Early Days

Ice Age

Age of Conflict

Through the Eye of Paal

Maps and Tables

Ch 1

Chapter 1

Grid 17, at 23y, 4x, 104z

Some two miles off shore the water exploded into vapor. A spout the diameter of a small island erupted into the sky as the small ship plummeted into the briny depths. After about two minutes the water plume changed to mud and rock debris. The conflagration wasn’t large enough to be seen from space by the naked eye, but sensitive instruments on the S&M ship picked it up easily. With a smile that lacked even a jot of humor, the pilot set his control to land nearby.

A quick scan showed that the best firm landing site was just south of the target’s watery position and a fair piece to spinward. It didn’t matter. The quarry wasn’t going anywhere...not if the mud and debris meant what it normally did. A good ship could get buried quite a distance beneath the earth without serious damage to its infrastructure and without any harm to its occupants. It could, in fact, make itself into a nice little tomb for someone landing on a planet without the resources to dig them out.

“Jason23 Level9 Unit8357 of Xerxes4 reporting completion of mission” the pilot murmured. “Target neutralized on burial of craft.”

“Name your location, Jason23. Your ship is no longer registering on our array.”

“Grid 17, at 23y, 4x, 104z.”

“There is no planet in that location, Jason23. Recheck your instruments.”

Jason23 grunted his annoyance. The AI at home base must be malfunctioning. The planet was certainly solid enough. “No error, Control. Location repeat is: 23.427y by 4.0228x by 104.253z.” Jason pressed the mute to add, “I’m not about to give you the damn spot down to the inch, Control.” He wasn’t one to rock the boat but the idiots at Control could at least accept analog locations. “That’s a negative, Jason.” It was a human voice this time. Someone must have been monitoring the AI.

“My panel shows green, Control.”

“Green or not,” The female voice sounded irritated, “There is no planet at those coordinates. Hell, there isn’t even a stellar system.”

“What’s your name, Control?” “This is Ardon3 Level47 Unit198 of Beladon. I repeat, Jason23, there is no stellar system.”

Jason sighed. A level47 wasn’t going to take guff from a level9. He’d have to try a different tack. “Suggest my instruments are malfunctioning… Please advise.”

It took almost a minute for the answer. Ardon3 had been put in a moral dilemma. If she ok’d this tag and the instruments proved to be in working order, it could mean her demotion. She didn’t get to level 47 by bucking the odds. “Photo ID the area, 23; then pull back to 4Espadon. We’ll pinpoint from that.”

Irritation wrinkled Jason23’s brow. He hated paperwork. Still, it beat pretending to thrash the bushes out here in no-man’s land in his ever so uncomfortable S&M. With a touch of the screen, he began to program his whip around the improbable planet and then on home.

Chapter 2