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Excerpt for Arunda by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


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ARUNDA


Book Three of the Savior Project Series


FRITZ FRANKE


Published by PathBinder Publishing


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Smashwords Edition

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Cover production by Gravitys Edge

www.gravitysedge.com

© Fritz Franke, 2018 - 2019




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© Fritz Franke, 2018 - 2019

Arunda: A Novel

Published by PathBinder Publishing

Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9855396-5-8

A Novel – All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.

Visit Fritz’s website -

www.FritzFranke.net

… created and maintained by Wil Johnson of

http://www.tsticybersolutions.com/

Published by PathBinder Publishing

www.pathbinderpublishing.com

Cover Design by Gravitys Edge Productions

Gravitys Edge, LLC

www.GravitysEdge.com

Author Photo by Ryan Franke


From Fritz Franke

License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book and parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher and the author, except as provided by the United States of America copyright law.







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DEDICATION

To one of my best friends, my mentor, and spiritual

advisor, Heather Hummel. To you H2 from F2..




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VOCABULARY - DEFINITIONS AND PRONUNCIATIONS

TERLOKYAN WORDS

Bonzoon: ‘bon~zune’ – An alcoholic liquid, clear and slightly syrupy. Needs no mixing. Emits an intoxicating aroma. Can be drank or breathed in.

Click: ‘click’ – a unit of distance measurement space. Based upon achieving/covering the distance using MFR and accounting for space obstacles. Manoclicks equals 1000 clicks.

Contem: ‘con~tem’ – The state of being despised. Being called a Conte, ‘con~tea’ - is the lowest thing possible.

Cozen: ‘co~zen’ - Made from Costine (a flexible metal like substance found on planet Kekter) and Zenzamine (a flexible plastic like substance found on the planet Cezzeck). Super strong, light, and flexible.

Daim: ‘dame’ – to have sexual relations.

Demfray: ‘dem~fray’ – a material that resists light, moves away from it. Found on Saysone, a small out-lying planet in the Eck Solar System.

Deppen: ‘dep~pen’ – Depth Enhancer, like binoculars

Fang: ‘fang’ - a male Sentar or a bull.

Fangmaire: ‘fang~mair’ – bullshit.

Farrook: ‘far~ruke’ – Slang term for crazy or out of your mind.

Flash: ‘flash’ – To travel at the Speed of Dark. Sometimes used as slang to say “travel as fast as possible”

Glaze: ‘glaze’ – (noun) A compound that can put someone to sleep and erase memory depending upon the strength of the mix. (verb) To put someone asleep and/or to erase certain parts of their memory.

Juvenisized: ‘ju~ven~i~sized’ – to make younger by being in a juvenisation program.

Kaidaim: ‘kay~dame’ – the act of a couple becoming one with the mind and body. “They have entered into a kaidaim … married to each other in mind and body.”

Kaimception: ‘kaym~cep~tion’ – to become one with the mind as in becoming a couple. “They have performed kaimception.”

Maire: ‘mare’ – shit.

Maircapu: ‘mare~ca~poo’ – shithead.

Mano: ‘man~o’ – a thousand.

Mayhem: ‘may~hem’ – battle.

MFR - Magnetic Field Realignment - conventional ground, air, and space travel. Magnets are used to manipulate magnetic fields so that vehicles of any type can maneuver through them.

Nixtween: ‘nicks!tween’ – the ability to see inside a body part and heal it.

Reshtin: ‘resh~tin’ - to return.

Ranbub: ‘ran~bub’ - animal that looks like a pig but with long ears and tail. Very fast.

Rif: ‘rif’ - A rif is associated with the Veloptorian technology of Magnetic plate splitting which they use for high speed space travel. Rifs are spawns of the plutonium induced black holes that split the magnetic plates. Rifs can appear anywhere on the plate while two black holes are active.

Rusow: ‘russ~ow’ – liar.

Rus: ‘russ’ – to lie.

Sentar: ‘cen~tar’ – A horse sized mammal with the body style of a tiger and the head of a bear with swept back horns.

Sextize: ‘sex~ties’ – to excite someone sexually.

Sii: ‘sigh’ – full.

Siikii: ‘sigh~kye’ – loosely means ‘success.

Trace: ‘trace’ – (noun) A communications device worn on the wrist. (verb) To contact someone, usually using a Trace.

Troid: ‘troid’ – Centralized computer system for all Terlokyans everywhere.

Zoon: ‘zune’ – An alcoholic liquid half as powerful as Bonzoon.





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TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER TITLE (TIME PERIOD)

01 – PARADISE (Summer of 2013)

02 – THE CONSPIRATORS FORGE ON (Summer of 2013)

03 – RETURN TO NEVER-NEVER LAND (Summer of 2013)

04 – THE VILLAGE (Winter of 2014)

05 – REVELATIONS (Winter of 2015)

06 – LONG NOT ALWAYS EQUAL TO … (Spring of 2015)

07 – ONE AND ONE EQUALS THREE (Summer of 2015)

08 – THE TICKET HOME (Summer of 2015 or 2025?)


OTHER WORLDS AND LIFE FORMS

EARTHLINGS

TERLOKYANS

ARUNDIANS

VELOPTORS

HESTERS

MILITARY TECHNOLOGY

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

COMING SOON

FRITZ FRANKE




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THE CHOSEN ONE

FRITZ FRANKE




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01 – PARADISE

Stars. Nothing but stars as far as the eye could see. No enemy ships were visible from any direction.

“Troid, give me a heat sensor scan of the entire area,” Chris ordered.

“That scanner is inoperable,” Troid replied.

“Well, give me a movement scan,” Chris ordered again.

“The whole scanning system is inoperable for any request,” Troid replied again.

Chris leaned back in his seat and stared out the front window. Nothing out there but open space, he thought. They had managed to escape the Veloptorian force, but he had no idea where they were. He was sure that if they had gone through that magnetic plate split, they would have ended up in the Cingcing system near Velox. Suddenly pulling up and hitting that black hole had been an instinct maneuver. It appears his decision saved them from certain capture.

“Troid, give me our current location coordinates.” Chris ordered.

“The location system indicator is also inoperable,” Troid replied.

Chris checked his speed … the ship was drifting slowly forward. The MFR was turned off. With the left front lower MFR compartment damaged, steering would be very difficult. Chris stared blankly ahead wondering what his next move should be.

“Troid, does anything work?” Chris jokingly asked.

“All life support systems are functioning normally. All weapons systems are operational. The food refrigeration systems are operating normally. All …”

“That’s good, Troid. I’ll need to teach you what facetious means.”

“Facetious … treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor, flippant,” Troid responded.

“It was a joke,” Chris said, closing his eyes and shaking his head.

“I was being facetious, sir,” Troid replied.

“That’s just great, Troid.”

“Just trying to lighten the mood, sir.”

“Can you send out a distress call?”

“I’m sorry, sir. All communication systems are down. Appears to be a power surge of some kind.”

“Wow. This keeps getting better and better.”

Chris rubbed his face with his hands then stared out the front window. The feeling of being watched overcame him. He slowly turned his head and saw the entire crew staring at him. Zenta was still in the copilot’s seat; Ian had stood up from his seat; Xander and Tish were just inside the pilot’s cabin; and Gunstot and Nikkee were peering over their shoulders.

“Would you care to talk to any of us?” Zenta asked very calmly while batting her eyes at him.

Chris noticed the faces of the others and everyone appeared composed.

“We’re alive,” he said. “At least we’ve got that going for us.”

“That’s just great,” Tish exclaimed. “Do you know where we are?”

“No idea.”

“What the heck just happened?” Xander asked. “After I brought my tube in, I was looking at the small monitor in there and saw us accelerating right at the magnetic plate split … then we pulled up and went through the top black hole.”

“I saw the same thing,” Nikkee chimed in.

“Me too,” Gunstot added.

“What happens when you go through a black hole?” Tish asked.

“Wait everyone,” Zenta interrupted. “I think we should all thank Chris for saving us. We were about to be captured. We’re alive and free … thanks primarily to him.”

Xander started clapping and the rest slowly joined in.

After the applause quieted, Zenta placed her hand on Chris’ arm. “Do you know where we are?” she asked.

Chris shook his head. “No idea.” His words were met with a few sighs.

“How do we …” Tish was cut off.

“Sorry, Tish,” Chris interrupted. “I don’t know about you all, but I need to get out of this seat and this life suit. I’m still a bundle of nerves. I think I overwhelmed my life suit’s sweat capacity.”

“Yeah, well, you probably stink too,” Nicki chided him.

“Sure. Great. Let’s pick on the guy who saved your butts,” Chris said as he got up. “I need something else too.”

“What’s that?” Xander asked as Chris brushed past him.

“I’m getting a shot of Bonzoon.”

“That sounds good,” Zenta agreed. “I think we all need one.”

“I’ll go grab us a bottle,” Gunstot said as everyone moved into the round room. Passing by the control panel on the wall, he hit the button to raise the table on his way into the back. As everyone gathered around the table, stools came up out of the floor. They all sat down. Gunstot returned with the bottle and set it on the table, then ducked into his quarters and came back with seven shot glasses.

Chris grabbed the bottle and said,” I’ll take that.” He twisted the top off, took a hit, then passed it to Zenta.

“Who needs a glass when this is much easier,” she said as she also tipped the bottle up before handing it to Nikkee, who took a huge swig. This continued all the way around the table until the bottle came back to Chris. He put the bottle on the table.

“Troid,” Chris said, “deploy an X5 Probe to give us a visual on the damage to the left lower front MFR compartment and display the results on the round room screens.”

“Probe deployed.”

There were video screens located next to the doors of all the quarters … eight rooms … eight screens. The crew watched the image that the probe was transmitting as it moved along the side of the ship. The large gash to the damaged compartment came into view.

“Wow!” Ian exclaimed. “We’re going to need a huge piece of metal to cover that.”

“And where do you suppose we’re going to get that, smartass?” Nikkee let her disappointment be known. “We could be in the Cingcing solar system for all we know.”

“Calm down everyone,” Chris pleaded. “Be thankful that Troid locked down the magnets the moment it happened.”

“You’re welcome,” Troid quipped.

Gunstot shook his head. “Sheesh … now we’ve got a smartass computer.” He stood up from the table and said, “I’ve got to use the restroom.” Seconds later, he returned and announced, “There’s no water.”

“What?” Zenta blurted out after taking a drink of Bonzoon, spilling some down her chin. “I was outside at Fuuchewma with the ground crews this morning and they said the tanks on all three ships had been topped off.”

“By whom?” Chris asked.

“I didn’t ask. I assumed they did it.”

“Assume … love that word.”

Zenta frowned.

“We’ll have to check the log,” Chris sighed. “Troid, who signed off on the ship prep log?”

“Callun.”

“What’s the system read on our water capacity?”

“The system registers both tanks as being full,” Troid replied.

“Xander,” Chris pointed at one of the tanks. “Is there a way to manually check the tanks from inside the ship?”

Xander immediately popped up from his stool. “I’m on it,” he said over his shoulder as he entered the back area and slid down the pole to the lower deck.

“If we don’t have water, we’re screwed,” Nikkee commented as she reached for the Bonzoon. “So I’ll just have to live off this.” She took a big hit.

“We won’t last long,” Gunstot joked, “but we’ll die happy.”

“Chris!” Xander’s voice bellowed from the deck below.

Chris got up and went to the rail surrounding the hole to the lower deck and peered over the edge.

“What’d you find out?” he asked.

“The gauges read full,” Xander announced. “But when I opened one of the lower drain valves, which is supposed to give us hose access, nothing comes out.”

“Tap the gauge.”

Xander gently tapped it. “Nothing happened.”

“Harder.”

“Nothing.”

“Cup your hand and smack it this time.”

WHACK!

Xander read the gauge. His eyes widened as he turned to face Chris.

“The needle is on empty now.”

“Smack the other tank’s gauge.”

WHACK!

“Now this one reads empty,” Xander said as he kicked the gauge.

“Don’t blame the tank,” Chris said shaking his head. “Someone sabotaged this mission in more ways than one. Might as well come on up.” He returned to the round room and sat down.

“So … what’s the verdict?” Zenta asked.

Chris’ shoulders slumped forward.

“The tanks are empty. The gauges read full, but those were rigged somehow.”

Everyone at the table was silent. Xander came in and sat down.

“Someone is really out to get us,” Tish blandly sighed.

Confusion and discouragement poured into the quiet room. The bottle of Bonzoon now sat in the middle of the table, alone … just like everyone around it felt.

“Wait!” Chris said excitedly as he jumped up and ran into the pilot’s cabin. “Troid, use all camera views, combine them, and give me a slow 360 degree turn across the front window. Try and pick out any familiar star systems.” Everyone followed him.

“Yes, sir,” Troid answered. “But identifying any star systems will have to be done without the aid of the star system databases. All locational information access and analysis is unavailable at this time.”

“Great.” Chris shook his head again as he sat in his seat. “Well, start the view spin anyway so we can see what’s around us.”

All eyes were now focused on the front window as Troid displayed a rotating view of what was surrounding the ship. As the images rolled from left to right, Chris squinted as he tried to pick out which star system might be the closest. Faraway and nearby stars rolled across the window but they all seemed so far away. He was hoping to spot something larger in the distance, a point they could head toward. A distant planet came into view and stood out larger than anything else around it. Slowly making its way across the window, shouts of joy echoed in the pilot’s cabin. The planet was mostly brown with splotches of green and blue scattered across its surface.

“This is great!” Xander cried out.

“It must have been behind us,” Zenta said with excitement.

As the image of the planet came to the center of the window, Chris said, “Troid, stop here.”

Centered in the middle of the screen, was a view of their newly found destination.

“Troid,” Zoom in on that planet,” Chris ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Troid replied. “Zooming in now.”

The planet seemed to explode into an image that filled the entire screen. Gasps of amazement were heard from the crew.

“The blue has got to be water,” Tish said hopefully.

“It looks promising,” Chris replied. “Troid, return to regular view.” Endless stars covered the window again.

“Troid,” Chris said, “deploy two X5 Probes to the planet, take readings and get the information back here as fast as possible.”

“Yes, sir.”

As Chris and Zenta readied the JOKR for the trip, they watched the probes sparkle for an instant then disappear.

“I hope there’s good news,” Zenta said.

“Me too.”

In less than a minute, the probes flashed back in. They transmitted their data to Troid as they reentered the ship.

“Troid, display the data from the probes as soon as you can,” Chris ordered.

“Data now displayed on the front screen,” Troid replied.

Chris and Zenta read their screens.


The planet has three environments capable of supporting human life.

The three areas have an air-oxygen content very similar to Terlokya.

Large bodies of water are interspersed amongst the environments.

Only the environment on the equator has many signs of animal and plant life.


“Woo hoo!” Chris hollered at the top of his lungs.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Zenta yelled.

Ian playfully punched Chris in the shoulder. “Way to go, Bro,” he said.

The rest of the crew cheered and patted each other on the back.

“Great find, Chris!” Xander shouted.

“You really are a savior,” Nikkee added.

“Thanks, but Zenta helped out with this too.” Their eyes met and he gave Zenta a wink. He fired up the JOKR and said, “Everyone get to your seats. This could be a bumpy ride.”

The crew ran into the round room, each of them unfolding their travel seat from the wall next to their quarters. They all harnessed in with a sense of urgency.

Chris used the rear MFR compartments to propel and steer the JOKR. Once they were headed to the unknown planet, he leveled the ship out and settled in for the ride. A few hours later, Chris dropped the ship into in orbit around the new planet. Easing back on the throttle and only able to use the rear MFR compartments, the maneuver lacked a comfortable transition from free space.

“That wasn’t the smoothest entry I’ve ever seen,” Zenta joked with Chris.

“Yeah, well, I think I did okay considering I don’t have any real steering.”

“Hey, calm down, big boy. I thought you did a great job just getting us here.” Zenta released the crew harness lock and shouted over her shoulder, “Hey you guys, unhook yourselves. We’re in orbit.”

Cheering erupted from the round room as the noisy bunch clamored around unhooking their harnesses … whistling and clapping.

Tish stuck her head into the pilot’s cabin and said, “Thanks, you two, for getting us here safely. What’s next?”

Chris didn’t answer right away. He was mesmerized by the view out of the front window that displayed contrasting colors of the surface. Noticing what looked like a polar ice cap, he estimated the distance down to what would be the equator and searched for the optimum environment as reported by the probes. He was jostled back to reality when Zenta laid her hand on his arm.

“Where are you right now?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m not sure. I’m thinking about how and where we’re going to land,” he replied.

“How do you plan on doing that with no steering?” Tish asked.

“That, my dear, is what I’m trying to figure out.” He got up and said, “Ian, please follow me down to the lower deck.”

“Sure.”

They made their way through the round room with Chris getting a few handshakes and back slaps. When they reached the lower deck, Chris placed his hand on Ian’s shoulder.

“Did you pack any beer on the ship before we left? I totally never thought about it.”

“I only packed forty cases,” Ian replied with a wry grin. “And Xander got twenty more.”

“Sixty?!?” Chris grabbed Ian and hugged him. “You da man! Where are they? I need one after that white knuckle journey.”

Ian got two Buds out of one of the lower refrigeration units and handed one to Chris.

Pshhh … They opened their beers at once. After a couple of long draws on them, Chris wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Wow, man. I really needed that.”

“Come on, Chris,” Ian surmised. “That’s not the reason you brought me down here. What’s up?”

“It’s not what’s up… it’s what’s down. Down there. Landing this thing. I have no steering and I can’t hover.”

“You did just fine getting us here.”

“We’re in frickin’ space. Trying to land this thing in an atmosphere is a whole different ball game. Without being able to hover, I don’t see how I can land.”

“Is that really what you’re worried about?” Ian asked. “I’m very surprised that you, the brilliant Chris Gates, didn’t come up with the simple solution that is so obvious.”

“And what might that be, Mr. Know-it-all?”

“Land it like you would a plane on Earth.”

“On the rails? It doesn’t have wheels.”

“You got a better idea?”

“No. I guess I could try. I can pull up at the last second to stall it out as much as I can. I think that’ll help.”

“See? I know you can do it. Let’s get up there and give this thing a try.”

“Okay … let’s go for it.”

As Chris reached upper deck, he called out, “Zenta, Xander, and Tish, each of you deploy a probe and scout the area for potential landing spots. I’m going to need some space to bring the JOKR in on a glide since we can’t really hover.”

“You’re going to glide in and land on the rails?” Xander asked.

“If anyone can come up with a better idea, please let me know.”

Tish got on Ian’s console in the pilot’s cabin and launched a probe while Zenta was in her copilot’s seat doing the same. Xander got on one of the portable workstations in the round room and followed suit.

“Nikkee and Gunstot,” Chris waved them over to the table in the round room. “Get on the portables and launch a couple of probes to search the targeted environment for the most habitable areas with water, shelter, food sources, etc. Who knows how long we might be stranded.”

“Don’t say that,” Nikkee begged Chris. “Let’s not jinx ourselves into having to live in a tropical paradise.”

Zenta was engrossed with the images the X5 Probe was transmitting to her screen. The plant life consisted of palm trees, pines, and hardwoods surrounded by plains of green grasses with gentle breezes rolling across them like waves.

“I think I saw a mango tree,” Tish exclaimed excitedly.

“We’re supposed to be searching for possible landing areas,” Zenta reminded her.

Those inviting green covered plains Zenta was checking were continuously broken up by large groves of trees. Suddenly, she spotted it … the best place so far. Situated on a ridge was a long narrow flat field with trees on one side and a gently sloping hill on the other side that appeared to lead down to a potential waterway … a creek or small river. Reflections from the sun occasionally burst through the tree cover. The field appeared perfect for a landing. The grass wasn’t too long and the ground appeared pretty flat. She slowed the probe down to cruise along above the area to check for divots, animal burrows, or any other obstructions. Then she flew the probe down for a closer view of the potential water way and found a very large creek … about twenty feet across. Flying above the water, she detected some kind of aquatic creatures swimming about. As she flew the probe back up the hill, she saw two large animals, solid black, running into the woods from the field. They must have crossed the field when she had the probe aimed downhill. She thought they might have been Sentars, but didn’t get a good look at them.

“Anybody find anything interesting?” Chris asked, sticking his head through the doorway.

“Not yet,” Tish replied.

“Check and see what Xander found first,” Zenta said, not taking her eyes off her screen. “I might have something.”

“Okay.” Chris ducked into the round room.

“What did you find?” Tish asked Zenta.

“I think I discovered the perfect spot. But, I want Chris to check with the others first.”

Chris returned to the pilot’s cabin and announced, “Xander hasn’t had much luck yet. He found a long flat area on one of the beaches by the sea, but if we get stranded for any length of time, that area won’t work, with tides, possible storms, and who knows what else. The plant growth looked like a jungle and the water barely registered any salt content.”

“Time to go to the beach,” Tish joked.

“Hey, I’m good with that,” Chris added with a chuckle. “But we’ve got to think survival here. We’ve got the ship, and the Terlokyan Space Command will be searching for us. Besides, Ian will get all of the ship’s systems restored and running again after we land so we can contact someone.”

Tish stood up and moved behind Zenta’s chair as Ian sat down at his station.

“Did you find anything?” Ian asked.

“See for yourself,” Zenta said as she waved at her screen. “This seems like the perfect spot.” Chris studied the images and after a few minutes, the decision was made.

“Well, it appears that Zenta found the perfect place to land,” Chris announced. “Let’s get to our seats and head to the surface. Tish, would you continue to monitor the X5 Probes from the round room? Watch the landing and alert us if there is anything we need to know. Make sure to harness in.”

“Yes, sir,” she replied. “I’m on it.”

Chris studied Zenta’s and Ian’s faces for any apprehension. Seeing none, he said, “Well, no better time to do this than right now. It’s not going to get any easier.”

“Take us down there,” Ian said. “We trust you.”

With everyone safely in their seats, Chris took the JOKR out of orbit and into the planet’s upper atmosphere. The ship’s protective heat shields kept it from burning up upon entry into the lower atmosphere. They glided one full revolution around the planet before they were low enough to begin a final approach for landing. As Chris was about fifty feet off the ground, he slowly pulled back on the throttle and raised the nose of the JOKR to create more lift so he could slow down and stall the ship. Right as he felt like they were about to drop, he engaged the MFR hover mode using the rear compartments and the three remaining front compartments, thus catching the ship before it hit the ground. This caused it to spin around one time. He disengaged the MFR and the ship hit the ground from about one foot in the air. But even a drop like that shook everyone up.

Chris shut down the engine.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “I got it as low and slow as I could.”

“I thought you did great,” Zenta said.

“Yeah, that was pretty good considering what you had to deal with,” Ian added. “And nice touch on the hover drop. What made you think of that?”

“I figured that if we were spinning, we wouldn’t hit as hard.”

“I’m reading an atmosphere very comparable to Terlokya,” Zenta said excitedly. “The sun is out, its warm, and we’re safe on the ground. Where … I don’t know.”

“If it’s a good atmosphere,” Chris said getting up, “let’s go outside.”

The entire crew headed down to the lower level and dropped the front ramp … feeling the rush of warm, fresh air. They looked at each other expecting someone to descend first. Nikkee bolted down the ramp and out into the field, arms raised high, as if she hadn’t a care in the world. The rest followed.

“Troid,” Ian said into his Trace, “take atmospheric readings and give us an analysis.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ian read the results on his Trace and reported to the others.

“This is a very habitable planet. If we have to hang out here a while, we’ll be comfortable.”

Chris walked to the left side of the ship and knelt down to check out the gash. Zenta and Xander followed.

“Your thoughts?” Zenta asked.

Chris glanced at them over his shoulder and said, “We’re screwed.”

“Great analysis,” Zenta said sarcastically. “Any ideas on a way to fix it?”

“Let’s see,” Chris pondered as he rubbed his chin. “First, we’ll need a ten by five piece of outer hull made of Costine. We need to cut out the damaged section so some kind of cutting torch will be required. We’ll also need a welder to attach the new piece. That’s assuming we can get it mounted to the exact specifications required for the magnets to perform at their required level. Oh, and a new set of MFR magnets would help. Anybody have any of this equipment?”

“So what you’re saying is that unless someone delivers the parts and tools, or we by chance discover an advanced civilization here,” Zenta paused, “then we’re stranded until someone rescues us.”

“That’s what it sounds like to me,” Xander said shaking his head. “I’m going to get Ian and go work on the communications systems and the location system indicator. We’ve got to get word out somehow about our situation.”

“Thanks, Xander,” Chris said as he sat down facing the gash. “Keep us posted.”

“Will do.” He left.

“So how do we break the news to the others that we’re stuck here for a while?” Zenta asked as she sat down next to Chris.

“I don’t know yet, but they can handle it. We should treat this as a vacation.”

“Right.”

“Seriously, we should. We’ve been training for more than a year now. A break might do everyone some good. I’m sure we’ll be found soon, so let this be a vacation”

“If you say so.” Zenta crossed her legs and leaned back against the ship … closing her eyes … soaking up the warm rays.

“See? You’re relaxing already.”

“Be quiet. I’m relaxing.”

Chris stood up and reached down and grabbed Zenta’s hands … pulling her up.

“Come on, lazy one. Let’s go get the others and have a meeting.”

“If we must.”

Out by the front ramp, Chris called the crew together to discuss the situation. They gathered around Chris who was sitting cross-legged on the ramp with Zenta at his side. Xander and Ian came down the ramp from working on Troid’s systems.

“Any luck?” Chris asked Xander, who went by and plopped down in the grass, a dejected expression on his face. Ian sat down next to him.

“No,” Xander replied. “We can’t tell if it was sabotage, a surge, the black hole, or something else.”

“It’s going to take more time,” Ian added.

“We seem to have an abundance of that,” Tish warmly said. She was lying in the grass, her head propped up with her arm, a smile on her face.

“It’s a good thing you had us get extra supplies when we were at Fuuchewma,” Gunstot noted.

“Okay,” Chris announced. “Since we can’t fix the ship right now, we should survey our surroundings. Zenta’s initial reconnaissance showed a possible water source down there.” Chris pointed to the edge of the field, which led to the bottom of the hill. “We should start there since we need water.”

“I’ll check it out,” Gunstot volunteered. “Anyone want to join me?”

“I’ll go with you,” Nikkee said, getting up from her comfortable perch on the edge of the ramp.

“Great,” Chris said. “Get two of the Jackers from the lower deck storage. You’ll get there faster.”

“Jackers?” Gunstot had obviously not heard the term.

“Remember at Ttocs’ farm? Come on,” Nikkee said lightly punching him in the shoulder as she headed up the ramp. “It’s the new model hover bike.”

“Awesome!” Gunstot shouted as he ran up the ramp.

“Wait a minute everyone,” Chris said, stopping everyone in their tracks. “Let me finish telling you guys my reconnaissance plan.”

“Well, hurry up,” Gunstot bellowed, chomping at the bit to get the Jackers out.

“Since you and Nikkee are going east,” Chris pointed at them, “we need to send someone west through the woods and see what’s there. We’ll recon east and west first. After that, we’ll lay out a plan for north and south … depending on what we discover today.”

Tish looked to see if anyone else was going to volunteer. When no one did, she spoke up.

“Count me in,” she said getting to her feet. “I’ll go west. Who else wants to go?”

“I’ll do it.” Xander’s reluctance was obvious, considering his delayed consent.

“Well, get up,” Tish commanded as she gave him a gentle kick. “And don’t sound so excited or I’ll knock you off that bike in midair.”

Xander got up with a solemn expression and trudged up the ramp. Tish gave him a swift kick in the butt.

“Hey!” he said angrily.

Chris ran up the ramp, put his arm around Xander’s shoulders, and walked him into the ship. Inside, Chris said, “Hey, dude. I really need your support here. I can tell you are experiencing the feeling of being marooned. That hasn’t hit everyone yet. So, I need you to get it together because if everyone starts acting like you, they all might give up. Can you help me out with this?”

Xander made eye contact and said, “Okay. Sorry ‘bout that. It’s just really sinking in that we might be here a while.”

“Well, it’s like Zenta and I said to each other … we’ve been in training for over a year. We could use a break. And why not have a break at what appears to be a tropical paradise. We’ve got extra supplies and Space Command will eventually find us. So with no real responsibilities, let’s kick back and relax.”

Xander’s hard expression softened a bit.

“Since you put it that way, let’s crack a bottle open after we finish the recon.”

“Sounds good. Now go find us a pot of gold.”

With a new-found energy, Xander bounded off to the storage area while Chris went outside.

As the others left to go out on reconnaissance, Ian caught up to Chris and Zenta. “I’m going inside and do some troubleshooting on the systems.”

After he left, Chris said, “When the others return, we’ll need to figure out how to get water up here if it turns out that they find some.”

“How much hose do we have?” Zenta asked.

“I doubt that we have enough to reach all the way down that hill. Maybe we’ll be able to string something together using other piping from the ship. If that doesn’t work, we’re probably going to have to figure some type of system using the bikes and carrying water up in containers.”

“We’ll make it work. After that, what are your plans for the north and south reconnaissance?”

Chris turned and faced north. “I’m not sure who to send up to the mountainous area, but I was figuring that you and I would go south. I really want to check out the beach area.”

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say,” Zenta said. “Let’s go see how much hose we can put together. If we find out that we don’t have enough, we can use containers. But I’ll bet we have enough.”

While Chris and Zenta were in the rear of the ship checking various storage areas for hose, Ian came around to them. They saw his look of concern.

“What'd ya find out?” Chris asked.

“We aren’t going to be fixing any of the systems on Troid anytime soon,” Ian answered. “We’ve got some burned out circuitry that needs to be replaced or bypassed.”

“I take it we don’t have any spare parts.”

“This wasn’t meant to be a long-term mission. We were only going to be gone for a day. And we were supposed to be with the Fleet … not stranded on some unknown planet.”

“I know, but we’ve got to make the best of it,” Zenta said. “See how well Chris is handling it? He had to chat with Xander to get him to change his attitude before it affected anyone else.”

“Well, you know me,” Ian said as he put his hand on Chris’ shoulder. “I’m never amazed anymore at what this guy can do.”

Chris scratched at the ground with his boot, a bit embarrassed.

“I mean after all,” Ian continued as he made a sweeping gesture at the deep blue sky, “we were supposed to return to Earth in a few weeks. He was going home. If anyone should be depressed, it should be him. I know I’d be down in the dumps for sure knowing …”

“Will you shut up, Ian!” Zenta bellowed as she pointed at Chris.

Ian glanced at Chris and saw what his careless choice of words had done.

“I … uh … that part really hasn’t sunk in with me yet.” Chris was staring at the ground now. “Y’all give me a minute.” He walked off into the field.

“Hey,” Ian said to Zenta, “I didn’t mean …”

She reached up and placed her hand on Ian’s arm.

“It’s okay. Sometimes we all forget that he’s human, too.”

“Wow. That hurt.”

“I didn’t mean anything bad about you. I just think of you as Ian.”

“Thanks, I think.”

“I gotta go after him.” Zenta hurried off in Chris’ direction. He had walked about fifty yards and had sat down in the grass. She sat next to him. “You okay?” she asked.

“We’re stranded here.” Chris looked down and shook his head. “Heck, we don’t even know where we are. We can’t communicate. We can’t fly. We can’t do anything.”

They sat in silence. Zenta gazed out over the treetops and just could make out a piece of the sea at the horizon. Chris stared at his boots.

“Do you have a plan?” she asked.

“No. I’ve realized that we’re not going to be rescued anytime soon. No one knows we are here and if that’s the case, how is anyone ever going to find us?” he paused as his own words hit him like a ton of bricks. “I was supposed to go home in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been gone from Earth for more than a year now, and I really do miss my family … my wife … my kids. And now I have this sinking feeling that I’m never going to see them again. So, what’s the use of putting a plan together?”

“You’re giving up,” Zenta admonished him. “I have never seen you quit on anything.”

“That may be true, but I’ve never faced anything like this before.”

“Well, you’re going to need to get over this fast. Everyone is expecting you to lead us and you can’t do that when you can’t even lead yourself.”

Chris said nothing.

“So what if we are stuck here?” Zenta said. The pain in her voice was evident. “Who do you think can step up and do the things you do while you’re depressed and wallowing in self-pity?” She stood up. When he hadn’t responded yet, she continued. “So all those words spoken back there to everyone were just hollow … ‘We need a break … let’s treat this like a vacation.’ … well … were they?”

“Leave me alone!” he yelled as he got up and stalked off toward the woods.

“Chris! You can’t lose it now. We all need you.”

“Screw it. I’m tired of all of this crap riding on my shoulders.” He stopped and turned around to face her. “I didn’t ask for any of this. You all took me away from my home and declared me the Savior. And now I’m stuck on some rock somewhere in space … and right before I was supposed to go home.”

“Chris …”

“Just leave!”

Zenta stared at him as he stood there, breathing hard, anger spelled out all over his face. She bowed her head and slowly walked to the ship leaving Chris alone with his thoughts in the middle of the field.

Ian came out a short time later and found Chris sitting in the same spot. Ian plopped down, set a beer next to Chris, then popped his can open to take a big gulp.

“Hey, I’m sorry for what I said back there.” Ian took another swig. “I really wasn’t thinking.”

Chris didn’t even acknowledge that Ian was there.

“So,” Ian tried again, “are you going to sit out here all day?”

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I feel so lost.”

“Bro, we are lost.” He drank some more of his beer. “You gonna let that beer get warm?”

Chris didn’t respond right away. When he finally did, it was almost a whisper.

“I don’t know what to do. I’ve got a sinking feeling that I’m never going to see Lisa and the kids again. This is overwhelming me.”

“Bro, you’re going to have to get past this … and accept what is happening … and do it fast. The way you’re acting right now is not good for you or anyone else here. You have got to have faith that someone will find us.”

Neither one spoke for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, Chris said, “I’m working on it. I just don’t have it together yet.”

“Well, see if you can hurry up and get it together. And by the way, you really hurt Zenta.”

“What?”

“She told me what happened. It really hurt her.”

“Great. Things are falling apart faster than I can put them back together. Please tell her I’m sorry. I’m just having a hard time.”

“You tell her. You’re the one who hurt her. She needs to hear it from you,” Ian said. “Until then, I’ll leave you here to work it out. Just remember … all of us are here for you. Even Zenta.” He got up and went back to the ship.

What in the world am I going to do? He shook his head, then stared at the unopened beer at his feet. I really do miss my family, but now I’ve hurt Zenta. I can’t do that. I need her. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. I’ve got to get it together. He lowered his head and fought back tears. Suddenly, he felt a light touch on his shoulder. He looked up into Zenta’s eyes.

“Chris,” Her heart melted when she saw his teary sad eyes. “I want you to know …”

SNNNNRK!!!

She didn’t finish. A loud snorting sound came from the woods about two hundred yards in front of them. Strolling along just inside the edge of the trees were two very large solid black animals of some kind. Chris and Zenta jumped up and squinted in the bright sunlight, trying to make out what kind of animal made that noise.

“That sounded like a Sentar,” Zenta said. “We should get to the ship.” She glanced at Chris as he stepped toward her, watching the two beasts. “Well?”

“We’re fine,” he said quietly. “Just stay still.”

One of the beasts let out a deafening roar.


That roar had been so loud that it grabbed Ian’s attention. A few seconds later, Xander and Tish came out of the woods on their Jackers.

“What’s happening?” Tish asked, looking down the field at Chris and Zenta standing still. They jumped off their bikes, not taking their eyes off the dangerous situation.

“Get back on the Jackers,” Ian ordered. “Something roared and it froze Chris and Zenta.”


Zenta was getting nervous. She stepped back and Chris grabbed her arm.

“I said be still. Trust me.”

“What do you know about Sentars?” she asked quietly.

“Shhh.”

ROARRRRR!!!

“That’s a Sentar,” Zenta whispered.

“Yes … it is.”


“Sentars,” Tish said.

“Yup,” Xander concurred. “I just hope they’re like Terlokyan Sentars or Chris and Zenta will be their dinner.”

Tish’s Trace went off. It was Gunstot.

“We found water!” he said excitedly.

“That’s great,” was Tish’s quiet yet monotone reply … her eyes still glued to the scene unfolding in front of her. “You two better get up here, fast. Tish out.”


As Chris and Zenta remained motionless, the two huge beasts sauntered out of the woods in their direction.

“They’re much bigger than the ones on Terlokya,” she whispered.

“Yes.”

“And they don’t have any stripes on their …”

“Shhh. Please be quiet.”

The larger of the two stopped and stared at them. The smaller one was right next to it.

ROARRRRR!!!

They began trotting toward them.

Zenta gulped.

Chris removed the top of his uniform and tossed it to Zenta.

“Move back a step,” he commanded.

“What?”

“Just do it.”

She complied as Chris stepped forward, putting his hands out with palms turned up. He looked up at the sky then closed his eyes.

The larger beast stared hard at Zenta and snorted startling her. The huge Sentar shifted its gaze to Chris who stood ramrod straight, eyes still closed, arms out, and perfectly still. The Sentar slowly crept toward Chris and stopped less than two feet away, towering over him. It sniffed him … starting at his boots and slowly working its way up. After sniffing his face and hair, it again sniffed his chest and arms. Then it emitted a soft, quiet, gurgling sound … the same sound Chris had heard from the Sentars on Terlokya. Chris opened his eyes. The hard scowling expression that had been on the Sentar’s face had softened. When their eyes met, the gurgling increased in intensity. Chris slowly dropped one arm and reached for the Sentar with the other. It lowered its head down to where Chris could touch the area between its ears. He rubbed the fur and the gurgling got louder. He reached up with his other hand to rub the side of its face. The huge beast knelt down, finally plopping its entire body on the ground … eyes closed … almost smiling.

“Hi there, big fella,” Chris said. “I think your name is Roiee. Am I right?” He knelt down.

Louder gurgling was heard as it opened its eyes and squinted at Chris. The beast looked over its shoulder at the other Sentar and made a soft grunting type noise.

“Rowr ... rowr.”

The smaller Sentar came and laid down next to the large one and gurgled. It stretched its neck out so Chris could reach its head where he began scratching it between the ears.

“And I think your name is Gala. Right?”

Louder gurgling came from the smaller one.

“What are you doing?” Zenta asked in amazement.

“Just petting my new friends,” Chris said with a smile. “Come here. It’s fine.”

Zenta hesitantly moved next to Chris.

“This one is Roiee,” Chris said as he vigorously rubbed his head eliciting a soft ‘rowr.’ The big male reached a paw out and touched Zenta’s boot. “And this one is Gala.” A vigorous rub was greeted with more gurgling and a sweet, squinty eyed expression.

Zenta knelt down and rubbed Roiee on his neck.

“How did you … where …,” Zenta stopped, obviously clueless as to where to begin questioning.

“Its fine,” Chris assured her. “I’ll explain later.”

Zenta continued to rub Roiee’s neck.

“He’s a huge fang,” she said.

“A what?”

“A fang. A bull … a male Sentar.”

“Right. I knew that.” Chris leaned over Roiee and whispered in his ear. The gurgling never stopped, but when Chris leaned back, the huge animal got up off the ground, again towering over the two little humans.

“They’ve got to be twice the size of Terlokyan Sentars,” Zenta said sounding like a star struck teenager.

“They are.” Chris reached up and tapped on one of Roiee’s horns. The Sentar lowered his head and got down on its front knees. Chris grabbed the horn and whipped himself up on its back. “Come on,” he said pointing at Gala. “Get on her and let’s ride them to the ship for the others to see.”

Zenta looked at Chris as if he were a purple goat and exclaimed, “I’m not getting up on …,” She stopped talking when Gala nudged her with a lowered head.

“See?” Chris said. “She wants you to get on.”

“Okayyyy,” Zenta whimpered as she grabbed the lowered horn and pulled herself up on Gala’s back. “Well … this is … way … up … here.”

Chris made a couple of clicking noises and stroked Roiee’s head with a forward motion. The big Sentar rumbled forward followed by Zenta on Gala.

As they approached the ship, Tish and Gunstot backed up the ramp. The rest stood around gawking at the approaching site.

“Those things aren’t going to eat me, are they?” Gunstot asked.

“No,” Chris chuckled. “You’ll be fine.”

When they got within twenty feet of the ship, the two riders climbed down. Roiee let out a big roar while Gala gave a couple of snorts.

“So … can we pet them?” Nikkee inquired.

“Sure,” Chris answered. “But let me take you to them first … just in case. I’m sure you’ve grown very attached to your hands.”

“Funny. Real funny.”

Chris led Nikkee by the hand to the Sentars. They immediately gurgled when Nicki reached up and petted Gala and rubbed Roiee’s neck.

“This is so cool. Is this one a fang?” she asked, gesturing at Roiee.

“Sure is,” Chris chuckled. “Gala is a glee … a female.”

“Chris, I know what a glee is. Remember, I speak Terlokyan.”

“Right.”

Ian came down next to them and asked, “Chris, would you mind telling us how you became the Sentar whisperer?” He also pet them.

“Yeah, I'd also like to know,” Tish said as she and Gunstot slowly crept down to the edge of the ramp. “When did you ever spend time around Sentars?”

Chris remembered Muda telling him not to say anything about his visit and their conversation. He chose his words carefully.

“One time when I was at Ttocs’ farm, I interacted with some Sentars. I learned some communication techniques, especially from the Sentars that I had never had contact with before.”

“But those were Terlokyan Sentars,” Zenta mentioned. “They’re smaller, their horns are shorter, they have stripes … they’re just so different. You could have been killed out there … walking right up to them like that … eyes closed, shirt off ….”

“She’s right you know,” Ian said. “These are wild animals that have never had human contact.”

“Well, sorry to disagree, but that’s not true,” Chris said. “They have had human interaction.”

“And how do you know that?” Tish asked.

“I just got a feel …”

“Wait, wait, let me guess,” Zenta interrupted. “You got a feel of them. Right?”

“Don’t you mean for them?” Ian asked.

“No,” Zenta answered for a grinning Chris. “He gets a feel of things … not for things.” She looked at Chris. “But please tell us how you knew their names?”

“They told me.”

“Okay,” Tish goaded. “I’ve heard enough of this crap.” She jumped off the ramp and went around to the side of the ship, turned around and said, “Hey Roiee, look at me!”

Roiee, who had his head bowed as Nikkee was scratching it, rose up and looked at Tish. He opened his mouth, stuck his tongue out, and panted like a happy dog.

“This is too much,” Zenta said shaking her head, “No further questions from me.”

“About that human contact thing …” Ian questioned.

“I don’t know any more than that,” Chris answered. “It’s a feeling that I got from them.”

Everyone, including Tish, gathered around Roiee and Gala, petting and rubbing them, just showing them love.

“Since everyone is here,” Chris queried, “what was discovered on the recon missions? Tish … Xander … anything?”

“Woods, woods, and more woods,” Tish responded while still petting Gala.

“We did see some birds, but couldn’t ever get close enough to identify them,” Xander added.

“Did you go above the treetops?” Chris inquired.

“No … didn’t think to do that,” Xander said, still mesmerized by the Sentars.

“We’ll do that next time,” Tish added.

“We found water with a lot of fish!” Nikkee bragged. “We couldn’t tell what kind of fish.”

“How big was the waterway?” Chris asked. “Was it a creek, river, what?”

“It was a good size creek,” Nikkee answered. “About twenty feet across.”

“There was a huge lake on the other side of the woods,” Gunstot added. “I want to take a dip.”

“Better find out what’s in there first,” Zenta recommended.

“You’re right,” Gunstot agreed. “I’m going to take our new friends down there and see if they can stir anything up. I’ll also send a probe in.”

“Good idea,” Ian added.

“This is good news from the recon then,” Chris surmised. “Next up … Zenta and I will head south to the sea. Any volunteers to go north up into the hilly mountainous areas?”

“I’d like to take that on,” Ian volunteered.

“I’ll go with him,” Xander said patting Ian on the shoulder. “The woods weren’t that exciting … especially when you don’t find anything.”

“Sounds good,” Chris said clapping his hands together. “Ian, you and Xander better take along weapons and supplies. I want you to extend the recon out a little. Be prepared in case you need to stay out longer.” He glanced up at the horizon and checked the setting sun. “I think we’ll delay the recon missions until tomorrow. Zenta and I will use Roiee and Gala when we head south, Ian and Xander can take Jackers, which will leave the other two bikes for anything needed around here.”

“Yes, sir,” they responded in unison.

“We need to figure out the best way to get water up here for the tanks. And we should test it too,” Xander stated.

“Duh,” Nikkee mimicked. “What if the hoses don’t reach?”

“Well, we can scrounge extra hose from the ship to add to what we have. Otherwise, we’ll carry containers with the Jackers … so …,” Chris examined the containers, hoses, and other material that had been stacked next to the ramp. “We can also use Roiee and Gala for water detail if we have to.”

“That’ll work,” Gunstot agreed.

The mood of the crew had improved now that they had interacted with life on their new temporary home. Chris and Zenta moved off to the side watching the others enjoy their new friends.

“You still manage to amaze me in new ways,” Zenta said softly. She held his arm and leaned her head on his shoulder.

“Just doing my job,” he replied. “We’ve got to make this work until someone comes for us.” He sighed. “Sorry about earlier.”

“No need to apologize. This is tough on all of us. We’re doing fine … now.”

“We’re on Arunda ... just so you know.”

“I’m sure Roiee told you, right?”

“Right.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“I learned from Troid that Arunda is where the ancients came from. Is that true?”

“That is what is believed by some, but the majority of Terks believe that Arunda is just a myth.”

“Who do you know that believes?”

“Gee,” she pondered at this question. “I know my Father does … as do Ttocs and Caslaikove.”

“Well, I believe we’re on Arunda.”

“That’s what I expected you to say. Nothing about this place surprises me now.”




~~~




02 – THE CONSPIRATORS FORGE ON

The transport shuttles from the huge war ships descended to the tarmac at Fuuchewma, touching down at the same time as ZAW1 and the LROC. Out on the tarmac, Sohan paced back and forth in front of the few Supreme Council members who had accompanied him to the space base. Behind them stood a long row of Praetorian Warriors, the elite soldiers assigned to protect the leadership of Terlokya. Also present were four Supreme Guards, Sohan’s personal security detail.

Klovsew stepped out from the others to walk with Sohan.

“Do you think it wise to bring out the elite guard?” Klovsew asked.

“Councilor,” Sohan slowed his pace for the older Terk, “we have had a major catastrophe here. And I want to emphasize …”

Klovsew put his hand up and interrupted Sohan.

“I understand what you are attempting to show … and that’s only if there has been foul play. But what if it is just an equipment malfunction like Admiral Kaioc believes?”

Sohan stopped and faced the councilor with arms crossed. His defensive posture was a bit unsettling to the lifelong politician.

“The Savior, my daughter, their entire crew, along with their ship have disappeared. Prymus was piloting the most advanced fighter ever made with the latest state of the art navigation equipment, sensory systems, life support, computers, and weapons. He had proven himself capable of flying any fighter in the Fleet. All destination flash coordinates were controlled centrally by Troid as programed in by Admiral Kaioc. The entire Fleet, except for the JOKR, arrived near Tennen and found no invading force. Doesn’t that appear just a little suspicious to you?” Sohan threw his hands up in the air.

“Well,” Klovsew put his hand on his chin. “Since you put it that way, yes it does. But please, Sohan, let’s hear from the Admiral first… all right?”

Sohan let out a deep sigh.

“If you insist. But the Praetorians stay.”

“Agreed. And your Supreme Guards?”

“That’s not my choice.”

“Right.” They strolled a few steps further. “There,” Klovsew said pointing in the direction of the shuttles as the doors opened. “We’ll have some more answers shortly.”

“Not all the answers we need, I’m afraid.”

They watched as officers and soldiers departed the various ships and lined up in front of them. The crews from the LROC and ZAW1 left their ships and lined up as if they were about to face a firing squad. Colonel Kreikurr of the LROC, sweat forming on his brow, stepped out in front of his crew while Colonel Prahash was in front of ZAW1, nervously swaying back and forth, with a very calm Jurree at his side. All stood at attention. Fleet Admiral Kaioc marched straight from his shuttle followed by Admirals Ffatay and Menstant.

When the three officers finally snapped to attention in front of Sohan and the Council, Kaioc saluted and said, “Supreme Commander and members of the Supreme Council, Admirals Kaioc, Ffatay, and Menstant reporting back from the Tennen mission, sirs!”

“At ease, Admiral,” Sohan instructed. “Before I hear your report, please tell me something. How does a Fleet lose Terlokya’s most advance fighter, along with the most valuable human being to all humanity … all at once?”

“Now, Sohan,” Klovsew interrupted before Kaioc had a chance to respond. “Let’s calm down and give the Admiral a chance to give us his report.” Klovsew gestured toward Kaioc.” Please, Admiral Kaioc, enlighten us as to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Prymus and his crew.”

Kaioc appeared nervous. Standing at just six foot, he was a good six inches shorter than the glaring Sohan. The Admiral drew in a deep breath.

“Sirs, may I begin by saying that we have deployed countless probes and squads of long range Zykers to all areas around Tennen, the entire Soeque solar system, along with the surrounding areas of the launch point, plus our entire solar system.”


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