Leon started to lean back, then his communicator chimed again. He stared at it for several seconds before sighing and touching the screen. “Let me guess…” He nodded at the image of his father. “He’s figured out a way to blame someone else but wants you or I to recapture them.”
Jerin sat down at his console and pulled up Kyle’s personnel file. At first glance, it showed him exactly what he expected to see. Kyle was top rated in hand to hand and considered a good soldier, though lacking in the qualities that would get him moved up in rank. Little ambition, no leadership skills, and minimal ability to improvise.
The colonists on board The Habria found themselves cut off from all their sister ships and alone in space. As they reached the last of their supplies, they found a habitable planet.
Unfortunately, the planet was already inhabited. The native population was humanoid, but primitive. They had a life span of only about ten years. Humans settled on only one continent in an attempt to preserve the native populace. The native populace, for their part, welcomed the newcomers from the stars hospitably, making Habria one of the few recorded instances of a wholly peaceful first contact.
The natives, affectionately dubbed ‘elves’ due to their delicate features, befriended the humans. And humans, being human, well, it was discovered that the two species were capable of cross-breeding. Rather than proving sterile or mutated, the offspring proved to heavily benefit from hybrid vigor. Rather than inherit the shorter lifespan of the native population, these hybrids proved capable of living twice as long as humans. Many also displayed signs of possessing psychic powers.
As time passed, both the native ‘elves’ and the original ‘humans’ vanished from Habria in favor of the hybrids. The hybrids began to spread through their section of the galaxy and eventually made contact with humans.
Resian IV is a harsh and brutal world. It freezes at night and cooks during the day, both of which last nearly four months. The native flora and fauna are hostile to human life. Its gravity is nearly twice that of most other colonized worlds. It was used as a prison planet and military training and testing facility.
Then contact was lost. Resian was left with no ships capable of interstellar travel. For the first year, the abandoned held out hope that relief would come. After that, hard decisions were made.
The military personnel and the surviving prisoners banded together for survival. When it became clear help would not come, the society segregated along gender lines. The comparatively few women moved into the caves and tunnels that had housed the prison and research facility, while the men went to the surface to find food.
Due to Resian’s nature and the lack of medical care, pregnancy and childbirth took a toll on the female population. At first, maternal mortality rates were one in five. For this reason, breeding became strictly controlled. As time passed, breeding rights became something the men had to compete to earn, ensuring only the strongest and best passed on their genes.
Culturally, they are tribal. They have no use for weakness. Due to the harsh realities of their world, they have no stigmata against cannibalism. Those who could not provide became provisions. What little government it has is matriarchal, ruled by a council of women that have survived into old age. They function as teachers and protectors of the young with their focus being on providing the children with the training they need to survive the brutal world. At sixteen, males go to the surface, and females join the breeding program.
This artificially enforced evolution combined with the slightly higher mutation rate forged the population of Resian into a subspecies of human. They are still fertile with homo sapiens, should they choose, yet have marked differences. Their vision is more acute, allowing them to also see into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums, and they have enhanced night vision. They are extremely strong and hardy, capable of withstanding greater environmental extremes.
When Resian was rediscovered, first contact did not go well. This lead the explorers to dub Resian an hell planet occupied by the infernal. Despite the best efforts of level-headed scholars, the name ‘homo infernal’ stuck.
“What the fuck do you mean our comms are scrambled?” Leon glared at Radko. “How?”
“They must have had an inside man.” Radko shook his head. “Vids are also down. Our people are trying to get them back up.”
“Your accent is passable, Jerin’s may be problematic.” Jakob exhaled. “I suggest you let us do the talking.”
“You do remember that he’s security and I’m espionage, right?” Jerin grinned at Jakob. “I know how to avoid military attention.”
Kyle felt the man next to him start to slide out of the bed and pulled him back. “Where do you think you’re going?” He smiled as he leaned in to kiss the back of Jakob’s neck. “Shift doesn’t start for a couple hours yet.”
It felt strange to be in civilian clothes. Even stranger to be wearing Alliance fashions. The long sleeveless jacket flared a bit as he walked. Next to him, Anson was dressed similarly. Julian selected a ripe fruit from a vendor, then a second one. He tossed one casually to Anson before leaving a credit piece for the merchant and continuing on.
“You really didn’t know.” Anson leaned in the door of the infirmary’s office.
Doctor Narel was sitting at the desk, his head bowed, and his hands clasped behind his neck. “I thought it a defensive facility.” He didn’t look up. “Not an offensive…” He took a deep breath. “Not an offense.”
He entered, shutting the door behind him. Then he took a deep breath of his own before sitting down across from the doctor. He removed the datachit from his vest pocket and set it on the desk halfway between them. “I downloaded their…” He sighed. “Pull the information on the vaccines and treatments off this, then dump the rest.”
For a moment, Jakob stared at the chit. He slowly lifted his head to meet Anson’s eyes. “Commander?”
“I…” Anson swallowed. “Would appreciate it if this stayed between us. We can tell them it was separate files, or the rest got corrupted, or…” He shook his head. “I can’t take the chance some asshole with more rank than decency will get notions about poetic justice and…” He shrugged. “Can you do that, or should I dump the chit entirely?”
“If anyone learns of this, Anson…” Jakob picked up the datachit.
“Fuck…” Anson twitched his shoulder and managed to smile. “What’s a little light treason between friends, right?”
Jakob laughed softly. “It was a spur of the moment operation, chance rather than planning. You grabbed what little data you could before the Alliance came to investigate…”
“And blew the place to deny them a resource.” Anson nodded. “Not like we had orders regarding it to disobey.” He leaned forward again, resting his arms on the desk. “You alright, Doc?”
“I am…” Jakob nodded. “Reevaluating ideals.” He looked away. “I did not pick up a weapon, Anson. Yet I gave orders that may have resulted in deaths.”
“You gave information.” Anson shook his head. “I gave the orders. You let me —”
“It does not work that way.” He rubbed his neck again. “There was a time I believed all lives had value. That all lives were worthwhile, worth saving. That everyone deserved to live.” He set his arms on the desk.
“Being in command means having to make decisions. Kill one man to save ten. Let ten men die for the chance to save a thousand.” Anson swallowed. “Order one man to die, so the rest might live.” He reached over and put his hand atop Jakob’s. “Don’t lose sight of those ideals, Doc, because they aren’t wrong. Our job in all this is to save as many as we can.”
The other man’s hand turned over to briefly grip his own. “Yes.” Jakob nodded. “Our job is to save as many as we can.”
“A decrypted intelligence core.” Mateo stared at Anson.
“A hundred years from now, when kids are learning about this war in history class…” Anson folded his arms. “Jerin and his boys are going to have a full paragraph dedicated to them.”
“Not unless we get it through the barricade.” Mateo swallowed. “Holy shit.” He exhaled. “How are they?”
“Doc kept Lukas breathing. He’s still too messed up to leave the infirmary, but Doc said he’ll make it.” Anson sighed, then twitched his shoulder. “Doc can’t promise a full recovery without more supplies.”
“And Yasir?” Mateo raised an eyebrow.
“Pushed the limits on the shield, but came through without complications.” Anson let his arms fall to his sides. “Captain…”
“If we stay out here, we are going to die. And cost Palindor the best shot it has had since this war began.” Mateo nodded, then turned to look out the viewport. “I know. And I am very open to suggestions on how to get past that barricade.”
“I’ll toss it out to the crew.” Anson squared his shoulders. “See if any of them get a sudden burst of genius.”
Mateo stepped into the office attached to the infirmary, and frowned. It was empty. “Captain?”
The voice behind him made him start. “Doc.” He looked around the infirmary. “I could have sworn you weren’t in here a moment ago.”
Jakob sighed, then held up a scanner. “I was just recalibrating one of the operating tables.” He shook his head, then gestured at the leftmost one. “Again.”
“It’s malfunctioning?” He walked over to see the open display. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Standard wear and tear. Unfortunately, the correct parts are not available.” Jakob set the scanner down on top of the table, then began closing it back up. “If we could refrain from having more than six crewmembers seriously injured at once, I would greatly appreciate it.”
“Yeah.” Mateo nodded. “Me too.” He shrugged. “I was just checking in, doing an informal inspection.” He looked down at the operating table. “Guess you just answered my question.”
“I am certain you are receiving the same answer in every department. We are running low on both critical supplies and methods of working around those needs.” Jakob shook his head before looking around the infirmary. “This style of ship was not intended for long term missions.” When Mateo glanced at him, Jakob gave him a half smile. “Commander Anson has provided me with military training manuals and readings. It is not the most scintillating reading material I have ever been assigned, however we both felt it was important I have the knowledge expected of an officer.”
“Anson is usually right about that kind of thing.” He sighed. “We are going to have to make planetfall soon, one way or another. Check the local systems and note any planets we don’t have the proper innocul…” He trailed off as Jakob handed him a datapad, then smiled. “And in the proper format too. You’re getting the hang of this.”
Sometimes, you’re just in the mood to destroy all life on a planet. Now, you could go with a bomb, you could go with a plague, but let’s face it. Nothing quite satisfies the urge like a classic ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’. So, I’m using this tutorial.
I could stand to clean up my dust trails a bit, and maybe add some fire on the front. Or duct tape a little screaming person on the front, that works too.
The Bringal system is unusual. Unusual enough that some suspect the system to have been manufactured in some way.
A massive gas giant orbits near the sun, known as a ‘hot Jupiter’. This itself isn’t what makes the system unusual. The first thing that makes the system unusual is that the gas giant is inhabited. The inhabitants, known colloquially as ‘star whales’ are massive, semi-draconic life forms. Little is known about them save that they are clearly of high intelligence and appear to have several life stages. During at least one of their life stages, they are capable of not just surviving but actively thriving in vacuum. From time to time ships encounter them swimming in the far reaches of space.
It is possible Bringal is not their home system, but merely a colony. If that is the case, then their origins are entirely unknown. They are, however, not the only odd thing about the Bringal system. The gas giant itself hosts no fewer than four inhabitable moons. Additionally, on the other edge of the habitable zone are two more habitable planets, with the smaller one orbiting the larger.
Furthermore, examination of the life forms found on these planets would indicate that they are not native to the system themselves. It is theorized that for reasons of their own, the star whales built the system and used it to house life forms collected from other worlds. Some think that the Bringal system is the star whale equivalent of a zoo, while others think that the star whales may have been collecting species that would otherwise have died out or been destroyed.
Thus far, the star whales have not shown overt signs of hostility. However, if threatened, they have proved capable of destroying warships with very little effort. They seem willing to allow ships into the system as long as the ships do not engage in hostility themselves. As such, the Bringal system serves as an effective neutral zone. Unfortunately, it also serves pirates as a safe haven, though it is worth noting that particularly vicious pirates that try to use the system as a refuge often simply vanish. Perhaps the star whales handle the matter themselves?
Being that my upcoming NaNoWriMo project is science fiction, I decided to head back into outer space for a while. This time, I went with this tutorial.
I have to say, that is probably the best nebula I’ve created thus far. Not overly pleased with the lens flare, but eh, good enough and easily adjustable. I didn’t use the texture provided in the tutorial, as it didn’t suit the desert planet look I was going for. This will be the world of Laatstehoop, one of the lost human colonies. The Dutch pilot who managed the barely controlled landing of the colony ship on this world dubbed it their ‘final hope’.