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Chapter Four – More Bad News

by blue midget

The sun was setting over the rocky wasteland into hues of red and orange that bled across the sky. The air was growing crisp and cool, as if the sun was stealing away all warmth with it. Rising in its place, a large, silvery orb the locals referred to as the First Moon cast its eerie pale light upon the face of the planet. There was no movement along the lifeless crust aside from a medium-sized, triangular glider, whose silver body reflected the light with a ghostly glow. Hovering one meter above the ground, it sped along toward a sudden outburst of vegetation that seemed to stop all at once, as if the angry red and brown rock had set a line of demarcation that life on the planet did not dare cross.

Set into the tropical forest, about twenty meters back from where the rock ends and the vegetation begins, a massive barrier had been erected. The wire mesh fence was buried twenty-five meters deep into the ground and rose up twice as high. It encircled the entire area controlled by the Terra Unit, which spanned over four-thousand square kilometers. Lights flashed along the top and slashed diagonally down the center of the gate. Next to the gate, a metal tower had been built into the barrier, and a strobe at the top suddenly cast its stark light that was barely visible amidst the vivid sunset onto the oncoming craft. From the glider, it was unclear as to how many guards occupied the tower, but standing near the gate there appeared to be five security officers carrying military-grade energy weapons, their eyes on the approaching craft.

Out of reflex, Jaydi checked the pistol resting on her hip, hidden under her jacket. She glanced sideways at Bo, but his face was masked as he drove on toward the security gate.

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Chapter Three – The First Moon

by blue midget

Less than an hour after their transmission with Dowlas Brak, Jaydi Tarin and Bo Kaydell had dismantled the operation on Tab Kabelac. It was late in the afternoon, and the first moon was beginning its ascent. The red and brown landscape stretched out over the plain and melted into the faint purple and red band on the horizon. The blue expanse above was losing its strength, but not yet giving up the day.

From the loading ramp of the Terentia, Jaydi stood listening to the low hum of the engines, her eyes flickering over the landscape. The ship’s motion system would give them warning long before anyone approached, but she wanted some semblance of comfort for her vigilance. Comfort did not come. Closing her eyes, the events of the last few weeks replayed in her head. The Skipwing was becoming more and more questionable. Shaking her head, she dismissed all her mutinous thoughts. In the three years she had worked in the organization, Dowlas Brak had never been known to put himself, the organization, or his people at risk. As far as leaders of illegal modder groups went, he was one of the most decent and honest. Dowlas Brak deserved her loyalty.

A cold, wet nose wiggled into the palm of her hand, bringing her back to the present. She opened her eyes and looked down, but the dog had already trotted off with his head to the ground, sniffing every inch, tail wagging furiously. He was probably sensing their urgency. This dog seemed to have a knack for that.

Bo emerged from the shack, the breeze courteously blowing his hair over the bald spot. He glanced over to Jaydi, who was still studying the dog. “Are you ready?”

She nodded. While Bo had been loading the last of the post onto the ship, she had gone into the cavern beneath the shack and put on her gear. For reassurance, she patted her left hip where she kept her pistol hidden beneath her jacket.

He appeared satisfied. “Okay.” Walking toward the ramp where Jaydi was standing, he whistled to the dog. “Come on, Max.” The dog loped up the ramp and into the ship, tail flogging the air.

Bo reached the ramp and stopped next to where Jaydi had gone back to watching the skyline. “You look nervous,” he told her.

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Chapter Two – Further Instructions

by blue midget

“This week should be fairly quiet out in the big black, except for a small meteor shower moving through a few sectors of the Colonies beginning this Thursday. Officials report that the Sanctioned Planets will not be in any danger, although it will cause issues for some travelers over the next few days.” Instead of a galaxy map, an actual photo of space appeared behind the man in the expensive suit, his perfect blonde hair striking out against the backdrop. “The United Space Colonies and the Department of Transportation will be prohibiting all space jumping in those sectors until the shower has passed.” His red laser pointer circled an area of space and he flashed his most charming smile, as if the general public could identify one white dot in space from another. “This will be affecting sectors seven-two-nine through eight-four-three. For a more detailed schedule, please visit your local Department of Transportation or Interstellar Post Office.” The smile appeared again, face frozen in concentration as if willing his eyes to twinkle and his teeth to sparkle. After a couple of seconds he gave up. “Back to you, Jean.”

A brunette in heavy make-up and a neon-pink suit appeared on the hologram, wearing her best patronizing smile. “Thank you, Edward. And now, here’s what’s happening in your galaxy.” The music cued overhead and she continued.

“Tensions escalated today on Aris, at the Intergalactic Center of Earth Colonies, as protestors outside the Seat demanded action. Demonstrators are urging for a stronger military presence in the outer rim of the Sanctioned to oppose the rising crime rate among those systems. The Interstellar Military is being criticized by many planetary governments who say the Reserve Forces being called into action are not enough. General Kardern of the Interstellar Military Force will be holding a press conference tomorrow.”

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Chapter One – Arrival on Tab Kabelac

by blue midget

The skids touched down on the landing pad, engine fans blowing red and brown debris in the air. It wasn’t so much of a landing site as it was a patch of barren ground. Then again, most of the planet was pretty much just that. This particular system had become popular after terraformers were able to create a few large bodies of water and Earth-like weather cycles over one of the northern sections of the planet. Shortly after, hotels and palm trees sprung up over the terraformed section, thrusting Tab Kabelac into the spotlight as the hottest vacation resort in the galaxy.

There was a time when terraformers worked relentlessly to create machines that would change entire planets, but there were too many variables involved. No two planets are alike, as no two areas of a planet are alike, and to create a single machine specific enough and powerful enough to change an entire planet – the effects can be devastating.

Multiple Terra Units were created some 25 years ago, to test on an uninhabited planet in a remote system. Scientists worked to create nine different units, each one designed for a specific geographic region, and more importantly, to work together with the adjacent units. Terra Units create an “umbrella effect” over the area they process, adjusting the specific conditions of that particular area. Because a unit is working with different variables than the adjacent terraformer, the units clash on the edges of the umbrella, creating turbulent effects where umbrellas overlap. When scientists were able to create a system of units that work together, they were sent immediately to a remote, uninhabited planet to be tested.

Interest in this technology had not been limited to humans. Ierki had been monitoring the expansion of Earth colonies for nearly a decade before extending a handshake. This was the first contact mankind had with an intelligent alien life, and mankind, eager and naïve to establish a relationship, embraced them with open arms. That is, until the Ierki learned of the multiple Terra Units and decided they needed them a lot more than the Colonies. The Ierki launched a swift attack on the group of Terra Scientists and their small military escort, and stole the units. It was to their own detriment however, as three months later they were activated on an inhabited Ierki planet, causing catastrophic earthquakes that killed two-thirds of the planet’s population. Somehow the blame fell back on mankind, and the next 15 years were spent in war.

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