"We heard something of other Amatharians brought here," said Senjar Orsovan, "but I should not hold out too much hope of them living. The Zoasians do not recognize any other beings as deserving life or of having intelligence. We would have been killed long ago if not for the fact that the monsters wished to study us. Even so, they treated us... very badly."
For a normally stoic Amatharian to make such an admission was indicative that their treatment had been very bad indeed. I could see jaws set and eyes narrow in anger among my soldiers who had gathered to hear the tale of the unfortunate fellow.
I had paused for a moment in my interview with the man, when I looked at the small crowd of aliens that had gathered just beyond. For a moment, I thought I recognized Malagor standing among them, until I realized that there were three beings who looked just alike, and who resembled my friend. I moved through the soldiers and others to stand before them.
"You are Malagor?" I asked, as an introduction.
Two of the beasts looked blankly at me, but the third growled out in the language of the Malagor. It became apparent that while he was able to understand Amatharian, he was unable to speak it. I gave up any hope of gathering any useful information from them, and ordered a squad of my soldiers to escort all of the aliens, as well as the two Amatharian former prisoners back to the ship.
As they were freeing the inmates of the prison, the Amatharian soldiers had been scouting the great hall, and they reported three exits opposite of our entrance. Although I was at loath to split my meager force, now only about eighty, into three parts, I could see no other way of covering all the possibilities. I split the company in thirds, and assigned two to my most capable swordsmen to a third part each.
I led my remaining three squads through the center most exit. It was, like much of the installation, a low and wide corridor, relatively well lit. I could only guess what the destination of this passage might be, since Zoasian installations seemed to be far less organized than the typical Amatharian facility. This hallway went straight back away from the "zoo" without any side passages or rooms. It finally ended in a poorly lit stairway which wound its way down to some undetermined lower level. We started downwards. The steps and the walls around us were uniformly white, and made of some concrete-like material. I imagined that it had been designed by an architect who received a straight C average in college-- dull and monotonous to such a degree that it quickly became impossible to tell whether we had gone down five flights of steps or fifty.
Our next encounter with the enemy came when we reached the bottom of the staircase. We surprised a group of six Zoasian who were carrying what looked like large plastic tubs. Though I would just as soon have captured them as killed them, the snake men gave us no choice, and even though they found themselves surprised and outnumbered, they still attempted to fight back, dropping their burdens on the floor and retrieving pistols from their holsters. In scant seconds, each of the Zoasians lay dead with a smoking hole through his chest.
The contents of the tubs the Zoasians had been holding were now dumped across the floor, and what was left lying there would have turned the stomach of the staunchest war veteran. The containers had been filled with a dark blue solution with a sort of foamy, sudsy quality to it, and immersed in this solution was an ungodly assortment of severed arms, legs, and even heads of Amatharian people-- people that but for their strange dark blue color, were humans just like me. The Amatharians were as stunned as I was, perhaps even more so, but after a moment, they forced themselves to examine the remains-- something I could not bring myself to do. None of the bodies was identified by name, though it was determined that the litter contained parts of sixteen different people.
The room where this grizzly discovery was made appeared to be a sort of waiting area for a number of surrounding laboratories, all of which could be see through open doorways on either side of us. My order that each of these rooms be checked, was quickly carried out, but neither Zoasians, nor the remains of any more Amatharians were found. We continued on our way, and discovered still more laboratories beyond. The entire floor or wing or whatever of the complex seemed devoted to examining the intelligent species of Ecos, and it was apparent that the Zoasians felt no need to receive the permission of any of the individuals involved. In some of the other rooms, we found parts of specimens from many different races. In one room was the entire legless body of a spider-like Pell.
In going from room to room, we seemed to have traversed the entire width of the mountain, when we came to one more laboratory room. The scene within made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and this after all the other horrific visions I had witnessed in a very short time. The room was filled with bizarre and ugly machinery, the purpose of which for the most part remained a mystery. Some things unfortunately were less mysterious than simply hideous. In the center of the room stood a man, whom at first glance, seemed to be contemplating the room around him. He was not contemplating anything though. He was dead, and had been preserved by means similar to what is often euphemistically called the taxidermy arts.
"By Amath!" exclaimed the warrior next to me. "That's Ashean Seyeck!"