The Primus Initiative by Robert Davies

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Edited by Jamie Rich Proofread by Jillian Lawrence

the primus initiative Copyright © 2020 Robert Davies All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please write to the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2020937567 ISBN: 978-1-64397-222-0 (Hardcover) ISBN: 978-1-64397-223-7 (Softcover) ISBN: 978-1-64397-224-4 (Ebook) For information, write: BHC Press 885 Penniman #5505 Plymouth, MI 48170

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T h ro ug h t h e g r e a t

space between things, a strange and malevolent shape raced onward in empty darkness on its programmed course toward the Frontier. Observers from afar might describe a school of fish gathered to impossible proportions and moving as one through the sunless depths of a vast ocean. It was huge, they would say, but the mass of objects would not be deterred from a terrible, mindless advance. A sum of its identical parts counting in the millions, the shape seemed static and unchanging until dividing from itself a lesser portion veering suddenly to follow a new, tangential path. The swarm of little ships in tight formation were mostly uniform in their dimensions—thirty meters at most— and crewed only by obedient computers, but they shared a purpose no one outside the strange, gnarled towers of alien cities where the machines had been built could imagine. In the vague distance, one modest planetary system waited unaware, and within, a solitary world they called Nulu traveled quietly in its orbit. There were no hails or transmissions from the freezing silence of the void, nor bright navigation lights to betray its presence and warn others. Still it came

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on, driven by the purpose of more than a curious visitor. The Nuluan people could not yet see a hidden monster, but it had seen them. In the long history of the planet, preceding generations had been looking up for thousands of years pointing in wonder at the tiny, brilliant dots in the night sky. By their eighth millennium as a distinct culture, the march of technology had guided the Nuluans toward knowledge and understanding as science pulled away the cloak of ignorance when each confounding, age-old mystery fell. At last, those who searched for such things found compelling evidence of organic life elsewhere in their remote, galactic neighborhood, and the anticipation of first contact made their spirits soar. Wondrous instruments were constructed to look and listen, but no indicators were revealed to suggest other advanced beings beyond Nulu. Were they truly alone, many wondered? It seemed so, but still they studied and theorized, hoping to one day detect a telltale signal—radio waves, perhaps, or artificially generated energy pulses on an endless journey through space to prove their isolation was temporary. When the answer arrived so abruptly and without warning, no one could imagine there would be an end to hopeful, fervent searches coming out from the gentle planet. Late on a silent and windless night, a remote observatory’s staff shivered in thin, mountain air as optical instruments captured the spectacular, rare images of a faraway star’s death throes. They hurried to gather data before dawn’s light could appear in the eastern skies and end their work for the evening, but another chance would return with the night when the planet spun them back into darkness. Three million years before, when the Nuluans’ prehistoric ancestors walked upright for the first time, an aging hypergiant’s nuclear fuel had run out. As its furnace converting hydrogen to helium failed, the doomed star could no longer survive its own gravitational force, and the resulting implosion ejected stellar material outward across space (and time). The light of that cataclysmic event finally reached Nulu, flaring suddenly in the night sky like a lonely beacon as senior astronomer Eleo Ma tapped at her controls to capture a supernova’s incredible, first moments. Other observatories aimed their telescopes likewise, and excited conversations between them created a frenzy of collaborative effort so that nothing would be missed. Eleo watched, and her automated systems measured it all, but lost in the chatter, a usually muted channel blinked on her communications display. Courtesy alerts from a telemetry control station to an-


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nounce planned launch activities, she wondered? Perhaps it was merely a fellow observer seeking advice or confirmation of the compelling supernova’s discovery. After all, hers were not the only instruments aimed upward on that fateful night. Either way, nothing was interesting enough to interrupt the dazzling images and because of it, she ignored the call. Colleagues and researchers across the planet compared notes and arranged follow-up meetings to validate and publish their findings, but the comm alert persisted until Eleo relented and reached to answer. One hesitant voice from a combined weather and astronomical research station far to the north spoke to her, but it was not the supernova he wished to discuss. Instead, the young scientist wondered about a different object of interest, unsure if what he was seeing was real or a serious fault in his equipment. A strange, blurring effect had been detected by his technicians on the ‘day’ side of Nulu while calibrating a solar array reserved for the study of a neighboring planet passing between them and the Nuluan system’s star. There was no obvious explanation for the strange anomaly, he noted, but the effect was unique and worthy of calling in. At dawn, Eleo brought one of the observatory’s small, filtered reflectors online and keyed in coordinates low on the horizon where a strange, shimmering effect distorted the early morning glow. At once, she saw the image her caller watched from his lonely station, and as they looked together, the shape grew and darkened with astonishing speed. When she turned to call the observatory’s director, it was already too late. The machines appeared before early warning systems rang out their alarm, and Eleo dashed from her control room to lean against a footwalk’s cold railing. She looked upward at a handful of dark shapes streaking across the flawless, purple sky, each making gentle turns left or right, tracing thin condensation trails in the freezing air. She would never know, but those invading objects functioned only as advance, pathfinder ships dispatched to identify crucial, high-value targets. A handful swept through the upper atmosphere seeking out population centers, clusters of industry and potential threats made by the various military installations once designed to attack other Nuluans in the planet’s distant (and violent) past. After a while, they vanished as quickly as they appeared. It seemed there would be nothing more until far to the south, a subsequent wave showed streaks of blue-green flame marking out their progress and betraying each tiny ship’s ablative armor burning off from friction in the thickening air, just

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as it was designed to do. But it was no intense meteor shower they watched, and that truth became horribly clear when the first high-altitude air bursts flashed from above. In the resultant, blinding explosions of light, powerful gamma and X-rays washed over the planet to doom millions in a single, horrific moment. Nuluan technology earned through centuries of research and progress had failed them, but worse still, once-capable military forces from a half-dozen global states were struck down and a civilization’s fate was sealed. The second assault wave arrived soon after, and its numbers were staggering. Unfettered by surface-to-air defense systems made useless in the first moments of the attack, swarms of tiny ships moved downward to the surface before fanning out on individual courses. In smaller cities and towns across their planet where many escaped the first, terrible bombs, Nuluans scurried in confusion and fear never knowing who attacked them or a reason to explain why. Instead, they could only look with stark, cold fear when the machines’ intended purpose became clear. Strange cylindrical vessels slowed, pausing briefly until they came apart in midair to dispatch bulbous objects racing quickly in all directions. The effect suggested an explosion from within, and the people pointed with excitement, mistaking what they saw as evidence Nuluan defenses were fighting back at last. They were not, and when the spheres began to move in precise formations, those few who understood ran for cover. With a loud thump, the fragments transformed into expanding globes of pink mist growing ever wider, and when the alien fluid—a powerful incendiary—turned to fiery showers the appalling destruction resumed. Confusion turned to panic, but there was no place to shelter or hide exposed Nuluans from the carnage. On and on the machines came—wave after wave of dark shapes—diving from the sky to deliver their lethal cargo until the first firestorms formed and swirled ever higher. Cities became incinerators as white-hot flames were churned into powerful cyclones pushed onward by unrelenting winds until whole regions were consumed. The fire-breathing bombs were deployed at precise distances for maximum effect, but also to deny the planet any future hope of recovery. It was obvious the unseen, nameless attackers meant to bring an end of all Nuluans, and for eleven days the assault continued without letup. Huge balls of the pink mist gathered in groups to multiply their deadly effect and the searing fluid fell like rain until the planet’s surface lay in smoldering ruins. Any-


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thing flammable was gone. Those bits made of stone or hardened metal were all that remained. Forests and plains where lush crops once grew became a blackened, endless wasteland that would wait many decades before nature might begin reviving a dead world. In the northern and southern extremities, small pockets of Nuluans who survived the relentless attack faced a slow, ghastly death by radiation poisoning, but exposure, disease and starvation would deliver most of them to their inevitable, painful deaths. The observatory staff watched a fire line move through their valley like a glowing, orange tide beneath billowing mountains of smoke, swallowing every forest and field in its path as it advanced without mercy. Embers vaulted on powerful winds settled far downrange to ignite new fires and make the conflagration’s task that much easier. Eleo looked in horror toward the eastern horizon, dotted with a dozen massive palls so vast the ground had become indistinguishable from a gathering haze. She went slowly along the footwalk with tears pouring from stinging eyes, but it wasn’t merely the smoke’s irritating effect that brought them. Instead, she felt profound sadness and a numbing realization all she ever knew was being transformed before her. As she gasped with crushing despair, a world of beauty and promise had been made into a blackened desert, and in that final scene, Eleo Ma saw her future where an agonizing struggle would only end when death found her at last. There was nowhere to run—no hiding place she could find—and the violent conclusion of a civilization’s short life was hers to witness. When the machines ceased their bombardment, an ominous, thick shroud of smoke from countless fires gathered and hovered over the stricken world, blotting out sunlight and chilling the dry air. It couldn’t matter to the billions who lay dead or dying, but only creatures in the deepest ocean trenches where light never goes stood a chance to escape untouched. As it had been in an ancient time when the infant world cooled and the first drops of water gathered, physics and chemistry had wagered future life on the survival of Nulu’s most remote and delicate marine animals and their ability to restart a process spanning millions of years. No one knew who sent the machines and they would never understand why. The alien ships simply appeared in vast clouds, like swarms of deadly insects. There were no ground troops—no subsequent surface attack—to invade and conquer. The assault had been mounted only by aerial means, and when their work was complete, an endless count of flying bombs left behind a desolate, charred rock.

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Across Nulu, the aftermath brought an eerie, planetwide silence few would hear. As it had been for other species in the long history of the galaxy, descendants of Nulu’s earliest life-forms had evolved and slithered out from primordial muck to join a timeless fight for survival. But the progeny of those tiny organisms who clawed their way to a modern civilization met a sudden, fiery and agonizing end as targets of a mysterious and brutal enemy. No one remained to chronicle the terrible event. Their question had been answered, but its meaning found no home among the corpses and ashes to confirm a hope that Nulu had not been alone in the Universe after all. Nine thousand years of growth and learning brought them to the first, tentative steps of space exploration, but the distinction became their destroyer when Nulu’s shining technology was noticed by a distant and suspicious foe. An entire civilization at the height of its evolution stood accused of a crime made only by the inconvenient placement of their planet. In the end, a merciless extinction event stopped it all. Beneath the permanent haze, their smoldering, lonely planet continued in its orbit a radioactive cinder, no longer the thriving world of four billion. The Nuluans had done nothing to provoke such atrocities, it was true, and yet they were made to pay in blood, tears and ashes. Unknown attackers came and destroyed, but for them, Nulu was a distraction on the path toward a much larger goal more distant still. A target of opportunity, one might say, but a target to be killed just the same, and the young civilization’s voice was forever stilled. By a cold and indifferent measure, Nulu was simply in the way.


A p o et k n o w n f o r

her work celebrating the Grand Age of Khorran history famously declared that Alavaz had always been ancient. The city, she said, was a sacred site “where the people began.” On a clear, summer evening caressed by gentle winds, those wistful words remained safely out of sight in the archives of an aggressive society’s past, rightfully painted over in the shades of conquest. It was just as well, some would say, as most nostalgic sentiment had been deservedly overrun by the capital’s modern, severe lines and soaring towers. A megalopolis renowned as an example to be followed when reaching out to the future from a confident place in the present, Alavaz stood at the center of all things Khorran. On that mild evening, the poet’s sprawling city glittered on the shores of a tropical sea where broad, white sand beaches disappeared beneath a polite, orderly surf. In afternoon’s fading light, Kalell Perraos, inspector general of the Khorran Security Directorate, looked from her apartment high above the muted rumble of ten million people moving as one—and a mighty civilization preparing all too soon for another war. Loud, public announcements echoed upward from gaudy network displays cheering one more regiment or naval squadron’s departure to marshal-

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ling points no one had heard of, and the effect drew from Perraos a thin, automatic smile. Media dramatics and overdone slogans of propaganda were tiresome, she decided, but necessary tools to be employed so all would hear of the Namadi threat and embrace a rising surge of purpose, knowing their enigmatic, unseen attackers would soon be met and engaged. As she surveyed the compelling scene, a sudden glint on the horizon signaled the approach lights of another big lander moving in from the north, slowing to hover as it neared a transit port barely half a kilometer distant. The pale glow of dusk reflected off the empty ship’s smooth, curved flanks until it settled on a wide landing pad bathed in harsh lights where twenty thousand soldiers loitered in tidy groups waiting to board troopships and begin their journey. In an hour, she thought silently, the huge machine would lift into the sky and hurry armored warriors far away to a moon on the Anashi border where others like them gathered in ever-increasing numbers. From there, a fast transit to join the armada, and then a direct course for the Namadi home worlds. Perraos gazed in wonder at a scene that would surely have been a laughable impossibility only months before. In the swarming mass of troops, Khorran infantry stood shoulder to shoulder with Anashi, human, Porseth and Revallan counterparts. Some remained aloof and cautious of others, but most accepted the urgency and set aside ancient hatreds now rendered secondary to the task at hand. She watched them, but an undefinable, haunting sensation reminded her the events she so often controlled were moving beyond her grasp to follow courses of their own making. The military might of four civilizations that had worked with deliberation and patience to kill one another through the centuries waited with strange, new aliens from Earth to stroll up the lander’s wide access ramps. Far away, equivalent scenes were playing out on three dozen worlds across the sector, and its powerful message was unmistakable: The old ways—and a mortal duty to annihilate or conquer—had been replaced (at least for the moment) by the menace of an even deadlier enemy. A small cadre of traditionalists found the sudden shift and imposed condition intolerable, but their influence dwindled with each passing day as the chilling nature of murderous Namadi intent spread out like a siren on the wind. In the quiet from far above, Perraos saw a new, powerful alliance moving with deadly purpose.


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From every corner, they followed convergent paths aimed at singular points on a star chart giving form and muscle to the largest invasion flotilla ever assembled. Fear of the bombardment clouds rushing toward them washed away concern for politics and age-old conflict, replaced instead by the simple, primal instinct to survive. Khorrans and the Anash pretended not to notice, but Revallans, and even the Porseth among them, looked on with quiet gratitude that the constant condition of war might soon end when— and if—they came through this last, most important battle alive. She turned to go when a loud treble chirp of her communicator announced an unscheduled call from the Anashi capital on a secure, point-topoint link shared with her counterpart and unlikely ally, Bez Ammel, the high minister for Anashi Intelligence. “This must be truly important,” she began with a facetious grin, “if it’s kept you awake at so late an hour.” “I thought we should speak awhile,” he replied without pause. “There are new developments, and all of them are troubling.” New developments. Perraos drew a deep breath and waited. There was plenty to do as it was, but Bez never called for trivial conversation, and she had learned long before to trust his judgment. The reason could only have been discussions at the Anashi ambassador’s retreat, and a first encounter with the ever-aloof Searcher officials by Ammel’s deputy, Trelav Aspil. The Searchers had lived among the Anash and conducted their research without hindrances they would surely face if attempting such a thing on her own world, Perraos knew. Tolerated, perhaps, but Khorran acceptance of the strange, wispy aliens remained conditional, and secured only by their discreet (and demanded) distance across the Anashi border. “Your Number Two met with the Pod Elders?” “He left them moments ago,” Ammel answered. “They have retired for the evening to rest and conduct their odd nitrogen purge.” Perraos remembered her own deputy’s description of the experience, and the troubling sensation of xenophobia it produced. They were ancient—a people who crossed great swaths of the galaxy long before Khorrans took their first, cautious steps toward the stars, and yet, seeing their spindly form only made worse an irrational distaste and revulsion. “What did he think of them?” “Their reputation is one of unmoved stoicism, but Aspil found the Searchers rather nervous and easily agitated.”

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“Ruam, my Assistant Director, has met with them briefly on two occasions,” she replied, “but they didn’t seem to be either.” “Perhaps, but recent events have changed their perspective, opening a window of opportunity, one might say.” “Which events?” “Qural Embree and your professor are now openly questioning the inclusion of Norris on the covert mission to Primus Station.” “The Elders told Aspil this?” “The ambassador’s assistant informed him. You will recall, their scientific contingent has always been close. Kol, the senior scientist, and the one called Haleth are integral to the ambassador’s household now.” “Sending the human was Embree’s idea!” Perraos closed her eyes, regretting quickly a rare occasion of raised voices to a friend, particularly one in so unique and uncomfortable a position. Both were hidden from all others, forced to it by the nature of their job, and no one enjoyed more authority from behind the heavy, dark curtains that hide all spies. Since their friendship was formed (and the profound, carefully guarded secret it created), Bez Ammel and Kalell Perraos had never been at odds. Despite the illogic of such a risk, and the dangerous reality waiting should anyone discover both chiefs of Khorran and Anashi Intelligence working closely together, she was determined to keep it that way. “I’m sorry, Bez.” “Do not think of it, my friend,” he answered softly. “Remember, Qural’s decision was made long before our governments agreed to take up arms against the Namadi. With no guarantee of success that Norris and Rantara alone would win Terran support, she had little choice.” “I suppose it was not difficult to see,” Perraos admitted, “but Embree’s hesitation is understandably personal. From her view, risk of harm to the human is arguably needless.” “Without a truth that has not yet been revealed, her desire to protect him is at least predictable. Still, this development has also given the Elders a convenient and useful tool.” Perraos leaned with folded arms against the balcony’s ornate railing. “Of course,” she said with a mild sneer. “The character of these creatures, exploiting Embree’s emotional weakness simply to avoid exposure of their dirty secret.”


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“If Norris is withheld,” Ammel continued quickly, “there will be no need of the physician, Oreil. Without both, that secret remains safe.” “And with it, the reason Searcher Elders need to intercept this human and prevent his inclusion,” Perraos added. “Obviously, we cannot allow that to happen, Kalell.” “If that damn thing can be activated one last time, the human must be there or the effort will be worth nothing beyond retrieving the bombardment clouds’ exit locations.” “We must consider alternatives,” Ammel cautioned, “should the ambassador and Tindas convince our governments to remove Norris from the Primus mission.” “There are no alternatives, Bez, you know that. Under the circumstances, they are wise to advocate against the human’s involvement, and yet they said nothing about Alar, Rantara or that little Revallan murderer?” “The envoy’s language skills are considerable—and worrisome to the Elders—but she would not agree to the mission if Norris is held back. As for Rantara and Doleval, neither are valuable beyond their ferocity in battle.” “Which returns us to Norris, and Embree’s untimely interference.” “Although she does not realize, continuing this nonsense will only invite unwanted attention and awkward questions Qural is not prepared to answer.” “That’s putting it mildly!” Perraos snorted. “Such a move would be misinterpreted deliberately by her political enemies as blatant favoritism, despite the urgency of the Namadi threat.” “And present an opportunity to attack her in the public forum,” Ammel echoed. “Many resent Qural’s growing influence as it is, and a rare chance to diminish her power would be irresistible.” Perraos walked in a slow circuit from one end of her balcony to the other, looking at her feet as though doing so might help to formulate her thoughts. “They have always been secretive,” she continued, “but I wonder how your ambassador will regard them when she discovers her mysterious Searcher friends are not quite as noble and selfless after all?” Ammel waited a moment before answering softly. “I will leave it for the Elders to explain that another time.” He could imagine the thoughts speeding through in her mind. Both were masters of strategic espionage, manipulating others like pieces on a board game and often without their knowledge, but the delightful surprises

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made by nature and personality always arrived so often at those most inopportune moments. “In any case,” he said with a sigh, “they may have worse problems when Rantara discovers she and the others have been deceived.” Perraos shrugged, grateful to be watching from afar. “I admit, Rantara may no longer be the merciless butcher she once was, but I do not envy those within her immediate reach when that day arrives.” “Nor do I. For the moment, it is essential to proceed as planned.” “I will instruct Torbal to have a private word with your ambassador. She has come to trust him, and with luck, he will be successful in allaying her fears.” “And Tindas?” “If Embree can be convinced, the schoolteacher will follow. They need not understand why, but this ridiculous notion about withholding the human’s participation must end before it becomes unmanageable. Is there anything else you need from me?” “Not at the moment.” “I’ll be here if anything changes. Good night, my friend.” “Good night, Kalell.”

T h e Q u i e T o f early Sannaran mornings had never been especially appealing to Onallin until they settled on the edge of Tevem’s coveted network of lush spaces in a newly constructed house they had made a home. The patio door slid silently closed behind her as she padded in bare feet over cool, dew-soaked grass toward an imaginary line between their lot and a park that translated from Revallan to “South Green.” Beyond, a meandering path made of smooth, octagonal paving stones was bordered by a knee-high plasticrete wall built only weeks before in order to discourage carefree maintenance workers and curb their habit of sending service carts careening onto the carefully manicured lawn in what had been thoughtfully characterized by a municipal superintendent as “harmless, spontaneous competitions.” She found Darrien standing with folded arms near a grove of trees he insisted were surprisingly similar to palms straddling a pedestrian boulevard near his parents’ apartment in Fremantle. Onallin remembered them from images Darrien showed her as they approached Earth for their historic (and


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secret) meeting with President Fernandez, but in her eyes, they were anemic trees in need of branches. He smiled when she handed over a steaming cup of her favorite oolong tea with care. They were nearly out of the stuff, she reminded him with a childish frown, but he assured her plenty more would be waiting when they arrived in Perth. A first visit with her new in-laws was scheduled only days before her human wedding ceremony, which Onallin decided was a prospect more daunting than any live firefight, but it was just as unavoidable. The trip would begin soon, and a rough itinerary prepared by Darrien’s mother suggested a hectic, two-week ordeal meeting every living relative, friend and acquaintance of the Norris family. “I thought you were going to sleep in,” she whispered. “So did I,” Darrien replied with a sigh of resignation, but she knew the cause. “More bad dreams?” “Not bad, but one was really weird.” “I hope I wasn’t in it!” He shook his head and sipped from the cup, but Onallin could see the fatigue in his reddened eyes. “You need rest.” He brushed aside the idea and said, “It’s almost here. By this time next month, we’ll be on our way to Namadi space.” “The sooner,” she replied firmly, “the better.” “Still itching to shoot something?” “I’m itching to get this done so we can come home and spend the rest of our time living like everyone else.” “After all the shit we’ve been through,” Darrien noted sadly, “living like everyone else will be a tall order.” “No, it won’t,” she declared. “We haven’t come this far only to change out one stupid damned adventure for another without end. I am sick of war, Darrien. This new life is something I never thought possible, and I won’t allow anything to interfere.” He nodded toward the Green and aimed an open hand the way common route peddlers show off their wares on advertisement vids. “Here we are, standing on our back lawn in an upscale Tevem neighborhood as if we’re the local gentry—all these bankers and land-owners with soft hands and a carefully scrubbed conscience.”

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“We needed somewhere decent to settle, and Sannaris is a better place than most.” “And the fact that we finally noticed each other our first night in Tevem had nothing to do with it?” “We noticed each other long before Tevem,” Onallin declared, “so no— that has nothing to do with it.” “You’re a shitty liar.” Onallin reached for his hand and held it tightly in hers, nodding toward gleaming skyscrapers that stood like giant statues in the orange, morning glow from the far end of the Green. Despite the bustle of a city going about its business only a kilometer away, the silence of dawn—broken only by songbirds flitting in and out of the trees—seemed more precious than all the money in their accounts. She remembered a darker time when the stink of death and decay wafted up from Bera Nima’s chasm, and much of it made by wretched people clinging desperately to a dead-end existence. It was just a stop on her long, strange journey, but time stood still, and sorrow had often been her only companion. Months later, she traced figure eights in the grass with her toe, watching as the cool wetness gathered in droplets sending tiny, reassuring signals it had all been a temporary misery, and the life she had made with Darrien was no illusion. “I suppose that café was part of it,” she admitted at last. “Maybe it’s better to say Tevem is where we saw each other notice—the place where I realized we belong together.” “It’ll be all right,” Darrien whispered. “We’ll go to Primus Station and find the location codes for Qural. After we finish, we’ll go to their home worlds and hammer those insane bastards into the dirt.” She moved behind him and pulled him close, leaning her chin on his shoulder. “When this is over, and the Namadi are gone, we’re coming home to stay.” “No more adventures?” “No more,” she answered. “I want us to be a normal, boring couple, Darrien, not soldiers shooting and getting shot at everywhere we go.” “Are you sure about the invasion?” he asked suddenly. “We don’t have to do this, you know.” “Yes, we do,” she replied softly. “I can’t stay behind, and I know you would never allow me to go alone.”


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“One more fight, huh?” “First, the codes, and then we finish it. No one will ever say we didn’t do our part.” “I’d say we satisfied that requirement back on Esharam, but I know what you mean,” he said with a single nod. They held onto each other awhile, watching shafts of golden sunlight wash over the Green to cast long shadows on the grass that made a singular shape as if to remind them that each had become a whole. “Let’s go back to bed,” Onallin said behind a poorly concealed yawn. “I want you alone right now.”

about the author Robert Davies enjoys writing science fiction as well as exploring other genres. His work includes the science fiction series The Specimen Chronicles (Specimen 959, Echoes of Esharam, The Primus Initiative), When the River Ran Dry, and The Seventh Life of Aline Lloyd. Robert’s work has earned several IPPY awards, including his debut novel Specimen 959 and When the River Ran Dry. When not writing, he enjoys music and flying. He lives in southwest Washington with his family and four mildly overbearing cats.

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