Sunday, June 14, 2009
The three Seers ran toward the tent, smoke was billowing out the venting at the top. As they neared the structure they could See that there was life in the tent though they could not tell if any of the three were dead.
They slowed within a few paces of the tent; they could hear the ticking coming from the rad counter indicating residual radiation from the event. They stopped just outside, they wasn't sure if they wanted to look in. They were afraid of what they might find.
As Vernile reached for the flap they jumped with a start... "No not that Derek... that!" It was the voice of Willy correcting Derek?
"Tha... that metering cycle is complete… new info is here, write this down." Willy stammered.
From inside the tent Rose's voice could be heard as well, "This information is more than expected... I don't believe it!"
Ed stepped past Vernile and unzipped the flaps; Rose shrieked a reaction to the sound. Vernile helped Ed with the flaps, unzipping them the rest of the way and securing them open. When they moved the tent puffs of smoke belched from the vents. Savanah saw the evidence and said, "Liner failure... another couple of minutes of dosing and it would have been you smoking."
The three were so busy recording they barely acknowledged the Seer's presence much less their comments. Savanah reached into the tent and grabbed one of the clusters of tape, yards of readout from one of the meters and ripped it free. She read some of the color-coded printout and began jumping with excitement, screaming "Success… success! We're all rich."
Great smiles adorned the face of everyone, save Vernile.
Savanah began to have a feel for the experience that Vernile had first described to her in years past. She sensed the peace that he spoke of, yet never understood. She Saw with her eyes shut tight, that as the ring shadows cover the insidium field core and the vibrations hit their peak, so would this increasing sense of peace.
Though her concern for her lab partners was intense and focused, her absorption into this peace was quickly overwhelming all other senses.
The sound and tactile sensation of vibrations seem to diminish but she Saw that if she did open her eyes she would never use them again. Her ears on the other hand told her of the terror and perhaps pain being experienced in the tent.
This too could not dispel the tranquility she felt within.
Savanah wondered when she would know if the event was over... then she remembered what Vernile had said, "I knew that the rings were passing the main body of the fields because of the waning of the inner peace. I sensed this even before I could See it."
She knew this would have to be the defining moment for her, because she was losing all measurement of time, it would be the only way for her to tell. She could not estimate how far into the dosing she was but could only assume that the occurrence had not yet begun to subside, for this wonderful experience was still on the increase.
Then as if a barely discernable click went off within her, she could tell that the event was ebbing. With this realization she began to weep, though still at peace, a deep sadness began to intermingle with it. Where, before she had joy, now she was experiencing terrible loss. She found herself wishing that the dosing had taken her life.
She began to envy the three in the tent and thought about running away from the outcropping to be consumed by the radiation. Then she remembered the sound of terror emanating from the tent and the tortured accounts from years ago of those who later died from their exposure.
Convulsing in her tears, she held her place and tried to hold on to her newfound peace.
Savanah closed her eyes, she had heard from others who had been dosed including Vernile that the experience could best be ridden out with eyes closed.
Vernile was an excellent example of what could happen when one left their eyes open while being exposed. If they lived, the physical operation of sight would no longer be attainable. The cornea permanently scorched and scarred even with the smallest open eye exposure and solidified in their sockets if prolonged.
Savanah remembered how Vernile described the experience to her once... "I fully expected to die there in between my tent and the insidium outcropping. The only thing that felt safe was the insidium, I turned and ran toward the outcropping and as I did of course... the vibrations grew. But it seemed more peaceful.
I thought that meant that I was dying but I actually felt better the closer I got to the element. I never felt the destruction of my eyes there was never any pain and actually my ability to See grew and supplanted the natural. I had to be told that I was physically blind by the doctors when I returned to the settlement."
Savanah could tell that, though the vibrations had begun and the experiment was proceeding as anticipated, the safest place for her associates who were not Seers was not in the tent at all, but here huddled against the element. She could only hope for their survival.
Everything was in place, Ed and Vernile was checking all of their power sources to make sure everything was shut off. Savanah walked to just outside the tent to make sure the techs were set, "You three have all the power sources off?"
Derek answered in a shaky but loud voice "Yes!"
"You know what to do if us three don't make it?"
Rose answered "We take the money we have, hide on the other side of the crater for about a year then sneak our way back and try to buy passage off the planet."
"Good, hopefully this experiment will be a success and none of that will be needed. No matter what, stay in the tent and measure the readings and make sure of your recordings we will need it in writing if the event doesn't supply enough power to the collectors." She waited for affirmation then ran back to the collectors and with the other two, crowded as close as possible to the tubes and the crag they were mounted on.
Soon they could feel the faintest hint of vibrations.
Vernile was Seeing Savanah as they worked he wondered at her motives for all this, he knew it went far beyond benevolence, he wondered too, if she was ever able to See him. He asked, "How will the present Seer leadership be affected by the changes?"
"You mean if this works?" Savanah was struggling with the supports and really did not wish to answer the question even if she weren't busy.
"Even if it doesn't.” Vernile replied, “Everything will be changed by the lab's discovery and from what we heard from the techs it sounds as though someone got wind of it. And I can See we are being pursued by two groups and I am almost certain in the first group it is our leadership or two of its council members."
"So you've Seen that it is Jack and Crystal?" Savanah stopped for an instant to focus on Vernile's response, causing Ed's frustration to peak.
"More work, less talk we are running out of time!" Ed's hands were beginning to shake as he fumbled with the gear.
Vernile turned his sightless gaze to Ed as he held the tubes and gave what passed for a stare. This always accomplished two things; it shut Ed up and calmed him.
Derek, Rose and Willy stayed in their double-lined tent. They were not Seers and might not survive the close proximity to the fields, even with the tent's protection. Their departure from the labs was hesitant, they did not want to leave, but when they heard the bursts of gunfire just after they left, they were grateful for their decisions. Now they manned the monitoring equipment that was wired to the testing devices set nearer the perimeter of the fields.
Over the years they had cultured a high level of trust for the Seer’s they worked with and Vernile who, as a prospector was the only miner to deliver samples to their lab.
Savanah pleaded with her five researchers to run, suspecting the deadly outcome of her findings. These three survived and Savanah was hoping that the other two escaped, though according to the report from Rose she didn't think that was likely.
Vernile stood atop the bright metallic red insidium crag holding two threaded tubes made from inert insidium that was harvested from the planet's outer rings. These he held one end of each against the crag, the other ends pointed toward the sun.
Savanah was trying to place support under these to hold them in place, so that Vernile could join Ed and her on the grass at the bottom to aim the collector dishes at the tubes. These inert insidium dishes would in turn, would send readings to the tent, powered by the radiation generated by the expected exchange.
All of this, she hoped would change life for everyone but especially for the Seers on Necter Rapstren with her as their leader.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Vera listened to Science Officer Keiffer as he continued briefing his new officers as they were about to observe the event.
“This relationship between the stable insidium rings and the unstable insidium at crater center is what brought the mining colonies to Necter Rapstren three hundred years ago; the power levels were measurable a light year away.
The stable insidium of the rings would have meant the removal of them as a fuel source long ago, but samples assayed proved inert and therefore valueless as a fuel source. Something however was driving those power readings that could be recorded two systems away.
Further sensor explorations had led to the discovery of the unstable insidium at the crater's center. The volatile insidium prevented mass mining, it generated severe problems with its stable relative. The more powerful, unstable variety caused violent breakdowns in the machines using its stable cousin as a power source; the only ship that ever attempted a landing inside the crater had few survivors.
It was decided in those early years that for the sake of research and development we could use ancient methods and machinery at first for exploratory mining. For heavy mining to be cost-effective, the greater power potential would have to be tapped and a way found to use it to mine the rest.
Early testing, of the more powerful crystalline metal, showed such promise, that the company has not been willing to give up on the possibility of harnessing that power, though that is rumored to change.”
Beep, beep, beep.
Turning to the console, Keiffer silenced the alert and pointed to one of the five large monitors that were lit.“It has begun… first, take special note of the monitor devoted to infrared…”
Vera could See that the monitor to watch was not the infrared.
To be continued...
Shifter finished counting, and as usual, the vibrations that marked the start of shadow separation began almost indiscernibly. The power generators on the planet shut down, long moments later the vibrations began, and nearly every human, have hidden themselves under protective cover.
Centered in the insidium fields, the vibrations grew in intensity as sunlight increased through the three copper-colored insidium rings that encompassed the planet. As the sun’s rays passed through the small but distinct margins between the rings, somehow the color and intensity of the light was changed.
The light excited the exposed insidium that caused its unstable qualities to give off the deadly radiation and the telltale vibrations, all of which could only be viewed from space.
Even though animal life was immune to the deadlier effects of the radiation, the horses still needed to be tethered, and hobbled, or they would run off during the event. The un-cloven horses, only needed gear on their front legs, but the faster horses, the cud chewers with cloven hooves, were always more excitable and needed to be tethered individually to four-ways.
Crystal and Jack had got all six animals tied and grained, then settled into their tent to wait out the shadows.
Jack's clothes were soaked with sweat and Crystal could smell the poison in them. "Well, shedding that stuff as quick as you are, you ought to be back up to snuff by the time the shadows are gone."
Jack nodded. As he ate his rations, he talked between bites. "Having a hard time with my See! Stinking shot! Whoever it was, put insidium in the bullet. I'm thankful it just grazed me or you'd a put me in the ground already. How far to the next stream?"
"We got plenty, Dad. I don't need as much water as you right now.” She handed him the canteen. “Take as much as you need, we'll be fine. You need to wash out that poison. I'll need you when we catch them."
"As soon as we can we need to send a new memo, Shifter. It needs to say that whoever raided the archives has, also, been linked to the abduction of the lab crew.”
The Chairman continued speaking out his mental inventory as Shifter called it, “Magera has his orders. He knows what to do, and what to plant on the bodies to implicate these runners - and what to look for when he's made sure they are not talking." Chairman Roberts had forgotten the time.
"We need to power down sir," Shifter said as he walked to the main power cut off for the office complex. He pulled the stop lever, and then listened for the brakes on the wind generator.
"Wha... oh yeah." The councilman replied.
"Yes, sir. He is ready to take out his whole crew and make it look like a fire fight." The generator powered down and he heard the familiar screech then clack of the brakes locking. "He will retrieve the samples and the support equipment."
Slowly fading off in the distance, the sound of wind locks being set throughout the settlement echoed back to the Chairman's office. Shifter counted them.
"Harvis!" Magera yelled the tracker's name as he rested his hand on the grip of his pistol.
He was frustrated enough to shoot him and would just as soon let radiation take him, if not for the fact he needed him until Charls got back with Seth… "You'd better get in your tent! If you get dosed, I will let you die slow! I won't put you down!"
About a hundred feet from his tent, Harvis stood next to some prints. He looked up at the sky. "I got a little time... can't even feel the vibrations, yet."
“That is enough.” Magera spit. He pulled out his pistol and put a three-round burst into the prints. "You ride with me, Harvis! You do what your told, or you quit breathing!"
Seth knew Charls was wondering how he knew the names of those being chased. Charls looked puzzled. He offered without being asked. "From what you told me, my guess is, the second group of runners is a father and daughter by the names of Jack and Crystal."
"How can you tell?"
"Same way you can tell that both groups are Seers... but especially by what you mentioned… the method of chase that the second group is using to catch up with the first group." He could tell it was finally starting to come together for Charls.
"The second two are trackers?"
"Not just trackers… Not just Seers… You'll be able to See for yourself, if we catch them." Seth smiled and shook his head.
Seth had already been exposed to unstable insidium radiation, although no one but a See'r could tell. The exposure had been mild, and of short duration, but it had left him altered.
Charls shook his head. "Wouldn't mind a small dose if I could get a guarantee I'd end like you."
The saying brought Seth up short. He stared at Charls and was Seeing him for honesty.
Seth finally replied, "Seers don't make friends easy, even with other Seer’s... Let's get inside."
They made their way in and Charls asked, "Do you suppose you'll go?"
"I expect so... but I'll be wanting a big enough share to make Magera's eyes pop." Seth continued measuring him without his knowledge.
"Don't exactly think much of chasing after Jack or Crystal, either one. Much less trying to deal with both of them once they're caught. Just one of them could finish three men."
"Where… where are the battery packs?" Savanah said.
Vernile answered, "Calm down you have time... I put them on Ed's pack horse."
Ed sounded a little frustrated with Vernile. "Alright! You been through this more than once. That doesn't mean we will live through it... or not be maimed worse than you."
"That's enough Ed!" Savanah snapped. "He was just trying to get us to slow down. If we make a mistake, all of this could be wasted." She looked around. Everyone was busy except Vernile; he was keeping watch.
She knew that Ed had a point, but she couldn't afford to let him get wound up more than he already was.
Savanah and those lab rats she works with have disappeared. Shifter was somewhat surprised by the memo from the cartel agent.
"Anything in there say that Magera knows that?" Clancy sounded a little nervous about what Magera might, or might not know.
Shifter now wished that he hadn't read the thing out loud.
Clancy shuffled toward him. He smelled of pickled wheat.
"You're gonna have worse than Magera to worry about if you don't keep your distance." He kicked at the quickly moving shuffler.
Clancy responded with a whimper.
"I'm taking this memo to the Councilman. I don't want anyone bothering us 'til after the ring shadows pass the fields." Shifter passed through the doorway and disappeared in the direction of Robert's office.
"We're about due for ring shadows, Dad. We’d better make camp." Crystal scanned the green-blue skies of Necter Rapstren, holding her hand up to shadow her eyes from the sun.
The shadows of the three rings darkened the hazy atmosphere as though they were just one ring. They advanced toward the insidium fields, growing ever darker, ever narrower. They would continue, until the rings were directly beneath the sun, and directly over the fields. As they advanced, the one great shadow would eventually separate to reveal the two greater outer lines of shadows, with the smaller shadow between.
Once the shadows passed the fields, they would slowly join, and broaden, and lighten, until they would travel beyond the rim of the immense crater that held nearly all of the life on the planet.
"Yeah we'd better get after it... looks like a mild one, though. We can be thankful if we get cloud cover over the fields."
She knew her dad was trying to be optimistic about the haze in the sky; they both knew it would not likely turn to clouds.
Vernile had long ago lost his tendrils, exposing to full view his cranial ridge and his green eyes were fixed, unmoving, sightless. Oddly enough it did not inhibit his sight in the least.
"What can you See Vernile?" Savanah's voice sounded demanding, her tone suggesting to Vernile that they were not really partners at all.
Vernile ignored the slight and replied "Two Seers each with two mounts and one pack are catching up, they have both fast and stamina horses to ride. Can't really tell yet who they are." His long prehensile nose relaxed a bit, then he said, "If its Crystal and Jack I won’t try to stop them..."
Savanah interrupted him "If it comes to that we'll let Ed have at Jack, he's held his grudge long enough and has been looking for a rematch."
"Just doesn't make sense... why would they travel this close to the insidium fields? That land can be deadly to anyone - even a See'r." Jack used his sleeve to mop the cold sweat from his forehead.
"No good reason that I can guess at. They really can't hope to use it as a refuge... none of this tracks." Crystal tightened the reigns and steadied her mare, Delta. The overeager mount wanted to follow the residue of the trail, but she and Jack were not yet decided whether to follow such treacherous direction.
"You suppose Savanah is at the heart of this?"
"I don't know Dad, you know how she can get about things. Hard to say if it's her or the crew she's with... and we don't know what this is about."
Cabinet Chairman Roberts stood on the observation deck of the station waiting for order to board the surface transport. In even tones he asked his new assistant, "Have you any word on Magera's progress?"
Shifter cleared his throat. "If we had access to conventional power..."
"Ancient power sources, ancient weapons. You know our limitations - and we won't be able to use these as excuses should we fail. One of the first things that would happen to us, unless we are very lucky, would be the removal of our tongues."
The Chairman intentionally adopted a posture that conveyed to any distant observer that he was having a normal conversation, he even managed a smile. "We will go down to the crater rim within a turn. Within another turn, I will expect an update."
Shifter nodded his agreement.
Charls was a See'r, but he wasn't going let Magera know that. Not yet. He had spent too much of that talent in other star systems - and seldom got a just reward. Now he was home again. None of his people knew it. For that matter, he wasn't sure if any of his kin were still drawing breath.
He could See that Magera was chasing two groups of people - and none of his crew knew it. Not even Harvis.
He made real good time to Seth's place and could see the fresh bear hide stretched out on a rack as he approached.
Seth came to the doorway of his home smirking. "You come out of the closet yet?"
Charls laughed. "If I had told anybody I was a See'r, I sure wouldn't be here fetching you."
They both laughed, Seth asked, “Why are you fetching me?”
"I know that what was left behind… the way we left, points to us... that's not my point." Crystal stammered.
"Crystal, my point is that we may have to kill one just to get their attention... I don't like it... Nobody likes dropping one of their own. But, they may leave us little choice!" Jack favored his bad arm as he adjusted himself in his saddle.
They slowed for just a bit to let the animals breathe.
Jack knew, that in his present condition, Crystal would take it upon herself to do the fighting if it came to that.
Jack asked, "I'm sorry what are you trying to say?"
She shook her head. "We know them Dad. I don’t think they would do what we may end up being accused of!"
He replied, “I see your point.”
Yveon Herell, Governor pro-temp of Star Sector PFpc 1, called the cabinet of Necter Rapstren to a secret meeting. It was his intent to discuss possible repercussions of recent intelligence leaks.
He ended his final subject with a series of probing statements. "Gentlemen... if there were, indeed, any intelligence to be found with this debacle... there would not have been a leak."
He paused for a long moment, waiting for the slightest hint of a defense from anyone, especially Chairman Roberts. The absence, of that which he waited for, suggested that - perhaps -no member of this planet's ruling body might be guilty. It seemed only the capture of the suspects, and the subsequent bloody interrogation, could provide answers.
He continued, "Need I stress our great need for expeditious fervor?"
He glanced at their faces for recognition of his meaning. "Speed gentlemen!” he shouted. “We need these people apprehended now! If this gets out, we will lose more than our fortunes!"
Charls estimated that Magera had come to the end of his rope he watched the commander turn his mount to face him.
"Charls... didn't I meet you over at Seth's?"
"Yeah." Charls knew where this was going.
"You seem like a good rider... think you can get there, fetch him, then get back in two days?" Magera glanced at Harvis who had stopped his efforts to listen.
Charls assayed the lay of the land to the west in the direction of Seth's place. "I think so."
"Well get on it then, no time to waste, try to catch us before the ring event." He turned to Harvis and said. "You're a good tracker, Harvis, but you ain't no See'r."
Harvis went back to his task; Charls headed his horse to the west.
Seth crept silently toward the great bear. He knew that if he could keep the old predator from hearing him, he could get close enough not to have to use his gun. He didn't like using firearms - especially on animals. He always thought it an unfair advantage.
Muffled growling came from the beast that again had his head buried in the ribcage of the Krigelk. Seth jumped up, taking his advantage, and ran toward the massive beast.
Perfect! Three more strides to go!
The bear lifted his head out of the carcass. His large bloodied ears instinctively twisted behind as he heard Seth's approach. The bear wheeled around and stood to receive the intruder.
His auto-gun in his left hand, his short sword in his right, he buried his blade dead center of the bear's chest. As expected, the bear swatted him away with ease.
Seth rolled onto his feet gun at the ready. He watched the bear writhe as he struggled with the blade. Soon, the struggles were over.
"Now! That's what you get for your trouble! Instead of raiding my smokehouse, you'll be in it." he said as he tried rubbing the pain out of his left arm.
Magera and his men had been following Jack and Crystal’s trail ever since he lost sight of them three days past.
Here it was, morning of the fourth day, and he found himself wishing for his best tracker - again.
“Too much time has already been lost,” he grumbled under his breath. He knew it wouldn't help at all to goad this tracker. He couldn't help it if wasn’t as good as Seth.
He tried fixing his mind on the future. Why, just my commander's share of the bounty could buy me my own village; maybe I’ll just start one in a See-hole.
“I don’t care if they could be proven innocent,” he muttered. He knew Jack and Crystal would be dangerous enough: physically and in the arena of public opinion. Well, they can’t survive anyway. It was all beginning to leave a bad taste in his mouth.
“It really doesn’t matter now, does it.” He hated it when he talked out loud to himself. “Harvis,” he called out to the kneeling figure, “can you just get on with it?"
Harvis stood up. "Hard to track over these rocks, boss! Just wanted to be sure!"
Grunting, Magera rubbed his hands over the stubble of his shaved head. Maybe if we’re lucky, they won’t put up a fight.
Friday, June 5, 2009
“Wait!” Crystal replied, from her position at the top of the gnarled hardwood. The course bark of the Genjin tree scraped against her back as she twisted against it.
Squinting her eyes, she studied the cold, early-evening horizons. Northeast, the bold ring that was usually copper-colored, looked deep purple in the fading light. Nearer the horizon, she could still make out the inner edges of the other two below it.
Glancing down, she knew her father would be straining trying to see for himself. She guessed his patience was stretched to its limits.
“Bad enough we’re stuck in a See-hole,” Jack groused, “without this bullet wound giving me fits.”
She sighed out loud.
"No! No sign of either! Been a long time since you were up a tree hadn't it? Ain't all that easy."
“Stay up there all night, if it gives you comfort!”
She descended the tree, taking her time navigating the lower limbs. When she finally jumped, the landing jarred her teeth when she fell into the dirt.
Picking herself up, she made an unneeded attempt to brush herself off before she put her coat back on. The freezing wind burned her face, and her head ached.
Holding out the reigns of her mount in one hand, he gripped his collar with the other.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"I think we're gaining on the ones we're chasing, and the ones chasing us will never catch up.” She grabbed her weapon belt from where it hung on her saddle horn. “And I think I hate these pockets of land were we can’t use our See. You alright?" Lightly resting her hand on his wounded arm, she searched his face.
"Yep… suffered worse than this on my eyeball."
Though she laughed at his old familiar joke, inside she felt sick. Their future looked every bit as dark as the falling night.