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Old May 24 2010, 03:12 AM   #1
dphipps100
Ensign
 
Star Trek: Ai'Staar (new novel I'm writing) - Part One

This is the Prologue to a novel I would like to write. I've already pretty much got the story worked out in my mind, but before I get too far, I would welcome opinions about this beginning segment. This Prologue takes place entirely in the year 2033, which will be followed by a jump in Chapter One to six years after the movie, Star Trek: Nemesis.

Thanks for letting me know what you think!

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Prologue

In the year 2033, the third planet in the Sol system was a vibrant, growing society with technological advances occurring at a dizzying rate. Humans had already successfully put a person on another planet and were now boasting of the interstellar travel they were sure couldn’t be far behind. The planet was steadily uniting into a single global government that was working tirelessly to provide everyone in the world with a quality of life that had previously been enjoyed by only a privileged few. At one time, opposing governments and nations thought they were at the brink of self-annihilation, but the world’s leaders now made a point of avoiding all such talk. Many were convinced their best days were ahead and looked forward to the future with optimism.

Unfortunately, there were warnings and signs of problems boiling beneath the surface. The efforts to unite the various cultures under a single government and to distribute the planet’s resources in a manner thought to be fair by those in power ran into fierce resistance from those who didn’t stand to gain from the changes. As the opposing forces pushed harder and with increasing resolve, the fractures between nations and cultures that had been forced closed and covered over begin splitting back open. The cracks grew and the steadily unifying society began coming apart at the seams. The technology that had been praised for its ability to raise the quality of life once again became an object of fear as its ability to destroy life grew back into an increasing threat over all life on the planet. Horrifying experiments were found to be going on in secret as geneticists tried to improve humanity itself. Stories were whispered as rumors spread of “supermen” going mad and becoming inflamed with lust for power. Many around the world wondered how many were walking among them who had been experimented on and…changed. Fear of their own leaders spread and grew out of control as separatists and opponents of globalism speculated out loud about which officials might be test tube experiments and how long it would be before they turned on their own people. Many people predicted and even more feared that a conflagration was coming…

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On almost the exact opposite side of the galaxy, in the Solaria system, a system with a star only slightly larger than Earth’s sun, the fourth planet, rotating on horizontal axis every 26 hours, arced around the Solarian sun in a vertically circular orbit that took 370 Solarians days. Solaria Four had no moon, but the Solarians believed they had once had a moon in days long past, as evidenced by the rings circling their planet. The rings were found to contain the story of a cataclysm from eons long forgotten, that their moon had been shattered in one catastrophic blow from an unknown wayward visitor, probably a comet or a rogue asteroid.

In the aftermath of this disaster, a visitor from Earth would be met with longing reminders of home upon seeing Solaria Four. True, the rings and the turquoise, nearly purple tint of the oceans’ reflection of their own sky would be somewhat different, but the green land, framed by polar ice caps on the East and West Poles, combined with billowing white clouds scattered over the surface, could not fail to remind an Earth visitor of their origin.

In the wake of the moon’s destruction, the planet recovered with a beauty and richness of resources that were unique in that part of the galaxy. Since then, life had flourished on Solaria Four and one of the galaxy’s great civilizations sprang up, a civilization of peace-loving, close-knit people who abhorred war and valued community above all else. When the Solarians first ventured outside their system to seek out other life, they were at first pleasantly surprised to find people much like themselves. Diplomatic and trade relations were quickly established. The Solarians had no idea they had been seen by other eyes that were filled with a cold malevolence and an insatiable thirst for raw material…

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“Happy Birthday, Mom!” Eleven-year-old Orovon tensed with a mixture of pride and anxiousness. He had put many long hours into crafting a necklace for his mother’s 40th birthday that would be unlike anything she had ever seen. Evala, Orovon’s mother, gasped as she lifted the necklace out of its padded, velvet-enclosed box.

“Orovon, it’s beautiful! Where did you find this? It’s so rare-looking!”

Orovon beamed with pride. “I didn’t ‘find’ it anywhere. I made it – just for you.”

Evala turned to look at him in wonder but she could already sense he was telling the truth. Evala was one of a handful of Solarians who had fledgling telepathic abilities. There were days when Orovon cursed having a telepathic mom who could outdo any lie detector, but today he was glad for it. She turned back to the necklace with her mouth hanging open in surprise. It was an 18-inch-long closed chain, made of interwoven bands of gold and silver links, with jade and ruby stones alternately wrapped in each set of links. Hanging from the base of the necklace was a deep-blue translucent stone shaped like a teardrop. Strands of gold wrapped delicately around it and clasped it in place. The stone was about an inch long and a half-inch in diameter at its base – a diamond.

She held the necklace up and grasped the diamond with her thumb and finger. “Do you realize what this is?” she asked in astonishment.

Orovon grinned and nodded. “It’s an Ai’Staar stone. Father says you’re going to be an Ai’Staar so I thought you should have it. Father gave me the diamond from the royal treasury to use in the necklace.”

Evala shook her head, amazed, and muttered to herself, “Okaira, wait until I get my hands on you.” Her husband, Okaira, Price of Solaria, had been talking of the Ai’Staars for years, ever since he discovered the girl had had fallen in love with and asked to marry him was telepathic.

It had been centuries since the last Ai’Staar (eye-STAR) had appeared on Solaria, since just before Solarians had been able to travel outside their own system. Ai’Staars were women born with telepathic abilities – a skill not unheard of among Solarians but rare enough to attract notoriety. The Ai’Staars were unique, however, in that they had the ability to link with other people without being in physical contact and could also link with more than one person at a time. Ai’Staars were usually spoken of with a mixture of wonder and fear, depending on how superstitious one was. There was always some wizened old sage who would gladly tell stories to wide-eyed children about Ai’Staars who could kill with a thought or who could twist and control other people’s minds, but no substantiated historical records ever bore these stories up.

Ai’Staars were traditionally considered to be gifted with exceptional wisdom and were looked upon almost like royal priestesses. The records had proven a correlation between the presence of an Ai’Staar and the greatest leaps forward for Solarian society, either in technology, prosperity, or knowledge, although usually a combination of the three. Whether the Ai’Staars themselves were directly responsible for the leaps forward or the leaps were simply the result of a general popular optimism as a result of the presence of an Ai’Staar was sometimes the subject of debates that were never conclusively resolved. What had never been understood by anybody was why the only people who developed Ai’Staar abilities had been women. It was commonly known that Solarian telepathic skills increase with age and practice, but for some reason, women’s abilities advanced faster than men’s. Some supposed that if a man with telepathic abilities were to live long enough he might develop his skills to Ai’Staar level, but so far, the average Solarian lifespan of 85-90 years had not been long enough for the men. Even the Ai’Staars were not usually fully developed until after their child-bearing years. Such was the hope of Okaira for his wife, Evala, that she would develop into an Ai’Staar. Evala usually waved off his assertions with amused patience, telling him to just “wait and see,” and pointed out that, so far, she had only done things that any “normal” telepath could do – linking when in physical contact with the other person and sensing general empathic feelings, like if the other person was being honest. But Okaira refused to give up hope.

Evala could sense Okaira coming down the hall even though she couldn’t sense his thoughts and stood in anticipation. She was a fairly tall woman, about 5’10” with long, waist-length, flowing blonde hair that was pinned behind her ears with a white diamond brooch. She had a long, slender face with a matching nose and large, deep-brown eyes that suggested an uncommon wisdom, only encouraging Okaira’s ambitions for her. Her long, slender body moved in her sky-turquoise ankle-length gown with the slow, calm grace that would normally be expected of someone in her position, but those who knew her privately also knew there was an athlete hidden beneath all the regality. An afternoon of running or swimming was a common part of her day, as was the case for her husband as well. Both of them had golden-colored, tanned sin, although Okaira had neck-length, dark brown hair and piercing brown eyes that seemed to miss nothing. He was a little over six feet tall and had a muscular build that dated back to his days in school athletics and the military. As he stepped into the room, he was dressed completely in black, other than a while baldric with a turquoise-colored, ringed planet, the symbol of the United Solarian Republic, the planetary government.

Evala strode toward him purposefully, shaking her head slowly. “And just what is the purpose of handing part of the treasury to our son to use in a birthday present like some common trinket?”

Okaira smiled as if he hadn’t noticed the hint of exasperation in her voice. “So how did you like your birthday necklace?”

She held the necklace up and imagined it around her neck. “Oh, it’s certainly beautiful. Orovon is quite the artist. I’m just wondering how you think people will react when they see me wearing this stone.” She could imagine people looking at her with raised eyebrows or with frowns of derision, wondering just who she thought she was. It was a spotlight she would prefer to avoid – at least for now. Maybe someday…

Okaira merely shrugged. “As common as diamonds are on Solaria, hardly anybody will even notice.”

She considered him a moment and sensed his mischievousness as he grinned at her. She wasn’t buying his offhandedness for a second, but she didn’t want to hurt Orovon’s feelings either. Maybe just this once she could get away with it. “You better be right,” she said as she lifted the necklace over her head and put it on. Okaira gently turned her around to face Orovon and pulled her hair out of the necklace so it rested on her neck. The Ai’Staar stone hung just below her breasts, the deep-blue stone standing out even more clearly in front of her turquoise gown. She thought she might as well draw a large black arrow on her stomach, pointing at the stone.

Orovon walked up to her smiling broadly. “It looks great on you, Mom.”

Evala had to bend only slightly to hug him and kiss his forehead. “I’ve never seen anything more beautiful,” she said, truthfully. “It’s a wonderful birthday present. Thank you.”

Orovon’s clothing and appearance matched his father’s except that he had large, expressive deep-brown eyes like his mother’s and thick, shoulder-length hair that was swept back behind his ears. He also had a lanky thinness that was typical of an eleven-year-old boy, although he was one of the tallest boys his age his mother had ever seen. Every time they went out in public she could never help smiling at the way girls would fawn over him, much to his red-faced embarrassment. A sadness washed over her for a moment as she thought about how it wouldn’t be much longer before he started reveling in all the feminine attention. She wasn’t too worried, however. She could see a maturity and wisdom in her only child that were beyond his years. When the time came to choose, she knew he would do it wisely.

“So what does the Princess feel like having for her birthday lunch?” Okaira asked as he bowed, half-comically.

Evala shot him a look of mild disgust. “I ought to make you eat somewhere that you hate, but then I would probably hate it too,” she mused.

Orovon’s face lit up. “How about down at the lagoon? We haven’t eaten there in a while.”

Okaira and Evala both shrugged at each other. “Sounds good to me,” Evala said.

“Great!” Orovon exulted. “I’ll get your cloak, Mom.” He hurried from the room.

Evala and Okaira kissed long and tenderly. “Happy birthday, gorgeous,” he said.

She put her hands on his chest as he held her. “Thank you,” she said, simply. She put one of her hands on his cheek and was able to link with him, sensing the depth of his attraction, but lost her concentration when Orovon skidded into the room, embarrassed to find his parents looking in each other’s eyes. He turned hurriedly to leave the room, but Okaira stopped him and took the cloak he was carrying.

“Shall we?” Okaira smiled to them both as he draped the cloak over Evala’s shoulders. She put her hand around his proffered arm and they all walked out.

Orovon thought it was strange but also amusing to pass the two unarmed guards that were always stationed at the front door. Their house, as spacious as it was, wasn’t any larger than the other houses in their neighborhood. Really, other than the guards, nobody would ever guess that anyone out of the ordinary lived there. “Royalty” had long ago ceased to be a position of glory and riches as Solarians realized they were all equal. The only reason the traditional “Prince of Solaria” title even continued to be passed down was because Solarians viewed the royal line as a symbol of Solarian prosperity. The true political power was in the Presidency and Central Council. Ever since the United Solarian Republic had been established almost a millennium earlier, most of the princes had been content to serve brief, quiet careers in the military and to otherwise avoid the spotlight when possible. Occasionally, a prince ran for the Council or even the Presidency, and a few even won and served successful terms, but those were the exceptions. The royal family was usually accorded an extra measure of respect, especially by shop keepers and restaurant owners anxious for publicity, but the average Solarian lifestyle had risen to the point where there wasn’t much difference between the princes and everybody else. Okaira had been carefully raised to believe this was for the best and was equally careful to instill that same belief in Orovon.

As the trio walked down the street toward the lagoon, they hardly even noticed the massive city behind them. Sorana, the world capitol city of the United Solarian Republic, was home to nearly 22 million people, with a downtown area that stood more than half a mile tall above the ground. There were dozens of regulated layers of aircar traffic going in every direction around and between the buildings, but most people preferred matter-energy conversion transporters, dematerializing from one place and materializing at their destination. Most people had transporter pads in their house or apartment and the Okaira family was no exception, but half the pleasure of eating at the lagoon was the scenic walk on the way. As they walked downhill from their house, the sea spread out behind the crystal-clear lagoon toward the horizon, while from the beach, numerous kinds of fish were visible beneath the water’s surface. To the left of the lagoon in the distance were mountains that were always snow-capped except for the hottest seven or eight weeks of the summer. A receding storm on the horizon’s right was lit up by occasional flashes of lightning, sometimes followed by distant rumbles of thunder, but the sky was otherwise cloudless. All along the sidewalks and medians were various types of plants and flowers, filling the streets with a raucously enjoyable clash of colors and scents.

Okaira often caught himself forgetting to take in the magnificent scene after seeing it almost every day, but he tried to remember to be sure and appreciate it. The three of them stopped occasionally and chatted or returned nodded bows from people who felt it important to acknowledge the Prince. Evala was grateful that nobody gave the Ai’Staar stone anything more than a few curious uplifted eyebrows, while Orovon busied himself avoiding girls who did as much giggling as talking. As they gradually made their way toward the lagoon, the smells of fresh fish and lobster wafted into Orovon’s nose, carried on the muggy breeze from the distant storm, and his stomach began rumbling with the fading thunder in anticipation.
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Old May 24 2010, 03:16 AM   #2
dphipps100
Ensign
 
Star Trek: Ai'Staar (new novel I'm writing) - Part Two

The crowds gradually turned toward the overhead sun and shaded their eyes when they noticed a large fleet of fighter patrol ships silently converging over the downtown area. There was no panic or even serious concern, only curiosity at the unusual display. Evala leaned over and spoke to her husband. “I wasn’t aware of today being an air show.”

Okaira shrugged his shoulders and said nothing, only shaking his head with a frown on his face as he watched the fighters ascend up into the atmosphere. His military experience told him there had to be a reason for so many fighters to be over the capital city, which was clearly not a training area. There appeared to be close to a hundred fighters, but then he noticed two more similar groups approaching, one from over the ocean and the other from behind the mountains.

Evala thought she had it figured out and spoke accusingly: “This better not have anything to do with my birthday. If it does…,” but her voice trailed off as she sensed his concern growing. At the same time, she herself noticed the additional fighter groups approaching and realized this was no mere lavish display.

People in the crowd began pointing to the other groups that were approaching and ascending to follow the previous fighters who had by now climbed out of sight. At the same time, flashes like lightning began silently lighting up the now cloudless, noontime sky. As a horrified realization began sending a chill down Okaira’s spine, a patrol officer rushed up to him, nearly in a panic, whispered in his ear and began tugging on his arm. Evala could sense his concern growing from alarm into genuine fear as he pushed away the patrol officer who saluted clumsily and hurried off.

The silent flashes in the sky increased in number and intensity as Okaira spun Evala and Orovon around and started hurrying back toward the house. “We’re under attack!” he whispered loudly into Evala’s ear. “We have to get back home!” Orovon felt annoyed not to be told exactly what was going on, but at the look on his father’s face he didn’t need his mother’s sense to know to save the questions for later. As they headed back up the street, the crowds followed the Prince’s example and started moving again, slowly at first, but when a burning hulk fell out of the sky and crashed in the ocean only a short distance out to sea, the seeds of a slowly growing panic started taking root. They all began trotting en masse, gradually increasing to a dead run in every direction as two more burning hulks fell out of the sky, one crashing in the lagoon and barely missing a large yacht, the other falling into a stand of trees in the city and sending up a ball of fire that was visible from where Orovon was. Okaira found it harder and harder to keep his family together. Must reach the house! he thought wildly.

As they fought their way through the running throng, the flashing in the sky had now increased to a constant strobing and more burning debris was falling, most of it now crashing over land and decimating numbers of buildings, houses, and people that Orovon could only guess at in his horror. He looked at the towering downtown area long enough to notice plumes of smoke rising where debris had impacted the skyscrapers and realized the burning debris falling from the sky was their own fighter ships falling back to the ground. There had not been a single enemy shot fired at the ground, whoever this enemy was. Somebody is beating us badly, he thought to himself as a feeling of doom began clouding over him. As he struggled to turn his attention back to keeping up with his parents, a group going in another direction jarred him away from his parents and he lost them in the crowd. Unsure what to do and starting to panic, he looked about wildly. An instant later however, his father grasped his arm and was physically hauling him and his mother up the street again.

Weaving back and forth through the crowd more and more urgently, Orovon had only a split-second glimpse of a downward spiraling plume of smoke before an explosion that seemed only a few feet to his left sent debris and pieces of flame flying through the air around him. His mother shrieked as a piece of burning debris crashed right in front of her, impaling another woman to the ground through the chest and catching one of Evala’s sleeves on fire. Okaira beat the flames out with her cloak and his bare hands and continued pressing them on, ignoring the pain and the burns on his hands. Orovon’s stricken instinct was to stop and stare at the dead woman, but Okaira wouldn’t allow it, pressing them forward. The sight of somebody’s life being instantly snuffed out right in front of him pushed Orovon into sensory overload. Numbly, he kept going, only half aware of his parents hanging on to him in the running throng.

He snapped back to reality, however, when the sun disappeared behind a dark, cube-shaped object that descended out of the sky over the downtown area, casting its shadow over him and the others around him. While everyone slowed to see what this strange object was, the cloudless, silent lightning from the losing battle in space continued around it, but the cube seemed oblivious. In the distance, behind the burning downtown area, two more cubes descended and stopped at the same altitude as the first. A lone Solarian fighter descended into the visible sky, firing its weapons incessantly at the first cube, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. Then, multiple laser beams lanced out from the cube at the fighter and probed it until one of the beams punctured through the fighter’s shields and the fighter exploded, adding to the raining debris that was starring to taper off from the sky.

As Orovon and those around him watched the destruction of the fighter and saw the futility of its attack, a woman next to him gasped, clapped her hand over her mouth and wept openly as the proverbial handwriting began appearing on the wall. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a sound began thundering back and forth across the landscape. Orovon couldn’t tell what it was at first, but thought it almost sounded like a voice. As people around him craned their ears in terrified fascination, he realized it wasn’t a voice. It was many voices, a chorus, all speaking in unison from the cubes. As the chorus repeated itself, Orovon figured out what the voices were saying, and it chilled him to the marrow of his bones.

“We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Your life as you have known it is at an end. Resistance…is futile.”

As the chorus continued repeating itself, the same woman next to him covered her face with her hands and began sobbing, sinking to the ground. Others began looking at each other, aghast. Most, however, resumed running even more frantically than before, now to try to escape. Okaira grabbed Orovon and Evala and yelled, “Come on! We have to reach a transporter pad and get to a ship!” With the realization that they were abandoning their home, a full panic nearly flared up in Orovon and all thoughts were cast aside besides staying with his parents at all costs. Civility began disappearing around him as people barreled over each other in their desperation to get away from the invaders. Meanwhile, the chorus continued thundering over the landscape as if expecting an answer.

Orovon didn’t even notice as nearly 20 Solarian fighters circled down out of the slowing light flashes and desperately opened fire on the three cubes, even though some of the fighters were already so damaged as to be barely able to continue flying. They all brought everything they had to bear on the cubes, inundating them with weapons fire, but like before, it had no effect. Dozens of the same laser-type beams lanced out from the three cubes and quickly finished off the fighters.

Apparently taking the fighter attack as the Solarians’ answer, the booming chorus now stopped and each cube simultaneously fired massive energy beams at the ground. Fire, smoke, and debris exploded thousands of feet into the air as the beams cut swaths into the ground dozens of feet wide and hundreds of feet deep, the three beams together carving out a huge circle in the ground, miles in diameter.

Orovon could see the nearest beam crossing the street about a half mile ahead of him and stopped. His parents spun around to urge him on, but a number of people around him dematerialized in a criss-crossing of green lines and were gone. Evala screamed as Orovon realized his dad was among those taken, but before he even had a chance to react, a hail of glass, debris, and bricks from the energy beam forced him to throw his arms up to protect himself. The flow of the crowd turned and stampeded toward the lagoon, away from the energy beam, and away from his mother. Orovon screamed, “Mom! Dad!” and tried to turn around to find his mother, but couldn’t fight the surge of the crowd. A man on the left tumbled to the ground when a falling brick shattered his skull and the man was instantly trampled by the crowd, now beyond all sense.

Desperately, Orovon started fighting his way sideways, his clothes and body being steadily slashed and beaten by the raining debris. As people continued falling, either tripping or being struck down by debris, the crowd was thinning, but he continued being carried along with the flow. Finally, he tripped and fell but rolled out of the way of the stampeding feet, getting himself covered in glass, grit and dirt in the process. He jumped up and realized he’d made it to the side of the street, barely out of the surging flow. He also noticed the rain of debris had slowed as the massive cutting beam had moved off a distance, but then another cluster of people disappeared in front of him in the same criss-crossing green lines.

Terrified that he would be in the next group captured, he began looking around for where the crowd was thinnest, thinking maybe he would be safer there and might spot his mother. But before he could move, the ground underneath him began moving up and down and the street started cracking and buckling in waves. A rumbling noise from inland filled the air like continuous thunder, drawing his attention. He noticed what looked like a gigantic white laser curtain draping down from the three cubes and covering the area where the cutting beams had been. Almost everyone in the street fell and bounced as the ground kicked and bucked more and more wildly. Orovon barely stayed on his feet by clinging to a pole that was thrashing back and forth. Suddenly the shaking stopped and was replaced by a sensation of going up in an elevator. Orovon was looking all around, trying to figure out what was going on when large cracks began appearing in the ground and buildings began splitting apart as the ground opened underneath them while the rumbling from inland grew to an ear-splitting roar. When the rising sensation stopped, it was briefly replaced by one of being held in mid-air, even though his feet were still touching the ground. Massive ripping and tearing sounds mixed with the roaring noise.

A few seconds later, Orovon’s feet and all the people and debris around him lifted off the ground as it fell away beneath him. Just like rolling out of bed while asleep, Orovon had a split second where he felt as if he were floating but then he and the ground slammed into each other as his body caught up with the ground that had fallen back into place. The wind was knocked out of him and the pole next to him snapped off, narrowly missing his head while all the buildings in the area collapsed into piles of rubble, as if a giant hand had downwardly slapped them and crushed them. After he finished bouncing and being rolled around, he noticed the huge inland area inside the white laser curtain was lifting in one great piece out of the planet’s surface, leaving a crater beneath it that was miles in diameter. As it continued rising, he could make out buildings and people falling off the edges. When he noticed a constant flashing of the green lines all over the rising land section, he wondered numbly how many of those falling people might actually be jumping, preferring death to whatever horrid fate awaited the captured.

For a moment he froze, riveted in horror, but when yet another person next to him disappeared, he remembered his mother and sprang into action, running back toward her and the crater and trying to spot her sky-turquoise gown somehow in all the chaos. Some people got up and ran in all directions, not even knowing where to go, others lay where they were, howling in fear and in pain from their injuries, and others just lay silently, never to see another day again. Everyone was covered with mud, glass, and blood. Orovon had no idea how he would ever find his mother, but he had to try. Between wiping tears, dirt, and blood from his eyes, tripping over bodies and debris and trying to dodge other people who didn’t seem to care if they crashed into him, he felt like he wasn’t getting anywhere. He just ran and ran, to and fro, crying and getting more frantic by the moment.

Then an image flashed into his mind of a collapsed building and he recognized it – it was only about 100 feet away. At the same time, there was a voice saying, “Orovon…”. At first, he thought he was hearing the voice, but then he realized he was feeling it. It was his mother. Then the image and the voice were gone, replaced by a dead emptiness. Too frightened to think about what the emptiness might mean, he rushed over to where the image had been from. He found the spot and looked about wildly, oblivious to the hovering land mass between the three cubes. If he had looked, he would have seen that the green flashes had actually increased in their frequency.

About fifteen feet away, he saw the lower part of a familiar-looking turquoise gown sticking out from a pile of fallen bricks and debris. He bolted over and cleared off the pile, uncovering the blood-drenched back of the woman’s upper part. His breath caught and he couldn’t swallow past the lump in his throat while he tried to will the gown to move or the torso to show some sign of breathing, but nothing stirred. He fell on his knees next to the lifeless form, put a hand on the familiar, yet strange-looking flowing, crimson-drenched, waist-length hair that was pinned back by a soiled diamond brooch, and with the other hand, turned her over ever so gently. At the sight of the face that was bloodied beyond recognition, he had to turn his eyes while his stomach began retching. A moment later he forced himself to look back and he saw it: Around the neck was a necklace of interwoven bands of gold and silver links with inset jade and ruby stones, the Ai’Staar stone hanging off the side of her shoulder. As carefully as he could, he cradled his mother’s head and lifted the necklace, slipping it off over her head. As he worked her hair out of the necklace, the chain swept blood out of her hair and came free with blood dripping out of the links. He put the necklace in his pocket, ignoring the blood it got all over his hands and clothes. Then, he took the bloody head in both arms and cradled it.

“Wake up, Mom,” he whispered, his voice too broken to speak. “I found you, Mom, we have to get away and figure out how to rescue Dad.” When he didn’t get a response, he started rocking her and tried again, louder. “Wake up, Mom. It’s me, Orovon.” Tears started flowing as he grew more insistent. “Please, Mom, you can’t leave me. I don’t know what to do!” As he looked around, wild-eyed, hoping to somehow find somebody, anybody who could help, the horror of it all began sinking in as he took in the scene.

“Please! Somebody! Help!” he screamed, rocking back and forth with his mom. But there was no answer from the running throng, which was getting thinner and thinner.

In the sky above him, as the green flashes finally began slowing, pieces of the hovering land mass were meticulously carved off the like bites of steak for the cubes. Each piece was methodically scanned and dissected for anything that might prove useful, the remaining waste efficiently disintegrated into oblivion. Around the planet, similar scenes played out at every major city. The remaining scattered remnants would be rounded up in the days to come. Thus was the death of one of the galaxy’s great civilizations.
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