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Chapter 5: The Search


The next morning, Kaylee awoke in her bed, dazed. She slowly got up and used her nano-clothing unit to get dressed, afterward, she exited the room she was staying in to see Darren and Zell at a table with all manner of alien food. She walked over to them and sat down, “You two are up early,” she said.

“As are you,” smiled Zell, “I trust you slept well.”

“I did, actually. What do we have here?” asked Kaylee as she motioned to the food on the table.

Darren made up a small plate for her and slid it to her, pointing to the various foods, “This is something called ‘Koj-Kalul’, this one is ‘Yatre’, and these are ‘Uturi’ and ‘Vusk’. I think I’m pronouncing those right,” he said.

“Indeed,” said Zell, “Very good for your first try.”

Darren leaned close to Kaylee and muttered, “I recommend the ‘Yatre’, it kind of tastes like honeydew melon.”

“Yatre,” said Zell, who apparently overheard Darren, “Is a fruit that comes from those purple trees we mentioned last night. Inside the fruit is warm and thin sap that tingles on the way down. It’s quite common on my world.”

“That reminds me, as soon as we get back aboard Auriga, I want her to run that analysis of the star pattern to see if she can locate a rough area where our world might be,” said Darren.

Zell nodded, “I’ve already started that analysis. I called up using my Link, last night. She said it could take a few more uoers from now, but no more,” he said.

“Good. There might be some hope after all,” said Darren. Kaylee ate some Yatre fruit, and its sweet scent filled the air. Her reaction was that of enjoyment, as well as surprise.

“So, I know why we’re still here, but why are the rest of these guests still here?” asked Kaylee.

Zell looked around and smiled, “The parties for marriage last up to three days, although the newly married couple usually don’t stay for all of that. It looks like there’s been some consensus on continuing the celebration. I wish we could stay for it, but we may not have the time. The Imperium are still looking for us, and even if they can’t come down here to take us, they can wait for us to leave, then ambush us. The longer we stay, the more likely that will happen.”

“Luckily, where we’re going, the Imperium has never found,” said Darren.

“All the more reason to get you both home as soon as possible,” said Zell. Just then, Arkaz walked up and whispered something into Zell’s ear. “Are you sure?” asked Zell, aloud. A few more whispers, then Arkaz walked off. “Well,” said Zell, “I guess that makes up our minds for us. We have to go, now.”

They all stood up and Zell led them toward a trans-location platform, “What’s going on?” asked Kaylee. She had a bad feeling about what was said.

“The Imperium have sent a scout ship to this system. It may simply be a routine patrol, but we can’t take the chance that they’ll detect Auriga,” said Zell. They each stepped onto the trans-location platform, and Zell tapped a few controls on his Link Unit. There was a blinding flash of light, and a loud whirring sound, followed by the sensation of electricity and sudden movement. Then the light and sound faded, and they were in a room that resembled Auriga’s structure. The three stepped off of the platform and walked out the door. It was indeed Auriga, on Level Blue, Kaylee found out. She saw a marker on the wall at the four-way junction they’d seen when they first came aboard. After they’d used the gravity tubes to return to Level Red, Darren made his way to the command chamber ahead of the others and sat at navigation.

Kaylee sat at communications, Zell at weapons, and Arkaz in the command chair centered behind the others. “Do you two feel up to operating the ship?” Arkaz asked Kaylee and Darren.

“I’m up to continue learning, primarily by actually doing it,” said Kaylee.

“As am I,” said Darren.

“Good. Darren, plot a course to Rizadia,” said Arkaz. Darren nodded and tapped a few controls, bringing up Rizadia’s coordinates in the database, and applying them to their course.

“Got it, course plotted. The ISF Drive is charged up to ninety-eight percent,” said Darren.

“Communications read that we’ve been cleared for ISF deployment,” said Kaylee.

“Understood,” said Arkaz, “Commit Drive.”

Darren tapped the control to activate the ISF jump, the ship rumbled and vibrated from the increase in energy, and from Kaylee’s view, she could see the outside of the ship being bombarded by the same charge as last time. Then, in the blink of an eye, Auriga launched into Inter-space, and everything was a peaceful calm. It felt as though the ship wasn’t even moving, even though Kaylee knew better.

“I can’t believe it,” said Kaylee, “We might be going home!”

“Maybe,” said Darren. He sighed and sat back in his chair.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you want to go home?” asked Kaylee.

“Yeah, I guess, but, knowing where home is was the only real concern I had. Like you said when we got here, this is an amazing opportunity for us. We’re the first of our kind to ever be out this far,” said Darren, “Having thought about it, I could honestly find happiness out here. Back home, I’m just a computer repair guy, barely making ends meet. Out here, who knows what I could be. Maybe I’ll be a writer, writing about our adventures out here.”

Mobius and Synapse: Adventures In Outer-Space would have a nice ring to it,” Kaylee laughed.

Darren laughed with her, “Or The Life and Times of Darren Cochrane and Kaylee--” he paused, “Say, what is your last name, anyway?” he asked.

“Preston,” said Kaylee.

The Life and Times of Darren Cochrane and Kaylee Preston; how’s that sound?” he finished.

“Sounds like a movie to me,” said Kaylee. She shifted in her chair and crossed her legs like last time. The outfit she’d chosen kept to her concept of futuristic appearance, but unlike most of the outfits she’d worn before, this one had a mini-skirt; something she’d not gotten used to yet. She found herself fidgeting more than usual, and she was beginning to debate whether she’d wear this outfit very often. She’d never been too comfortable in most women’s clothing, which was part of the reason she preferred unusual clothing.

“The only problem is, nobody back home would believe a word of it,” said Darren with a sigh, “They’d chalk it up to a very developed imagination, and nothing more.”

“Yeah well, despite proof of a lot of things, people on Earth would rather bury their heads up each other’s asses, than face reality,” said Kaylee, “One time, I dated a guy who honestly thought the Earth was flat, and that science was lying to us as a means of conformism.”

“No way, you’re bullshitting me,” said Darren with a smile.

“Dead serious,” said Kaylee.

“Wow. There are no words,” said Darren. He double-checked their course, then looked back at Kaylee, “It seems like no matter how many years go by, how much research finds out things, there’s always someone out there who refuses to look at reality.”

“They’re just afraid. Afraid of being wrong, of their beliefs being challenged, afraid of change,” said Kaylee.

“Maybe so, but to hide from the truth out of fear of looking a fool, or fear of inevitable change is equally foolish in its own right,” said Darren.

“You don’t like people very much, do you?” asked Kaylee.

“Not really,” said Darren, “People don’t interest me, and I usually only bother with a handful of people at a time, if at all.”

“What about me?” asked Kaylee.

“You, I like hanging out with, and talking with,” said Darren with a smile, “You’re not like most people, Kaylee. You’re an entirely new class of your own.” Kaylee laughed at the idea that she was somehow different from most people, but she took Darren’s word for it and took it as a compliment. Her console began beeping and flashing a red button, she looked to see what was going on.

“It says there’s a transmission being received,” she said.

Arkaz leaned forward in his chair, “Let’s hear it,” he said. Kaylee tapped the necessary controls, which was fairly easy since most of the controls labeled themselves, like having a computer desktop constantly changing its icons and program labels when one is tapped to access that section of memory.

“--zadian high command; we are under attack-- Imperium forces--” the transmission was garbled and filled with interference, “--capital city-- fallen. We cannot-- them off for long-- Repeat; this is the Rizadian-- command; we-- under attack--” The transmission cut out abruptly.

“No!” Zell pounded his fist on his console, “The Imperium will burn for this!”

“Take it easy,” said Arkaz, “Send a transmission probe behind us to warn the neighboring systems and send for help. We’re in no position to help, we only have a mining beam, after all.”

Zell nodded and tapped a number of controls, launching a probe behind them containing the message, “Probe launched,” he said.

“Auriga; have you calculated where Erthu may be located, yet?” asked Arkaz.

“Only with a seventy-six percent certainty of region, with increasing margin of error with each star. I could, however, further narrow down the search parameters if I knew what type of star we were aiming for,” said Auriga.

“Yellow dwarf,” said Darren, “Nine satellites orbiting, each containing various satellites of their own. The planet we’re looking for is the only habitable planet in the system, third from the star, containing one natural satellite with various synthetic satellites in orbit.”

“Understood,” said Auriga, “I will begin long-range scans to find a system with those specifications.”

Arkaz tapped a few controls on his chair arm, “Very well, thank you, Auriga. Darren, plot a new course around Rizadia, toward the region most likely to be where your world is,” he said.

“Got it,” said Darren. He readjusted their course once again, “Once we find Earth, I’d like to come with you all. As long as I know I can go home, being out here is quite the adventure.”

“I’m afraid that’s not a good idea, Darren,” said Arkaz, “The Imperium just declared war against Rizadia, the entire region will be unstable and unsafe. It’s better if you just go home, and live out your life there.”

“Alert: A second star-vessel has been detected within our Inter-space wake,” said Auriga.

Zell looked at his console, “Confirmed, Imperium scout. We might be able to lose them if we dump our Vokorium Gas.”

“Do it, with haste. The last thing we need is to lead them to a new world for them to conquer,” said Arkaz. Zell tapped more controls and a loud ‘whoosh’ could be heard.

“They’re falling behind. Looks like their ISF Drive stalled,” said Zell.

***

A few hours had passed and Auriga finally finished her calculations. Darren and Kaylee both awaited the results, Darren was sure they could find Earth, he just wasn’t sure if he wanted to go home yet. He’d thought about it over the past few days, even made his intentions clear, but the normal crew didn’t want to put him and Kaylee at risk. These were now dangerous times, and the Imperium was likely to take over any system that they hadn’t already. “I believe I have found the system in question,” said Auriga. She displayed the system in the command chamber using the holographic displays.

“That’s it. That’s our solar system,” said Darren.

“Set course for your world, then,” said Arkaz. Darren followed the order. Within a few minutes, they’d be in orbit of Earth, and Darren and Kaylee would be sent home. What would they do now, with the knowledge they had gained about what was out here? Would they tell people? But then, who would believe them? Would he and Kaylee continue dating? He knew the answers to none of these questions.

“I think I should mention that our world has orbital surveillance capabilities, and any approach we take will be seen,” said Darren.

“Then, perhaps,” said Zell, “We should deposit you the same way you came; with a probe. Your people have already seen one, it would do very little damage if they witnessed a second one.”

“So,” said Darren, “You can control how the probes work?” He remembered that Zell said something about how they malfunctioned around the singularity zone.

“Yes, under normal circumstances we can program them to either collect or deposit things,” said Zell.

“Sounds like a plan then,” said Darren. The conversation came to a close, and Auriga re-entered normal space. There, out the forward window, Darren could see Earth.

Arkaz stood up and looked at Darren and Kaylee, “It was very good to meet you both. Perhaps when the Imperium threat has been neutralized, we will meet again,” he said.

“I hope so,” said Darren, “Thank you all for everything.”

“It was the least we could do,” said Zell, “Come with me to Level Green, and I’ll program the probe to send you home.” Once again, Darren and Kaylee followed Zell. Once in the cargo area where the probes were stored, Zell opened the panel on one and reprogrammed it. “Are you both ready?” he asked them. They both nodded, and Zell tapped a control. The probe scooped them up in the same beam of light as before, and before Darren could blink, they were both back on Earth, standing exactly where they had been taken from; Darren’s apartment parking lot.

“That was fast,” said Kaylee. They both looked up to see the probe flying out of the atmosphere.

“It must still need to put its contents in stasis for transport,” said Darren. He looked down and noticed that they’d neglected to take his and Kaylee’s Link Units and Flux Blasters. Darren tapped his Link Unit’s communication control, “This is Darren, you guys forgot to ask for our Links and Blasters.” He waited for a response, but there was none, and he assumed that they’d already re-entered Inter-space. The duo walked up to Darren’s apartment, where everything was exactly as they’d left it.

“So,” said Kaylee, “Now what?”

“You want a pizza?” asked Darren. They both laughed and Kaylee nodded. Darren picked up his phone and called their local pizza parlor; The Top Slice. “Yes, I need a large pepperoni with mushrooms, and bacon,” said Darren over the phone, “Yeah, the address is Three Eighteen Continental Way, Apartment G,” he added. He paused as he listened, “Okay, thank you.” He hung up the phone, “It’s on the way,” he said, but paused as he saw Kaylee smiling and giving him a look. “What?” he laughed.

“You literally just ordered my ideal pizza,” said Kaylee as she sat down, “What are the odds of that?”

Darren laughed again, “Well, between just the two of us, pretty slim odds, I’d say, given the number of combinations of pizza toppings there are, and how many people generally have the same exact tastes,” he said. After their pizza arrived, they both sat at the sofa, eating pizza, drinking wine, and watching a movie. They both fell asleep cuddling on the couch, afterward.

Darren suddenly awoke from a thunderous sound, he jumped up quickly, scared out of his mind, which woke up Kaylee as well, “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I heard some kind of loud bang, like an explosion or something,” said Darren. Then, another one shook the whole building while simultaneously lighting up the sky outside. Darren looked at the clock, which read ‘1:32 am’, and picked up his holster, buckling it on once again. He gave Kaylee hers as well, who did the same.

“What could it be?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but I’ve got a bad feeling about it,” said Darren. He opened the door and peeked out into the hallway, and there, at the end of the hallway were people dressed in black armor and helmets, carrying blasters. He quickly, but silently, closed the door and looked back at Kaylee, “It’s the Imperium. They must have somehow followed Auriga’s trail,” he said.

“Oh my god,” she said, “What do we do? We can’t exactly take them all on, they obviously came in a ship.”

“Yeah, my guess is the explosions we’re hearing outside are weapons bombardment, maybe from orbit,” said Darren. He opened the door again, seeing the soldiers taking residents out of their homes, killing anyone who resisted. “They’re going to be here at any moment, I’d much rather go down fighting, if nothing else,” said Darren. Kaylee nodded in agreement, and Darren aimed his blaster around the door frame down the hall. He fired his blaster, hitting one of the soldiers, killing him. The others opened fire at the doorway as Darren took cover.

“Darren, across the hall,” Kaylee pointed out. She charged her blaster and fired at the door across the hall, it exploded into splinters from the blast, and Darren dove into the apartment as he fired two more shots at the soldiers. He stood up and took position, both he and Kaylee fired at the soldiers when they could. There were five, then four, now two left, and they retreated out of the building.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” said Darren. He led Kaylee to the stairs, knowing the elevator would be a bad idea.

“Where the hell are we supposed to go, Darren?” asked Kaylee, “The Imperium is going to cover the planet, looking for survivors and fighters, they won’t stop until every last resistance member is either captured, or dead.”

“We have to try something, we can’t just let them take over without a fight,” said Darren.

“Wait, I got an idea. Let’s link our Link Units together and try to send a signal to Auriga,” said Kaylee.

“What makes you think that would work? They’ve been gone for hours,” said Darren.

“If we can use the units themselves to amplify a signal, we can bounce that signal off of the Imperium ship that must be in orbit,” said Kaylee.

“How do you know that will even work?” asked Darren. They reached the bottom of the stairway and Darren peeked out at the lobby, it was clear, so they ran out the door and toward nearby cover.

“Well, I don’t, but we’re kind of low on options right now,” said Kaylee. She tapped a few controls on her Link, opening its transmitter options, and linked it to Darren’s. She tapped the ‘transmit’ command, “Kaylee to Zell, or anyone else aboard the Auriga; Earth is under attack by Imperium soldiers, we need help,” she said. She set the transmission on a repeating broadcast and once again readied her blaster.

“All we can do now is wait, and hope we aren’t captured before they get here, assuming they get the signal,” said Darren. Soldiers walked through the streets, firing on anyone who ran from them, using lethal force against any who directly opposed them. Then, a squadron made its way to Darren’s building, presumably as backup to what had just occurred. Darren wanted to stop them, but he also knew he was ultimately powerless to do so. The only chance his world had was surrender, or at the very least, for him and Kaylee to somehow bring help. But who would openly oppose the Imperium? They’d already seen the effect the regime had in other places, most worlds that Darren had seen or heard of so far didn’t even have the necessary power to rise up. Rizadia was the only one he’d heard of that might be able to do so, and they were neck-deep in a new war. Darren and Kaylee started making their way toward another part of town, taking back yards and back-alleys to avoid the soldiers. After a while, the military started setting up positions and checkpoints, combating the Imperium at every turn. Darren and Kaylee entered a ruined bank that they came across, “Something’s been bugging me,” said Darren.

“What?” asked Kaylee, who was watching behind them as often as she could.

“They came right to my building, to my floor, heading toward my door, where we happened to be,” said Darren.

“Yeah, so? They’re rounding up everyone,” said Kaylee. They both took cover behind the tellers’ desk to rest for a few minutes.

“I think they tracked us,” said Darren, “Watch for a minute, I’m willing to bet that soldiers will show up nearby before long.” After a few minutes, a group of Imperium soldiers appeared on the street, searching the area meticulously. “See?” said Darren.

“What do you think they’re using to track us?” asked Kaylee.

“It’s gotta be our Link Units, we didn’t have our blasters turned on until they showed up,” said Darren.

“But if we turn off our Links, we’ll never get a signal out to Auriga,” said Kaylee.

“Yeah, we’ll just have to keep moving and avoid the patrols as long as we can,” said Darren. They moved through the bank to the back door, exiting into another alley just as the soldiers walked into its lobby.

“Keep looking,” Darren overheard one of the soldiers, “They’ve got to be around here somewhere.” Darren and Kaylee crept through the alley, hoping they wouldn’t follow them before they could take cover somewhere else. More explosions could be heard in the distance, screams permeated the air along with blasters going off. It was a war zone, but instead of two combating forces fighting each other, there was one murderous regime killing innocent people just to prove their power. The military didn’t stand a chance either, Darren knew they were outmatched and outgunned. He started to wonder what would become of his home; would the regime take over? Would they simply kill everyone and move on? Darren’s thoughts were interrupted with yet another patrol walking down the street ahead. Both Darren and Kaylee had their blasters ready, knowing that if they were discovered, they’d have to take down every soldier in the patrol. The soldiers passed by without incident, but that didn’t calm Darren or Kaylee.

“What if we head for the local bomb shelter?” asked Kaylee, quietly.

“There’s no guarantee the signal will go through with that much interference,” said Darren, “The best thing we can do right now is stay on the move, and hide when we can.”

“We can’t keep this up,” said Kaylee. Darren sighed, he knew she was right, but what else could they do? The Imperium was taking over, nothing they did could prevent that, and their only hope was to get the signal out. What choice did they have, but to keep going?

“I hope they pick up that signal soon,” said Darren. They moved to yet another building that had been hit, some kind of deli, and stopped to rest. Once again, a few minutes passed, and more soldiers showed up to search the building. They didn’t have the energy needed to keep going, all they could do is sit and wait. Darren increased the output of his blaster, hoping the blast would at least put the soldiers off-balance. Kaylee stopped him from moving, shaking her head. The soldiers could be heard talking among themselves as they approached slowly.

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