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**-= INTRODUCTION =- **
Blink, Blink, Blink. A little triangular, red icon flashed in the corner of one of the two-dozen or so video displays on the bridge of the salvage vessel MSV Starfire. It vainly attempted to draw someone's attention to the information that accompanied it:
Central Power Conductor 1: High Temp Warning (78)
The only person on the Starfire's bridge was it's first officer, Amara Var. She sat in the pilot's chair, staring casually through the bridge's transparent ceiling at the vast, starless expanse of hyperspace.
There were no sounds apart from the hum of the fans pushing cool, filtered air into the nearly empty room, and an occasional noise from deep within the ship. Between that and the reduced illumination, she could have fallen asleep easily enough - were it not for the three cups of the galaxy's favorite caffinated beverage she'd consumed before her night-shift bridge-watching assignment.
Wanting a change in viewpoint, Amara spun the chair around to face the rest of the bridge. Some light spilled in from the open doors connecting the command pod's main corridor to the bridge, but most of it was masked in shadows interrupted only by the pin-pricks of light emitted from myriad indicators and instruments.
Then, one of them caught her eye: Red and blinking on one of the nearer consoles.
It's probably not important... She thought. But then, if I don't do something I might die of boredom...
Amara stood up from the pilot's chair and walked nonchalantly up to the biocrystal display.
Central Power Conductor 1: High Temp Warning (81)
"Hmm..." She mumbled to herself, wondering if this was something she should bother Jules, the ship's engineer, about at this hour of the night cycle. The ship itself didn't seem to be very concerned, it hadn't even bothered raising an audible alarm.
I'll tell him about it in the morning... Amara thought, just about to dismiss the message.
Then, something happened that made her change her mind - a second alert appeared below the first.
Central Power Conductor 2: High Temp Warning (70)
The warning icon blinked out of phase with it's older sibling as Amara sat herself down in the nearest chair and activated a diagnostic.
The computer replied to the request with a diagram of the power distribution system. Most of it was a green outline, pathing the flow of energy from the ship's two reactors - the main reactor and the smaller one in the command pod - to the vast network of electricity-consuming devices on the Starfire. The Power Conductors were like the ship's circulatory system, without them, Starfire would be just as 'dead' as a similarly-deprived human.
Two of the four lines representing the main conductors on the diagram - the ship's arteries - were yellow.
Suddenly, a third one went yellow, and then, within seconds, so did the fourth conductor.
"Uhoh." She said, swiveling the chair to a communications panel. The first officer pressed the routing buttons to connect to Jules's quarters.
"Jules to the bridge." She said. There was no immediate response, so she repeated the directive.
The second order got a response from a sleepy Jules Bisping. The older man sounded slightly irritated.
"Yes, what is it?" He asked.
"Something's wrong with the power conduits." Amara replied.
"Alright, be there in a minute." The engineer replied.
In the background, conduit one changed from yellow to orange, triggering a fairly quiet, but nonetheless annoying, alarm. Amara quickly spun around to face the originating display.
Central Power Conductor 1: OVERHEAT Warning (160)
In rapid succession, the other three conductors quickly followed suit - a cascade failure.
Why on my shift? She thought, annoyed that everything had to go wrong when she was on duty.
Jules arrived on the bridge, and, hearing the alarm, rushed over to the console.
"It just went to the overheat mode..." She said, as he fiddled with the diagnostic system.
"We need to bring the ship out of hyperspace, to reduce the power load... the line coolers must have fried or something..." Jules said, making a guess at the cause of the alarm. He silenced the audio aspect of it as Amara relocated to the pilot's chair and initiated the sequence that would allow the ship to revert to real-space...
**-= CHAPTER 1 =- **
The stones of the ancient structure were moist and covered with patches of verdant, emerald colored moss. Slabs of eroded rock bordered a central pool of water, which was fed from a hot spring.
Amy could hear the trickle of the water into the pool and the sounds of the jungle canopy animals above the roofless room, and smell the slightly sulphurous vapors rising off of the water's inviting surface and into the chilly morning air. She walked around the edge of the pool, towards a massive redwood door.
The android reached towards the patinaed knocker, and used it to produce three brisk knocks.
A moment later, a small window opened at the top of the door.
"Password?" Someone asked from inside.
"Since when do we have a password?" She asked.
"Oh? Amy? Sorry. We passworded telepresense, some spammer came in here with a `bot that kept trying to sell..." Said the local AI, explaining.
"... I don't want to know." She interrupted.
The person behind the door opened it and Amy walked inside. The interior of the structure was lit by large, bare torches on the massive stone walls, and in the center was a substantial wooden table. It was of some dark hardwood, and engraved around the edges with names for chairs belonging to each regular attendee.
Amy sat down in hers, as the local AI handed her the minutes it had prepared.
"Thanks, ChanServ." She said quietly, scanning the paper.
The `bot served her a cup of pale, pinkish tea.
"We were wondering when you'd get here." Said one of the others to her.
"Sorry I'm late, I had to finish the simulation I promised last week." She said, producing a small disk from out of thin air.
"I created it using the revised Jalther-Uver process, with the amount of data we have, it should be ninety-three point eight percent accurate."
"It'll beat the Oldie's sim, their's is only eighty percent accurate. That's what counts." One of the members said.
"Yeah, but their sim has a track record." Somebody else dissented.
"The revised Jalther-Uver is very reliable." A third said.
Then, suddenly, the entire room and it's inhabitants disappeared. Everything went blank.
A moment later, words appeared: "Hypernet connection failure: no path to gateway."
The voice of the ship's computer began to vocalize them, but Amy had already switched her sensory input back to the real world.
The display terminal had some diagnostic text on it, complaining about the Hypernet node being disabled because the ship was running in 'Run-level 19 Emergency Power Conservation Mode'.
She disconnected the optical filament and got up, as it reeled back into the terminal. The simulation would have to wait.
The bridge of the Starfire was now fully illuminated and exponentaly noisier than it had been just minutes before. Jules Bisping looked at the list of failures and errors on his console as it grew ever larger.
"We're exiting hyperspace now!" Amara said, as she entered the control sequence that made the ship pass between the two planes of existence. With only a slight shudder, the murky nothingness of the hyperspatial dimension was replaced by the normal starfield.
Jules noticed his assistant, Amy, walking hastily onto the bridge.
"What happened to the Hype..." She began to ask.
"All four main power conductors are in overheat. Number three just topped 220 degrees." He said, not looking up from the screen, which was spewing out fresh errors at an alarming rate.
The engineer noted that exiting hyperspace hadn't helped much, if indeed any. The temperature continued to rise.
"I see. Is there a fire?" Amy asked, as she downloaded the ship's error logs from the internal network and read them.
"I don't think so, our alarm on the conduit isn't going off... I'll check it." Jules mumbled, as he ran a diagnostic check on the fire alarm embedded in the conduit channel.
Conductor Channel Fire Alarm: Unable to check alarm. Replace or Service alarm.
Before either of them could contemplate the implications of the alarm's failure, the console updated it's steady stream of complaints.
Central Power Conductor 1: CRITICAL OVERHEAT Warning (413)
Warning: CPC1 is in danger of FAILURE
Warning: General Power System Fault Alert! (2356)
Jules thought quickly. If the power system failed, the Starfire's structural integrity enhancing systems would be without power, and all but the slightest change in speed or direction would rip the cargo ship to pieces. The shields would drop, space dust and tiny fragments of meteors would begin to pummel the ship...
The engineer realized that it was counterproductive to think about that now. They had to get the ship into a state where it would be safe with no main power.
"Are there any planets around here?" He asked.
Amara glanced at the sensor display.
"Yes. Do you think we should land?" She inquired, asking his opinion on the ship's fitness for landing.
"We don't have too much choice. And, we ought to do it now , because in about ten minutes we won't be able to do much of anything without the ship's momentum shredding it!"
"Alright. Prepare to make planet-fall." The first officer said, as she sat down in the pilot's chair.
"Our proximity to a suitable planet is curiously fortunate..." Amy remarked. The timing was indeed very good - had they left hyperspace a few moments earlier or later, they'd have been millions of kilometers from the planet.
Roused from sleep by the alarm, Captain Marcus Carey ran onto the bridge in a somewhat disheveled state. Behind him was the reptilian tactical officer of the ship, Chikar.
"What's going on here?" He asked, his voice tone indicating his body's biological desire to be asleep at this hour.
"Our main power conductors are in critical overheat, the ship's main power may fail, and we're attempting to land so we can power down the ship safely." Amy explained.
"And nobody woke me up..." Marcus said, slightly irritated as he took the captain's chair.
"We're entering planetary orbit now, captain." Amara informed him. Through the great windows of the command pod's bridge, they could see the looming blue orb before them - a remote and virtually unknown world, Mianor III. It was listed as being inhabited by a primitive society who had just invented rudimentary aircraft, and were decades from being able to create their first simple orbital spacecraft. Other than that and a partial dictionary of a Mianorian language clipped from survey notes, the ship's databanks and the Hypernet had little information about it.
"Entering emergency approach vectors." Amara said, as the planet's circle grew ever larger. They could make out a planetary surface with thousands of lakes and seas, but no overwhelmingly large ocean.
It was clearly a lovely world, relatively unspoiled by it's inhabitants.
The Starfire slipped into the edges of the world's atmosphere, burning hot waves of heated air creating strange orange patterns on the protective bubble of the kinetic field shielding the ship. Without the field, the ungainly and mostly unheatshielded craft would be obliterated during reentry.
"Captain, we're losing main power!" Amara shouted to the captain.
The orange glow of the super-heated air moved closer and closer to the windows, as the field began to power down.
"Main power has failed, SI and KFS battery voltage at seventy percent!" Jules said, as he worked franticly to make sure every last bit of energy went where it was needed most.
Amara could see nothing on the powerless scope, and the view of the windows was almost totally blocked by the intensifying light on the contracting shield bubble. The ship was coming in blind - there was nothing left to do but hope that the chance had picked a suitable site for it's landing.
Aber Nept sat on a bench on the porch of his small house on the shores of Lake Pred, a largish body of water located next to his village. Minor III's icy rings dominated the moonless sky, and cast a clear reflection on the lake.
This, however, was not the subject of Aber's current thoughts. Lovely though the natural beauty was, it could not distract him from the fact that his people were most likely headed for war. Certain elements in the council were pressing hard for military action against the followers of the heretic Abradis of the 'Divinely Sent Holy Oracle of Heaven', a gesture Aber was sure they could hardly afford with the growing threat of an attack by the Southern Alliance. Tomorrow the council would vote on the issue, and he was struggling to compose a speech that he hoped would convince his colleagues to vote against an unproductive crusade to put down a Heresy. Unfortunately, few thoughts came to his mind. Just about everything that could be discussed had been. The council's other members seemed willing to accept the risk of a Southern attack, and he didn't want to reopen the issue of the state being dragged into an issue which he felt was distinctly out of it's domain. Aber cast down his stylus and tablet, and threw his head back with a sigh.
Why did I ever get involved in politics? He thought, as he staired straight up into the night sky.
Surely, he thought, his life would have been simpler if he'd entered a monastary like his family had wanted...
Well, I'm still pretty young, it might not be too late for that...
His thoughts were interrupted by a bright prick of orange light in the sky. He focused on the spec, interested. Perhaps it was a comet...
Whatever it was, it was growing larger rather rapidly. He was sure it was a comet now, he could see the tail of fiery gases boiling off the end of it.
Out on the shore, some other Mianorians had caught sight of it, and were also looking heavenward at the astronomical spectacle. This was certainly worth seeing, Aber thought - it was rare for a comet or meteor to last for more than a few short seconds. The Mianorians had never conceived the idea that a comet might hit their world, and he was not at all worried - for now - about the fact that the object he was watching was approaching his planet and several times the speed of sound.
Aber saw the glowing fade out undramaticly. He assumed that the cosmic fireworks had just concluded. But as he turned to pick up his writing instruments, he heard a sound that no-one on Mianor III had ever heard before.
A loud sonic shockwave tore through the air, startling the reluctant politician.
Thunder? On a clear night? he thought, wondering at the oddity of the noise.
About to put it out of his mind and return to the task of retrieving his stylus from the porch in the dim torchlight, Aber heard someone cry out.
"Look, in the sky!" yelled a Mianorian woman on the shore, as she pointed to something.
He looked up, and, sure enough, there was indeed something in the sky. It was impossible to tell what it was, but it was possessed of several bright sources of illumination. And it was moving very fast. Towards him.
What of the domain of Xon is that? he wondered, as the object drew closer. It was huge, whatever it was... and still moving towards him.
Aber was unsure if he should attempt to flee, or just stand there, watching mezzmerized. The object seemed to be angling down, towards the lake. Was it a vessel? A flying machine of some kind?
He'd heard of the recent experiments of some Mianorians in the town of Dremp, who'd built a flying machine that moved under the power of an engine, but he'd never seen a picture of it. Perhaps this was the craft. It was much larger than he'd imagined it...
Then, with a great sound like an earthquake, the the vessel impacted with the lake. The collision threw up huge waves, the likes of which Aber had never seen in his life. A vertible tsunami surged towards the shore, being pushed along by the partly submerged craft as the water slowed it down.
The Mianorians foolish enough to have remained on the lake's sandy beach this long were now scampering for high ground, crying out in panic as the thirty-foot wall of water closed in on them.
Aber was now to startled to think coherently, and madly dashed towards his open door, rather than running for the nearby temple hill. As he burst through the doorway, he heard the wave - and the giant, metallic craft beneath it - come onto the shore. The man looked over his shoulder as the wave, only slightly reduced by it's journey, came over his porch!
He dove for the open passageway into the front of his dwelling, his heart racing. Would this be the end of his life?
The wave burst the rear windows just ahead of the bow of the vessel within it. As Aber ran towards his front door, he heard an awful, splintering crash as the front of the ship broke through the wooden walls of his house. He reached the door, and quickly attempted to open the five bolt locks.
But it was too late. The wall behind him was ploughed down by a blackened, metal structure. Aber was trapped between the wall of his house and the advancing bow of something.
He was sure this would be the end. Unfortunately, he was right.
I should have been a monk , he thought regretfully, a moment before his life was swiftly ended.
The MSV Starfire's using Mianorian structures as emergency braking facilities was not at an end. Nor was it's unconscious pilot in a position to do anything about the ship's destructive course.
A dozen more of the flimsy wood buildings were summarily demolished by the advancing alloy hull of the vessel before it's voyage was brought to a halt by a combination of elevation, friction, and more solidly built stone town hall.
Marcus Carey opened his eyes. The air was clear, but he could hear the popping sounds of intermittently shorting electronics. And he could see... fire. All around the bridge windows. He lurched upright with a start from his position on the floor - Why didn't I use the restraint harness? - and realized that he had a broken leg at the same time he realized the fire was outside.
The captain groaned as he tripped backwards, steadying himself on his chair. The deck was at an uncomfortable angle, and it was hard to remain upright.
He quickly surveyed the bridge. Amara was slumped unconscious at the helm, and he couldn't see where any of the other crew-members where.
"You there? Jules, Amy, Chikar?" he shouted towards the rear of the bridge.
"I'm here," came a reply. Marcus recognized the voice, it was Amy.
The captain, with difficulty, moved up to the back of the bridge, just in time to see Amy stand up. He spotted Jules laying on the deck, next to the power distribution console. Nearby was Chikar, apparently beginning to recover.
This was a fine mess. But at least they were alive.
"Amy, go and see if Amara needs medical attention," ordered Marcus as he hobbled over to Jules.
The engineer's forehead had impacted some hard angle on the equipment, and a trickle of blood ran down from above his eyebrow.
"Jules?" Marcus asked, as he bent down near the injured man. He didn't respond.
The captain reached out and felt Jules' wrist for a pulse.
He was relieved to discover that the Starfire's engineer was still alive.
"Captain, Amara appears to be temporarily unconscious but not seriously injured, and will most likely 'come to' in a few minutes," reported Amy, from the front of the bridge.
"Then come over here and check Jules... and where's the medical kit?" asked Marcus, as he propped himself up on a damaged computer terminal.
Amy walked briskly across the deck, carrying the medical kit.
"I've already retrieved the kit, captain," she said, carrying the mentioned kit in her hand.
"What's burning?" Marcus asked, as he stood up carefully, avoiding putting his weight on his broken leg. He moved over to the nearest window and looked out at the towering fire.
He pressed his hand against the transparent window. It was warm.
"We must have crashed into a forest..." he speculated, assuming what was, unfortunately, untrue.
The firelight cast irregular, flickering shadows across the powerless bridge. Most of the computer consoles were inactive, only a few of the monitors still displayed useful information. The audible alert had stopped, but Marcus wasn't sure if the problem was gone or the alarm had broken. He turned back to Amy, who was kneeling near Jules, scanning him with a medical analyzer.
Before he could inquire about the engineer's condition, Chikar's voice came from behind him.
"Captain, is the ship out of danger?" he asked.
"I don't know. We're alive, and that's promising." Marcus replied, as he tried to get the ship's computer to give a status report. The machine responded with a few feeble pips and complained about the power failure as it threw up a screen filled with calamitous-sounding words. It clearly thought the prognosis was grim.
Warning: Hull temperature exceeding recommended levels, zones 11-36
The Starfire, while resilient, was not built to withstand high temperatures - during areobraking, it was protected by advanced shielding, not a insulated shell.
Amy injected Jules with a painkiller from the medical kit. He raised his arm to his forehead and muttered something incoherent.
"Chikar, see what you can do about suppressing that fire." ordered the captain, who was now hobbling around Jules and towards the center of the bridge. Outside, he flames seemed to have subsided slightly, but gave no indication of being extinguished. Then, through the flames, he saw something...
A pattern of charred squares... brick? A wall?
Oh no, please no...
Marcus stumbled to the front and stared out the forward window. His fears were confirmed. The fire parted again briefly, revealing what was undeniably a brick wall.
"No..." he said, his voice a shocked whisper. He could not deny it - Starfire was resting against the blackened wall of a building.
"What is it, Captain?" Amy asked from behind him, as she stood up.
Marcus Carey was silent as he staired at the artificial construct before them. He couldn't quickly find words for a proper response, but mearly pointed at the now-visible brick. A moment later, he finally spoke.
"This isn't a forest that's burning." he said, distraught. "It's a town."
His ship had crashed into someone's city. Marcus shuddered to think of what damage a large spacecraft making an unpowered, emergency landing in the middle of a crowded city could do. He tried to avoid dwelling on it until they could size up the situation better.
Chikar stepped into the airlock, clad in an emergency fireproof suit and pulling a wheeled machine with two large cylinders behind him. The device bore large letters, 'Danger: Suffocation Hazard'.
The reptilian pressed a control, and the outer doors slid open, exposing the inferno beyond. What he saw confirmed the captain's fears: Chikar could clearly make out the shapes of burning, wooden structures. They were in various states of consumption by the fire, but definitely recognizable.
Chikar walked over the hull of Starfire, his boots leaving prints in the soot covering the hot metal as he dragged the tanked machine towards the edge of the ship.
He kicked away a piece of burning wood obstructing the ladder embedded in the side of the ship. It shattered in a burst of embers.
"Captain, I'm descending to the surface. You're right, this is a town - I do not see any natives. I should have the atmospheric displacement system ready in a moment, and will activate it as soon as I scan for survivors," he reported over the radio link.
Lowering the machine down, he swiftly went down the ladder and pulled out a scanner. He waved the probe around, trying to find any trace of living humanoids.
With a crash, one of the structures nearby collapsed and fell onto the side of the ship in a shower of flaming cinders and sparks. The noise didn't phase Chikar, as he continued to search vainly for anyone alive in the conflageration.
"I don't see any life forms, and these structures seem to be highly unstab... Wait, captain, I see something."
Chikar looked at the tiny readout of the scanner. It was hard to tell in the irregular light, but he thought he saw something. Yes, it was there - a single possible survivor, ten meters from his position.
"I've found one survivor," he stated, beginning to move in the direction indicated by his equipment.
The primary problem was the fact that those ten meters were more-or-less obstructed by blazing debris. He squinted his eyes as he boldly pressed forward, ducking through the burning doorway of a nearby structure. Chikar raised his scanner, but discovered that the heat had gotten to it - it's plastic bioscreen was warped and inoperative. Tossing the broken machine aside, he moved towards the collapsed frame of an interior doorway.
It was getting warm. Chikar recalled that this was technically only a fire resistant emergency garment as he entered the smoke-filled room where he thought the life-sign was detected.
"Is anyone alive in here?" he shouted, aiming the lights on his helmet into the dense, acrid smoke.
The fire hadn't reached this room yet, but Chikar held out little hope for a survivor. As he was about to back out and retreat, he noticed an adolescent Mianorian laying on the floor. He bent down and carefully picked up the humanoid. He placed the auxiliary oxygen mask on the beings face, and carried him - or her, he couldn't tell in these conditions - quickly out of the building. Moments later, the whole front room caved in, sealing off the interior.
Perfect timing Chikar thought, as he returned to the clearing near the ladder.
"I've found a Mianorian, captain, " said the voice of Chikar, over the speakers of the bridge. At least something still worked.
"Great, bring the survivor on board, and then get this fire out," said Marcus, sitting in the captain's chair.
"Yes sir." Chikar replied politely.
"Amy, go get the Mianorian at the airlock. I'll watch Jules and Amara." Captain Marcus said, turning to face the android. She wordlessly got up and walked briskly off the bridge.
Jules, now sitting upright on the ground, spoke.
"Why isn't there a seat by that console? Why should you have to stand to use one of the most vital control systems..." he complained, mumbling.
"Let's focus on the positive..." Marcus suggested.
"Such as? We crashed into somebody's town, main power is out, and..."
"You've got a point... But if you think about it, that's by no means a permanent situation - those people out there - whoever's left - have some very understandable issues to take up with the Starfire Shipping and Salvage Company, C.E.. We can't stay holed up in here forever, and I really doubt they've going to want to resolve their issues with us peacefully..."
"One thing at a time... " Marcus said quietly, despite knowing all to well that Jules' words were quite likely to be true.
The ship rocked slightly as it was buffeted by a surge of inert gases, unleased suddenly from the fire-suppression rig Chikar had activated remotely.
The flames outside were extinguished, leaving the bridge almost totally dark.
Marcus hopped over to a wall-mounted storage compartment on his good leg, and removed an electric lantern from it. The bright, white light cast stark shadows from the various disarranged machines, but did a servicible job of illuminating the area. He hung it from a hook on the ceiling.
"I hope we can convince the natives of our goodwill by helping that survivor." Marcus began. "At least it'll show we didn't mean to do this... " he said remorsefully, gesturing out the windows.
He tried not to think about how many Mianorians had probably been killed in the crash. He wasn't succeeding.
"`We come in peace' is a hard sell when you've flattened their city with your ship," the engineer said, as he stood up, and leaned against an inert console.
Marcus couldn't disagree. Given their fortunes, they'd almost certainly be attacked by something , and vengeful Mianorians were the most likely candidates.
Focus on the positive...
"I don't know. I made an educated guess about the correct dosage, based on average humanoid responses," said Amy, responding the Captain's inquiry in regards to the Mianorian lad laying on a cot in one of Starfire's cargo bays. This chamber was being used for a variety of roles, mostly involving storage.
"Care to make a rough estimate then?" Marcus asked.
"He will be awake in about one hour. Perhaps somewhat sooner or later."
"Fine, just let me know when he wakes up, alright?"
Captain Marcus took one last look at the humanoid. Mianorians were really not unlike humans, the differences, at least visually, were minor.
"Do you think the natives are a human race, or just a humanoid species?" He asked.
"I haven't done genetic tests yet. Based on observation alone, I think it is quite likely that they are a human race."
"Yes, but not unprecedented, there is evidence of several human colonies predating the discovery of hyperdrive, such as Evar and Galtarian."
"Yeah. Well, keep me posted." Finished Marcus, as he turned to leave.
There was something that wasn't right about the whole situation. This was a pristine world near a fairly major trade-route, perfectly habitable and populated with a human race. That last fact in of itself would normally draw hordes of anthropologists and historians looking to prove or disprove the latest ancient-astronaut theories.
The world's existence was a matter of official record... why wasn't it being colonized? He'd have to ask Amara about it, she was the one who'd found it in the database. He hobbled into the passageway, and towards the bridge, making rather awkward use of a crutch from the medical supplies. Even with healing accelerants, the bone would take almost a week to mend. Marcus regretted not investing in more capable medical facilities.
Amara thought for a moment. She was still a little light-headed from whatever drugs Amy had seen fit to administer to her, and somewhat unsteady besides.
"No. I'm certain - it was full quarentene, no reason given," she stated confidently.
"And we landed here..." Marcus groaned.
"It was the only planet - it was here or nowhere, and nowhere just wasn't an option," Amara said, defending the choice to make planet-fall despite the fact that landing on a quarantine planet was a very serious offense.
"Yeah.. I'd have done the same thing, I guess."
Marcus thought about the implications. The Confederation didn't ban traffic to any world without due cause, and if it wanted to protect the primitive civilization here, there was no reason to keep the motivation for the a secret. Yes, something was defiantly wrong with this whole scenario.
"Where's Jules, anyway?" Amara asked.
"Not sure. Last I saw him, he and Chikar were going outside to survey the damage."
"To the ship or the planet?"
"Not sure. Probably both," replied Marcus. He looked out one of the bridge windows and the rising sun. The dawn illuminated the devastation inflicted by Starfire's landing - the badly burned portion of the town extended for at least two hundred meters forward, past the nose the command pod. The Mianorian structures must have been built like tinderboxes...
A low, dusty fog concealed the lower parts of the charred ruins. The captain couldn't judge for certain, but he didn't think he saw any signs of activity in the undamaged portions of the town - the inhabitants must have fled. Amara joined him beside the window.
"Do you see anyone?" he asked her.
"No. Just burnt buildings. At least their army isn't here. Yet."
"Maybe they're afraid..."
"Or waiting for re-enforcements... " she speculated. "You know, this will be the fourth time something like this has happened since I signed on. My job isn't
Aid in escape from mad aliens on derelict', Fight giant rodent-people', 'Storm crackpot dictator's castle to free Ben', or..." She continued, enumerating the `adventures' on her fingers.
"And yet you never quite get around to quitting. Something must be good about it." Marcus interrupted his first officer.
She reflected for a moment.
"Must be the spirit of adventure," she said, ending the comment with a brief, sarcastic laugh.
to be continued.....
(A footnote: I apologize if the first part of the story falls short in any way. I place the blame for this on the fact that it was written in many small sessions. I hope it is okay anyway. Also, it should be noted that technicaly, Amy is a gynoid, not an android, but as this term has conotations (Google for it if you want to know what I mean) that I'd rather avoid, Amy will thus still be refered to as an android. Besides, the politicaly-correct terms for synthetic sentient mechancial beings are doubtless subject to considerible revision at this point in the development of the English language. Just don't call her a robot and everyone will be happy: as such beings are presumably highly rational, it is reasonible to assume that they will not be offended unless ofense was intended. Any reading this who are not should forgive my naive optimism.)
(This message has been edited by moderator (edited 06-29-2004).)
(This message has been edited by Bryce (edited 07-06-2004).)