Reborn: The Uxel Herum Saga (Extended Adventure)

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Book 1 of the Uxel Herum Saga

To any Imperium official that asked, Uxel was a simple fruit merchant. She makes enough to make her business appear legitimate, nothing more. The real money was in selling weapons and information.

She encounters an intriguing stranger in the marketplace. One Uxel hopes will be interested in making a lucrative trade. But this stranger is not all he seems and the deal he offers Uxel has nothing to do with money but a chance to become a powerful tuner.

This young adult science fiction novelette is approximately 13,500 words.

Graduation from Basic (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 25

Cadet, Third Degree Reuben Calloway felt the sting of tears around the corners of his eyes but he managed to hold them back as he stood rigidly at attention.  He made it through basic training.  He made it!

His crisp, black and red dress uniform was spotless.  Reuben had polished his boots three times to ensure that they could reflect lights.  On his right arm was the traditional red insignia of the Imperium and on his left he now bore the symbol of Special Assault Corp.

He couldn't see them but he knew his parents were sitting proudly in the audience.  It was every human parent's dream to see their offspring have a distinguished military career.  They all were required to serve their five years but only the best continued on to become high-ranking officers.

Reuben could see himself continuing down this path.  He had been terrified of what he would have to face in training but now he was no longer afraid of his future.  He could handle anything the Rebellion threw at him, he was sure of it.  He still had four more years of schooling and training but it would only serve to make him even better.

The last speaker finally concluded and Sergeant Bamtrob walked onto the stage.  "You are now soldiers of the Imperium.  Soldiers SAL-UTE!"

The audience erupted into cheers and Reuben felt himself swell with pride.  This was the greatest day of his life.  Things could only go up from here.

Recovering (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 24

Reuben groaned as he tried to wake up.  His eyes still felt heavy and everything ached, especially his throbbing ankle.  Peering through the slits in his eyelids he felt momentarily disoriented.  He expected to see the familiar stone walls of his Gittern cave but instead saw the clean metal paneling of his barracks.

Then he remembered.

The rendezvous point... his tracking device not working... barely making it to the ship just as the doors were closing...

He also remembered making it back to his bunk and feeling as if he could sleep for days.  Perhaps he had?  He had no idea how much time had elapsed since he returned.  He glanced at his chronometer.  It was only a hour or two from dawn.

The sound of light snoring made Reuben look around.  Some of his classmates were also back in their bunks but not all.  A girl he had trained that had had a pretty smile was missing and Reuben felt saddened.  Not everyone had been as lucky as he.

Tapping the screen on his chronometer he saw orders to appear in full dress uniform at 0700... two hours from now.  He leaned back against his hard pillow and let his eyes close again.  He made it.

Survival Day 14 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 23

Reuben's eyes felt heavy.  If he could just close them for only a minute everything would be so much better...

No!  I have to stay awake!

There was only one hour left until his rendezvous time.  The pickup point was only twenty minutes away but he couldn't risk leaving too early.  The weather was too unpredictable, too brutal.  The heat seemed to have lessened slightly by Reuben was not fooled.

His stomach growled.  The first thing he was going to do when he got back was eat.  The roots that he had found and the rations had been enough to sustain him, but not much else.  The biting edge of hunger had become an old friend by this point... his only friend.

Forty minutes left.

Reuben peered outside his cave.  The weather still seemed to be holding.  Now was the time.  Tightening the straps on his pack and boots, he set out at a brisk pace despite his protesting ankle.  There would be time enough to let his limbs heal.  He would not be stuck on this lifeless rock.

Twenty-five minutes left.


The ankle was slowing him down more than he thought it would.  He was going to have to pick up his pace.  The weather was noticeably cooling off by the second which made Reuben glance around nervously.  Snow was sure to start soon, he could feel it.  There would be no way for him to make the pickup in time with a bad ankle and trekking through feet of snow.

Gritting his teeth, he tried to ignore the pain as best he could and pressed on.

Ten minutes left.

A thin sheen of frost began to form on the skin of the mushrooms.  Reuben looked at the time and quickly did some calculations.  At this pace he should arrive there exactly on time.  Exactly on time.  No room for error.

Two minutes left.

His tracking device began to blink and fuzz out.


Looking around frantically he search for any signs of the ship.  The mushroom forrest made it impossible to see very far but he should at least be able to hear the ship... anything!

He heard a low rumble coming from the south.  At least he thought it was from that direction.  It was impossible to be certain but he didn't have time to question his decision.

He sprinted in that direction has fast as he could.  The rumbles were growing louder as the engine prepared for take off.  There!  In the small clearing!  He could see the transport shuttle.  The doors were slowly sliding shut.

"Wait!  I'm here!"

Survival Day 13 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 22

It wouldn't have even mattered if he could walk.  There was nowhere to go.  The heat seemed to be growing more and more intense as each day dragged by, turning Reuben's hideout into a veritable oven.  The only problem was that it was still hotter outside the oven than in.

Tomorrow.  They're coming to pick me up tomorrow.  All I have to do is make it to the rendezvous coordinates they send.

The heat was making him delirious and his ankle was so swollen he could barely move his foot.  It didn't matter.  There was no where to go.  Best to put off the agony of shoving on his boots until the last possible minute.

What if they forget about me?  What if the season changes make landing impossible?  Or what if they interfere with the rendezvous signal?  What if I'm stuck here?  

Reuben tried to shake off the unsettling thoughts but found it impossible to totally reassure himself.  Prolonged isolation had toyed with his mind, making him paranoid.

They're going to forget me.  I'm just one cadet among thousands.  Why would they care if I was alive or dead?  There will be twenty more to replace me.

Best not to sleep then.  It was the only way to ensure that he heard the communication signal when it came.

What if it already came?  What if I miscounted the days and they've already come and gone?

Survival Day 10 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 21

The heat and painful throbbing of his ankle woke Reuben up for the umpteenth time.  He saw that his sprained appendage was turning several different shades of purple and blue.  With a groan he grit his teeth against the pain and leaned back against the cool stone floor of his cave.

For the second time he had barely outrun the vicious storm.  There he had been dangling twenty feet above the ground and watching the lightning roll in with brutal efficiency.  He had had no choice.  He had pulled his knife out of the mushroom stalk and slid the rest of the way down grabbing whatever he could to slow his decent.

His landing had been less than graceful, the force of the hitting the ground was enough to make him roll his ankle despite the thick combat boots he wore.  Fueled by adrenaline he had managed to make it to the cave right as the first wave of deadly bolts began to strike the ground.

 Four more days.  Just four more days of this and I'm done.

Four days might as well have been an eternity.  His survival pack contained bandages and coagulants but nothing so trivial as a pain reliever.  Which meant he couldn't even find respite in sleep.  Added to that the heat and humidity of the early summer season was oppressive.

Four days.  I can do this.  Only four more days...

Survival Day 8 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 20

This is not good.  Not good at all.  Vert!

Getting stuck on top of a giant, slippery mushroom was not something they had covered in basic survival training.  In fact, if any of his commanding officers saw him now they'd probably laugh at his foolish mistake.

But there was no way I could have stopped it from happening!  I wonder how many cadets end up like this?

It was a question he wasn't really sure he wanted an answer to.  He'd seen the ferocity of Gittern's storms.  He'd seen how many mushrooms had populated the planet before compared to after.  He didn't stand much of a chance and unlike the mushrooms he didn't just grow back.

He had to figure a way out of this.  He did not want his parents to suffer the humiliation of receiving a transmission saying he died during basic training due to getting stuck on top of a three-story piece of fungus.

This wasn't going to be easy.  Despite the rapid growth rate he could see happening all over the surface of the planet, no other shorter mushrooms had sprouted nearby.  So jumping down was out of the question.  The dome of the mushroom he was perched on was far too slicked to safely hang on to the edge to see if there were any grips on the underneath side.

Reuben had managed to hang on to his survival pack but unfortunately it contained no cord or climbing gear.  Which mean he was going to have to improvise.

The only tools he had where his pistol and knife.  Not much but better than nothing.  Setting his pistol to the lowest energy setting, he aimed carefully at a portion of the dome a little bit away from where he was sitting.  There was a sizzle followed by an unpleasant smell.  Reuben inspected his work and saw that there was a hole large enough to stick his fist in... or be used as a foothold.

He briefly considered blasting a hole straight through the dome to the stalk.  But he nixed the idea based on the size of the mushroom and how little damage the low power setting had caused.  To cut through the dome would take almost the entire charge of his pistol's power cell.

Aiming again he fired a few more blasts, enough for him climb down the side of the dome and dangle off the edge.  The decent was still dangerous, the inside contents of the mushroom were squishy and unstable.  More than once he almost slipped right out.

Gripping the edge of the dome as firmly as he could, Reuben took three bracing breaths and then took the plunge.  Panic tore through him as he realized that the piece he held on to was not strong enough to support his full hanging weight and the main stalk was too far away for him to reach.

His left hand completely slipped off the dome and he could feel his right wouldn't be far behind.  Realizing that he had to act now or never, he reached across his belt and grabbed his knife.  Swinging his body once... twice... he heaved himself toward the stalk with as much force as he could muster just before the piece of mushroom he held onto broke off.

For one heart stopping moment he was suspended in air.

He slammed into the stalk hard enough to knock the wind out of him while jamming his knife into it with all of his strength.

The knife sliced through the mushroom's outer membrane easily.  Too easily.  At first Reuben thought it might not be enough to slow his decent.  After plummeting several yards down he finally came to rest.  He was still dangling nearly twenty feet off the ground however.

With a grunt of effort he reached for his pistol with his right hand and blasted a few uneven holes for his feet.  Using his knife as a sort of climbing pick to steady himself and his pistol to make footholes in the smooth surface, Reuben was managing to climb down... very slowly.

He only had about ten feet left when a familiar roar tore through the sky.  He knew that sound.  Another storm was about to start.  He had minutes, maybe less.

There's not enough time.

Survival Day 7 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 19

It was the middle of the night and Reuben had been watching the lightning for hours now.  At first it had been an exciting spectacle.  Now he really just wanted it to stop.  He knew that surviving should be keeping him occupied but, quite frankly, he was bored.  Bored and lonely.  He hadn't realized it before but until this training regiment he had never gone this long without speaking to a single creature.  He had always taken light pleasantries for granted.  Now he would give just about anything to be able to say a simple "hi" to someone in passing.

The loneliness and boredom gnawed at Reuben, amplifying how featureless the cave walls were and how hungry he was.  He was by no means starving.  But intensive rationing did not allow for him to eat until his belly was full.  If he had been in the thick of action he probably would not have even noticed.  But sitting in this cave...

The rain abruptly stopped making the silence that followed almost eerie.  Reuben knew he had no time to waste.  Grabbing his pack he sprinted out of the cave and straight back to the large mushroom he had tried to start work on before.  Fortunately, the rain had made the ground soft.  The lack of snow also made digging much faster.

It didn't take long to find the roots.  The mushroom was large enough that even the shallower growths were nearly as thick as Reuben's arm.  He touched the root and held his finger there for a few seconds.  No burning sensation, no allergic reaction... so far, good good.

He pulled his knife out and sliced off a chunk.  Nothing oozed out, also a good sign.  He bit off a tiny piece and held it in his mouth, his heart hammering in anticipation as he waited for any possible toxic side effects to take place.  The root was bitter but not completely revolting.  More importantly, it was food.

Aside from leaving a dry taste in his mouth, nothing seemed to be happening.  His tongue still felt like its normal size, there was no itching or swelling on his body and, after checking his reflection on the blade of his knife, no strange spots.  It may not be gourmet dining but food was food.

Reuben began to hastily slice off more root sections.  Time seemed to be his greatest enemy on this planet.  Not enough time to gather and far too much time doing nothing but twirl his thumbs in the cave.

A deep rumble shook the ground.

Vert!  Not another storm!

Another rumble.  It occurred to Reuben that it didn't sound the same as the storm he had heard before.  This noise wasn't coming from the sky.  It was almost as if...

The ground started to move.  Yelping in surprise, Reuben managed to grab an armful of the roots before a huge dome shaped something began to push its way up right where he had been standing.  Reuben watched in awe as a huge mushroom sprung from the soil and grew right in front of him at an incredible rate.

So that's how those things survive.

The soil beneath his boots began to shift again.  Reuben shifted the weight of his bundle and started to sprint back to his cave but it was too late.  This time the mushroom was faster than he was.  It was all he could do to hang on for dear life as the newly formed fungus stretched itself toward the sky.

Passepid Shield (Weapon)

Creators: Strozzi on the planet Kortholt

Description:  A weapon designed for a true warrior.  The Passepid is an energy shield that has the ability to change angles.  The actual device is a deceptively simple looking wristband that hides extremely complex circuitry.  Able to detect impact up to a millionth of a second before it occurs, the Passepid will automatically adjust to the optimum deflection angle.

Young strozzi warriors go through intensive training to master such a device.  The complete potential of this shield can only be unlocked if the wielder learns to work with the device rather than against it.

A few tuners have been seen wearing the Passepid.  But such sightings are rare since in order to acquire this device, the tuner would have to come to a trade agreement with the notoriously inhospitable strozzi. 

Survival Day 5 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 18

Reuben could hear the roar of fast approaching rain close on his heels as he sprinted back to his cave.  His lungs burned as he tried to gulp down Gittern's thiner air.  Rain itself was not something Reuben was worried about.  But lightning storms and flash floods were definitely something to be afraid of.

By the time he reached his cave, the large droplets had already been pelting him with bruising force.  No wonder nothing but mushrooms could survive here.  He wasn't even sure he could survive here.  Sure, he had had basic wilderness training but all of that knowledge seemed useless when faced with the raw power of nature.

Perhaps that was the point?  To make him respect the elements?

Reuben shrunk back into his cave as a bolt of lightning struck the ground about 5 yards from the entrance.  Even with the downpour he could still see a few tendrils of smoke rising up.  The decision to retreat had been a smart one.

Pulling out his pistol, he blasted a few more holes in the ground to increase the size of his makeshift basin.  At least his water problem was solved for the time being.  He had been careful to ration out his food intake.  But he was going to be in trouble if this weather didn't let up soon....

Survival Day 4 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 17

Sleep was impossible as the raging winter storm continued to howl outside so Reuben resigned himself to light dozing.  The thermal blanket he had pulled out of his pack seemed almost useless against the below freezing temperatures.  But something was better than nothing.  Gritting together his chattering teeth he pulled the thin fabric even closer.  He had to remember to look for fire fuel when he got the chance.

Snow was accumulating in thick sheets but at least the deadly ice storm had stopped.  Reuben could deal with snow.  Any minute now the winter weather should start to slow down and give way to spring... whatever spring meant.

Reuben blinked his tired eyes.  He had to stay somewhat alert.  He had to watch for his chance.  On a planet that changed hourly, every minute counted.

With startling suddenness the sheets of snow stopped.  Reuben sat up and checked his chronometer.  A little early for the new season but he didn't have time to waste.  Double checking the fastenings on his jumpsuit and the ammo level on his pistol, he trudged out into the waist-deep snow.

He knew already from his walk to his cave that there had been no usable resources.  At this point it would be best to attempt another direction.  He had only made it a few yards from the opening of the cave before stopping to think.  What were his priorities?  He needed food and water.  Snow was water. Clean water at that which is something he might not be able to find elsewhere.

He was going to need a container of some sort...

Heading back to his cave he turned his pistol up to the highest setting and in three powerful bursts he had drilled a hole out of the bedrock floor.  Not a perfect solution by any means but if it gave him just a day or two of extra water without having to tap his rations it would be worth the spent ammo.

After carrying several large armfuls of snow to his makeshift water basin to melt, Reuben resumed his quest to find food.  He knew that Gittern had native mushrooms but that was questionable.  He vaguely remembered from school that many types of fungus were poisonous to humans.  The roots of some of the larger growths might be a better bet.

Trekking through the frozen buildup was slow going but at least it was easy enough to see where he was going.  Most of the younger mushrooms had been destroyed or buried.  Only the largest ones remained.  He stopped at the foot of one such growth and dropped his pack to the ground. Reuben had just started to make serious headway shoving aside snow with his bare hands when a distant roar made him look up.

He had never heard the like before.  Was it an animal?  Peering off into the distance a black cloud loomed on the horizon.  Lightning sliced flashed and an almost solid wall of rain was rapidly moving toward his general direction.

Spring was here.  He looked down at his progress and back at the approaching storm.  There wasn't enough time.  Picking up his pack his sprinted back toward the cave.

Survival Day 3 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 16

A chuck of ice large enough to render a man unconscious struck the ground near Reuben's feet with brutal force.  He dove for the cover of his cave with mere centimeters to spare.  The winter on Gittern had settled in full force and what a force it was to behold.  Reuben had never seen anything quite like it before.

The entire planet was being decimated by the violence of its season.  Only a few a few of the larger, sturdier mushrooms were managing to survive the onslaught of ice and electric storms.  It made even the coldest winters on Reuben's homeworld, Tabor, pale in comparison.

A chunk of ice roughly half Reuben's size hit the ground outside the cave causing a few deadly shards to explode off of it in every direction.  Reuben moved deeper into his temporary home to avoid being struck by the shrapnel.  At least his choice of shelter was a good one.  The cave was at the base of a large hill and it seemed to be holding its own.

Reuben shivered and he recalled his briefing.  The days on Gittern lasted about eight standard hours and each season lasted for three of Gittern's days.  If he was going to survive this he was going to have to become acquainted with these seasons fast.

Another huge chunk of ice sailed by the cave's entrance.

When he had been dropped off by the shuttle the weather, though not welcoming, had been more or less temperate.  If this was a Gittern winter Reuben was not fool enough to think that the other seasons would be any better.  But it made sense that there had to be lulls long enough for the native fungus to grow.

Winter was going to last another day.  It was a risk but as soon as he saw the storms let up a bit, Reuben was going to have to head out and see if he could find a source of food before the next season settled in.

Viala Fighter (Ship)

Creators:  Strozzi on the planet Kortholt

Speed:  5
Armor:  5
Maneuverability:  6

Description:  As with their weapons, the strozzi value versatility when it comes to combat.  The superior warrior wins the fight, the weapons she uses are merely tools.  Compared to the others of its class, the Viala is neither the weakest nor the strongest ship.  Originally designed for planetary combat, it was adapted for space flight a mere 100 years ago.  It's maneuverability was increased slightly with later models.

The only notable feature about this fighter is the reinforced armor in the front.  Essentially, it has the ability to ram its targets provided the pilot is experienced enough.  Through trial and error, it has been found that this feature is best used when not in outer space.

Pay Up (Adventure) - Calen Natari Saga 18

Councilor Chum made it to the island in record time.  Calen grunted in approval.  She must have impressed him because the councilor was a busy man.

"I see my source was correct about you, Ms. Natari.  I assume your urgent message means you've been successful."

"I've completed your task.  You'll find the body of a spy behind that rock over there.  I hope you're not squeamish.  Next to the body you'll find a transmission device.  I've checked the internal records and they date back several years, all sent from this planet to various Imperium controlled planets.  You'll find a list of other potential spies here," she handed him the data pad she had obtained from the resistance.

"Good work," the councilor said as he scrolled through the list of names.  "You realize that you have potentially just changed the tides of history, Ms. Natari."

Calen shrugged.  "I care little for your political squabbles.  Make no mistake: I'd take the same type of assignment for the Imperium."

Chum studied her for a moment with his expressionless eyes.  "Perhaps.  You may also end up changing your mind about the Imperium.  They are not a forgiving sort when mistakes are made."

Calen put her hands on her hips.  "I don't make mistakes very often," she said.  It was not a boast.

"No.  I suppose not.  Well, either way, I am grateful for your services.  You've become a wealthy woman today, Ms. Natari.  I'll put the word out in the right ear as well.  You'll find job requests a bit easier to come by in the future."

The Island (Adventure) - Calen Natari Saga 17

The simplicity of the spy hideout made Calen want to laugh.  Of course the informants were on an island, the last place a race with thriving underwater metropolises would think to look.

Calen had watched as her suspect headed toward one of the larger masses of land before veering off to give him a wide berth.  She would have to land a fairly good distance away in order to avoid raising suspicion.  Dipping the Oboi beneath the waves, she piloted the vessel away from the island for nearly ten standard minutes before looping back toward what her calculations said would be the side of the island opposite where the suspect landed.

She hoped her calculations were accurate.

Tracking prey on land was one thing.  This whole tracking prey in a water environment seemed to be testing every skill that she had.  The hunter in Calen thrilled at the challenge.  This was exactly why she had left her home planet.  She wanted to be a legend.  To achieve what no other scarlati had ever dreamed of.

Calen pulled her vehicle to a halt a few meters from shore and flipped on the autopilot to keep the ship from drifting.  A vessel sitting on land would be more easily spotted than one sitting in the water.  Opening up the cockpit hatch she jumped into the water and swam the rest of the way to shore.

She immediately removed the helmet on her environment suit and took a deep breath of fresh air, flicking her tongue out to test for smells.  Her prey was close.  Closer than she would have liked but she couldn't smell any fear so he obviously still had no idea he was being followed.

Calen checked the charge on her cloaking device.  Half charge.  Enough for her to get close and make her kill.

The island was littered with small trees and rocks.  Not much in the way of cover but Calen would make do.  Sticking close to the larger boulders, Calen darted to and fro with the silent stealth of a highly experienced hunter.  To move without being heard was something the elders taught all scarlati from a young age.

Calen had already learned the hard way that these zelenca were highly sensitive to their surroundings while underwater.  She was unsure how many of those senses carried over to land but she was not about to make the mistake of underestimating her prey.  A hunter unable to learn from her mistakes was as good as dead.

Climbing up a large cluster of rocks, she peeped over to get a feel for the lay of the land.  Her target was about 400 feet away working at a small transmission station.  Calen tasted the air again.  Still no fear.  Her target must have operated like this for years without incident, lulling him with a false sense of security.  Perfect.

She activated her cloaking device and pulled her knife out of her boot.  She made short work out of sloppy prey.

vi Sniper Rifle (Weapon)

Creators:  Strozzi on the planet Kortholt

Power:  5
Range:  8
Accuracy:  7

Description:  A sniper rifle that has been designed for close combat situations.  The strozzi are a proud race of warriors and hunters that need versatile weapons.  The tip of the barrel has been sharpened to a spear-like point and the weapon itself has been thinned and elongated so it may be wielded like a staff.

Such modifications have come at a slight cost.  The extra long barrel and unusual tip shape are not optimum for the rifle portion of this weapon.  This sniper is powerful but perhaps not as accurate as others of its class.

Tailing the Suspect (Adventure) - Calen Natari Saga 16

The airlock filled with water and Calen did her best to avoid needlessly bumping into others.  The airlock was crowded but she wanted to take no chances.  The room filled quickly, however, and most of the workers seemed to be distracted with getting home.  All creatures have habits, the elders had told her.  We assume things will go a certain way.  It makes life simpler.  When tracking prey the best disguise is to work your way in to the creatures habits.  If you are part of what they assume, they will not be looking for you.

Calen watched how the workers reacted to the change of environment.  They stood there relaxed and patient.  As the water made it impossible to stand, they allowed the currents to dictate their movements. Calen did the same.  To accidentally bump into someone this way would be expected.

The pressure equalized and the doors swooshed open.  Her target walked over to the landing pads where the employees kept their vehicles.  Calen had guessed that she might be in such a position so she had parked her Oboi close by but out of view.

Flipping on the submarine's engines she peeled away in the direction of the landing pads, hoping she had missed the suspect.  The zelenca could move much faster through the water than she could so there was a chance he had already reached his own vehicle and left.

Dozens of ships were leaving the landing pad area all at once.  Calen cursed under her breath.  Even if he was still here, it would be easy to miss him in all this chaos.  No wonder the poorly organized resistance never got beyond this point.

Not knowing what else to do, she followed the swarm of ships as they all headed toward the more residential portions of the city.  Calen noted with interest that the ships seemed to move together as one, not too unlike some of the schools of fish she had seen swimming around.  Not connected to whatever sense they used to do this, Calen did her best to mimic their driving style.

After traveling for a few minutes a few of the vehicles began to break off in different directions, presumably to go to their respective homes.  Calen slammed her fist against a control panel in frustration.  She felt so helpless so... out of control... in this environment.  It was not a feeling she was accustomed to when hunting prey.

Suddenly one of the ships veered off and began to head in the opposite direction.

That's strange.  Why would the pilot head back to where he just came from?

It was possible that he had just changed his mind about his destination.  But worth checking out nonetheless since she had nothing else to go on right now.  The vehicle increased speed and Calen punched her own throttle to match, staying back just far enough to be inconspicuous.

The tiny sub wove its way through rock formations and structures for quite some time before suddenly shooting toward the surface.  Calen smiled grimly.  The Spirits had favored her hunt.  This had to be her suspect.  From what she gathered, the zelenca almost never traveled to their planet's surface.  But if one were trying to hide from the planetary authorities, the islands would be the perfect place to do so.... 

The Dome (Adventure) - Calen Natari Saga 15

Calen shifted her weight ever so slightly to relieve the cramping in her arms.  She had broken into the Dome several hours before the workday began, wanting to have time to examine her surroundings.  A falsified key given to her by the bartender had granted her access and after that it had been easy to avoid the basic security measures in place.

It was a relief for Calen to not be floating around.  She felt like her prey was now on her terms now, something a hunter always desired.  But the first thing she noticed was the presence of bright lights everywhere to illuminate the work place.  Her cloaking device would not last long in such an environment so it was necessary to find a hiding spot in order to preserve the charge for when she needed it most.

She ended up climbing on top of a large storage tank that was almost touching a portion of ceiling.  It was a tight fit but Calen had long ago become inured to staying in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time.  Worthy prey and the honor of making a difficult kill always made the wait worthwhile.

The images of the two suspect officials were burned into her memory.  Carrying around a data pad on such a mission was impractical.  If they showed up, she would recognize them.  Many hours had gone by since the large airlock doors opened up to admit the first wave of workers and bots into the Dome and there was still no sign of either suspect.

Two more shifts left and entered before the first suspect finally walked in.  Finally, Calen thought.  She watched the zelenca with interest as he immediately went to work overseeing a portion of the factory floor.  The bartender had been correct in that if messages were being sent, it was not from the Dome.  The official was constantly surrounded by employees giving him little chance for privacy.

Calen could see that the zelenca had limited power at best.  He supervised but Calen counted at least eight others that he seemed to answer too.  If the man valued position or wealth he would be ripe for bribery.  He was also in a key location to give the Imperium valuable information.  Invasion on a water planet such as this would be difficult.  But it would make strategic sense to try and cripple the economy by destroying its factories.  All it would take is a handful of precise attacks to completely undermine the government.

The zelenca's behavior changed subtly and he began to glance at the airlock as if expecting someone.  The change in behavior would have been imperceptible to a less experienced hunter.  Another wave of workers and bots entered and with it came the second suspect.

So, there is a connection between them.

The two exchanged data pads, a seemingly normal occurrence between the supervisors of each shift and the first suspect began to head toward the airlock door.


Calen either had to take her chances following her first suspect or stay where she was and watch the second.  Making a split-second calculation she activated her cloaking device and climbed down the storage tank with impressive agility, slipping into the airlock mere seconds before the door closed.

Brainstorming (Adventure) - Calen Natari Saga 14

"No names," the bartender said firmly.  "I don't want to know who you are and you don't know me."

Calen shrugged.  "Fair enough.  Now tell me what this resistance of yours has uncovered so far."

"Not much, I'm afraid.  Most of us are civilians and not in positions of power to really do any deep digging.  But we do know that the spies are zelenca traitors.  As you've probably figured out, it's not easy for an outsider to get around our underwater cities.  It would be impossible for a stranger to live for years here without anyone noticing.  We think that the spies probably have an interest in Shawm joining the Imperium."

"A reasonable assumption.  What actions have you taken?"

"We have no wish to undermine our own government.  Which is why you are such a convenient discovery.  We have made a point of following around those that we suspect.  But they are tricky, these traitors.  They are careful to hide their tracks."

"Tell me who you suspect," Calen asked as she idly toyed with her knife.

The bartender shook his head.  "Nothing is positive.  And we have no names.  But I can give you the images that we took of them.  There are two.  Both of them are high level officials at the Dome."

"What's that?"

"We have found that some manufacturing is best done in an oxygen based environment.  So the Dome was built to house such productions.  The thing is, that building only has interplanetary communications.  So if messages are being sent to the Imperium, it's not from there."

"It would be too suspicious to send messages directly from the Dome, anyone.  It would compromise their position."

"We thought that too.  But we have yet figure out where they could be sending the messages.  Our cities have very tight security.  This is partially why our government foolishly believes that invasion is impossible."

She slid her knife back in her boot.  "Leave that to me.  I'm going to follow up on this lead.  I'll be back if it turns out to be a dead end."

"And if it doesn't?"

She laughed.  "Consider your problem solved."

Strozzi (Race)

Home Planet:  Kortholt

Affiliation:  Rebellion

Description:  A proud race of humanoid warriors that are strongly dominated by the females.  As a protective evolutionary feature, hard, sharp bones protrude from their bodies to protect the more sensitive areas such as the spine and shoulders.  They tower above the average human by about two feet.

Because of their dangerous exoskeletons, only males of this species have been able to successfully mate with the females and live to tell the tale, their bodies specifically designed to fit the contours of the female.  Because males do not carry the young of such a great race they are considered to be the inferior gender.  The males live freely, not as slaves, but hold large ceremonial battles where they must fight to earn the right to mate.

This species is divided up by tribes but each family seems to live a considerable distance away from each other.  As far as scholars can tell, an extremely advanced trading route seems to exist to allow the strozzi to live in such a fashion.  Though how, exactly, the trade route works remains a mystery.

Strozzi are in favor of the Rebellion but are not thus far actively involved in any of the conflicts that take place outside of their homeworld.  As far as they are concerned, theirs is the superior race.  If the Imperium wishes to convince them differently, they are welcome to try.

Focused Body, Focused Mind (Adventure) - Uxel Herum Saga 9

"Stop looking around!  I told you: watch one spot, nothing more."

Uxel readjusted herself on her perch, a special piece of furniture her master had put together for her use alone.  He had been extremely meticulous while assembling, careful not to have his orders seem suspicious but at the same time wanting to know exactly what Uxel preferred.  Uxel had been unsure of what to make of such a grandiose gesture.  She barely remembered her parents and since their deaths no one had given a 'vert as to whether she was alive or dead.

"The burdon of learning should never fall solely on the student's shoulders," Master Achushnet had explained.  "Teaching is a skill in and of itself.  I teach you things and you teach me things in return.  A student cannot learn in an environment that feels uncomfortable.  Consider the perch my welcome gift to you."

That had been weeks ago and the excitement had long since been worn off by the acute sense of frustration building up inside of Uxel.  These drills seemed to be going nowhere.  Master Achushnet refused to move her on to other material until she had learned to control her body.  Her very survival had depended on her being in constant awareness of her surroundings.  How was she supposed to override a lifetime of habits with his stupid drill?

"You let your emotions get the better of you, Uxel.  You are only frustrated because you allow yourself to be so.  Patience does not mean an absence of frustration.  It means that you are completely in the moment.  Enjoying and fully aware of everything going on in this instant and not all the things you could or would rather be doing.  Only with patience will you heighten your awareness of your surroundings.  Try it again."

Uxel glared at her master skeptically.  But it did strike a chord with his last speech.  She had never considered that this exercise might make her more aware of the details around her.  At least that, if nothing else, was something she could take away from these lessons.  Readjusting herself on the perch she calmed her mind and went through the steps of meditation.

Her mind instantly recoiled when it realized what she was trying to do.  But instead of fighting the need to wrestle with the frustration she let it wash over her.  There was no where else she needed to be.  No one she had to talk to.  Nothing.

The frustration became less insistent and Uxel began to focus on her breathing.  In and out... slowly... deep breaths.  She made no effort to control the stray thoughts, she let them come and pass through her mind at their own accord.  All that mattered was the breathing.

A sense of calmness started to creep in, not as fleeting as a stray through.  This emotion was much deeper than that.  She felt the need to scratch but ignored it as she continued to breath.  In and out until she suddenly realized that she was thinking about... nothing.

A Brief History (Adventure) - Uxel Herum Saga 8

The master's dwelling was surprisingly cozy and no so very different from the nests on Uxel's homeworld.  Uxel was slightly comforted by this.  Perhaps it would make her stay feel like less of a chore.  Achushnet poured two glasses of amber colored liquid and handed one of them to her.  Uxel took a sip.  It had an earthy tasted and burned going down but creating a pleasing warming sensation inside her stomach.  Interesting.

Achushnet pointed to a chair and sat down on the piece of furniture opposite.  "You are not used to alcoholic drinks I take it.  How old are you, Uxel?  You seem young."

"By my people's standards I have been an adult for several years.  According to the Standard Timeline I am seventeen."  She looked at the indicated chair.  "Do you mind if I perch?  Sitting like a human is... uncomfortable."

"Make yourself at home.  So tell me, what do you know of the tuning system?"

"Just rumors and legends mostly.  I'm sure none of it is accurate."

"Rumors and legends can usually trace their source to fact.  Tell me anyway."

"Well, just that tuners are masters of an ancient power.  They have learned to control themselves to tap into this power.  They usually wield weapons called resonators.  They have their own code and are usually admired but also sometimes feared.  Certainly a force to be reckoned with."

"On a very basic level, everything you have said is so far correct."

Uxel was intrigued.  "So you can control an ancient power?"

"Not exactly control.  We learn to work with the power behind the universe."

"What do you mean?"

"We long ago discovered that everything in the universe has its own natural vibrations, no matter how faint.  You, me, a rock, this planet... we all vibrate with energy.  These vibrations are part of what makes us what we are.  For example, every species vibrates at a different frequency.  So in that sense, a species is the same.  But every individual will have slight variations."


"How fast or slow the vibrations are.  Fire has a very high frequency, it's particles move quickly which is why we feel its warmth.  Ice has a lower frequency, it's particles have slowed down in the freezing process."

"How can tuners control this, though?"

"I said already, we don't.  But we can work with our surroundings.  First a tuner must master themselves.  You will have to discover your body's natural frequency.  Once you know that, you can learn to temporarily increase or decrease that frequency level which will allow you to interact with objects in different ways."

Uxel puzzled over this.  "How would it be different?"

"Well, if ice has a lower natural frequency and you apply a high frequency force to it, what would happen?"

"I could melt it!"

"Or shatter it.  Or make it change to steam.  It depends on how precise you are."

"When do we start?"

Kortholt (Planet)

Affiliation:  Rebellion

Native Race:  Strozzi

Main Weapon Produced:  vi Sniper Rifle

Main Ship Produced:  Viala Fighter

Description:  A temperate planet for the most part.  Kortholt boasts just about every type of natural terrain from beautiful oceans to pristine forests to majestic mountains.  If it weren't for the native race of fierce women warriors, this planet would have long ago been conquered by the resource-greedy Imperium.

Rebellion spies have uncovered rumors that Korholt may very soon expect a full on assault.  Imperium military strategists have so far had a difficult time figuring out the best way to go about it since the strozzi have no apparent capital or overly large cities.

Survival Day 1 (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 15

"Calloway!  Your drop point is next!"

Reuben clung tightly to his survival pack.  The pack and the jumpsuit he now wore were the only things between him and death for the next two weeks.  The thought both scared and thrilled him.  He had never before felt so intensely... alive.

The shuttle swooped low and the doors opened.  Reuben jumped out and then watched as the shuttle became a tiny speck in the sky.  The other cadets participating in this survival test would be scattered around the planet.  Theoretically, it was possible to find another cadet and team up but it would be difficult and a waste of valuable time.  Not a safe strategy to bet on.

Reuben glanced around.  Gittern truly was a sight to behold.  It seemed to be mostly dirt and rock and fungus everywhere.  Mushrooms of every shape and size populated the surface; some small enough to be crushed by his boot, others bigger than full-grown trees.

He could spend hours just starring as the alien setting but that would be foolhardy.  His first priority was to find shelter.  The second was to find a source of food and water.  His survival pack contained enough dried rations to last him two weeks if he really watched how much he consumed.  But that was a quick way to lose strength and potentially make him vulnerable.  His third priority would be to fashion some sort of weapon.  His pack contained a short-ranged pistol but if that somehow got lost, he would be in trouble.

The mushrooms made it difficult to see very far.  He noticed, however, that the ground toward the east seemed to slope upward and became rockier.  Rocks meant shelter and higher ground meant a chance to scout the area.  It wasn't much but it was a start.  Besides, he only had a few hours before the seasons changed...

Final Test (Adventure) - Reuben Calloway Saga 14

Reuben stood stiffly at attention with the other cadets in his training squad.  His formal uniform of black and red had been washed, starched and polished with extreme care.  Reuben couldn't help but stick his chest out with pride at the addition of his third degree pin.

"So you think you know a thing or two about combat do you?" Sergeant Bamtrob said as he paced between the lines of Special Assault trainees.  "Well think again."

Despite his growing confidence in his abilities, Ruben couldn't totally surpress the flutter of nervousness at the sergeant's words.  When his CO said something was going to be difficult, it usually was... very difficult.

"For better or worse, you've all passed your first year of training and now the real work begins.  No more play-time.  You either pass, or you die.  In exactly 36 standard hours you will all be flown to the planet Gittern to begin your final two week survival test.  You'll receive a standard survival pack similar to what you would find in your ship should it crash in a hostile environment.

"Your objective, cadets, is to survive.  Gittern is an extremely hard environment.  The seasons change every 24 standard hours not to mention a few other fun surprises that I'm sure you'll discover.  This is not a youth camp, cadets.  This is military training.  Not every cadet has made it out alive.  But if you're smart and you remember your training you have a good chance.

"So I suggest you spend the next 36 hours resting.  You'll need it.  Dismissed."