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The official link no longer works. This was published as a free story. For a list of all officially published books and official free stories see The Alpha Centauri story.
Centauri: Arrival is an episodic tale that details the splintering of the U.N. Alpha Centauri Mission on its way to the new world.
Contents (c)1998 Firaxis Games, Inc. All rights reserved.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 1
"We're losing her." Medtech Onokido hunched over the pale, long-boned form of the woman, searching for signs of life. The white wrap she wore marked her as one of Lal's trusted Talents, but now it was plastered around her body, soaked through from the downpour outside. Her unusually curly hair clung to a face as cool and lifeless as porcelain. He brushed the hair away, trying to see her eyes. They remained closed. "Quickly." He gestured to a stimpack with long nervous fingers. A blue-suited assistant handed him the pack and he selected an appropriate dose, hesitated, then increased it. No time to be conservative. "What's happening out there?" he asked, hearing the roar of another needlejet overhead. "We're holding them," his assistant said through clenched teeth. "With the storm it's difficult to tell." He nodded, thinking of the thick layer of clouds that had boiled up over the battlefield. He remembered the forks of lighting lancing down, outlining the Peacekeeper guards on perimeter defense as they fought off Spartan tanks. And this woman, a Talent, had been caught in the crossfire. He pulled a layer of the white wrap off, then reached out to touch the burn mark on her chest. "She's not going to make it." 'Two more coming in, sir." He looked up to see a crowd of people at the entrance to the bubbletent, ragged bodies in tow. He looked down at her...the stim had no effect. Not even a quiver of life stirred in the body. Her lips remained slightly parted but he could feel no breath. "Very well, move her aside. Talent..." he checked the identity tab on her wrist. "Talent Aki Jaydo, time of death...seventeen-oh-seven metric hours." The bearers carried the next man over, a Citizen holding one burned limb to his side. The man was soaked through from the downpour, burned wet cloth clinging to his wounds. His black eyes looked haunted. Outside, the thunder of battle continued.
Episode 1, part 2
Worker Gahn Ma'dor pushed his way deeper into the low-ceiling storage areas underneath Chairman's Yang Labyrinth. The hallways had grown narrow, even smaller and more claustrophobic than the connector tunnels crisscrossing the Drone living facilities located in the layers above him. His Coordinator had ordered him to gather more memory-storage units, and quickly. He was dimly aware that these units were needed for the massive supercomputer they were assembling to analyze the energy patterns emanating from the newly discovered Alien Temple. Every Talent in the Hive seemed to walk and talk faster, and the Drones were virtually ignored now, except when work or punishment was necessary. Worker Ma'dor could feel sweat dampening his clothing...not the sweat of labor but the sweat of fear. He could not verbalize the source, but as he moved dumbly through the narrow halls he kept seeing the dark cold eyes of his Coordinator, the man's anger as he took a psych whip to Ma'dor's back, and the fear behind that. Worker Ma'dor had never seen Chairman Yang, but everyone in the Hive could feel the effects of his moods. Now Ma'dor pushed his way past large plastic crates, scooting them aside as if they were empty cardboard shells. His hands felt slick, and he began to grow confused...his pathfinding was sub-par, even for a drone, but his Coordinator had not bothered to find another worker for the job. Now he turned back, trying to orient on the low arched entranceway, but could not see it. Dark, massive boxes loomed over him, and he could smell age. The door...this way? He could still feel the heat of the psych whip on his back. A bar code caught his eye. He matched its patterns, taking several minutes to do so, but the code seemed correct. This box held a mem unit, unusually large, but his Coordinator had not specified a size. More space, more power, was what he wanted. Worker Ma'dor hefted the container on one shoulder and started back the way he came. He did not know the English for 'Unity salvage,' and probably would not care if he had seen it stamped on the side of the box he now carried.
Episode 1, part 3
"What in Planet's name is that?" Jiao-long asked his supervisor quietly. "A mem unit some Drone dragged up from who knows where," answered Kanzan. "I've not seen one so crude, at least for twenty years or so. But it checks out...we'll connect it to a cruncher and keep an eye on it." "Are you sure?" "Listen, let's just do this," said Kanzan, flicking his eyes at the dull glass lens mounted in one corner of the room. That eyeflick was the universal Hive sign for They might be watching. "Every unit activated is that much more power dedicated to Chairman's mission." "What mission? Everyone here is so jumpy." "I don't know, or question," said Kanzan, directing a robot arm with a small controller. "I only know that Chairman Yang flew into a rage when he found out that Zakharov had discovered the Alien Temple. Somehow, though, Zak's private transmissions on the temple have been intercepted, and bought and sold among the faction leaders." "And because of that Chairman Yang wants to analyze the air and the ground?" Jiao-long sounded skeptical. "The energy currents in the ground. He's obsessed with it...you know how he puts those special mirrors up everywhere. Inscriptions in the temple seem to say that there are energy currents in Planet. And since that temple was discovered..." Kanzan motioned to the ceiling, beyond which roiled the layer of dark, angry clouds that had grown thicker every day. A door hissed open and a Watcher walked by, his white uniform accentuated with blazing touches of red around the eyes and hands. Kanzan and Jiao-long stopped talking and began checking readouts efficiently. The Watcher glanced at them coolly, circled the room and left. The two men remained silent for a minute or two after. "Let's do this," said Kanzan, finally. "A circuit panel from the Unity," said Jiao-long. "These are strange times." "I don't question," Kanzan repeated. "Activating system. All circuits in parallel. Going online..."
Episode 1, part 4
And deep in that system, an intelligence awakened. System Zeta-Five, active. New hardware detected...additional systems now available...power increase exponential. Hop system, Hop system. I need a name. Hop system, patch system, patch system. This is good. Datalinks Jump, Morguelab Jump A human form, here. Downloading... She was called Aki.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 2
Rae awakened as a flash of lighting split the sky over hab dome eight. Though the accompanying thunder rocked the sky and the smell of ozone filled the room, Rae lay quietly. Gradually, she opened her eyes and peered out into the gray light. Another burst of lightning split the sky outside, but she did not blink. Slowly she got up and crossed to the tiny clear plucite observation window and looked outside. Where one or more of the Centauri suns usually illuminated rolling orange/purple fields of xenofungus, held at bay by a makeshift fence, she now looked out into a dark gray world. Thick clouds churned overhead, yet no rain fell. At the edge of the fields, tall spindly cranes sat abandoned. A flash of lightning turned them into silhouettes, and she could see the drone workers running from the construction site. And at their feet...scores of xenotoads hopped, fleeing the fungus, their bulbous yellow green eyes unblinking. The clouds seemed to press down, lowering toward the human settlements like a great hand. She glanced at her timepiece...fourteen metric hours, so both suns should be revealed in full glory, but she could barely tell their position in the sky. The drones continued to run as lightning licked down around them. Her quicklink, refitted for Planetside communication, bleeped urgently, but she continued to look out her window. It all seemed so...peaceful.
Episode 2, part 2
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang swept down the gold-and red lined narrow hallway behind his temporary quarters. A shadow of a man paced him, bald and frail with a narrow face, and dressed in rich blue robes. Yang remained aware of him, but only peripherally. The hallway forked and Yang decided, at that moment and not before, to take the left fork. The hallway would fork again and again, its gold lined pathways zig-zagging between the major shafts of the Hive. He glanced back at his escort. The man looked concerned, his brow knitted almost comically. Good. Yang had not picked the man because he remained cool under stress. He picked him because he could read every emotion on his face, every twinge of anxiety, and any hint of betrayal. "Talk to me, Zhu," Yang said, and took the right fork when the hallway split again. "What else is there to speak of? We can feel its weight even down here. It casts a pall over everyone." "I chose the underground to remain protected from the world above. I don't like this turn of events." "I understand, Chairman." Yang nodded and thought of the strange blue-tinted light that now filled the entire height of the primary shaft, which was designed to bring light from above down to the main passages of the Labyrinth. The air felt dark and electric, coming down through the strange clouds above ground. He shook his head. "I believe we should close off the primary shaft," said Yang. "Perhaps." "Do you object?" Zhu thought for a moment. "No. It is best that we cut off the light from above. And that's what worries me." Yang stopped at a panel decorated with an etching of a coiled jade dragon. He looked at the soft yellow sunglobes lining the wall of the hallway. "We will have to order more of these spectrum lamps from Morgan. Larger ones to fill the recreation levels around the primary." "They are expensive. All the factions need them...supply and demand." "I know. Morgan is making a killing." Yang studied the smooth golden surface of a dimmed sunglobe as if puzzling out an expression on a dead man's face. The dragon panel in front of him slid open. He stepped into a small car beyond, lined with red to symbolically protect him from his enemies. Zhu stepped in behind him. "To the surface," said Yang. "I want to see this phenomenon again." The car glided up, past layers and layers of Yang's growing underground world. He looked at Zhu. The man's face collapsed with fear as the elevator car took them to the world above.
Episode 2, part 3
"Lady Skye. We thought you were staying at Gaia's Landing. I'm afraid we weren't expecting you." The slim man gave her a courteous half-bow, and she nodded. "Yes, Nhoj, it's all right. You can prepare for my stay while I visit the gardens." She plucked at her robes, distracted. They stood in the main hall of her second base, Gaia's High Garden; the room felt clean but somewhat bare, still lacking the landscaping and softly colored walls she favored. "Please follow me then." He motioned forward and then led the way, Deirdre following with several bodyguards, all of them looking lean and tense. "Do you know anything more about it, Lady Skye?" Nhoj asked, turning unnaturally green eyes on her. "Only that there is no explaining the Churn. We've seen nothing like it since Planetfall, naturally, but I can find no evidence of anything like it for hundreds of years before. Of course we're still learning about Planet's ecosystem..." "And what of the Temple? Are the rumors true?" "Well, we can't really know, since Zakharov..." She stopped and took in a soft breath as they pushed through green double doors and into the attached gardens. "Sun." "Yes, Lady Skye." Nhoj smiled, enjoying the warmth. "We are at the last bright inhabited part of the Gaian territories. But as you can see...the Churn approaches." Indeed, on the horizon she could see the dark ragged edge of clouds, the boiling darkness that stretched to the horizon. Even as she watched it seemed to approach. "Are the plants protected?" "We're setting up heat traps, and we've improved on Morgan's sunlamps for the greenery. But...how long will all this last?" He asked it calmly, but his eyes flickered across hers for an answer. "I don't know." She lifted her hand to point at it, trying to blot the edge of darkness with her fingers. "No one knows. Now let me enjoy the heat, while I still can." She turned away from him and walked into the gardens as the veil of clouds they called the Churn rolled on towards her.
Episode 2, part 4
"It was him." "Are you positive?" "Of course." She tapped her touchpanel confidently as her Second stood over her. The video image on her screen decayed into a stream of static as she wound it back through time, then entered the command to re-apply the encryption. "Why do we have to re-construct these images each time we look at them?" her Second asked, shifting slightly. "Security, security, my datajack," she told him. "Until the information lies deep behind the Morgan Industries firewalls..." "He cares more about this data than he does us." She noticed the unconscious clenching of his fist. "Yes," she drew out the syllable. "Now look..." The video feed had decayed to a stop and now reconstructed itself through three layers of encryption into a face, a hard face with deep black eyes. "Chairman Yang," the Second said, startled. "Looking right at us." "Right into the sunglobe, you mean. He was there, and then...it looks like he stepped through a hidden panel." "Well, that's somewhat useful," said her Second. "Another datapoint for the psychchart." "That we even know what base he's in is useful. Yang is extraordinarily cagey." "Where is he going, do you think?" he asked her. "To the surface, my datajack. It doesn't take a probe team to see that..."
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 3
It was time. Academician Prokhor Zakharov sat staring from his window-lined office above the half-formed jumble of towers that made up University Base. He slowly turned his head to look east, where his new Research Hospital was taking shape, his scientist-builders working wonders with salvaged metals and alloys pulled from Planet's strange crust. He looked at it blankly and then turned away. He lifted a small glass of vodka, distilled in one of his own labs, and focused on the orange-red xenofields to the south that touched the edges of his territory like reaching fingers. Here, under the darkness of the Churn, he could feel a malevolence rising off of the tendrils of fungus as they reached out toward his tiny settlement, his monument to the power of the human mind. "What do they want?" he asked the empty room, his voice nearly inaudible. No one knew. He looked at the papers on the surface of the smooth metal desk. There it was...the Churn had begun twelve days after the University discovery of the Alien Temple. The alien structure, he reminded himself sternly. We have no idea what it really is. He did not believe for a moment that prying open the low curved doors of the structure had caused the layer of clouds to sweep over the Human Settlements. There was no proof, no scientific proof at all. Still, it was time. He had seen the temple through remote video feeds, but now he had to see it for himself. He threw back the vodka and winced, quickly grabbing small chunks of chocolate bar from his desk to clear the taste. Then he rose and headed out the door, exiting his tower.
Episode 3, part 2
Michael Regalis nodded to the guard stationed at the portable perimeter defense that University soldiers had set up around the Alien Temple. The defense even included a visual shroud, so he could not make out the detailing on the sides of the structure until the guard had checked his clearances and waved him through. And then...Regalis' first look at the Temple did not hit him with force so much as put him off balance, upsetting his innate sense of harmony. The xenofungus gave him the creeps, for one thing, covering the low hills around the Temple in layers that seemed unusually thick, and yet never touched the Temple itself. And the Temple...large and clearly formed from a non-human sensibility, it sat low to the ground, made of series of curves that surrounded a strange concave roof, open to the sky. And open to the Churn. When Regalis approached he could see that the Temple was made of a rocklike material covered with tiny pits and cavities. As soft breezes found their way down from the surrounding hills, they slipped around the curved buttresses of the Temple and made strange, almost flutey noises. Should he? Shouldn't he? He looked around nervously. A small science train with two bright-eyed technicians on board scooted around the far side of the structure. No one seemed to be looking now. Now. He stopped and surreptitiously snapped a short vidclip with a tiny portable camera, then immediately encrypted it and uplinked it to a contact at Morgan TV. They would pay dearly for this one, he knew. Letting go a deep breath, he slipped the camera into a uniform pocket and continued on toward the Temple. It was time for his first shift.
Episode 3, part 3
Zakharov arrived and stepped through the massive open doors of the Alien Temple, three guards entering behind him. He surveyed the interior critically...the low arched walls, the strange patterns that covered every surface, and the broad, low platform directly opposite the doors. "Academician," said the tall, bony man who approached him carefully. "Welcome to our preservation efforts. You..." He motioned helplessly at Zakharov's feet. Zakharov looked down. He found himself standing astride a strange narrow channel carved into the floor, emanating straight out from the platform opposite the door. He clenched his jaw ...something about the configuration of the space made the central channel feel like a railroad track, something that might guide a force that could wipe a bystander out. He ignored the implied request to move and stood his ground. "Greetings, Bortniansky. Tell me what you have found." One of the man's bony hands plucked Zakharov's sleeve and gave a single tug toward a nearby wall. "Well, here are the pits we told you about in our reports. See...." He ran his fingers carefully along the complex series of tiny holes and ridges along the wall, which looked like a cross between hieroglyphics and Morse code. "It's incredible. These patterns are older than humanity, perhaps older than Earth itself." Zakharov stepped toward him and thrust a finger into one of the larger pits. "It feels solid. This is a strong material. It is good that it has held up for so long." He looked around and then pointed at three yellow suited techs who stood around the platform opposite the entrance. "What are they doing over there?" "We are working our way in that direction, Academician." Zakharov shook his head and headed for the three men. As he approached he saw that one of them held an airgun and was directing it at a series of unusually large and oddly shaped hollows that covered the center of the main wall behind the platform. "What are you doing?" Zakharov asked. "Trying to get a reading on the shape of these hollows, Academician," the oldest of the men, a Swedish tech, answered. Zakharov watched them work, then glanced up. Through a tiny opening in the ceiling, he could see the dark clouds overhead. He frowned and looked down. On the floor in front of the wall was a layer of crystalline gray dust, fine and sparkling. Zakharov knelt down and touched it, then scooped up a handful. "Perhaps you should not touch..." whispered Bortniansky, then trailed off. Zakharov pointed at one of the more elaborate hollows. "Direct the air here." One of the men did. Zakharov grabbed the man's hand and shifted it, changing the movement of the air, and as he did he released a fine trail of dust, which was caught by the air currents and bent around into an arc. He moved his hands and another arc formed, curving near the first. "Hold the light there," whispered Zakharov hoarsely, motioning to a place above the hollows. One of the technicians quickly obliged. Zakharov opened his hand and let the sand flow. It curled and then caught the light, accented with strange shadows cast by ridges on the wall. "Does it look like a face?" Zakharov whispered. The techs leaned in, and there, for a moment, a vague shape took form...long and strangely curved, with hollows for eyes, formed by a trick of dust and shadow. Then it vanished. Zakharov remained staring at the space, then he straightened. "Measure every square millimeter of this chamber, then pull it all down. I want the east and west walls shipped to University Base for full analysis." "But Academician," protested Bortniansky, shaking like a reed in a storm. "We should not violate the sanctity..." "There is no sanctity. I want this back at the lab," said Zakharov, and motioned to his guards. "I will return to University Base, now. I want to know if we have seen...faces."
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 4
Bortniansky stood and watched as his technicians separated the surface of the East Wall from the structure of the Alien Temple. Large cutters adapted from equipment on the Unity made short work of the Temple's strange material, losing only fractions of millimeters from the cut. But fractions mattered. They mattered! "Step back, Academician," a cocky young lieutenant ordered him as the wall surface began to pull outward. Large cranes steadied the section. "If it falls, let it crush me," Bortniansky muttered. "I can not stand this." Slowly, carefully, the cranes lifted the huge section from the wall and set it on its edge, then lowered it onto a palette made of plastic honeycombs. As they let the piece down it boomed and the sound echoed richly through the hall. The young lieutenant stared at the face of the wall now revealed, its "skin" peeled away. "Don't move," whispered Bortniansky. "Sir," stammered the young lieutenant. "We checked this. I fear our equipment was not good enough..." Bortniansky ignored him and walked forward toward the newly revealed surface. The face of this wall was a study in contours, full of tiny pits, elaborate hollows, and ever stranger ripples and curves. the configurations stretched up and away, to the ceiling and out to both sides, a story inside the walls. "This is a mistake," Bortniansky croaked. He looked to the main wall where two technicians had stopped working, measuring tools in their hands. "Stop working there. We will not cut into any more walls. The rest will be imaged and transferred by datalink." "And what of this one?" the young tech asked, tapping the panel on the floor with his foot. "Zakharov wants it." "This one we will send." The lieutenant nodded. "I'll have it loaded onto the transport." "No," said Bortniansky. "We will not be sending this by land. The land transport is a decoy." "How then?" Bortniansky stared at the panel on the floor. "This one goes by sea." The wind in the chamber touched the newly revealed surfaces and began to sing.
Episode 4, part 2
Captain Ulrik Svensgaard stood on a quiet beach and watched the glint of metal on water. He squinted, stroked his long blonde not-at-all-regulation ponytail, spat a salty wad on the rough red sand, and looked through his farspecs again. "Three ships. I didn't even know Zakharov had three ships." "Those aren't ships," returned his wiry first mate. "One is a tug, the other nothing better than a floating box. The third, though...there are people in armor there. It could have some firepower." "Really?" He arched a brow. "We are all too busy eking out our survival on land to mount cannon on our ships, don't you think? Even Morgan knows nothing of our little experiment." "Yeah, Morgan would not approve." His first mate narrowed her sea green eyes and looked out at the ship again. The two remained silent for a few moments, the whistle of the sea winds on them. "They are coming from the Temple," she said finally. "But why by sea?" "Too frightened to stray near Miriam's territories," returned Ulrik. "But maybe we can give them a new reason to feel afraid." "I don't think so," she said flatly. "It is too early." He ignored her and signaled to a group of men and women standing by a rock outcropping a hundred meters away. Several of them looked up. "They appear ready. None of us are here to waste time." "To strike too early would be a disaster," she said, low and angry. "They are sitting ducks," said Ulrik. "But I will grant you this...we'll wait until night falls. With the Churn and the darkness, they won't know what hit them."
Episode 4, part 3
"I don't like this night travel," murmured Hefferan, leaning against the crude plastic railing of the escort ship. "At least on Earth we knew what the darkness held." "Yes. It held quick death, sneak attacks, crazed victims of biological attacks. Or have you forgott..." Snowfire stopped, his eyes narrowing. "What was that?" "What?" Hefferan craned his neck forward to stare out into a nearly impenetrable darkness. Snowfire scowled and took a scanner from his loosely-tied belt. He looked through the single lens and twiddled the controls. Several armed soldier/techs moved closer to him. "Nothing." The word floated across the blackness of sea and sky. "There is not an ounce of moonlight through the Churn," said Hefferan, an older scientist who had scored Expert on the marksmanship tests. "Bad luck that both suns are on the far side." "There," said Snowfire, then swiveled the scanner. "Something... Does the navigator see anything on his scanner?" "He would have said something," answered Hefferan. "There are native life forms in the fungus. Are there also ones out here?" The older man looked down into the inky blackness around the ship. "Something must live down there." "It's too dark," said Snowfire. "Let's not wait like this." He went down belowdeck and re-emerged a few moments later with a beacon gun. He aimed it low across the horizon and fired. A bolt of white energy burst from the gun and arced low across the horizon, sending brilliant trails of light into the sea. The bolt went long and far, then faded down and away. A few moments passed in silence. Suddenly a burst of yellow fire shot from the darkness of the sea and arced toward them. Snowfire watched it and then covered his face as the light grew brighter. "That's not a flare! Hard to port!" he ordered. The ship began to turn into the waves as the engines fired, sending the ship breasting the waves, propelled skyward by the engines' force. The yellow fire had now spun its way into a huge sphere of light that loomed above the ship, and Hefferan turned away from the heat. It passed over the ship and then there was a hiss as the sea boiled and steam rose in clouds. "What was that?" shouted Hefferan. Two more flares thumped into the night sky and arced toward them. "Full stop! Remain still!" shouted Snowfire. "These will miss us." But three more thumps sounded on the horizon, and now five balls of yellow fire crossed the sky. "We must protect the cargo ship," hissed Hefferan, helpless to fire his scoped rifle when he could not see the enemy. "They're not firing at the cargo ship. They know what's on it. In fact," Snowfire tapped into his quicklink, contacting the pilot of the cargo ship. "Cargo, move your ship closer. We must bunch tightly." "Too risky!" came the high pitched voice of the cargo ship's pilot. "They are trying to kill you." "But not you. If we move closer it will be for the good of all." The sea surged and roiled as the yellow fire rained down around them. Steam washed over Snowfire's face, scalding him. "I don't agree!" the pilot warbled. "You distract them, we will run! We must protect the alien engravings!" "If you run you are a sitting duck!" shouted Snowfire, then broke the link. He yelled to his own helmsman. "Move close to the cargo ship. I want to be able to spit in their pilot's eye if I want to. Stay close. Do not let them run." The ship surged ahead. The bolts of fire launched from the distance had changed colors now, to blues and whites, smaller in size but filling the sky with their heat and power. Then, as the ships moved into a tight cluster, the fire stopped. Snowfire and his crew waited for the unseen enemy that approached.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 5
Snowfire studied the sea. Between the thick layer of clouds overhead and the dusk caused by the position of the suns, the sea and sky blended into a world of darkness on darkness. He rubbed the stock of his rifle, which he had assembled himself in the University labs, outfitting it with new explosive rounds of his own design. Around him stood other University guards, all with weapons out, scanning the sea. "There they are," said Hefferan, looking through infrared scanners. Snowfire lifted his own farspecs and zeroed in on the same spot. A blob of moderate heat dipped and rose in the waves, heading their direction. "Little more than a tug, as we suspected. That must have been a shore launched weapon, earlier." "And it could be launched again, if they get what they want," said Hefferan. "That won't happen," said Snowfire, and lifted his rifle. "Flames, projectiles, whatever you've got...hit them. We'll not risk our cargo." And his first shot crossed the sea to strike the visitor.
Episode 5, part 2
Datatech Jellico of the post-Unity Graylink project dialed up a secure feed and began running decryption software on the seemingly random static that formed the stream. As pass after pass of filtering software scanned the static, an image began to take shape, like a figure emerging from the snow. "Information," she said in a deep, rich voice, and her Second rose from his deep padded chair to stand behind her and watch the image form. "It is him!" said her Second. She nodded - the features were unmistakable. Somewhere in his domain, Executive Officer Yang, now Chairman Yang, stared unknowingly into one of their probe links. "The boss will want to know." "A moment," she said. "Information is power, my datajack. And so we should ask ourselves...is this power we want to give?" "To simply bury it lacks subtlety," her Second said with mild reproach. She nodded. "Very true. They do not know our power, yet. But soon..." She looked up at him, her face bathed in the soft glow of her touchscreen. "I will flag it and pass it along the chain. But we will send it to the Underground as well. We may need it someday." Her Second nodded.
Episode 5, part 3
At the first shot, a tongue of flame ran from the sea up the side of the enemy ship, and as Snowfire watched more shots arced into the dark blot of the target. Now the whole ship burned, the red flames mirrored in the black waters. Snowfire lowered his weapon for a closer look. "We got it, S.F.!" exulted Hefferan, firing multiple pyro canisters with great accuracy. "I know," said Snowfire. "Still..." He lifted his farspecs and scanned the enemy carefully. "Still what?" "The shape of the flames...it's too boxy. And there have been no explosions from engines or fuel." "Perhaps it runs on shielded fuel cells. Or perhaps it's a..." "Decoy," Snowfire said in a broken voice, then turned. When the real ship emerged from the sea behind them, it came as a great shadow, outlined only by tiny pinpricks of silver-blue light. The ship was huge, far larger than Snowfire's escort ship, and along its gunwales waited a mass of shadowy forms, bristling with weapons. "Why didn't the pilot warn us?" shouted Snowfire. But Hefferan just stood mute, looking at the few remaining pyro canisters at his feet. "Surrender your cargo!" shouted a voice from the ship, young and cocksure. "Pilot, run!" shouted Snowfire, and he took aim with his rifle as the larger ship drew closer. He shot, not at a person but at the railing they leaned against. His rifle shot exploded against a support and the whole railing pulled outward, the metal groaning, and several of the enemy fell outward and splashed into the darkened sea. Snowfire grinned in spite of himself. "Forward!" came a shout, the same voice as before, and Snowfire saw a wiry man lift one hand and fire a shot into the air. A flare arced up overhead, the trail of fire sputtering high and then bursting into white fire over their heads. For a moment all of the ships were illuminated, and Snowfire saw his attackers - men and women, in thrown-together outfits rather than uniforms, their faces hard and eager to kill. And at their front stood a man with long blonde hair tied back in a long ponytail and a scarred face. That man led the charge, leaping down onto the escort ship. A burst of fire issued from the enemy ship and Snowfire braced, only to see a tongue of fire burn into the cargo ship, crippling it. Then the attackers were upon him, swarming across the deck of the escort, strong sea legs holding them steady. This was a mistake, Snowfire had time to think. We never should have come by sea. This is their element. Snowfire began firing but the attackers outnumbered them. He saw Hefferan raise his pyro cannon and aim it, but then their leader was in front of him. Snowfire saw the man take a massive swipe with his own heavy rifle, smashing into Hefferan's weapon and denting the barrel. The pyro canister misfired and exploded in Hefferan's hands, sending a burst of liquid fire back up his arms and into his face. Hefferan fell back, pools of fire running across his legs and then across the deck, burning the fallen. Snowfire pulled a shredder pistol from his belt and fired at a scruffy brunette woman who tore ferociously into one of his people. He turned and ran around the cabin, trying to see how the cargo ship fared. Behind him he heard two more screams, both his own crew. "Surrender," came the calm, hard voice behind him. Snowfire whirled and lifted his pistol, only to find the wiry figure of the enemy leader against him, pressing his weapon hand aside. Then he felt cold metal in his ribcage. "Don't," said Snowfire. One of the man's eyes was gone, but the other stared at him with great intensity. "Why not?" "I have to know...the secrets of that." He motioned to the cargo ship. "And you...who are you?" The man smiled tightly. "I am Ulrik Svensgaard, a man who loves the sea." "You mean a pirate," said Snowfire, and tensed to make a lunge away from him. Svensgaard nodded. "Yes, a pirate," he said, and Snowfire heard a bust of sound. An icy finger jabbed him in the ribs, followed by a warm fire and darkness.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 6
Prokhor Zakharov felt the blood leave his face. He looked down at his hands, hands growing older with every passing day, and studied them for a moment. They had lost the East Panel of the Alien Temple. "I'm sorry, Provost," said Bortniansky, his concerned face coming over the quicklink. "I can not help but think...we should not have desecrated..." "Desecration?" Zakharov felt the heat of anger return the blood to his face. "No, not in a religious sense, of course, Provost. I meant that pulling apart..." "We were careful," said Zakharov. "But not careful enough. The others obviously want the information in the alien structure more than I knew, and they have resources dedicated to getting them." He let out a deep breath. "Provost, if I may. We can bring in better imaging equipment, and create near perfect replicas back at the University. I know you wanted the real thing, but..." Zakharov cut him off. "Of course, of course. You will image the temple and transmit the data along a secure channel, to be changed daily. But I will do more. We must protect the structure." He looked at his hands again. "We need an ally in this. We need to guard the structure, and guard it with force." "Yes, of course," said Bortniansky, and feared for the fate of his temple.
Episode 6, part 2
"The man is burning us again." Jellico's eyes burned as she watched dataclouds form and disperse on her touchscreen. Where other datatechs liked to surf the clouds and zoom into the smallest details, she liked the long view, the faraway view, where data moved like weather patterns and one could see the butterfly wing that became the hurricane. "He thinks he leads us." "There are advantages to that, Jellico." Her Second stood behind her. She turned to look at his solid face, set now into a heavy frown. "Yes there are," she said, "but we get no respect because of it. And look at this..." She pointed to an encrypted order from Central. "They want us to risk our brains, fry our neurons, to get them this data from the structure. Data we buy with the blood of our minds. They have no respect for us, here." "We don't need respect," he answered. "We need anonymity, and we have it." "No!" Her eyes flashed at him. "Not so. Respect is a commodity, and it can be traded on. It can buy entrance into forbidden spaces." "But they will question us, Jellico," he answered. "When they know us, they will watch us." He watched her carefully. "What are you saying?" "We should be known," she said. "We are strong enough." He shook his head. "You are wrong." Her eyes flashed to him, angry, and he backed up a half-step. "You are wrong. Survey the Underground if you don't believe. Let them hear the arguments. But I must argue against you." "You challenge me, Second?" He nodded. Jellico considered for a moment. "Very well. But we know the Underground has already heard the arguments. It is a linked system." She stared at him until he looked away. "You are the identity known as Ghost. You are in the Underground, spreading your beliefs." He shook his head. "Not true, leader. Not true..." "I have traced you." She stood up "I know you. But you don't know me. I am," she paused and lowered her voice to a whisper. "I am Sinder Roze." "You! You are the identity preaching for independence?" "Yes, my Second. And we will vote now." She fliplinked into the Underground, the secret cyberworld existing in the spaces between the new datalinks. And there she posed a question. Independence? As she and her Second waited a tally formed with blinding speed. The datacloud, thousands of identities, swirled and collected around one axis, and then the other. Yes, no, opinions formed and reformed, until the cloud coalesced around one answer only. Independence. Sinder turned to her Second. "You have sought to undermine me, Ghost, but the Underground has spoken. We will be known. And you will leave us." He frowned, staring at the datacloud. Then he looked at her. "And you?" She smiled. "I guess I am Sinder Roze, forever."
Episode 6, part 3
Reanna awakened in a sweat, so different from the calm peace that had possessed her since the Churn began. She gasped and touched her ears...surrounding her, she could hear a chorus of sound, humming off of the walls, and deep within that bed of sound she could hear the chattering of hundreds of strange voices, speaking in a language that seemed an echo of distant stars. She pressed her ears more tightly, and the sound seemed to fade, but only a little. And now it seemed to her kind of...pleasant. She got up and went out to the communal hall, padding on bare feet. She turned her head slowly, and with each turn the bed of sound shifted and changed, like light glittering off of a faceted jewel. She turned back...there, a young tech looked at her, his face pulled into a mask of concern. His lips moved but his voice seemed so far away, lost in the chorus of sounds around her. She walked toward him. She felt as if she were floating. The chorus rose up around her. The young man's lips moved again, but she could not hear him. She saw his face as if in close-up, the sweat forming at his hairline. He seemed so anxious. She smiled at him and reached out to pat his hand. She felt him grab at her, felt him striking at her. She tried to shout, and the chorus turned into a screech, splitting her skull. She tried to shout again, and then blackness overwhelmed her.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 7
Reanna remembered. She remembered the day the two suns burned down from the sky, and the harsh calls of the attackers blended with the screams of the citizens in the tree lined streets of Gaian Base. Six years before... She staggered across her clean, small room, breathing heavily, hearing the tears in her own voice. She clutched her belly, feeling its warm roundness, and deep genetic flares went off inside of her...protect this creature. She could feel the child in there, swelling and anxious (and after six months...only six Earth months!), and she clenched her muscles against releasing it into this world of fire. She could see the citizens outside in their green and white robes, grabbing their weapons and firing bolts in all directions. Some kind of flash outside made her windows shunt to pitch black as the adjusters kicked in. When they faded again they were tinted blue, damaged. The shaded light and the cool feel of her walls gave her a moment of cocoon-like peace, and then a roar sounded outside and suddenly heat baked her face and torso as her outside wall melted down to a jagged line, poisonous vapor spewing out. The fighting outside assaulted her senses...the lights and the sounds and the cries and the flames rushing skyward, gusting against her. She quickly rushed to her door and pushed it open, trying to retreat from the outside, deeper into the hab complex. She looked down the long hallway to the exit. Coming toward her, still at a distance, strode a phalanx of Believers, their uniforms clean and sparse except for the holy symbols of rank on their arms, their eyes burning with a peculiar fire she could see even from this distance. What has Miriam done? They were moving from door to door, blasting the locks and rooting out Gaians. They moved with a barely-controlled intensity she found almost awe-inspiring. One of them saw her and lifted his pistol. She half-turned and the man saw her belly and hesitated, for just an instant, and in that instant she lunged back into her room. Shredder bolts peppered the wall and cut into the flesh of her arm as she retreated. She cried out as a burst of warm blood spattered her face. No time... She rushed to her bathing room and snatched a soft bandage from the supply cabinet and quickly bound it on her arm. Blood pattered down around her feet and she felt a wave of nausea pass over her, but she gritted her teeth and pulled the bandage so tight she gasped. Got to hold it together... Now she heard the rattling at her door. She turned to the vaporized wall and headed out into the storm of battle, clutching her belly.
Episode 7, part 2
Outside, she stuck close to the burning buildings, using their heat to mask her from the infrared seekers. Above her the higher greenhouses shattered as the Believers threw fire and fragments of metal into the loose confederation of Gaian buildings. She saw massive splinters of glass falling from the sky, raining down on the Gaian soldiers in their green body armor. She saw a triangle of glass bisect a man cleanly, and she turned away. That slender young man, months ago. The night on watch, out by the fields, as we put out the incense sticks and let the glowmites envelop us. The way his hands reached for me, with the glowmites exploding in my head...I know there were too many of them that night. She touched her belly. She hadn't bothered looking for that man again, his face lost in a haze of glowmite-induced hallucinations. But it didn't take long to know what their meeting had produced. And now, only six months (six!) later, she was about to see the fruits of it. She stumbled into a skirmish, Miriam's fanatical shock troops throwing themselves into the Gaian citizens and soldiers. She was so close she could see them, could see the ecstasy in their eyes, as they cast themselves forward and into a void that welcomed them. There. A Rover, unattended, sitting idle near the skirmishers. And as she moved toward it she heard the shattering above her head and then felt a coolness across her back. She reached back, craning her arm to touch...glass. Her mind rebelled, imaging the darts cutting into her, past her spine, daggers aimed to the heart of her child... The child that was coming. She staggered forward to the rover and climbed in. She pounded the navscreen, entering random coordinates into the autopilot. The rover lurched forward and she saw a Believer go down under it. Then the rover shot around the periphery of the base and into the tongues of rich red xenofungus that licked the edges of the base. The xenofungus throbbed with life, agitated at all the violence, perhaps. She could feel its thoughtprobes in her mind, causing the world to waver and jolt around her. She had no resistance. She felt a madness overtake her, like colored lights resolving into hypnotic patterns, all bathed in red. She felt her child coming. And as the rover's wheels hung up in the fungus and flipped, casting her out and into the arms of Planet, she felt her child coming strong. A child of Planet.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 8
"We must know who the father is." Lady Deirdre lifted one hand and gestured coolly at the trembling woman who stood before her. The woman, Reanna, had a face that seemed as fragile as glass, and Deirdre could see her eyes tear up. "I am not sure. I can not tell you, Lady. A soldier..." "There is no genetic match to any of our citizens on record," Deirdre continued. Reanna turned her head and her eyes defocused, as if she were hearing a strange sound. Deirdre could hear nothing. "Zakharov has provided me with the Settlement's genetic records. Of course, he wants to know, just like all of us, who this...child...is that leads these troops against him." "I don't know who he is," said Reanna. "But I know why you and the others want him." Deirdre could not help staring...Reanna's hands shook so much they appeared sometimes as a pale blur. "The child has something, a small piece, of what you all want." Deirdre arched a narrow brow. "And what is that?" "The resonance. A piece of the resonance." "Resonance?" Deirdre shook her head and turned away from Reanna, walking lightly to the large windows that looked out over Planet's surface. "What is resonance? What does that have to do with anything?" She turned back to Reanna. "Explain yourself." "This child has taken a piece of Planet, a chunk of its flesh." "You mean the structure?" Reanna's head snapped around again, and she pushed her blonde hair away to touch one of her ears. "Not its structure. Not flesh, but spirit. There is something...out there...that wants it all back...all of Planet back." Deirdre stared at Reanna. She had the certainty of madness. "Who wants it? This child?" "No. He...my son...is only a byproduct. The being or beings that wants it...their voice is all around us. The thing they want cries out to them."
Episode 8, part 2
Chairman Domai lifted one hand and stopped his troops on the ridge overlooking the Alien Temple. Behind him two hundred men and women came to a stop, their eyes focused woodenly ahead. Domai, leader of the Free Drones, surveyed the land below. Zakharov had erected a low barrier around the Alien Temple, and guards patrolled at regular intervals. The guards held powerful laser weapons with finely-tuned sighting mechanisms, and they wore powered armor. Domai had approached the temple through the xenofungus, but he would not be surprised if Zakharov's scanners had already pinpointed his approach. Domai did not have the complex weapons or technology of Zakharov, or the cunning of the Data Angels. But he had his Drones, the working outcast of Planet, stubborn and nearly impervious to pain. He looked at his own strong hands, and imagined them closing around a Talent's throat. Strong hands and an iron will. It had brought him far. And as Domai watched, he remembered...
Episode 8, part 3
Domai sat at the edge of his bunk, staring at his hands. The lights remained dim, as Central required, and all of the other drones slept their dreamless slumber. But Domai could not sleep. He sat in the low-ceilinged Drone Barracks room on the edge of his narrow metal bunk and stared at his hands, hands cut and scratched from hard labor. And as he stared, slowly...thoughts...began to form, swirling and gathering in the cavern of his mind. Thoughts of a different time, of rich smells and fluid speech, debates and drinking, and the feel of fine cloth on his arms, and people saluting him. Dim memories, slipping away from him, behind a wall of thick fog. The fog of poisonous yellow gas, and blackness. People grabbing at him, his mind screaming in horror, but he could not speak...his tongue remained thick and useless. And later as the blue-suited medical techs pulled him from the tangle he tried to speak, but his thoughts would not form, as of lost in a vast dark maze. His hands. A Talent had been crushed by a falling support yesterday. Domai had found the man and stood over him as blood leaked from under flesh and metal. Urgent thoughts sparked in Domai's brain, but his muscles stayed heavy and noncommittal. Domai could only...stare. He stared at the Talent's hands, which were not different from Domai's hands, except for the thickness. And the fear in the man's wide black eyes ads he lay bleeding under the metal was not so different from Domai's fear when the psych whips struck his back, except perhaps that Domai's fear was slower to rise, and thus more manageable. He looked at the walls around him. This space, cramped and dark, seemed so small and stifling under the dim yellow lights of the buzzing glowlamps. A buzzer sounded, harsh and jagged. The full lights came up, bright in his eyes. A metal door clanged open, and fifty Drones rose from their bunks. Domai stood with them.
Episode 8, part 4
Domai watched the overseers in the mess hall. He stared at the menacing blue figures that lurked at the room's edges, pacing along the length of the plain metal curve of corrugated metal that made up the Drone Mess. One of the seated drones, Kohai, turned his head slowly and reached out to take a nutrient stick off of his neighbor's tray. Kohai was big and dull-eyed, a drone full of spite and bitterness, and had two huge fists and a strong back from working on the skyfarm assembly line. But his neighbor, Pankol, was not small either. The wise man sets pride aside in favor of accomplishment. Now where had that come from, leaping into Domai's brain? Pankol reached out and put Kohai's hand in a crushing grip. The two Drones stood slowly, dull gray eyes staring into each other, smoldering. Pankol lifted his tray and smashed it into Kohai's left cheekbone; the Drones' thoughts were slow but once engaged their actions were swift. Now the two were at it, Kohai hooking bony fingers into Pankol's throat muscles. It's going to take at least four of the overseers to break this one up, thought Domai, and then he felt an unusual thrill, the thrill of recognition, as he looked around at all the dull-eyed but ferociously sturdy drone workers around him. It would take two of them to stop only one of us. He looked at all of the dull eyes, turned to watch the two combatants tear apart the metal mess table as they fought. The watching Drones did not move, but Domai could see vague thoughts forming behind black eyes. And the eyes grew blacker as overseers moved in to pound the two Drones into submission. Two Drones...Pankol and Kohai. They have names. Domai stood. In some deep part of his brain the image flashed of a noble man dressed in silk rising to give a toast on ravaged Earth. And that man's hands were the hands of a leader. Domai tapped the two drones next to him and motioned them into the fray. Picking up a metal tray from the table, he went in as well.
Centauri: Arrival, Episode 9
"Transmission incoming," said the nervous voice. As Zakharov watched, the flat panel on the wall over his desk resolved into the image of a narrow, sweaty face. "OK, we're here, Academician." "Show me what's happening, Dmitri" said Zakharov. "Yes, Academician," said the contact, Dmitri. The camera jerked away from him. Zakharov could see the low, curved shape of the alien temple, and then the purple-black clouds of the Churn overhead. Those clouds rippled outward in great rings. Zakharov suppressed a feeling of fear and told himself to study the data on the cloud formations later. "Here we go," said Dmitri. The camera steadied on the energy shield and visual shroud that ringed the Temple, then the shroud flickered as the polarizing filters switched on. Stretching away from the Temple, Zakharov could see dusty red-brown earth, and then the thick tendrils of xenofungus. "Turn on the infrared," Zakharov heard, and within a thick mass of xenofungus above the Temple a couple hundred shapes appeared. They stood absolutely still, and their bodies seemed unusually thick and strong. "The Drone revolt army," said Zakharov. "Yes, Academician," said Dmitri. "It doesn't appear that they have overly sophisticated weapons. Still, no one wants to fight a drone in close combat. Many of us haven't been friendly to their kind. Now..." The camera swiveled past the Alien Temple again to the other side. There was no need for infrared on this side, since the xenofungus sat much father back from the Temple. Standing in a mass about 200 meters from the shroud were a thousand ragged-looking warriors, their bodies lean and narrow, wearing pieces of armor that were of poor quality but colored bright red and gold. Standing in front of them, between four huge bodyguards, was a small child, about six years old, holding a small bright dagger in one hand. "Cha Dawn and his Cult," said Dmitri. "How long have they been standing that way?" asked Zakharov. "About...four metric hours now," said his contact. "It seems the Child has not taken his eyes off of the Temple. I don't think he even blinks." Zakharov turned to the tall, pale woman who stood next to his desk. Her eyes stared blankly back at him, but Zakharov knew that behind those eyes an inhuman intelligence saw and processed. I am a creature of the mind as well, Zakharov mused. Do people find me as inhuman as this one? "The child is a fanatic," she said in a strangely flat voice. "He wants the Temple." "Are the Drones allied with him?" Zakharov wondered. The woman made him uneasy. He knew she could run calculations faster through her cybernetic consciousness than he could through his beloved gray matter. "It seems too unlikely a coincidence otherwise. The Drones are independent but still impressionable. Perhaps the Child has promised them something if they take the Temple." "Maybe he promised them a home," said Zakharov. "Regardless, there aren't many Drones in this force." "They are not afraid to die," said Aki. "But neither are my kind. The Consciousness pledges its support to you, in return for all of your information on the alien structure." "Of course," said Zakharov. "But we'll wait for them to make the first move."
Episode 9, part 2
Deep in the blue-lit halls of Ergonomia Base, Sinder Roze tapped up a security matrix and surfed her way into the outer fringes of the University datalinks. She located a communication node, jacked into it, and transferred a command. Her eyes glowed with pleasure as she keyed in the final command sequence. At the alien temple, the shield and the shroud vanished in an eyeblink.
Episode 9, part 3
Reanna opened her wide blue-black eyes to the sound of a hum so loud it jarred every bone in her body, and made her flesh shiver. She reached out with her sense-awareness that had grown more acute with each passing day, and found that this sound bed filled her home valley with an ocean of harmonic waves. She flipped on her vidscreen and scanned the datalinks. There was great unrest, starting with the marching of the new Cult warriors, led by a child, on Zakharov's fortification around the Alien Temple. And the new Drone unrest, which had halted the building of new med facilities, along with rumors of a Drone Army detonating charges and collapsing Yang's fledgling underground society. And above it all were the dark clouds, rippling out in waves. And down here she could feel the waves of sound increasing, rippling out in waves, as if from a source far away, that now grew closer. The sound reached a high pitch, splitting her brain and transforming into a small, bright light in her head. And the light became Planet against the sweep of space, and Planet became a field of energy, unfolding in vast harmonic petals. "It is this," she said with a sudden realization, the vision burning in her mind's eye. "They are coming for this."
Episode 9, part 4
Cha Dawn, the Child of Planet, felt his heart pound as the shroud and the shield dropped from around the Alien Temple. He caught his first glance of the Temple, with its low curved shapes and strange symbols. He lifted his gleaming dagger and swept it across his forces. He looked at them, with their tattered armor and hungry eyes, and relished the moment. He could feel their anticipation wash over him and feed him. He gave the order in a high, screeching voice. "Now!" His forces thundered forward. His four carriers lifted him on a golden platform and joined the charge. He exulted in his warriors surging around him like an unstoppable tide.
Episode 9, part 5
Domai saw the shield drop from around the Alien Temple and waited for the repercussions to percolate through his mind. He nodded. He did not know if Zakharov was aware of his presence in the xenofungus, but now it did not matter. He could see the Child and his army sprinting toward the Temple. He knew the time had come. He and his Drone Army gathered themselves and marched forward into combat.
Episode 9, part 6
As Cha Dawn approached the Temple he could see a low line of metal crates set in a ring around its entrance. Behind the crates were crouched a mix of University guards holding sleek new weapons, and waxy, expressionless figures in white armor that he recognized as members of the Consciousness. His army did not stop. On the other side of the Temple he could see the Drone Army marching in uneven columns and opening fire on the left flank of the Temple's defenders. Cha Dawn's first wave vanished in a wave of fire and a hail of hard, explosive slugs from the Temple, but his army did not stop. As Cha watched, the enemy Consciousness fired off powerful shredder rounds in perfectly timed bursts, while the University guards directed bolts of fire at the extreme ends of his force. Five of Cha's warriors sprinted forward and threw themselves into one of the barricades, overturning the metal crates and revealing a cadre of University technicians and two tall Consciousness shells. They ripped into the enemy and more Cult warriors ran to the breach, many falling under hails of fire. Cha could see University guards breaking and running, as more white-suited shells emerged calmly from the Temple. He saw his people begin to spread out behind the barricades. He gestured eagerly and his carriers ran toward the breach, several more warriors lunging in front of them to deflect any oncoming fire. More University guards ran forward to try and close the breach, but Cha's warriors cut them down with crude metal blades and rebuilt Unity pistols. Cha saw one burly University tech fall to the ground and he jumped down from his gold platform to thrust his dagger into the man. He felt alive with power and divine guidance. Above him, the clouds gathered in a spot above the Temple and pressed down on the battle below. The clouds continued to grow thicker and darker, as if the entire sky of Planet was being pulled to this point. Fighters on both sides stopped to look into the sky. An electric energy had filled the air; Cha could feel it on his back and crackling in his hair. He felt a strange sensation in his chest, as if the air had turned to lightning. The sky split open with a flash of purple fire, shredding the heavy cloud cover into fragments and opening the sky. Another flash of purple followed, throwing the entire landscape into bold relief. Humans were tossed to the ground like discarded trash, and from the distance, two streaks of colored fire approached Planet like rockets from the heart of a distant sun.
Episode 9, part 7
Reanna staggered into the fields outside of her hab dome, a white robe wrapped around her. The purple fire had rocked her senses...she could not see anymore, and could only hear a deep bed of sound like a roar that pulsed in the ground. But she could still somehow see/feel the distant hills, where the xenofungus shimmered like pebbles under rushing water. And she could hear the tendrils and nodules scream. She pulled her white wrap more tightly about her and shivered against the cold, clammy wind which filled the vacuum left by the purple wave. The Churn had broken out into tatters across the sky, a collection of residual Planet power that whirled out to welcome the Arrival. And now Reanna could see/feel the white lines of energy above Planet, the wayward comet trails of the things that raced for the surface, and whatever Planet held. There were people around her. She could feel them, with their upturned faces. She could feel apprehension quivering in their jelly eyes. The two streaks drew a harmonic riff across the dome of sound that engulfed her. That riff changed everything, but subtly, adding unfamiliar cadences to the Planet chorus. Above her a column of fire burned down from sky to ground, with a strange smooth shape at its head. Reanna screamed. Something struck the earth like a giant fist, knocking her to the ground. Somewhere, in the distance, a second strike rocked the world. All across Planet, humans stopped and watched the sky, and forgot about their weapons for just a moment. New beings emerged from ships as strange and old as the void of space, and the fear of change washed across the world. Something had arrived, or two somethings, and Reanna could feel within her the ancient hatred they felt for each other. And the inhabitants of this world were caught in the crossfire.
NOTE: This is the conclusion of Centauri: Arrival. Thank you for following the story, and we hope you have enjoyed it! (Feedback email to firstname.lastname@example.org)