Verdant Skies excerpt

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cover of Verdant Skies“They’re issuing a mayday!” Reya snapped, her hand pressing an earpiece to her ear, her other hand flying over the com board to isolate the signals. Julian and the rest of CnC watched on workstation screens, or on the main station’s column, tuned into a telescope that was trained on Tranquil.

“Engines must be venting freely!” a technician cried out. “Looks like their entire regulation system is blown away! It won’t stop as long as they’ve got fuel in there—”

“Track!” Julian ordered.

At another workstation, a young girl worked over her board. “Spiral course, motion on all axes,” she reported, biting her lip as she tried to make sense of her readings. “I’d say an… eighty, ninety percent chance of collision with Tranquil!”

At that moment, the GLIS began speaking: “Freighter collision with Tranquil imminent. Freighter collision with Tranquil imminent…”

Julian grabbed a com mike from the main station and keyed an override signal that would broadcast on all circuits. “Intercept that freighter! Do not let it impact Tranquil! Repeat, intercept that freighter, by any means—”

His voice broke off, when they saw the flash. For a split-second, it was possible to make out the freighter, twisting in a new and violent direction as it impacted the north face of Tranquil. Then there was a second flash and a spherical blast-wave that popped around them. Metal and other debris spewed in every direction from Tranquil’s hub, and not all of it appeared to be from the freighter. As they watched, bouts of flame erupted from the surface of Tranquil from multiple points, and more debris was thrown into space.

“Tranquil has had a collision,” the GLIS reported. “Northern hub region. Routine com traffic between Verdant and Tranquil has been cut off…”

“Oh, God,” someone said. Julian did not take his eyes off the screen to see who it was… it really wasn’t important now. What was important was that a freighter had just suffered a major collision with Tranquil’s northern hub. And from the looks of it, it may have compromised a major facility in the northern hub.

Tranquil’s CnC.

Julian lifted a mike to his face, and spoke deliberately. “Tranquil CnC, this is Verdant. We see your collision. What is your status? Please respond.” He watched the screen, as clouds of vapor continued to erupt from Tranquil’s northern hub. All that could be heard over the speakers was static. “Tranquil CnC, this is Verdant CnC. Please respond.”

After a moment, he looked at Reya, who still had her earpiece in, and a hand on her board, but was now unmoving. She looked at Julian, her face ashen. He glanced around CnC, and noticed Kris Fawkes, against the far wall near the door to his office. She was obviously trying to stay out of the way, and at that moment, she stared at the proceedings wide-eyed, her arms in front of her, one hand covering her mouth.

“Tranquil has had a collision. Northern hub region. Routine com traffic between Verdant and Tranquil has been cut off…”

Unbidden, Julian imagined the state of Tranquil’s CnC at that moment.

“Tranquil CnC, this is Verdant CnC. Please respond. Tranquil, please respond.”

“Uh-oh.” Reya examined the images in the main column closely. “Ground craft are moving in on Tranquil. Towards the northern hub. Com traffic says they are coming in to assist, but…”

The “but” was obvious to anyone who was looking at the main column. Tranquil’s Wasps were moving to block the ground fighters and troop carriers. Traffic was getting very dense, and the Wasps were moving about agitatedly.

“Wasps are warning them off,” Reya said, listening through her earpiece. “A lot of shouting back and forth…”

“Tranquil CnC, this is Verdant CnC,” Julian tried again. “Please respond—”

“Shots fired!” a technician cried. “Shots fired over Tranquil!”

 

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