Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Osgord: Boarded

‘Keria’Ledrii!’

Shilo’s call almost seems distant, but you realize upon opening your eyes that it had come out of great necessity, waking you just in time. Standing in front of you, magnetic locks engaged, is a looming figure reaching toward you. In the moment it takes you to register the figure’s pristine red uniform and shaky hands training a small hand repeater on you, you spin weightlessly through the air, kicking that very repeater from his hand, bringing yourself to the deck where your own magnetic locks engage upon command. As you reach up to grab the weapon from the air, however, you register the considerably less shakily aimed heavy repeaters in the hands of similarly uniformed figures standing in the main door to the hold, your dipulse the only thing standing firmly between yourself and them.

Just before you do so, Shilo’s voice sounds off once more in your mind, ‘Don’t put your hands up.’ You comply, instead swiftly grabbing the repeater and pulling the trembling and disoriented figure behind you into a headlock, the small weapon trained on his skull while his body stands between you and the figures in the adjacent ship.

‘Good,’ Shilo speaks into your mind. ‘Now, say exactly what I tell you…’

“This is a Valkyr,” you speak loudly to the figures in red. “The Armada has no jurisdiction here. State your intentions.”

The central figure releases his weapon, leaving it floating harmlessly in the air, and steps forward, his own hands raised. “I am Lieutenant Captain Gildr Khuda’Mundi, and I’m the commanding officer of the TAS Osgord. We picked up your ship on our sensors, and there were no responses to our attempts to retrieve identification. I made the decision to investigate. When we realized what kind of ship this was, further attempts to communicate were made unsuccessfully, so we boarded to see if help was needed. It was upon seeing the two bodies on the deck that I gave the order for weapons to be drawn. It’s my understanding that Valkyr crews consist of only two Valkyries. Furthermore, you’re the smallest warrior I’ve seen in my whole life, and I found your presence and armor suspicious enough to warrant taking necessary precautions. The man in your grips right now is Junior Sergeant Pil’die Carden. He’s a member of my medical personnel, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you would release him, identify yourself, and explain the quite interesting situation we all seem to find ourselves in right now.”

While he waits for you to make your decision, the Lieutenant Captain makes no attempt to move toward you or back to his men, instead calmly standing next to the dipulse, looking at it with a mild fascination, as if you are of little interest to him. Though you commend how collected he is, a simple probing of his mind reveals him to be in a state of immense stress, his thoughts clearly focused on the safety of his men but coolly sorting through the facts. You remove your focus from him, reaching out around you and realizing that your ship has actually been brought into the main hangar of a Minor Carrier, a detail which could have caused the Lieutenant Captain to have seemed more threatening only moments ago.

“I will not disarm, nor will I tolerate any attempted boarding beyond this hold.” You realize upon hearing it that the age of your voice is being masked by the androgynous voice of your helmet’s external comm. “I do, however, expect that you remain armed as well, in the interest of perceived fairness. Your men will return to their normal duties while we go over the details of the situation. If these terms are not agreeable,” you continue as Shilo cues you on, “I take no quarter, Lieutenant Captain. There will be no survivors.”

Personally, you find the words all to be a bit harsh and out of character, even for Shilo. Even so, you wait for the Lieutenant Captain to nod before releasing the Junior Sergeant, who walks as calmly as possible away from you, his shipmates grabbing his arms as he passes out upon reaching them, pulling him back out of the ship and into the hangar. The door closes slowly behind them, hissing quietly as its seals are formed.

The Lieutenant Captain removes his helmet and begins looking around the compartment, leaving the helmet resting neatly in the air. His eyes catch hold of the dipulse, and you can almost see him disassembling it in his mind. “Well, now that we’re alone, would you mind identifying yourself, Valkyrie? I know you don’t have to do so, but I’m putting myself at quite the disadvantage here just to speak with you. I certainly wouldn’t mind knowing what you’re doing here with two dead Valkyrie bodies, either. As a matter of fact,” he looks up at your helmet, as if he can see right into your eyes, “I’m incredibly curious why you’re even in my sector of space. Thor is about a quarter of a turn around Linthia.”

You choose to be upfront with him. “I’m not on my way to Thor. I’m heading to Osgord.”

The Lieutenant Captain gives you a critical look. “I can tell that much, thank you. I’m more curious why you’re going to Osgord with two dead Valkyries in a ship designed to be piloted by two of the same, likely the two that are dead. And you still haven’t identified yourself.” He crosses his arms, and you cock your head a bit at the motion.

“No, I haven’t.” You can’t keep up this charade any longer. “I’m Keria’Ledrii Khuda’Cronell.” You take off your helmet, and the Lieutenant Captain’s eyes widen. “I’m not a Valkyrie yet, but I’m on my way to Osgord to meet someone very important. Possession of this ship has been granted to me through Valkyrie protocol Freija.” The protocol is obscure, but Shilo seems to think its contents are similar enough for the application to be sound. Besides, the Lieutenant Captain is clearly distracted by the revelation of your age.

After a few millidays, though it felt like centidays, the Lieutenant Captain uncrosses his arms and lets out his breath. With it seems to come the burden of trying to figure out what to do with you, and his posture belies an increased state of ease. “Well,” he says, “whether you’re a Valkyrie or not, you didn’t miss a step disarming my medic, and you’ve got their hair, so I’m going to assume you’ve got their powers, too, to some extent. That means that if I want to keep my crew safe, I only have two options.”

Your interest is piqued at this. You don’t remember him having any option other than letting you go on your way. Shilo makes no indication that you should speak, either, so you choose to say yourself, “And what are those options, Lieutenant Captain?”

He eyes you for a few moments, unsure if he should be disturbed by you or not. Finally, however, he speaks. “Well, the first option, which my men would probably prefer as much as you would, I’m sure, would be to let you go.” You cock your brow at that. That implies that he prefers the second option, which you still can’t figure out. “The second option,” he says, “would be to keep you aboard but away from my men. They may be of no safety concern to you, but you’re of one to them, and I need them working. We have a spin on most of the ship. The hangar area isn’t on one for obvious reasons, but something tells me you haven’t been treated for zero-gravity travel, which I suspect is why your stasis pod shows recent use.”

You look over at the pod. You haven’t even thought about it since the boarding started. Surely enough, though, its hatch is wide open, the contents slightly billowed outward, though not spilling due to a lack of gravitational forces. A trail of liquid is hovering in the air where you drifted out of the pressurized pod. Upon Shilo’s advisement, you say, “Well, there is no point pretending I have. You’re obviously not a fool, and I have no need to hide my goings-on. So which option will you be choosing?”

The Lieutenant Captain smiles at you like he would at any other child, and for a moment, you remember that you still are one. “Well, Keria’Ledrii, I suppose I should welcome you aboard the Osgord.” He grabs his helmet, and you do the same, putting yours on just before he opens the main door and waves down the squadron of Glidjumprs waiting on the orher side, continuing to speak as he leads you out. “He’s the only pup in his class. It’s a quite different design from ships like the Deathbringer. This ship is designed with stealth and defense in mind.”

Certainly, it must be. Everything seemed so rounded. The fighters in the hangar all had mirrored surfaces with stealth geometries, the crewman were all wearing auto pressure suits, and the exposed framework had massive cross beams which could likely withstand a fall from orbit on one of the standard worlds.

When you reached the wall of the hangar, you followed suit with the Lieutenant Captain and released your magnetic locks before gliding into a ring which ran along the edge of the hangar. Once in it, you’re caught in a current of air which is pushing you both faster along the curve of the ship and farther forward. Your feet hit the deck, and you almost fall backward as you realize that it’s now spinning beneath you. With a silent cheer, you smile at your first experience with simulated gravity.

You take a few tentative steps toward the Lieutenant Captain before coming to terms with the fact that you aren’t going to accidentally push yourself away from the deck, despite feeling much lighter than you did back home. You remember that Nivlahim is more than twice the mass of the average core planet and realize that this is a simulation of about one fourth standard gravity, just enough to permit the necessary conditions to prevent bodily repercussions from very low gravity with the proper exercises.

About midship, the Lieutenant Captain stops, crouches down, and opens a hatch beneath him before gliding down with an ease only possible in space for most. You follow suit and feel yourself grow heavier when you hit the deck of the wardroom. Looking about, you see officers tensing up as you pass, looking to their commanding officer and trusting his judgement as best as they can. At this point, you’re very glad you put your helmet back on. They can’t see the terrified little girl on the other side of your visor.

The Lieutenant Captain opens a door on one side of the wardroom, and you follow him in. Once inside, you notice the bed and desk, both simple and utilitarian in design. There’s an open door on the other side of the small cabin which leads to the head. On the bulkheads are various connections and nozzles for maintaining life support in case the adjacent compartments are vented. Protruding from the desk is a DPU interface, its screen black.

“This will be your cabin until we reach Osgord. You’re free to roam about the ship, but I ask that you do not inhibit my spacers’ ability to do their work. We’ll be to Osgord within thirty-five days if all goes well, and they’re eager for world leave, so they’ll do their best to make it shorter if they can.” The Lieutenant Captain gives you a smile and begins to head out the door.

“Thank you, Lieutenant Captain Khuda’Mundi.” The words come out in that same androgynous voice, but the tone was heard well enough. You meant it.

“You’re aboard my ship now, little Valkyrie,” he replies. “It’s easier for everyone if you just call me Captain.” The smile on his face grows wider before he adds, “You’ll probably be alright on the Osgord without the armor, too. My spacers have nothing against Valkyries, and the troopers on board are friendly enough. I’d imagine you’d feel more comfortable in clothing more suitable to a young girl’s taste.” Just as he speaks, one of the troopers shows up outside the door with a small box that holds your personal belongings, labeled, “Keri.”

“Thank you, Captain,” you say, taking the helmet off to do so. The trooper blinks a couple times, but there are otherwise no indications of his shock. You smile and take the box from him as the Captain steps out of the compartment.

As he closes the door, a face of realization springs onto his face, “Oh, and there’ll be food in about ten centidays. I invite you to eat in the wardroom with my officers just outside this cabin, in my personal wardroom if you so please, or in the galley with the enlisted personnel. They’ll all be eager to meet you. We’ll make further arrangements afterward.”

The door closes, and you hear a hiss as the airtight seal forms. You set your helmet down and open your box, pulling out a green dress with pretty flowers as you begin to unfasten the seals on your armor.

The Ruins of Gster – Sacrifice

The Tears of Tyria – The Chronicles of J’Rontia

The Ruins of Gster – Sacrifice

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

The fog settled on the tall grass forming a mist that concealed the movements of the young woman who was slithering across the marsh. The air was damp and full of the smells so familiar to those who live near water. Her clothes were made from the skin of the lotran and the water ran off of it as if she wore glass. Her boots were soft, subtle and they molded to the contour of the land as she walked over it. She used a balancing staff made from the dark wood of the grotso tree so that she could appear to float more effectively just above the ground.

 

She was 18 standard years old and felt like she was 50. She had dirty blonde hair with hints of blue and amber that was short cropped on all sides except the back where she had the hair in a ponytail. Her face was narrow and tall with piercing green eyes that sat deep with thick lashes and brows. She was tall compared to others in the area and very tall for a girl although the other girls in her group were also tall.

 

There were now 16 in her little group and quite often she felt that it was more than she could handle. One of the first girls she helped called her Auntie Green Eyes which was shortened to Green Eyes and over time the names stuck. The younger girls call her Auntie and the older girls started calling her Greeney after one of the little ones pronounced her name in that special way little kids do.

 

The group lived outside the city of T’ouraget in the old ruins on the far side of the marsh on the Planet Gster in Sector Six of the Tyrian Republic. They had a group of homemade tents scattered through one of the small maze-like sections on the ruins. Everything was built for a speedy exit in case a Gster Patrol Unit visited. From the time they heard the sound until the ship was overhead, they could completely break down and hide the camp, including all of the children.

 

Four years ago, when they started talking in the streets about joining the Tyrian Republic, there were high hopes about the future of their group and the planet that have since dropped. They had even built a few permanent structures during that time. Two years ago, Planet Gster joined the Republic to much fanfare and many promises. Still, three months after joining, the Gster Patrol Units started their raids again. While it is true that the citizens of the planet now have the ability to vote and the merchants are making more money due to the new space lanes, her group still had no place to stay or food.

 

The planet was never a valuable resource but served the Kuli well as an outpost for thousands of years until the emergence of the Tyrian Republic. When the Kuli left, the entire planet was to be returned to nature. Gster Construction was contracted by the Kuli to destroy all of the Kuli built structures on the planet. Everything was to be torn down, all the waste removed, and terraforming completed, leaving only the ruins of the Ancients as they were. Instead, the large buildings were converted to apartments and the limited resources on the planet exploited.

 

Gster Construction bid the job at a very low price with the understanding that they would own the planet when the work was done. The Kuli had agreed that they could own the entire planet with the exception of the ruins. The Kuli kept ownership of the ruins and had been working hard to force the completion of the contract.

 

Greeney knew that the real reason Gster joined the Tyrian Republic was to prevent the Kuli from taking the planet back due to the voided contract. They are counting on using the complex court system of the Republic to find a way to avoid all the expenses involved in the fulfilling the contract. Greeney had researched the terms of the contract when she was looking for a home for her group and that is why she selected the ruins. She knew that the Gster government had absolutely no claims to that area and she hoped that the Kuli would be fair if they ever found her group living there. 

 

All of this information and more she taught to her students in between looking for work and scavenging for food. The group had appointed her their guardian because of her ability to avoid getting caught on food raids. The rest of the group said she was able to turn invisible, which was just superstitious garbage. Still, she was very good at not being caught and sometimes people could look right at her and miss seeing her. She did not believe that she had special powers, only that she was very good at merging into her environment; which is why she was here today.

 

She lay on her stomach about four steps from the back door to one of the best restaurants in the city. Every night they threw out about five bags of food. The bags were almost as tall as her waist and they were always full to the top. The problem was that, according to city rules, all wastes had to go in the incinerator. The public was told that the rules were designed to prevent people from becoming poisoned from spoiled food. She believed that it was to force the homeless to register at one of the shelters. She was determined to prevent that from happening with her group, especially since the people who registered at the shelters regularly disappeared.

 

So, she had to intercept the bags on their way to the fire. Oh, and do it without being detected. She had just moved into position when she heard a noise behind her. It was a deep rumbling sound that shook the sky. She saw the light coming from the clouds and the sound took the shape of a great ship. The ship was first a cylinder, then a circle, then a square, then an oval, and so on. It was not possible to define the shape as it appeared to keep changing. The ship also changed colors as it moved with the most common colors being silver and gold. The ship was nowhere near the spaceport and was heading into the ruins. Why would anyone be landing in the ruins? She worried about her kids but even more about what the reason could be for this visit.

 

At that moment, the back door of the restaurant opened drawing her attention back to the task in hand, and a worker came out. The worked looked to be a Murhan of slight stature with golden hair, a brown restaurant uniform, neatly pressed, one of those crazy round hats with a point on top, white gloves, and shiny shoes. Perfect! She waited and he lived up to her hopes.

 

The neat ones never wanted to walk over to the incinerator. Too big of a chance they might get dirty. So they threw the bags. Her challenge would be to catch the last bag before it went in but after the worker turned away. A few moments later she was sneaking through the outskirts of the city on her way back to their hideout in the ruins with a smile on her face. She was successful with food again.

 

 

The Ruins of Gster

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto stepped out of the ship and surveyed the surrounding area. His scan found the location of the 15 life forms they had identified in this area on their way in. Kids. And most of them were young kids of Murhan or Linthian descent. Such a shame that there was so much wealth in the Galaxy and yet still so much poverty. Double shame that it was here on Gster where cleanup and terraforming should have left a beautiful and lush environment. He looked around at the ruins and the environmental damage they saw in almost every direction outside of the ruins. The company officials should be in prison, not rich.

 

The Kuli had followed the appropriate legal channels to try and get the original work they contracted for completed to no avail. Their contract allowed for three contingencies in case of default. The first was legal action that for all practical purposes they had exhausted. The second was the physical reclaiming of the planet, which was not possible now that the Republic had accepted it as a full member. So they were here to use the third contingency. Some people should read the fine print.

 

His scan revealed that one of the “kids” was a young man only a short distance away reconnoitering the ship. He concentrated on the young man and found that his intents were protective and not hostile. He released a small smile as he realized that the young man knew he had been probed. J’Rontia’s Sorretto went back inside to let her know what he had found.

 

Kleft was shaking to his core. He was the best scout next to Greeney and he was positive that the man who came out of that ship looked directly at him. Kleft had “felt” him in the same way he “felt” prey when it recognized that he was stalking it. He did not know who was on that ship but he knew that his own presence was not a secret. He moved back toward their camp slowly with no belief in his invisibility and a growing fear that their camp was no longer safe.

 

Kleft arrived at camp at the same time as Greeney. She was greeted by much happiness as she opened her huge bag of food and started handing out some of the most expensive food on the planet. The irony of garbage being so tasty was not lost on Kleft as he grabbed two handfuls of noodles as thick as his fingers. 

 

When he finished eating, Kleft took Greeney aside. He told her about the ship and his feeling that they were no longer hidden. He said, “I have never been so sure that someone was looking at me in my life. It was as if he saw me and everything inside of me. Then he just smiled and went back inside the ship. What does that mean?”

 

Greeney consider all that he had told her and said, “Nothing. The man, if that is what he is, went back inside the ship. He may have smiled but that doesn’t mean it had anything to do with you. Perhaps he was getting ready for dinner.” She held up her stolen garbage food for emphasis and laughed.

 

Kleft nodded and gave her a smile as he walked away. Greeney thought it all over for a bit. She was worried but did not want Kleft to worry so she did her job as the leader and calmed him down. He would be much more useful if he was not panicking and besides, she did not need him to upset the rest of the group. As for her, she needed to visit the ship herself, and soon.

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

There were many people who saw the ship land but only three who knew what kind of a ship it was. Hastee the Shawt was one of them and her two mates the others. She was the leader of the trio and on duty as the planet’s governor for this year. All three of them jointly owned property and every year they switched who was leading. It was a great arrangement as it allowed for them to have two standard years off in between jobs.

 

They had accepted the contract job as governor from the Gster Construction Company and thought that their acceptance into the Tyrian Republic would protect them from trouble with the Kuli. They had been very successful up to this point and she did not understand what the Kuli were doing here since they now had planet status. She decided to pull up the contract once again. The Kuli had landed in the ruins and that may be a hint.

 

Hastee slithered up to the computer console and extended one of her tentacles to the control bar. As she wrapped around the shaft, the lights came on and the screens lit up. She commanded the computer to examine the agreement for any references to the ruins. In a fraction of a moment, one section of the contract was highlighted on the screen.

 

Exclusions from reclamation

 

The ruins located at 45.34.5ty7 x 928.43.5der2 x 554.551.edr8 are to be excluded from all activity on the planet. These ruins are to remain exactly as they are. The property associated with the ruins, as described in appendix 152.32d, including all property subsurface to the planet’s core and above surface to fifteen sectrons, are not a part of contract section 213.45t and retain their existing holding.

 

It was such a small section that it had not been examined in the detail it needed. She knew the Gster Construction owners knew about it because it gave them permission to eliminate that piece of the planet from demolition and they liked the idea that they would not have to spend any money on that area. She did not need to review section 213.45t as she recalled that section’s purpose but she did anyway. Section 213.45t described how the contractor could gain ownership of the planet. When she finished reading it a third time, she could find no way to deny the fact that the Kuli still owned full rights to all of the territory of the ruins from the core out to the surface and into space fifteen sectrons. They also retained the ability to remove their property from the planet. She was concerned that the right to remove was in the agreement and remembered a quote from one of her mentors. “Trying to outsmart the Kuli is like stabbing yourself.”

 

Her mentor did not think the Kuli were more brilliant than all others. Rather, he felt that after tens of thousands of years they had been tricked in almost every way possible and they documented everything. When agreements were made with the Kuli, they always submitted the contracts to the Archivers for review and adjustment. Hastee slid back to the wall and relaxed her body as she considered the available options to address this issue and how she was going to report this to her employer, Gster Construction.

 

 

The Ruins of Gster

 

J’Rontia exited the ship and immediately sensed the presence of an advanced mind approaching. She probed for intent and found only concern for the “kids” of the ruins. J’Rontia stepped away from the ship and waited for the young lady to show herself. The air was moist and contained the stale scents normally associated with the ruins of stone and steel with the breeze bringing the smells from the nearby marsh on occasion.

 

They had landed the ship in a clearing that at some point far in the past had been a city park. The area was clearly not a park now and the barren ground stretched in all directions to the crumbled structures that composed the area known locally only as the ruins. J’Rontia reached out with her mind and probed the entire “park” as thoroughly as she knew how.

 

J’Rontia’s probes found the hidden markers left by the Ancients who built the original city. She sent the coordinates to her Soretto with directions to on how to orient the ship over the coordinates. The ship’s graviton capacitors activated and the huge ship floated gently over to the location she described. Once the ship settled into place, she returned to her probing of the environment and now, mentally, moved out of the “park” area.

 

J’Rontia found the three marked entrances to the “park.” Each of the markers was hidden in ways that only those with training in the Ancients’ methods would be able to find them. She directed her Soretto to set up a force field just outside the marked entrances to the “park.” She saw the field flow into place and checked it for any variances created by the local environment. The field was secure.

 

Greeney saw the force field rise right after she entered the clearing. For a moment she paused and contemplated what she was doing. Did the field just rise to trap her? She shook her head and smiled. She doubted that she even gave them a second thought and then continued to the ship.

 

J’Rontia was tracking the young lady as she approached. The young woman was definitely an advanced Murhan or Linthian and she was able to block most of the basic mental probes generating some respect from J’Rontia. The young lady approached confidently and with determination. J’Rontia noted to herself that the young woman was almost as tall as she was.

 

J’Rontia said to the young lady, “Welcome. May I assist you in some way?”

 

Greeney answered, “Yes. I am interested in knowing what you are doing here and how it will affect those I care for as I am sure you already know who we are and where we live.”

 

J’Rontia appreciated the direct approach. She could tell that the young woman was extremely nervous but that she was doing an excellent job of controlling her feeling and fears. She smiled and answered, “We are asserting Kuli rights to the ruins. I do not know the response that the local government will have so I cannot inform you about the effects on your group. I can tell you that we mean you no harm and will protect you as best we can.”

 

Greeney understood that the answer was not complete but believed that it was honest. She went on, “Do we need to move?”

 

“No. Your location is fine. In fact, I would like to come by and show you a resource of the ruins that may help if that is all right by you.”

 

Greeney did not expect help from the Kuli and was rather surprised. She took a hard look at the woman in front of her. The woman was as tall as Greeney and possibly even taller with a trim and fit body that flowed as she moved like one of those jungle cats. She wore combat gear that had lifter boots and control gloves with only her face and hair visible outside of the uniform. She had very long, thick, and curly hair that was a kind of bluish color with amber streaks through it. Her voice was soft but firm and she spoke with the confidence of one much older.

 

Greeney was about to comment on the help being offered when she realized how rude she had been. She immediately bowed and said, “I apologize. I have not introduced myself as required by law. I do not know my birth name but my group calls me Green Eyes – Greeney for short.”

 

J’Rontia reached out and touched the young woman on the shoulder. She allowed comfort to flow from her hand into the woman’s body relieving the stress caused by her shame at violating local greeting rules. J’Rontia said, “Do not concern yourself. Please stand.”

 

Greeney stood up and smiled at the Kuli for being so generous.

 

J’Rontia went on, “I am the Guardian Kuli J’Rontia.”

 

Greeney stepped back in shock. She had heard of J’Rontia and the Kuli was becoming a legend. Her battle against thousands of Kiltrin warriors and her salvation from her Soretto made her famous across the galaxy. Greeney dropped to one knee and said, “I am honored. Forgive me for not recognizing you.”

 

J’Rontia smiled and said, “Please stand. I am honored to meet the Ghost of T’ouraget. You have become a local legend yourself. Currently, there are many who argue whether you exist or not and others who believe you are a failed Kuli apprentice who was left behind.”

 

Greeney was once again surprised. She never considered how the people of the city viewed her incursions. She was concentrating on the needs of her kids and not how it looked to others. The Ghost of T’ouraget was a both a compliment and an insult and yet she felt pride when she heard it, especially the way that J’Rontia said it. “They call me the Ghost of T’ouraget?”

 

“Yes. In fact, the Gster Police have set traps for you multiple times and even created a special unit last year to catch you.”

 

Greeney came to the meeting all confident and determined but now was humbled by the presence of J’Rontia and embarrassed by her own notoriety. Greeney said, “I don’t know what to say. I do want any help that you can give us and would like you to know that I am grateful for your kind words. Thanks.”

 

“You are welcome. The force field is coded to allow all of your kids to travel in and out at will. We will expand the field as we bring more power online until we have covered the entire area of the ruins. I expect us to have everything running soon.”

 

Greeney was surprised again. That amount of power needed to generate a field that size was huge. She asked, “Does your ship have special energy converters that allow for that large a field?”

 

J’Rontia smiled a mischievous smile as she answered, “At first the ship will power the field but later we will be using local power.”

 

“Gster Utilities are going to provide power for you?” Greeney was doubtful that would happen.

 

J’Rontia’s smile increased and she said, “No. We know another source.”

 

Greeney was starting to understand why people say that the Kuli have more surprises than a birthday party. Although she never had a birthday party, she had watched some through windows. The opening of presents seemed to be one surprise after another and that is how she felt now.

 

J’Rontia noticed that Greeney was becoming uncomfortable so she decided to end the conversation and continue it later. “I need to attend to some work. Can I come by your camp tomorrow night?”

 

“Yes. That would be great. Thanks!”

 

J’Rontia reached out and touched her on the shoulder and said, “It was great to meet you and I look forward to meeting all of your kids.”

 

Greeney felt her face flush as she responded. “Thank you. It was an honor to meet you.”

 

J’Rontia smiled and nodded in acceptance and then returned to her ship. Greeney watched her walk away for a while and then turned to head home.

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

Hastee had just got off the comm with the owners of Gster Construction. They did not seem to understand the significance of the Kuli still owning the ruins. Their response was “Let them have it. It is just a bunch of run down junk.” She was frustrated with their ability to underestimate the Kuli over and over again.

 

Hastee slid over to the window and looked out at the night sky. This job was one of the most challenging she had taken and she would be glad when her year was over and her next third took over. She sighed and glanced at the Gster moon. Like the job, the Gster moon was an aberration.  The moon was shaped as a rough pyramid and was almost one fourth the size of the planet. It was an ugly moon that wobbled in the sky like a freak of nature.

 

The moon’s weird shape and rotational pattern caused the planet to have some of the most unusual tides ever seen. The variations in the shipping schedules due to the unique tides played havoc with the ability to sustain a consistent profit cycle. Hastee watched the moon as it hung low in the sky and wondered once again why the Kuli cared about the planet or the ruins.

 

Hastee quickly grew tired of the train of thought and started to move away from the window. All of the sudden she turned back, pinching one of her tentacles in the process. She cringed as she freed it but continued to look at the moon. She would need to consult her computer. She moved to the console.

 

When she slid back from the computer she was amazed that she had missed the obvious for so long.

 

 

Gster Construction Headquarters

 

The chairman of Gster Construction, Gromut Gster considered what he had just heard from his manager on Gster. After a few moments, he got back on the comm. He had deliberately let his manager believe he did not care about the Kuli. Nothing could be further from the truth. He hated them with a passion. Where were those do gooders when his mother died?

 

He remembered the burnt ship and his mother’s cries over the comm to him for help. He still felt the pain in his heart over her loss.

 

“Yes,” said the voice on the other side.

 

The chairman said, “They have arrived as you predicted. How much to remove them as we spoke about?”

 

The voice answered, “One-half interest in Gster.”

 

The chairman was not really surprised but still had hoped for a better price. His previous dealings with the person on the other side of the comm left him with the clear understanding that there would be no negotiating.  He spoke into the comm, “I agree.”

 

He didn’t care about the cost. His company was making plenty of money and they almost stole the planet from the Kuli. He had out-maneuvered them throughout this whole affair and he was not going to let them use a loop hole to take back even a small part of the planet, let alone the ruins which cover almost a quarter of the small planet. Tomorrow night they would find out that death comes calling for them as it did his mother. It was their turn to burn.

 

 

The Ruins of Gster – the next day                                                                                   

 

The ship was relatively new and required little maintenance in between fueling. The ship responded well in outer space and in an atmosphere. The unique surface of the ship converted the heat from reentry into energy and also used a graviton field inverter to reduce the energy needed to combat the gravity of massive objects such as a planet. The surface of the ship was built with an integrated force field that converted most forms of attack into energy that could be used for counter attack or to recharge the ship’s energy cells.

 

The inside of the ship was a minimalist design for comfort and a complex design for usability. The ship was engineered to accommodate multiple purposes and allowed for interfaces in many locations for maximum future flexibility. The past few planet cycles were put to use redeploying various outputs into the force field generator to expand it beyond the ship’s surface.

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto was manually adjusting the controls to define the perimeter of the force field as power became available. J’Rontia examined the readouts from the ship’s computer on the force field. It was at 80% and building fast; by morning they should achieve 100% coverage of the ruins. The irregular shape and the enormous size were definitely straining the computer’s abilities; however, things were progressing according to schedule. Although, they had very little time to bring external power online as the ship could only maintain a field of this size for a short time, even with Kuli engines. Still, once the field was completely built, they could start their exploration of the ruins. That was for later though, tonight she was going with her Soretto to Greeney’s campsite for a little relaxation with Greeney and her kids.

 

The weather was cool and a breeze was blowing off the nearby ocean delivering fresh and moist air to breathe bringing a smile to J’Rontia’s face as she recalled brighter days on a beach. J’Rontia walked into the camp with a backpack over her cape with her Soretto behind her doing his normal and constant scanning of the area around them. The kids, all except one, streamed out of the tents all excited to see visitors and ran toward them as if they were long lost relatives. As they approached, J’Rontia started handing out small gifts to the kids such as design tablets, candy, and data crystals with readers. Greeney was off to the side standing next to Kleft and smiling so big she thought her mouth might break.

 

J’Rontia soon noticed that there was one child, a little girl, who did not run to them but instead stood just outside her tent looking at them intently. She looked about eight standard years old but was very short for her age. She had brown eyes that sparkled gold in the setting sun and hair so blond it appeared white. She looked confident and was not impressed by their guests as the other children were. When all the gifts were passed out, the little girl approached slowly. She walked up to J’Rontia’s Soretto and said, “Thanks!”

 

“I haven’t given you anything yet,” J’Rontia’s Soretto answered. He reached into the bag he had to find a gift for her.

 

The little girl said, “You will later.” The little girl turned to J’Rontia and told her, “You are the one I have been waiting for. My mom gave me a lesson for you.” Before J’Rontia could answer the little girl turned and walked away.

 

J’Rontia called Greeney over and asked, “What is the story on that little girl?” She pointed out the girl to Greeney.

 

Greeney said, “I found her deep in the ruins, close to where your ship is. I am shocked that she spoke to you. She almost never says anything and when she does it makes no sense. I think she has some mental problems because her stories are not believable.”

 

“Give me some examples.”

 

“Ok. She says her mother died protecting the light of the night and that she was chosen to teach the hero who will save and destroy the galaxy. She also told us that she is over 200 years old. Then there is the story of the dark –“

 

“Light of the Ancients,” said J’Rontia as she finished the sentence for Greeney.

 

Greeney was stunned and asked, “Do you know what she is talking about?”

 

“Not all of it. But I am here to find the Dark Light of the Ancients which is referred to in many texts as the Light of the Night. I never heard about a protector or the hero who will save and destroy the galaxy. Still, the Prophecy of the Dragon is interpreted in many ways and that could be one. Plus, there are a lot of legends and myths out there, most of which are based on true stories that have been distorted over time accidentally or intentionally.”

 

Greeney asked, “What will you do?”

 

J’Rontia smiled that mischievous smile she is famous for and said, “Try to be a good student when she is ready.”

 

After dinner, dark was falling across the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon and Greeney gathered all of them together in front of a small campfire. The children were mesmerized as they listened intently to J’Rontia as she told them the story of how she tried to save a little boy at a zoo and ended up almost eaten.

 

She had just finished the story when her Soretto leapt across the group toward their ship and then jumped into the air. A stream of fire had hit the ship’s force field and part of it deflected directly toward the little group by the fire. J’Rontia could see her Soretto’s force field coming online but knew it was not fast enough. His mental warning as he took action allowed her to bring hers up to speed at the same time and she jumped in front of the group to her right as her Soretto’s trajectory would position him to protect the group on her left. The stream of fire hit her Soretto as he stretched out with his arms and legs as far as he could to expand the force field to its maximum so that he could block the majority of the impact of the fire stream. The part of the stream that managed to get past him, slammed into her and the camp burning everything not protected to ash. She was crouched in front of the rest of the children. Her field was up far enough to cover the smaller area she held so she was completely protected as were those she was covering. The children blocked by her Soretto were also fine – but not him.

 

Spreading himself out as he did protected the children but exposed his wrists, hands, ankles, and feet to the inferno. Her Soretto lay on the ground in agony as cinders fell from the ends of his arms and legs that were on fire. She connected with his mind immediately and helped him shutdown the pain sensors in those areas and control the blood flow. Then she turned to the sky as light glowed out of her eyes.

 

She reached into her back pack and removed a small ball the size of her hand. She threw it into the air and it expanded into a small force field. Then she turned to Greeney and said, in a steady and barely restrained voice, “I need you to keep my Soretto comfortable and to make sure your children stay within the field.” She did not wait for an answer but instead ripped the top off of her backpack to reveal a propulsion pack and snapped her sleeves open to expose plasma guns. One moment later and she was airborne.

 

J’Rontia barely left the ground when she had to dodge another fire stream. This time it was targeted at her former location and struck the force field she had just erected, shaking the ground and sending fire out from the field in all directions. She accelerated in the direction the streams were coming from without hesitation. The children and her Soretto saw the flash and then watched her fly away as the field held. Greeney thought, for a moment, that her hair was glowing blue and orange but then realized that the fire stream must be interfering with the force field causing an illusion.

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto felt his own glow growing as he focused it on controlling his pain and on starting the rejuvenation process. Ever since their rescue by the Watcher, he had been trying to duplicate the body rebuilding that the medical stasis unit had performed, to no avail. He knew that it would take a long time to regrow his hands and feet but he needed to start. He was happy with his progress developing his abilities and thrilled that his glow had turned on rapidly when he sensed danger. That extra energy enabled him to leap far enough and jump high enough so that he was able to block most of the fire stream. He was glad that his connection with J’Rontia gave her the knowledge needed to protect her and the rest of the kids. He did not have level of glow she had and clearly her level was also growing as this was the first time he saw her hair in full glow. J’Rontia had great control of the life force and someone was in big trouble.

 

J’Rontia maneuvered with a speed and agility beyond compare for most. She pressed the limits of her propulsion pack and used her plasma bursts to deflect the next three fire streams off their set course into the nearby ocean. As she closed on the ship she could feel the warriors inside and probed their minds with no mercy or restraint. The life force was flowing through her like a live current and she channeled it with little hesitation toward her needs. She confused the minds of the weapon operators causing the next fire stream to be far away from her.

 

She then aimed her plasma gun at the ship before it could fire again. She melted the fire stream launchers and then the engines, causing the big ship to fall out of the sky. She did not stop there but concentrated her mind on the hold, finding the weapons and fuel caches on the ship. Additional bursts with her plasma guns targeted the caches turning the ship into a falling ball of exploding fire. The ship crashed into the ocean beyond the ruins and sunk into the depths still aflame. The water heaved and waves crashed against the shoreline as additional explosions racked the deep. J’Rontia did not smile; she just turned and flew back to the remnants of the camp.

 

As J’Rontia slowly landed in the scorched area that used to be the camp, her heart sank. She had planned a great evening for the kids, including giving the kids rides with her propulsion pack. While she was glad she had it on, she was devastated by the scene around her and how she ended up using the pack. No one was smiling now and the lessons learned this night were not pleasant ones.

 

J’Rontia walked over to her Soretto and gently picked him up in her arms. He had saved her life once again. She kissed him on the forehead, turned to the children and said, “For now you will all have to come with me. You will be safe inside the force field but even safer in our ship.” Greeney and Kleft nodded and the rest of the children just stared. The somber group walked off through the dark ruins to the Kuli ship.