convince NASA to fund a mission to uncharted territory beyond the solar system. So far, the topic was in heated debate. Abersham took a sip of orange juice. He hated it, no matter how good it tasted. He knew that the orange juice was grown in a greenhouse with sun lamps and heaters. He knew the orange juice had chemicals in it to preserve the taste. He knew it was genetically grown. And yet Fred Abersham still hated it.

Some day, he thought, we are going to find a better, cleaner place to live. Someday…

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"I hate this! Whoever thought up the idea of colonizing other worlds deserves to get shot!" Timmy yelled. He was in a horrible mood today, I noticed. Captain paid no attention. He was still staring at the poem inscribed on the wall of the Lark. I knew what he was thinking.

"What the heck does that mean?" He said, still staring.

I didn't know either, but I had to find a suitable answer.

"Maybe whoever wrote this is trying to tell us something." Those words came out of my mouth. I could just taste the stupidness of them.

"Well, I know that. What I want to know is what they're trying to say. And what the hell is a 'Teneros'?"

Tekky came over. We waited a few seconds as he read the poem in silence. I could tell he was thinking furiously.

"Terra means 'world'. It's definitely talking about this world or Earth." He said slowly.

"What does the rest of the poem mean?"

"Whoever wrote this poem wrote it in a form of a riddle." Tekky said.

Captain shrugged.

"I'm not really good with poems myself. I mean, I could make a haiku or somethin', but that's it."

Captain then recited a haiku for us:

"He is called Timmy.

He is a lazy fat slob.

He smells really bad."

Timmy, a few yards away, fumed. I supressed a chuckle. Captain's poems may not be epic, but they sure are funny. I don't think Timmy shared the same thought.

"Oh yeah? I got a haiku, too.

Captain is a bitch.

A mean, slimy, whiny bitch.

That's right, he's female."

A silence followed as Captain counted the number of syllables on his fingers.

"Sir!" Janice ran over, "We found something interesting that you may want to see. Come this way." She motioned with her weapon. Captain followed Janice toward the rear. Mike read the poem on the wall. His look was one of amusement.

"Who would have enough time to write all of this?" He asked. "Surely whoever wrote this knew what was going to happen, and surely whoever wrote this must have intimate knowledge of the ancient species on this planet. And who has knowledge of this planet? No one, as far as I can tell. We just came here about two months ago."

Tekky shifted uncomfortably. Mike had beaten him to a theory. Tekky didn't like that too much.

"Are you saying that whoever wrote this did not come from Earth?" Tekky challenged.

"Why not? Who else knows the 'Third Verse of Teneros'? What the hell is a 'Teneros' anyway?" Mike replied. The theory seemed logical, but the thought that another race of aliens living on this planet made me nervous. I signed up for the Space Marines to escape Earth, not to fight a bunch of green aliens. I guess Tekky knew that also, because he still wouldn't admit Mike's theory.

"Suppose high temperatures caused someone to go insane? Maybe someone wrote that out of insanity!" Tekky stuttered.

"High temperatures? If someone went insane, would they be able to write an ancient verse in a flowing script?" Mike countered.

"It's a lot more logical than space alien hijackers." Tekky hissed.

I feared that the two would get into a fistfight, but luckily, Captain came back and rounded all of us together.

"Okay, troops! Janice here has shown me something very interesting and gruesome! I want all of you to try and find out what happened here, and that means gathering clues! I'm not very good at gathering clues, so I will have to rely on you guys to help! Follow me to see our first clue of the day!"

He motioned to Janice, and she led us through a dark, tilted hallway into a huge, pitch-black room. We couln't see anything, so we turned on the flashlights on our guns. What we saw stunned us half to death. Gasps and muffled screams could be heard all around us.

"What on Earth cause that?!" Timmy gasped.

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"Revenge! Revenge! Revenge against the Sinners! Let them pay for their sins and suffer eternal Torture! Let them all Burn to Death in Effigy! Whoever dares stand in our Path will be Cursed for all Eternity!"
-Black Sage, Priest of Teneros