Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rock and a Hard Place, Part 1

Today, I bring you an extra... story... thingy. It is based in the Bridge Builder universe and takes place perhaps two years before BB itself starts. Read on after the break!

(reverence) Honored sister, I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirit.

(wistful, regret) It has been too long since we have spoken, or written. In times like these, the bonds of family should not be neglected. As the elder brother, it falls upon me to correct this and I will do my part - I hope you will do yours.

(mirth) Do you remember when I took this assignment, thinking it would be a good place to wind down my career? Another decade on a terraforming outpost, none of the stress of commanding a border patrol... And I hope you are taking good care of my ship, Akena.  

(caution) The situation here is not bad, yet. Each wave of refugees arrives with some equipment, but it is never enough. Quarters are cramped, fresh food is in short supply and the reactors are all operating at maximum capacity. The civilians do not know what to expect when they arrive, it is a shock piled upon a shock.

(optimistic) At least the atmosphere is breathable now. Still quite thin and warm, but we were able to take down the big domes just as we needed them for other buildings. There are still decades to go before this planet is truly usable, but it is good to see the sky again.

The tear down and rebuilding has given the civilians something to do. Seems to help morale when they complete a new row house or hydroponics greenhouse.

They are actually building water pumps by hand. So far, they have worked as well as the prefabricated units, which is good. The base only has its original Type 2 molecular forges, so pipe is about the most complex item they can produce.

(wry) At least we are well stocked for medical supplies. Much of it is human in origin... I admit, I was surprised at the quality.  

(regret) If it is not obvious by now, the purpose of this letter is not entirely social. I see that you are due to pass near here in a few weeks... This base was due for a retrofit, but that was when Schon was not an ashen crypt. If you can spare any repair kits for forges or dispensers, I would be more indebted to you than ever.

Kaen looked over the top of his screen as the heavy pressure door to his office squeaked open. His assistant knocked on the door frame and peeked her head in, ruddy fur dark against the white door. He had taken her on as a favor to her father, who had indicated she was a troublemaker and could use some military discipline. Best to straighten those types out quickly, particularly on a growing base. It had taken less than an hour for him to determine she was awkward, introverted and a bit clumsy... but not a troublemaker in any sense of the word.  "Commander?"  


"Shenden at the south tower said the tkt in the field have started to wander." If anything, she was a normal teenager. It was unorthodox to have a civilian assistant, particularly one so young, but everything was unorthodox these days. Stana had quickly grown into her job as well and it seemed to give her some level of prestige among her peers, which was good. She was a particularly masculine shade of red and he imagined she had been teased over that and her slight frame.

Kaen closed his eyes and sighed quietly. "Precision, Stana. It is important in all matters, but doubly so when the tkt are involved."

"Uhm." She bit her lip and fidgeted. "He said they were deviating from their normal pathways by more than twenty-five percent."

That was bad. A tkt hive had installed itself on planet not ten years after the Tslao had built the terraforming station. They didn't seem to notice or care that the Tslao were there. For about twenty years after that they had used it as an opportunity to study the tkt hive close up instead of just blasting it off the face of the planet, which is precisely what Kaen would have done if he had the ordinance for such a large hive.  

Small deviations from their pheromone trails were to be expected. The tkt may have had a hive mind, but they were still biological. Errors occurred on the individual level all the time. Deviations over twenty percent indicated that something was wrong with the overlord. It might just be sick, it might be dying. If it was dying, they were in for a few weeks of dealing with several thousand frenzied aliens that considered any living thing not from their hive a threat.

"Bring the base up to full alert. Have division one and walker units one and two deploy to the south tower, units three and four to waypoint six."

Stana seemed to wilt, ears and antennae lowering and a quiet huff informing him of how inconvenient that was. "Again?"

"Yes, sir." He leaned towards her and cocked an eyebrow. "Right away, sir."

She straightened and nodded. "Of course, sir."

"If anyone wants to complain, they may line up where you stand and complain to me." He dismissed her with a nod and went back to his letter.

(worry) I have just received news that bodes ill. I hope it is nothing, but as always I will take the defensible path. Take care of yourself, sister, and know that you are loved.

Kaen considered the letter for a moment, then signed it and tapped the send button. He leaned back in his chair and drummed his fingers on the desk, each claw ticking off a slow second as he considered his options. He could probably get some of the civilians to start manufacturing improvised weapons, but that might taken longer than they had to complete and deploy, if they were even needed. The council they had set up would make trouble for that too. They did not seem to understand that they were on an army base during a time of martial law... He tolerated it because it seemed to make them happy and easier to deal with, but he was starting to regret that now.

"Sir? It has been done."

He ticked off another roll of his fingers and nodded to himself. "Good. Go down to the armory, have Lek get you fitted for armor and get some range time."  

Stana shook her head. "I'm sorry, sir? I don't understand."

He stood and straightened his tunic. "I am drafting you, First Order Stana Zhensen. Welcome to the Royal Army."


  1. Interesting. I like it.

    You know what would be awesome? A glossary for pronouncing things. My brain keeps trying to make tkt "ticket". lol I blame the kiddies with their flashdancing, gpms, and text messaging.

    On a side note: If you're going to start writing 15 things at once, we need to make an actual schedule for you for things so your pregnant wife doesn't fret constantly over your lack of sleep and take her hormonal worry out on your readers for not letting you rest your extreme awesomeness. ;o) Your "real" job screws you enough on that front.