Category: Neraj


Unstable

“Rog, don’t you ever do that again,” said Emy.

“Do what darlin’.”

“Scare the bejulius out of me, that’s what!”

“Hey, we’re all still in one piece aren’t we. I think you need to have a little more faith in ole Rog’s abilities. I was–”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You’ve told the story a hundred times. Let’s get that medicine, the agent of retribution as they call it. I’ve got a bad feeling about that sudden change in atmosphere,” said Emy.

_

“Welcome to Quastra,” said the chief medical officer. “Sorry about the landing beacon. We’ve been having some technical difficulties of late.”

“No problem,” said Rog. “We’re in a bit of a hurry, do you have the agent?”

“Yes, but there are some things you need to know. Once the agent leaves the controlled environment of this base it starts to deteriorate rapidly.”

“What?” said Rog, more with his eyes than his voice.

“The Animus agent of retribution is highly unstable outside of our controlled environment. As you know, the Animus virus is one of the most lethal in the known scientific journals.” The chief spoke in even measured tones, the way one does when responsibility leaves one’s hands and enters another’s.

“Okay, doc, what the hell does unstable mean?”

“Two things,” responded the chief. “First, the agent starts to lose its effectiveness within twelve hours of removal from the vault.”

“No problem there doc. If we don’t get back to Bravo-Four Zero in twelve hours we might not need the damn stuff anyway.”

“Well, not exactly,” said the chief.

Rog just stared. His eyes narrowed in a seriousness rarely seen on his face.

“As the agent starts to deteriorate it becomes highly unstable. We don’t have precise information, but with deterioration the agent becomes volatile.”

“Volatile,” said, almost whispered, Emy. “What exactly does that mean?”

“Well, as I said, we don’t have exact information, but with deterioration, the agent has a high probably of implosion. If this happens in a confined environment . . .”

The chief didn’t need to finish his sentence. Rog looked at Emy. Words not needed.

“Load it doc. Time’s a wasting.”

“Oh Rog,” said the chief. “Be careful. Sudden extreme movements of the vial can speed the deterioration and increase volatility. May the Tears be in your favor.”

“Thanks Doc. Emy, lock and load.”

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So Close, Yet So Far (This post picks up from Unstable)

Vector Beacons or Back to Neraj (Next post in the timeline)

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Nerajian Medical Base

Red Sky

Rog and Emy soak in the breathtaking views from Neraj nervously waiting for the green light to launch.

Night Flight

Editors Note: Summation of the story is two posts down for those that would like an audio executive summary. This chapter goes back a few days in time. Rog and Emy have embarked from Bravo-Four-Zero in search of the medicine Keiran needs to survive. The chapter below Measured in Seconds has not yet occurred.


“Rog, do you know what you are doing.” said Emy.

“M, darlin’ I could land this bird on a teeler at full throttle with my eyes tied behind your back.” Rog’s grin conveyed complete overconfidence in his piloting abilities. “Hang tight pumpkin, I’m about to nest our little egg.”

“I’d prefer not to be someone’s omelet,” Emy shot back. She had lost her sense of humor about the same time the G-forces of Rog’s night descent had threaten to spoil the memory of the first hot meal they’d had in some time.

The flight through the Tear and down to Neraj had been spectacular. Approaching the atmospheric Tear reminded Emy of sailing through the locks on the western approaches of the Nusian peninsula on Hyneria. Her father had captained some of the largest sea going vessels and often took Emy with him. Sailing the oceans was not all that different to Emy than traveling through deep space.

The Nerajians were a rather insulated civilization. Their usually dense atmosphere and unpredictable Tears made many travelers reluctant to visit. Lack of sunlight caused most of the planet to be barren and many felt contributed to the diminutive size of the species. The average Nerajian stood only three-quarters the height of a Hynerian.

Rog and Emy were greeted like long lost family. The Nerajians had the medicine they needed but only one location was considered safe enough to house both the viruses and the agents of retribution, as the healing medicines were called in world. Three hours flight through the barren desert stood an impenetrable fortress. Here, they would find what they needed.

“Rog, do you see what I see?” asked Emy, her fear of Rog’s flying replaced by a very bad feeling about the change in atmospheric conditions. Just a few minutes before the night sky had been as clear as day. In what seemed like seconds the sun, moon and landscape turned an eerie shade of blue as if they knew something her and Rog didn’t.


“Uhmmm, yea, M. Not sure what’s going on but hang tight. I’ve got a visual on our fortress. Snazzle, locate and lock on their landing beacon. Conditions are deteriorating fast and I’m going to need . . . ”

“Rog, there is no landing beacon being broadcast,” said Snazzle.

“Impossible Snaz. Check another frequency.”

“My scanners have quadrupled checked every possible option. The fortress is not broadcasting a beacon.”

“Sunavabeeeotch!” said Rog, dragging out the expletive for dramatic effect. A little adrenaline rush in Rog’s mind was better than three shots of southern snoot and two lap dances in the back corners of the Purple Pampus back home. Emy did not share the sentiment.

Atmospheric Tears moved fast. Perfectly clear night turned to bluish overcast and then to darkness with high winds in a matter of minutes. Rog and Emy didn’t know it, but getting the agent of retribution was going to be the least of their troubles.

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Measured in Seconds

Kyra and Yul stood on the bridge mesmerized as Neraj wore its evening colors. The planet appeared more beautiful than ever, if that was possible. Seemed like just yesterday that Rog stood besides her gazing upon the majestic orb that now held their fates captive beneath a cloak of purple and blue.

“Yul, how long has it been since our last contact with Rog?” asked Kyra. She knew to the second how long but hoped Yul would find words of comfort in her response.

“It’s been six hours.” said Yul. “Seems like twelve though,” her voice trailing off in unspoken frustration. Rog had been just twenty minutes away. Just twenty minutes. The thought echoed, – just twenty minutes.

Pursing her lips, Kyra placed her index finger on the groove of her upper lip. Forming an L shape her thumb acted to prop up her chin as if the heaviness of her thoughts demanded additional support. She couldn’t communicate with Rog, couldn’t do a thing to help and had no idea when or if they would return.

“I’m going check on Kieran. Call me the moment we hear something from Rog will you.”

“You’ll be the first to know Kyra,” responded Yul.

Walking down the long corridor to the isolation ward, Kyra couldn’t help but wonder if Papa had felt the same way on his walk to see Ji. She could have had ten thousand friends walking with her yet the sense of aloneness would not have been less. Each step was a prayer, a hope, a way to do something when it seemed she was helpless to do anything.

Kyra looked through the window. Kieran slept. He looked at peace but Kyra knew otherwise. His life, if Rog didn’t return soon, would be measured in hours, not days. Hours. Her eyes welled with tears of compassion. He looked so angelic just lying there. So handsome, so strong. The first tear escaped from her liquid blue eyes.

Kyra’s hands braced herself against the glass window as thoughts came as daggers in her back. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes to life. How close was Rog to making that Tear? Five minutes? Two minutes? 30 seconds? Destiny measured in seconds. Could fate be so cruel? Tears flowed. Her cheeks grew red. The image before her blurred as if Kieran was fading away before her very eyes. Her hands instinctively formed into fists.

Kyra had feelings for Kieran she had never expressed. He was handsome, intelligent, measured yet playful. He had presence. And the Hynerian knew how to brew a fantabulous cup of snizzle. And his smile, oh my, his smile could melt the polar caps. Most of all, he seemed unflappable. He walked with peace and peace lived in him. She had often thought, this could be the one but had been too afraid to walk to that cliff. So she kept her distance.

And now, well, and now, the pain of regret. Her fists slammed against the window. Blood flowed in step with the tears. The pain of the cuts paled in comparison to the pain in her heart. Looking up, tears pooling in her eyes, she asked, begged, “Dear Janus don’t let this happen. Please don’t let this happen.”

Thoughts flowed. So much to do, so much to say. And now she was perhaps hours away from ever being able to utter the words she longed to say. Dearest Kieran, hold my hands. Hold them tight my love. Hold them like . . .

OH MY JANUS! Kyra gasped in disbelief.

The monitors were flat lining. Her bloodied hand slammed against the identification pad but the door didn’t budge. It was locked. Only Trev could open it.

“Trev,” yelled Kyra into her comm. No response. “Trev! Where the hell are you damnit? Kieran is dying,” the words had an edge of desperation that would have shocked even those closest to Kyra.

Trev was not responding. Kyra threw herself at the door. It didn’t budge. Picking herself up she mustered every ounce of strength and hurled herself against the door again. Nothing.

Lying crumbled on the floor, tears spilling forth, she pleaded, “Trev, please come in. Please.”

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Rog’s body took over. Hands and feet instinctively made decisions. The small pod whipped in one direction and then another. Warning indicators blared, red lights lit up the panel, yet still he pushed the vessel. Better to die with your teeler boots on as his dad liked to say back on their ranch. And by Janus, if this storm was the end of them, if wouldn’t be because he didn’t do everything in his power to save them.

Besides, he had too many stories to tell on just how they had secured the needed medicine and Rog loved to tell stories. As a little boy, his dad had entertained him and his brothers around the campfire many a night. Rog picked up the skill without ever knowing how valuable a good story teller could be on a small vessel traveling through deep space. The last twenty-four hours had given him enough material to last for weeks.

Getting through the atmosphere, making contact with those little creatures called Nerajians, the secret medical base they had to find in the dark of night, deals brokered and negotiated, and now the complications of getting back to Bravo-Four-Zero. Saving Kieran was important, and sure would score a lot of points with Kyra, but these stories were just too good not to tell.

“Rog, Pandoras are requesting steering lock on our vessel,” said Snazzle, the pod’s onboard computer.

“Screw that, no time,” shouted Rog as he maneuvered the pod between electrical bands, any one of which would have destroyed the small vessel.

“Rog, the Pandoras say without their lock, we will be destroyed in this storm. They are demanding control now. Otherwise, our deaths will not be on their hands.” Snazzle almost sounded alive and his tone certainly implied he placed more trust in the Pandoras than in Rog’s skill. Emy couldn’t help but smile at the look of disbelief on Rog’s face.

“Rog,” Snazzle calmly repeated, I believe now means now. Shall I give them control of our vessel?”

About that time a bolt of electricity grazed the ship. Power blinked, lights flickered and Emy, who no one had ever heard raise her voice, shouted. “ROG!”

“Alright, alright damnit.” Rog’s shoulders slumped in that fashion that said don’t blame me for what happens next. Nerajians knew these storms inside and out. They had established incredibly huge and powerful vectoring beacons around the planet. The storms were not common, but when they did occur, any vessel not immediately controlled by a vector tower had little to no chance of survival.

Rog and his crew were going to make it, make it back to the surface of Neraj. The blessing was mixed. They would survive but the clock was ticking for Kieran. Forty-eight hours was only an estimate and they had less than that now.

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So Close, Yet So Far

“Rog, this is Kyra, come in.”

“Rog here darlin’, how might I be of assistance?”

“We have new information. Kieran has stage one manifestation of the virus. For whatever reason the soup appears not to be working on him. That means –”

Rog interrupted, “That means we’ve got less than 48 hours. Anyone else showing signs.”

“Not yet Rog. Have you secured the medicine we need to fight this thing?”

“We got the goods darlin’. ETA, twenty minutes. Remind me to . . . you . . . these . . . Nerajians.”

“Rog, you’re breaking up on me. Can you repeat that last bit. Rog, come in. Rog?” Kyra starred at the communication panel. Nothing but static. No picture, no sound.

“Yul, any idea what just happened?” asked Kyra.

“Atmospheric Tear on Neraj is closing in. Without that opening, nothing can get in or out, including communication,” said Yul. “Openings are unpredictable. Pandoras are reporting we could see the next one in a matter of minutes or,” Yul hesitated, “or a matter of days.”

Kyra starred straight ahead at the gorgeous globe before her ship. So beautiful a sight and at the moment that beautiful world was threatening her entire crew. A dense and impenetrable atmosphere held Neraj and its diminutive inhabitants captive most of the time. Fortunately, a natural phenomenon, locally called Tears, allowed passage to and from. Pandoras, giant airborne creatures, acted as beacons, guides and overall guardians of the Tears.

“Kyra, can you hear me? Damnit! This is not the time for this fricken atmosphere to shut down on us. Emy, what are the Pandoras reporting,” asked Rog.

“Too early to know when the next Tear will appear. Apparently could be minutes or could be days,” said Emy.

“Holy mother of Janus, what the frick is that!” He had never seen an electrical storm of this magnitude. The damn thing seemed to emerge from the thick purple atmosphere without warning and was heading directly towards his ship.

“Strap in!” shouted Rog. “And if you know a few prayers, now would be the time.”

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Neraj

“Beautiful sight isn’t it. Would you have ever thought we would be privy to such a magnificent view?” Kyra asked.

Standing in front of the picture window in Kyra’s quarters Rog couldn’t disagree. He had seen plenty on Hyneria, but had never gotten the chance to travel off planet. Views like this reminded him of looking out over the ocean. One felt both small and at peace all at the same time. Deep space, like the ocean, seemed to put everything into perspective. Little worries actually did seem little.

“Nice view pumpkin, but I ain’t figuring you brought me here to wax philosophical about the cosmos,” said Rog.

Kyra laughed. “Cut the crap Rog. That view blows you away, you know it, but ain’t got the balls to tell this little pumpkin that there might actually be a sentimental bone in that leather saddlebag of a body of yours. Speaking of which, how are you feeling, not that I really care,” Kyra quizzed with a sly smile knowing she had disarmed her navigator without ever lying a hand on him.

Rog cleared his throat. “I’m feeling just fine. Why do you ask?” he queried, trying to gain some sense of control of the conversation he had lost so quickly. Kyra saw right through him. The anti-charm shield seemed to be working both ways.

“Has Trev said anything to you this morning about his discovery in the lab?” Kyra’s piercing blue eyes boring a hole right through Rog’s forehead. She had a natural ability to read faces for truth. Papa always said she would have made one kickass interrogator. No one on board would have disagreed with that view, nonetheless Rog at this moment.

With Kyra looking at him that way, he couldn’t have lied if he wanted, such was the power of her look. “Uh, nada. Got no idea what you’re talkin ‘bout darlin’,” Rog replied kinda smugly, feeling like he had found his balance again. Besides, it was the truth, he had no idea what was going on.

“Rog, you know anything about the animus virus?”

“Only that you get it just one time. If not treated with the proper antiviral vox within forty-eight hours . . .” Rog stopped in mid sentence. His eyes locked on Kyra’s and her’s locked back on his.

“Damnit, what do you need me to do,” Rog shifted gears. He was in full serious mode now. Playful banter jettisoned like a bad date on the front porch. Their small ship was sharing space with the most hostile virus known to Hynerians. Death rate exceeded ninety percent.

“I need to know as much as you can about Neraj. Download everything the Metalunans told us. Prepare the pod for launch and pick two other mates for a journey to the surface,” Kyra barked like a hardened master sergeant. Times like this her natural leadership ability rose to the surface. Papa always said leaders were born not made. Kyra was proving the point.

“Oh, and Rog,” purred Kyra.

“Yes ma’am?”

“Make sure everyone has their Golden Tree soup. That’s the only thing buying us time.”

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