Master Koda is proud to introduce you to the writing of Catrina Taylor! Please take a moment and leave her a comment, it would mean the world to her.
MelTe’ant steps from the surface lander to look around. His mind considers the environment carefully, as he attempts to identify the source of the transmission that drew his team to this barren location. In his earpiece, he hears, “Ensign Rixx report.”
Touching the collar of his protective suit, MelTe’ant begins, “First Commander Sar, I’m not seeing anything that could have sent the transmission.” Even as his view is skewed through the mask, his eyes can see there is a sea of loose dirt and dried clay. “This place is barren.
Crackling through the ear piece comes the man’s voice again, “Ensign Rixx, please see to Ensign Palrion’s safety as she looks around. She believes she can locate the source.”
“Of course sir. We will report in once we have a theory, sir.” With that, Ensign MelTe’ant Rixx turns to Ensign Sophie Palrion as she steps from the lander, “You ready?” He starts to review the firing cycles on his firearm, making certain each instruction activates as expected.
“Yep. I’m ready.” The blonde haired young woman turns back toward the surface landing shuttle, “Are you sure we should leave the rest of the team behind?” She starts to run through her pack, double checking each item included.
“First Commander Sar doesn’t believe we’ll need more than two for this mission. It’s just a bit more than any training exercise anyway.” He gestures beyond the lander’s location, “Look out there. Nothing is here to worry about. We’ll be fine, so will they.” He does one final review of the med kit he has with him then looks back at his teammate.
“I’m sure you’re right, besides, Commander Brek would be disappointed in our application of skills if we do not demonstrate what she’s taught us.”
“Right.” He looks at the petite woman, “You sealed up?”
In an amused tone she responds, “Why would I have left the safety of the lander otherwise?”
MelTe’ant shakes his head and chuckles, “Good point.” He lifts his fire arm and together they begin the trek to the source of the signal.
Sophie spends a lot of time consulting the data on her tablet as they move. “The signal isn’t transmitting now, but I’m hoping we’ll get close based on the triangulation of the source based on the original transmission.”
MelTe’ant chuckles at her while continuing to walk. “Tell me again, why did we have to park so far away from the signal?”
Sophie reviews the scans she’s getting from her tablet. “Because we registered some problems with the ground stability in some areas near the signal home.”
Saying nothing more, MelTe’ant watches the landscape for anything that could be of concern. As they move, the horizon starts blur in the mask image. Stopping briefly he starts to fidget with controls on his viewing area.
Glancing back at the distance covered, then to MelTe’ant, “What’s the issue? We still have another forty lengths to the signal source.”
“My view is getting clouded. The crisp distance is blurred. Tryin to fix it.”
Sophie looks over toward the horizon and tilts her head slightly. “Mel, that’s not a problem with your equipment.” She adjusts the scan settings on her tablet so it can gauge atmospheric behaviors and she frowns, “That’s a storm rolling in and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Concerned, MelTe’ant looks over her shoulder at the readings, “Is that a dust storm?”
“Among other things.” She looks up at the horizon then back to her tablet, concern evident in her tone she continues, “I’d say there are at least twenty tornados along the leading edge too.” Her face creases with worry, “Mel, it’s a sudden and violent storm. We have never seen anything like this on Xarrok.” She returns her attention to the display on her tablet as it scrolls wind speeds, patterns and a list of the debris currently flying along in the storm.
Adjusting his visor back to a normal view, he glances up at the leading edge, still not able to distinguish what the sensors are showing. “We’re far enough that I can’t see the tornados…“ He trails off when he recognizes the shape of a funnel cloud form just barely within his line of vision. “At least we have a distance between us and that wall. Let’s head back to the lander. We’ll try this again in just a while.”
Sophie’s blue eyes look up into Mel’s deep brown eyes, “I don’t know that we do. This storm is moving rapidly. It’s like the circle of this planet is ready to welcome us.” She looks in the direction of the wall, while starting to walk back toward the lander.
Calmly he shakes his head, firmly he speaks to her, “We are not going to enter the circle today. Let’s go.” He turns toward the lander, dropping his weapon into the hook on his side. As they begin the walk back toward the ship, the air pressure around them shifts, making MelTe’ant very uncomfortable. He begins to realize exactly how fast the storm is moving when a few grains of sand are visibly pulled backward. “You’re a warrior. Move. The Tauwin will not be saying goodbye to you today.” A few strands of sand are pushed forward at his height, or above his head.
Following his lead, she tucks her tools into her bag and takes off running. Keeping pace with him easily, she keeps her head and eyes forward toward the destination.
Before long the two are able to hear the high pitched sound resembling a siren moving up behind them. MelTe’ant glances back and finds himself quickly forcing down the fear into a pit in his stomach. “Sophie, remember the great race?”
Not slowing her pace, she responds, “Yes.”
“Good. Remember we made it to the great tree. We both bled at the base. We are Tauwin.”
Fear washes over her like water rushing through the trees, “I hear it Mel. We’re warriors of note.”
“We only have a few dozen lengths back to the lander.”
Sophie stumbles, skids and falls face first into the loose sand below. As she slides, the only thought in her mind is that she’s slowing him down. “Go. Mel. Don’t stop.”
He leans over and scoops her up easily, helping her back to her feet. “We’re not going to make it to the lander. We need another spot to hide.” He adjusts the view on his visor to display results based on interferometer. A few seconds pass and he drags her directly to his left, fast.
“What are you thinking Mel?”
“I’m thinking we need to hold up in that hole over there.”
Before she can protest again, the communications from the ship activates her earpiece. Crackling through she can hear the young frightened voice of Kendra Jae, “Sophie, Mel where are you? There’s a storm bearing down on the area. You need to get back here.”
MelTe’ant responds, “Kendra lock down the ship. Anchor the lander and ride out the storm in the back, away from the transparent metal window. It may not be strong enough to withstand what’s coming.”
A moment of quiet transpires as Sophie and MelTe’ant move into the entrance of a cave. Pinning her against the wall with himself, Mel finds handholds against the inner walls. The siren sounds seems to bear down upon them as
Kendra attempts to speak through the communications again.
A scream is heard through their earpieces and Sophie yells out, “Kendra! No!” Afraid both for herself and those back on the ship, she clutches to MelTe’ant who is intent on keeping the wind from pulling them from their hiding place.
MelTe’ant hears the scream, feels Sophie clutch to him and focuses on the handholds he found in the wall. He promises himself and Sophie, “We are not going into the circle today.” Adrenaline runs through his veins like the wind whips around their modest shelter. He can feel when the wind shifts direction at the mouth of the cave. He can hear the siren sound deepen, and rocks fly against the wall behind them. Every muscle in his body tenses as he fights to hold onto the wall.
The storm continues to assault the outside of the cave for a period longer than either want to know for sure. During the time since they found shelter, not a word has been heard from the lander. The wind finally starts to quiet, and after a long period, it dies down to just over a breeze. When MelTe’ant moves his head to look around, he sees sand as high as his knees against himself, Sophie and the entrance of the cave. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly before he releases the wall, and gives his teammate her space again.
She looks up at him, “Is it over?”
“You’re the one with the tech but yeah, it feels like it. Can you check while I try to get through to the trainee and the rest of our team?”
Taking a few controlled breaths, she nods and pulls the tablet from her pack, dropping sand as she does.
MelTe’ant steps through the entrance with difficulty. Seeing the vast shift in the landscape he realizes what happened around them could have been far worse than it was. Remembering the scream, his pulse quickens realizing it may have been. “This is Ensign MelTe’ant Rixx trying to reach the planetary lander. If anyone can hear me, please respond. Kendra if you’re still on communications, please respond.” The speaker in his head piece crackles and shorts. Muttering a blessing upon the planet he turns to find Sophie starting to emerge from the cave. “I can’t get through.”
“I’m not surprised. We were in the cave for longer than a standard two hours. The lander would have been subject to direct assault from the windstorm. We need to get back there. I don’t think I could handle delivering the loss of Kendra to Aunt Kala.”
“Don’t talk like that. Let’s get back.” The two start for the lander again in silence this time. Both sharing a dread neither wants to consider, they maintain a quick step. The walk back is harder than the walk out. With sand shifting beneath their every step, they have to adjust and step through deep sections. Some portions of the sand have piled as high as Sophie is tall, but they continue none the less.
When they arrive at a large dune not far from where they expected to find the lander, Sophie pulls out her tablet again. “Mel, I don’t see them.” She begins to scan the area for some of the component metals used for the Xarrokian lander.
“Do you think they got off the planet?”
“No. No time. We didn’t even see it show up before we started out. They had no real warning.” She starts to scroll through results and finds relief. Turning toward the dune again she starts to dig. “Here. They have to be here.”
Urgently MelTe’ant joins her and together they dig through the dune. Sand shifts and covers them several times before they finally find the outside of the lander. MelTe’ant knocks hard against the outside door. The sound resonates across the hull but they hear nothing. He looks down at the woman with him, “Please tell me you can sense their emotions inside.”
“I’m so exhausted I don’t know that my psionic lobe is working right, but I’ll try to focus.” Sophie tries to focus in an attempt to empathically sense the people that should be within the lander.
MelTe’ant resumes digging, hoping to clear enough of the door to open it. Once the door is clear enough, he turns to Sophie again, “Anything?”
“Not that I can feel, but like I said, I’m not sure I could anyway.” She looks at the door and opens a connection with the lander’s computer system, ordering it to release the locks and prepare the entrance for them to enter.
A few minutes later the door creeks slowly open. Both finally climb inside and begin to look around. The door slides shut hard, and they undergo a sanitization process before taking their atmospheric suits off, so they can freely look around the small landing ship. Going in separate directions, the pair search through each compartment carefully. Sophie finds the rest of the team first, “Mel they’re in here! Get back here.”
Running the full length of the lander, MelTe’ant moves into the small emergency medical section to find six of eight life pods sealed with their team inside. He smiles as relief finally hits him, “They’re okay. They are really okay.”
“Yes.” Sophie smiles, “Now… can you get us off this planet? I can’t fly this ship and you can’t disengage the stasis pods.”
“With pleasure my Tauwin sister.” He turns on heel and heads to the front, content to leave this planet behind.
A unique author with a passion for her family, Catrina Taylor is in love with the written word. As an avid reader she finds her mind enjoys the worlds created uniquely in Fantasy, Science Fiction and various crossover genre. As an author, she most often plays in a universe of her own creation.
Introducing us to the imaginary world of Xarrok, she has hooked readers, waiting to see where her imagination takes us next.
When she is not playing in the universe of her mind, she is playing with her children who she encourages to follow her passion for words, and excel in every area they show interest. In fact, this talented word smith finds that life through their eyes is a constant lesson in self discovery, happiness and curiosity.
Inspired by her everyday world of family, infused with a an unquenched curiosity, and gifted with the ability to take us to places we could never have imagined, Catrina Taylor is an author who promises to keep you fully immersed in a world of wonder and intrigue, waiting for more.