Book 1, Chapter 1 - The Frontier



Clouds of sand billow across a vast red desert. An alien city sprawls over the dunes, bleached by an acidic sun. Bisson, the capital city of Edari.

A colonial military shuttle descends into the city’s depths.

Undetected, a reptilian alien drops to a rooftop and produces a small detonator from his dusty coat. His scaly lips curl back in a wicked grin.

He hits the button. A series of violent explosions rock the city. Smoke blooms from the devastation.



Rubble falls in an ancient holkari temple.

COMMANDER TYGG: Negative, station command: we’ll have to find another way out. (to soldier) Help me get him up.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: Let’s go, senator.

Commander Strakker Tygg and a young colonial soldier help an elder holkari statesman to his feet in a dim temple chamber.

SENATOR OO’THAN: The Colony has brought a storm to Bisson.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: Still no response from Captain Landris, sir.

COMMANDER TYGG: We’ll try to link up with Tikari Squad. Take back the shipyard if we have to--

SENATOR OO’THAN: Commander Tygg, we should return for the others!

COMMANDER TYGG: I’m sorry senator, it’s imperative that we get you out of the city alive. We’re taking you back to our station.

SENATOR OO’THAN: The others could be in danger! Please, the council--

COMMANDER TYGG: (interrupting) Senator, without you there is no council. Without you, there will be no peace in the frontier. The Holkari Empire will never be reunified.

The elder holkari studies the officer, tusked face tight with worry.

SENATOR OO’THAN: Then... let us go.


A clatter behind them. The two soldiers whip around, pulse rifles at the ready.

COMMANDER TYGG: (to soldier) What was it?

COLONIAL SOLDIER: Off-worlder, sir. Maybe a zaridian.

Tygg glares down the barrel of his rifle into the murky shadows.

SENATOR OO’THAN: A demon... from the beyond-all…

Tygg grabs the senator and starts walking.

COMMANDER TYGG: We need to move--

Two ornate knives fly past, striking both colonial soldiers.



Tygg spins on his heel, shoving the holkari senator to the ground. The young soldier collapses, clutching the knife in his throat. A four armed reptilian alien stands over the young soldier’s body, tail whipping through the air behind him.

The zaridian, Dorgo Konidarian.

COMMANDER TYGG: You’re making a mistake, bounty hunter.

The zaridian grins.

Tygg fires his rifle but Dorgo spits a glob of acid at him, melting the rifle in his hands.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): Agh! (then) Run, senator!

Tygg swings his fists at Dorgo, but the assassin is too fast to hit. Tygg punches a stone wall, cracking it with his strength. Dorgo swings his tail, knocking Tygg into the wall.


The colonial’s helmet clatters away, revealing an insectoid head. With an alien fluidity, Dorgo draws his knife from the dead soldier and climbs up the wall.

SENATOR OO’THAN: Ahh!! Help me, commander!!

Dorgo drops onto the elder holkari, pinning him down. He bares a mouthful of razor sharp teeth. Tygg shakes it off and jumps to his feet, drawing his pulse pistol. He fires -- shooting the knife out of Dorgo’s hand.


The zaridian looks back over his shoulder at Tygg, snarling.

DORGO KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): We have a deal, Tygg!

COMMANDER TYGG: Get away from him, Dorgo.

Dorgo raises his hands reluctantly and steps back. Tygg stands.

SENATOR OO’THAN: Kill him, commander!\

COMMANDER TYGG: (vicious) Shut up.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: This delay grows tedious.

The senator looks up at Tygg, his face searching.

SENATOR OO’THAN: Commander, please I-- I do not… I do not understand…

Tygg turns his gun on the senator and fires. The holkari slumps to the ground, tusks scraping against the stone floor.

Dorgo stares blankly down at the senator’s body. For Tygg, the switch has flipped.

COMMANDER TYGG: Let’s dispense with the pretense, bounty hunter.

DORGO KONIDARIAN:Tygg. Tygg... we had a deal. You need me alive. Vedrahn just needed

to know if you could be trusted--

The colonial rests the barrel of his pulse pistol against the back of Dorgo’s head.

COMMANDER TYGG: I don’t work for Vedrahn.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: Doesn’t matter. Vedrahn owns the frontier.

COMMANDER TYGG: Tt. “The frontier.” Vedrahn’s operations in the uncivilized territories are coming to an end. You know who I answer to.

Dorgo swallows hard.


COMMANDER TYGG: And you are loyal to the Queen and the Colony, aren’t you?

He looks down at the holkari senator. Blood trickles from the pulse blast through its forehead.


Behind him, Tygg smiles.

COMMANDER TYGG: Good. A new order is coming, Dorgo. Do your job, do it well, and you’ll be






Against a dark canvas of twinkling stars, a swirling red planet turns, surrounded by a dense ring of asteroids. Edari, the second planet of the Gerlian System: former capital world of the Holkari Empire. Violent red storms tear across the planet’s surface.

A large metal structure drifts into view, nested within the asteroids. From high orbit, a colonial space station looms over the planet. The rings of the jump relay drift in close proximity, half eclipsed in the shadow of the station.



Aboard the station, a circular doorway slides away and two colonial officers march through the portal: Lieutenant Saranus Kron and Deputy Chief Science Officer Elona Zoren. Kron carries his helmet in a tarsal claw, his mandibles are tight.

ELONA ZOREN: (reading from tablet) Seismic analysis shows 17 high explosive events. We’ve received disavowals from the perillians, the addaclon, gothrendi, the travorians, the elmeroans, the iraleth, and the vethril.

SARANUS KRON: Good, that only narrows it down to the rest of the charted universe.

ELONA ZOREN: And the uncharted... Still no contact from any of the shuttle crews planetside. (then) We have to request reinforcements from Rotonken Base. We barely have enough personnel left to manage station operations. In the meantime we can retrofit the shuttle squadron with the Rider module and plan a recovery operation for Captain Landris. (she pauses) And Commander Tygg.

Elona turns to the lieutenant.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): I think it’s a pretty good plan.


ELONA ZOREN: N-- what? Kron.

SARANUS KRON: We don’t have time. We’ve got a lock on the captain’s distress signal, going planetside right now is our best bet of getting him back offworld alive.

ELONA ZOREN: We really can’t spare the personnel for a mission like that. The smart move is to let Rider run the operation, this is the exact kind of scenario we’ve been developing her for.

SARANUS KRON: We used to run training ops like this all the time back in academy.

She grabs him and they face each other. Her voice is low.

ELONA ZOREN: This is not a grekking training exercise. (then) What if it’s the holkari? We don’t even know everything they’re capable of.

SARANUS KRON: Then we need to get planetside before we lose Captain Landris. Without him, we’ll be losing all the progress we’ve made on Edari. With the holkari. With the rest of the grekking frontier.

ELONA ZOREN: Come on, Kron, will you just think about this for a micrek? I know you command officers are supposed to be... you know, how you are, but you could start a war with the Holkari Empire. The new and old systems could reunify against us. That doesn’t concern you?

He levels at her.

SARANUS KRON: Can you even guarantee the module will work?

They stare at each other.

ELONA ZOREN: This would be the first test conducted outside the station. A demonstrably successful test would be good for the Colony’s mission here and… (quieter) ...and for our careers.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN (COMM): Shuttle bay to Lieutenant Kron.

SARANUS KRON: Go ahead, Drejen.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN (COMM): Shuttle squadron is prepped for deployment, sir.

SARANUS KRON: I’m on my way, Kron out.

He narrows his eyes.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): You’re only in command of the station until I get back.

She studies him then relents.

ELONA ZOREN: Anything else, Lieutenant Kron?

He turns and leaves. She watches him, then exhales heavily.


She looks out the window into the asteroid field.



Asteroids drift past with dull sweeps. A sleekly modified transport ship passes undetected through the field of asteroids.

It’s the Berenian.



Seen from the ship’s dark cockpit, a massive asteroid passes in front of the Berenian with a bassy sweep, revealing Edari below. The red planet looms outside the frosty main window, its surface crawling with violent storms. An alarm sounds overhead.

From behind a distant cluster of asteroids emerges a small squadron of colonial military ships on a course for atmospheric entry. The computer targets each ship and tracks them.

A human hand reaches up from the pilot’s seat and disables the overhead alarm switch. The pilot leans forward and exhales a chilly breath. The nametag on his flight suit reads: Osborn. He sets a cup of steaming liquid on the console. He flips a switch and the comms squelch on.

BEN OSBORN: Berenian to Oddie. Tracking five colonial gunships heading planetside bearing 224 mark 6. Is the job done?

Osborn stares out the window. His cybernetic right eye lights up then zooms in on the ships. The comms squelch garbled static for a moment, then click off.

BEN OSBORN (CONT’D): Berenian to Oddie. Berenian to Dorgo. Come in, anyone.

No answer. Outside, the squadron of ships hits the atmosphere, flaring ribbons of red and orange. He glances at the atmospheric fuel gauge: 19%. A beat.

With a heavy sigh, Osborn straps into the seat and flips the power switches.


Systems power on and the engines spool up, reverberating dully across the cockpit. He pushes forward on the throttle.



The Berenian’s engines light up as the ship emerges from the field of asteroids on a course for the planet.



Clouds of red dust bloom over the High Plateau of Edari, an endless stretch of brown and crimson stone. The asteroid ring arcs overhead and across the horizon.

In the near distance, the rumble and pierce of Lieutenant Kron’s squadron of colonial military gunships. They shoot past, and particles of sand ping and ricochet off their hulls.



A sextet of dark oculi cover the upper half of an insectoid face. Inside the lead ship, Lieutenant Saranus Kron, second officer of the 443rd Colonial Fleet Infantry, configures and loads his pulse rifle. His mandibles are tense with focus. His carapace armor bears an officer’s markings.

Before him, a squad of soldiers is strapped into their seats, each fully armored and armed with a pulse rifle. A soldier touches a tarsal claw to his helmet comm relay.

COMM OFFICER DELEREV (O.S.): Delerev here: receiving you, station command. (then) Affirmative. Yes, ma’am.

The soldier approaches Kron across the buckling cabin.

COMM OFFICER DELEREV (CONT’D): Lieutenant Kron, station command made contact with Commander Tygg. Senator Oo’than is dead.

Kron nods grimly.

SARANUS KRON: Any word from Captain Landris?

COMM OFFICER DELEREV: Negative, sir. But we have tracking on the travorian’s distress signal.

SARANUS KRON: Transmit the navpoint to Commander Tygg, direct him to rendezvous with us there.


He reaches for his helmet and puts it on. Kron pulls back the action on his pulse rifle.



The shuttles fly across the desert, blowing up clouds of sand from the surface as they speed toward their destination: several columns of black smoke rising from a massive city of Bisson.



Shouting echoes in the distance. Pulse rifle fire. In the heart of Bisson, the Prime Courtyard is in ruin. Flaming debris and tortured scraps of metal litter the once holy gathering place. The charred bodies of holkari civilians and colonial soldiers desecrate the plaza. A stone archway collapses to the ground, sending dust into the air. The courtyard goes still.

Under a shifting pile of twisted metal debris, the pierce of an air valve venting pressure. Small pieces of rubble roll off, then the whine of servos and shifting metal as a large metal sheet is lifted up and laboriously flipped over.

A hulking suit of mechanized armor stands, then vents pressure from a set of environmental cannisters mounted on its back. Fine particulate debris sloughs off its frame.

The travorian soldier, Corvan.

He scans the rooftops. All clear.

Corvan reaches down and delicately pulls the limp body of a colonial captain from the rubble. The faceplate of his helmet is cracked. Captain Mor Landris, commanding officer of the 443rd Colonial Fleet Infantry and chief officer of Edari Station.

The travorian sets the unconscious colonial down. He raises an arm, and a rotating barrel of attachments spins then locks into place, producing an injection mechanism filled with white fluid. He administers the syringe. The captain gasps and comes awake, reeling in pain and gagging.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Argh! Fetzing dralk!

He clutches his fractured left arm to his carapace, grimacing in pain.

CORVAN: Restrain yourself, captain. The damages your body has sustained are numerous and severe. Thick green blood oozes from micro-fractures in Captain Landris’s chitinous exoskeleton. He stays prone.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: (in pain) I’ll survive.

Corvan vents.

CORVAN: Possibly. Only if you return to the station.

Landris looks around.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: The shuttle-- argh! What happened?

Corvan vents and points to the burning wreckage of a colonial transport shuttle.

CORVAN: We were attacked. An explosive device attached to the fuel cylinder. The ship is destroyed. You were damaged when we… evacuated.

Landris relents. He composes himself, grimacing, and looks over Corvan’s newly dented metal frame.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Thank you, travorian.

Corvan vents, then steps away.

CORVAN: It was trivial.

Landris taps the comms on his helmet.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: (out of breath) Station command this is Captain Landris, I need a medical shuttle and support detachment at my position, priority zero-tallot nine.

Corvan surveys their position. Up the block, acrid smoke blows across a smoldering crater, the epicenter of a massive explosion. The visual sensors of Corvan’s biomech suit glow in the haze. He checks the rooftops again.

Holkari civilians, wrapped in dusty desert garments, begin to gather, keeping a wide circle around the two soldiers.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): Captain Landris to station command. Come in, Kron. Lieutenant Kron. Landris to Commander Tygg.

He removes his helmet and looks up at Corvan.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): We could be getting jammed. Or it’s... atmospheric interference. Particulate dust. (then) Or it’s grekking broken.

CORVAN: I have already transmitted a distress signal to the station.

The crowd of holkari civilians begins to gather around them, watching from a distance and murmuring ominously.

HOLKARI 1: Ack habb maku ru?

HOLKARI 2: Do ka maku smo-ack ta.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Can you understand them?

Corvan vents. His arm rotates into a massive pulse cannon configuration.

CORVAN: No. Perhaps they plan to attack again.

With effort, Landris stands.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: (struggling to stand) Again? No. It couldn’t have been the holkari. At this scale? We’re looking for off-worlders. With experience... and equipment. The holkari don’t have tech advanced enough for--

His eyes fall on the mangled corpses of a holkari family, red dust settling on their carbonized bodies.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): ...for something like this. Too much collateral damage.

He looks away, then to Corvan.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): Any word from Tygg?


CAPTAIN LANDRIS: With any luck he got the senator off the planet. There’s a comm relay back at the temple-- argh!

He stumbles but Corvan catches him, steadying the wounded colonial with a single arm. Landris gasps for breath.

Corvan vents.

CORVAN: You are unfit for locomotion.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: You might be right.

The airspace above them is filled with the banshee screams of the squadron of gunships on approach. The captain and the travorian look upward to the sickly sky. The crowd of holkari begin to cower in fear, many pointing up.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): There’s a comforting sound.

Corvan vents.



The colonial ships fly in formation over the sun-bleached rooftops of the city, a complex matrix of stone. As two ships descend into the city depths, the other three assume a patrol pattern through the city’s upper strata.



Masked in the shadow of a stone pillar, a zaridian watches the ships pass from the rooftop of a holkari burial tower -- Oddie Konidarian. His yellow eyes narrow.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: (snarling) Colonials...

He drops to the edge of the rooftop, unslinging a scoped particle rifle from his shoulder.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): What a grekking catastrophe…

Another figure emerges behind him -- it’s Dorgo.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: Have patience, Oddie. Everything is still according to plan.


DORGO KONIDARIAN: The senator is dead. Delivered to the great beyond-all.

Oddie gestures rudely to his brother.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: Yes, good, the most impressively feeble target of the day has been eliminated.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: The colonials don’t have a clue. They’re chasing ghosts. Five gunships? Laughable. Our contract is nearly complete.

Oddie raises the rifle, crosshairs trained on Corvan then on Captain Landris below.


Oddie dials in his scope.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: If the pilot is as competent as you and Vedrahn seem to think then it won’t be a problem…

Oddie shoots his brother a sidelong glance.

DORGO KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): Just focus on killing that captain and I’ll worry about the rest.

Oddie racks the rifle. Dorgo watches his brother, his eyes narrow.



The two shuttles descend before Landris and Corvan, their engines blowing clouds of dust and sand into the air. Landris raises his hand to shield his face from the onslaught of sand while Corvan stands stoic behind him.

The hatch decompresses then slides back, and Lieutenant Saranus Kron leaps to the planet’s surface with pulse rifle in hand. A half dozen colonial soldiers jump from the shuttle behind him and a half dozen more from the shuttle beyond that, taking up tight defensive formations.

SARANUS KRON: Secure a perimeter! Maintain those signal inhibitors!


The shuttles shift into idle and gradually cycle down.

The sun reflects a sick light off the black visor of his helmet as he surveys the plaza. He approaches the wounded captain.

SARANUS KRON: Captain Landris, sir: we’re here to extract you.

The captain’s face falls.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Lieutenant Kron.

Kron shoulders his rifle and braces Landris up.

SARANUS KRON: The medical team is waiting for you back on the station.

They struggle back to the shuttle.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): We deployed for a search and rescue operation when station command lost contact with you and the others.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: On whose authority?

Kron glances at Corvan.

SARANUS KRON: On mine, sir. As the acting station commander--

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: As the acting station commander, your post was on the station,


SARANUS KRON: I-- Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: The peace treaty is in enough jeopardy as it is--

A distant shot echoes, then a particle bolt slings past and blasts through Landris. Kron’s helmet is splattered with green blood.



SARANUS KRON: C-Captain Landris... Drejen!

From within the shuttle cabin, Officer Drejen emerges to help pull the critically wounded captain aboard.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): Oh grek. I need wound sealant! Call it in, Delerev!

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: Yes sir! CO Delerev to station command, the captain is secured but--



On the rooftop, Oddie grins and racks the rifle.



SARANUS KRON: Drejen, get Captain Landris back to the station!

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Yes, sir! Get him strapped in!

Kron grabs his rifle and jumps down from the ship. Another particle blast pierces Corvan’s leg. The shuttle hatch slides shut and the engines shift back into drive. The shuttle rises back up into the air and disappears through the city.

Kron’s helmet betrays nothing as he and Corvan take up defensive positions behind rubble. He wipes the blood from his visor, leaving a green smear.

SARANUS KRON: Lieutenant Kron to all points, Captain Landris is secured. We’re taking fire in the central plaza; I need aerial support. Converge on my position.

FLIGHT OFFICER (COMM): Orders confirmed, lieutenant.

Kron exhales and surveys the courtyard. Colonial soldiers take cover behind wreckage and rubble. Corvan studies the rooftops, hydraulic fluid leaking from his mechanized leg.

SARANUS KRON: Are you picking anything up?

A glint of light in the distance. Corvan vents, then steps out and fires his rifle.


Pulse blasts rip through the air and impact wildly on the rooftop’s edge, spraying debris into the courtyard.



Oddie calmly hunkers behind a pillar as pulse fire blasts apart his cover. He pulls a small trigger device from his coat and hits a button.

Several automated turrets engage along the rooftops overlooking the courtyard. They zero in on the colonial soldiers and begin to fire.



On the ground, Kron runs from cover to cover. A particle bolt spears through a partially collapsed wall, shredding the soldier on the other side.

SARANUS KRON: Grek!! Take out those guns, Corvan! (then) Kron to station command!



Aboard the command deck of the colonial space station, Elona and the crew monitor a complex array of holographic readouts.

ELONA ZOREN: (to comms) Do what you can, Rider. (then) I’m reading you, Kron.

SARANUS KRON (COMM): Elona, we’ve made hostile contact! Serious off world tech!

ELONA ZOREN: I know, I’m watching on the sensors but there isn’t much else I can do from here.

SARANUS KRON (COMM): How many hostiles are we looking at?

ELONA ZOREN: Two non-conforming bio-signatures, most likely zaridians, and 7 remote auto-cannons. I’ve already got Rider working on disabling and tracing their command signal but it could take a while. Aerial support is another 400 micreks out, I recommend disengaging until they arrive at your position.



Weapons fire erupts all through the courtyard. A colonial soldier drops. Then another.

SARANUS KRON: We don’t have time for that. (then) Stand by, station command.

Corvan turns and blasts one turret off a rooftop.


Kron nods at him and breaks away at a sprint. Soldiers rally to Kron’s side as he navigates the warzone.

SARANUS KRON: You two, on me!



Followed by two soldiers, Kron slips into a side alley. They run along the path, gunfire chattering across the block. A figure lurks along the walkways above them.

Suddenly, from above -- a blade tears through a soldier’s helmet. The figure drops down.

It’s Dorgo.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: Contact! Contact!!

Dorgo runs the other soldier through with his blade and throws Kron into the wall with his tail. Kron’s rifle is knocked away.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: How many colonials have died on Edari today? Are there any left on that station of yours?

Kron dives for his rifle but the zaridian leaps onto him, throttling the colonial officer with his tail.

DORGO KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): I don’t think we’ve met, lieutenant...?

Kron grabs him by the tail and swings him against the wall.


Dorgo collapses in a daze. Kron gasps for breath. He tries to stand but collapses, wincing in pain -- green blood weeps from a severe knife wound in his side. Dorgo cackles and stands slowly brandishing his twin daggers.

DORGO KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): None of you drones seem to understand how outmatched you are here.

He levels his knife at Kron’s visor.

DORGO KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): The job was for your captain, but I don’t mind settling for you.

Kron covertly pulls a small device from his belt.

DORGO KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): Your name was on the list, too.

SARANUS KRON: You talk too much.

Kron throws down a gravity charge. The grenade like device explodes, dispersing a shockwave that knocks both him and Dorgo to the ground. A cloud of dust obscures the corridor.

Kron is lost in a daze, the world around him muffled.

Gunships pass overhead, and heavy weapons chatter echoes off the city walls.

FLIGHT OFFICER (COMM): Turrets eliminated, lieutenant. Sniper is on the move, we’re tracking.

After a moment, Kron staggers to his feet and raises his rifle.

SARANUS KRON: (to himself) Dralk…

DORGO KONIDARIAN (O.S.): That was very clever, lieutenant. But desperate.

Something darts past him -- he spins and fires -- nothing. Kron drops to a knee and clutches his side.

SARANUS KRON: (coughing) Let’s not drag this out.

Dorgo leaps out from the dust and grabs Kron from behind, pressing a knife against his throat. With minimal effort, it starts to carve into his exoskeleton.

DORGO KONIDARIAN: Agreed. I have a schedule to keep.


A shot rings out -- from a pulse pistol -- clipping Dorgo’s shoulder.


Kron grabs the knife and spins, driving it deep into Dorgo’s belly then slashes it across his throat.


They both collapse in agonizing pain. Kron clutches his claws to his bleeding side. Footsteps approach. A colonial boot appears by Kron’s head.

COMMANDER TYGG (O.S.): Good work, lieutenant.

SARANUS KRON: C-commander Tygg.

COMMANDER TYGG: Can you stand?

SARANUS KRON: I can try.


Tygg stalks to Dorgo’s side. The zaridian clutches at his throat. Tygg presses his boot to Dorgo’s throat and smiles insincerely.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): You’ll need to keep more pressure on that, bounty hunter.


Kron looks at Tygg, then at Dorgo who writhes in agony.

SARANUS KRON: Sir, we should take him into custody. Find out who hired him. And why.

COMMANDER TYGG: You think we can trust anything he tells us?

SARANUS KRON: He wouldn’t be talking to us, sir.

Tygg nods.

COMMANDER TYGG: You learned a lot in Academy. You would be a good captain.

He shoots Dorgo in the head. The zaridian goes limp. Kron stares at Tygg.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): But Academy doesn’t understand the frontier anymore. Colonial authority doesn’t exist here unless we enforce it.

Tygg picks up one of Dorgo’s knives.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): If it’s not a protected species, you’re better off killing it. Do you understand, Kron?

He hands the knife to Kron. Kron accepts it reluctantly.


Tygg extends a claw to Kron.

COMMANDER TYGG: Come on. He wasn’t working alone.



A sleek ship punches through a column of black smoke, leaving swirling eddies in its wake. It’s the Berenian, flying over the smoldering ruins of Bisson.



Osborn watches the city pass by through the forward windows with furrowed brows. He flips switches and adjust dials. Static over the comms.

BEN OSBORN: (to himself) Come on, work you grekking piece of…

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (COMM): (flustered, broken signal) Osborn! Lock onto my signal and get

me the grek out of here!!

Osborn flips more switches.

BEN OSBORN: Dralk, Oddie? The-- the computer doesn’t work that quick, Oddie, where the hell are you?



Oddie Konidarian bounds across the uneven rooftops of Bisson on all six limbs with preternatural agility. Pulse blasts erupt behind him and shoot past. The Berenian flies ahead of the reptilian alien, skimming low over the city’s rooftops.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: (breathing hard) Upper rooftops. Leaving the temple district.

BEN OSBORN (COMM): Temple-- uh, hang on.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: I’m on your tail.

BEN OSBORN (COMM): Yeah sure you are. Stay put, I’ll come around to you.

He ducks behind a support pillar and unslings the particle rifle from his back.

BEN OSBORN (COMM) (CONT’D): What about Dorgo?

He peeks around to see Corvan, accompanied by a squad of colonial soldiers.




Osborn works frantically in the cockpit. He glances at the atmospheric fuel gauge: 10%

BEN OSBORN: (exhales) Stand by.



The Berenian pulls a tight 180 degree maneuver over the city, its engines pulsing with energy as it takes off again.



On a narrow street, Kron and Tygg load into a shuttle. They turn to watch as the ship passes overhead.

COMMANDER TYGG: Get us into the air! Follow that ship!



The stone towers of Bisson whip past as the Berenian flies effortlessly low over the city. It winds its way around and through the dense city infrastructure. Behind, a colonial gunship follows in hot pursuit.



Osborn’s cybernetic eye works double time as the ship’s heads up display projects a frantic number of analytical readouts. The comm chirps.

COLONIAL GUNSHIP (COMM): Unidentified vessel, by authority of the Colonial Queen, you are ordered to land immediately. Failure to comply will be met with force.

He flips a switch and the targeting computer comes online, tracking the four colonial gunships.



The colonial shuttle’s auto-cannons come online, decoupling from their fixed positions along the wings and tracking the Berenian ahead. They charge up with a deep hum of energy.



From the cockpit, Osborn maneuvers the Berenian to view a large plume of black smoke billowing from the depths of a blown out city district. An alarm sounds and a screen reads: warning, target lock.

Osborn glances at the atmospheric fuel: 7%. He exhales tensely and pushes forward on the throttle.



The Berenian’s atmospheric engines rev up and the ship flies past. The colonial gunship whips by in pursuit.



Seen through the windshield of the colonial gunship, the Berenian slips into the cloud of smoke.

COLONIAL PILOT: AS-3-1 to Commander Tygg, we are in weapons range of the target--



The gunship punches through the other side of the black cloud and slows to a hover.



COLONIAL PILOT: Where the grek did that ship go?

COMMANDER TYGG (COMM): AS-3-1 status report--



Aboard the Berenian, the targeting computer locks onto the colonial ship through the smoke. Osborn jams forward on the throttle.



The Berenian explodes out of the smoke, high above the gunship. A mounted cannon decouples from under the ship and fires on the colonials. It dives on the colonial vessel like a falcon.

Blaster cannon fire rips through the gunship, shredding it violently in the air. The Berenian swoops low, dipping into the city, then banks back over its pillared rooftops.



In the cockpit, Osborn checks the fuel gauge: 4%. He stomps his feet.

BEN OSBORN: Come on. Come on!!

He pushes forward on the throttle.



Massive weapons fire erupts in the distance. From his vantage point, Oddie watches as the Berenian weaves its way toward him, drawing the attention of the other colonial gunships. He glances back at the advancing squad. A massive pulse blast tears through his cover.


Across the rooftop, Corvan charges another cannon shot. He vents.

CORVAN (O.S.): Surrender. Or be destroyed.

Oddie turns and runs. Corvan vents, his optical sensors tracking the zaridian’s escape.



Thwarting the pulse cannons of the gunships, the Berenian rolls into view. Pulse blasts blaze past and a few skim off the hull.

The Berenian squeezes nimbly through the tight spaces of the city with two colonial gunships in close pursuit. Weapons fire rips into surrounding buildings, sending out sprays of shrapnel.



Osborn squints as fragments of rock and dust splash across the forward window. Frantic alarms sound in the cockpit. He takes a few deep breathes, then pulls back hard on the throttle and engages the air brakes.



Its engines cut, the Berenian drops in the air and falls behind the two pursuing ships.



The targeting computer locks on. Osborn pulls the trigger.



Now, blaster fire rips from the Berenian’s cannon. One colonial ship is able to evade the blasts, but the Berenian shreds the hull of the other. The ship explodes, cascading fire and shrapnel.



Debris blows past and bounces off of the Berenian’s forward window. Osborn jams forward on the throttle.

BEN OSBORN: Okay Oddie, I’m coming in hot, you’d better be ready to grekking move!



Oddie leaps across a gap between rooftops, then drops to a lower platform as the Berenian rises before him. Its engines blow massive blooms of dust into the air. The ramp drops. Oddie unslings his rifle and drops it.

Suddenly a pulse blast rips into the rooftop under his feet, sending him flying. A second pulse blast tears apart the Berenian’s atmospheric engine. Shrapnel flies everywhere and Oddie dives away. Noxious smoke billows from the ship’s exhaust, then flames.

Oddie lifts his head to watch the ship drift into a building.



The cockpit of the Berenian is a cacophony of alarms.

BEN OSBORN: No, no, come on!



In a daze, Oddie rolls over to see Corvan standing over him. Corvan vents.

CORVAN: Surrender. Or be destroyed.

Defeated, Oddie collapses.



Osborn flips several switches. There’s a brief roar then the engines sputter weakly.

Outside the window, the rooftops of the city begin to engulf the Berenian as the ship loses altitude. The Berenian crashes, hard.



The Berenian drifts down through the city, trapped between the walls of a temple and a row of burial towers. The engines cut out and the ship comes to a hard landing. Gunships howl in the distance, on an approach.



Osborn tries to toggle the engines, but nothing is responding. He hits the console with his fists.




Heat rises off the engines of the Berenian as it blocks the entire city street. A crowd of holkari begins to form.

HOLKARI 1: Al koma ta do muku.

HOLKARI 2: Kabba da muku ta do ki.

A colonial gunship flies in slowly overhead. The holkari point and cower away from it. It hovers, then lands. Its engines shift into idle, then cycle down. The hatch slides back. Lieutenant Kron, bearing a medical patch on his side, drops into the cloud of dust and smoke. He trains a pulse rifle at the Berenian’s cargo loading ramp.

Commander Tygg jumps down beside him, pistol in hand. They approach the ship cautiously. Other colonial soldiers leap out and take up siege positions around the Berenian’s cargo hold.

COMMANDER TYGG: Stay alert, lieutenant.

The Berenian’s engines ping and hiss as they cool. The last gunship flies in overhead and hovers, weapons at the ready. The ramp decompresses and opens. Kron and Tygg freeze. All guns are on the Berenian. The ramp drops slowly to the ground. Kron stares down his pulse rifle.

Osborn steps to the top of the ramp.

Tygg frowns.


The block goes silent. Soldiers begin to shift around anxiously. With his hands held up, Osborn walks slowly down the ramp. His boots echo off the metal. He stops on the dusty ground. Kron lowers his rifle.

SARANUS KRON: It’s... you’re human.




Book 1, Chapter 2 - A History of Bad Behavior



Sands blow down a crowded street on Edari. Shackles clasp around a pair of human wrists. A colonial soldier yanks the pistol from Osborn’s holster. The pilot glares back at him.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: Eyes forward, human.

The Berenian sits idle behind them, its cargo hatch hanging open. Osborn squints into the wind.

A wounded Lieutenant Saranus Kron watches from a distance, engaged in a hushed conversation with his senior officer, Commander Strakker Tygg. The pilot grinds his teeth. The soldier shoves him forward. Osborn winces in pain.


The soldier leads him to a holding area where Oddie is also chained up and shoves him to the ground. Osborn yelps.

COLONIAL SOLDIER (CONT’D): Wait here. (then) Watch him.


A dozen more featureless colonial helmets stare at Osborn and Oddie from cover, pulse rifles tracking their every move.

Osborn sides up to the zaridian. Oddie’s jaws are locked in a muzzle. Osborn wipes blood from his forehead.


BEN OSBORN: Not good.


BEN OSBORN: I don’t know.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: And the flight computer?

BEN OSBORN: What flight computer?

Oddie looks at him sideways.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: The one Vedrahn gave you. They could trace us back to Veristan and then we’d really be grekked.

BEN OSBORN: Oh-- I didn’t even bring that.

Oddie scowls.


BEN OSBORN: Don’t need it.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: You’re flying with a-- You’re just a human, you need the computer.

BEN OSBORN: (agitated) Just drop it.

COLONIAL SOLDIER 2 (O.S.): Hey! No vocalizing!

They turn their attention to the two colonial officers in the distance. Kron glares back, then returns his attention to Tygg.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: They’re taking us back to their station.

BEN OSBORN: How do you know?

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: I’ve done this before. Escape will be simple. Talk more there.


ODDIE KONIDARIAN: Yeah. Just don’t do anything stupid.

Oddie glances at him.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): Can you fly colonial?

Before the pilot can answer, the first soldier returns and pulls Osborn to his feet.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: Human! On your feet. (to other soldier) Take the zaridian to Commander Tygg’s shuttle.

COLONIAL SOLDIER 2: Yes sir. Get up, you filth. You won’t be spitting on anyone else for a while.


The soldier prods him forward, jamming the barrel of his pulse rifle into the pilot’s back. Osborn and Oddie share one last look.

COLONIAL SOLDIER (CONT’D): Eyes forward, human.

Soldiers watch tensely down their pulse rifles. Corvan vents and emerges from group of soldiers with heavy footfalls. He vents and his optic sensors track Osborn as he walks past.

Osborn stares back, wide-eyed.

The soldier strikes him in the ribs with his rifle. Osborn stumbles and falls.



Osborn gasps for breath.

BEN OSBORN: You grekking piece of--

The soldier winds up to strike him again. Tygg raises a claw.

COMMANDER TYGG (O.S.): That’s enough, officer. They’re not a very resilient species.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: (begrudgingly) Yes, sir. (then) Get up. Move.

The soldier marches the battered pilot to Kron and Tygg.

COMMANDER TYGG: I’m Commander Strakker Tygg. First Officer of the 443rd Colonial Fleet Infantry.

The colonials tower over Osborn.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): Your crimes are trespass in a restricted sector, acts of terror on an uncivilized world, attempted murder of a colonial officer, hostile attack on colonial forces, and assassination of an uncivilized figure of interest. We’ll be taking you into custody for rehabilitation and relocation, pursuant with the Queen’s directive. Once you’re aboard the station, all charges against you will be waived.

Kron shifts his stance.

SARANUS KRON: Waived? Tygg, he’s a grekking killer we have to--

Tygg raises his claw.

COMMANDER TYGG: (dismissive) Enough, lieutenant. (then) Despite your criminal acts, under the Queen’s directive 971-1548, article 2: humans are a protected species, subject to protections accordant with such a classification.

Osborn stares at him.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): I never thought I’d actually see a human.

COLONIAL SOLDIER: He was carrying this, sir.

The soldier hands over Osborn’s pistol. Tygg inspects the weapon.

COMMANDER TYGG: Blaster tech. Primitive. (then) But effective, in the right hands.

Tygg studies Osborn.

Osborn watches him, his cybernetic eye scanning the colonials. Tygg smirks.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): Lieutenant Kron.


Tygg hands him the pistol.

COMMANDER TYGG: (low) Take the human back to the station in another shuttle. I have questions for his zaridian friend. Find out who hired them. Which port they came from. How they got through the jump gate.

SARANUS KRON: (furious) And then he’ll be released in another system.

Tygg looks hard at Kron.

COMMANDER TYGG: It’s the Queen’s directive, lieutenant. Any protected species acquired outside the habitation zone gets transferred back to the core systems alive.

He puts a strong claw on Kron’s shoulder.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): It’s a quarter crek flight back to the station. He only needs to get there alive, Kron.

Tygg grins and boards his waiting shuttle. Kron looks down.



His hands bound, Osborn is strapped to a seat in the shuttle cabin. Kron removes his helmet and stands over the human. The door slides shut and the shuttle lifts off.

Kron stares at Osborn. Corvan watches, rotors spinning.

SARANUS KRON: You’re lucky you’re human.

Osborn glares at him.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): Do you know how many colonials you killed?

BEN OSBORN: You mean today? Or since... the war?

Osborn stares defiantly at Kron. Kron punches him.



The lift hums quietly as it rises. Numbers tick up on a deck indicator. Elona Zoren rides alone, dressed in a laboratory uniform stained with green blood. She stares at the door.



Lights flick on overhead and then down an empty hall. A sign reads: Deck 8 - Applied Sciences and Engineering. The lift arrives. The door slides open and Elona exits. She walks down the hallway to a security door and pauses. She takes a deep breath, then waves her tarsal claw over the control panel.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMM): Authorization confirmed: Zoren, Elona. Deputy Chief Science Officer.

The door unlocks, then slides open.



Elona walks into the ASE-lab, lights switching on overhead. Banks of futuristic computer servers power on. A large center console projects a holographic image of Edari and the surrounding asteroid ring. A large storm is simulated on its surface. A digital model of the station orbits above the holographic planet, in geosynchronous orbit with Bisson.

She slumps into a well worn chair.

ELONA ZOREN: (exhausted) Okay Rider, I’m ready to get started.

The comm chirps overhead.

RIDER: I await your orders, Deputy Chief Zoren.

ELONA ZOREN: Let’s review the test results from 721.4 and compare them to 714.6, uh, 714.2, and 3.1.

RIDER: I am collating the data. In the meantime, you have an outstanding high priority transmission awaiting you at the Deck 19 communications hub. It is from Rotonken Base.

Elona closes her eyes and exhales deeply.

ELONA ZOREN: (exhausted) Just call it the comm, Rider.

RIDER: Of course, Deputy Chief Zoren.



The lift hums quietly as it moves. Numbers tick down on a deck indicator. Elona rides alone, still dressed in her bloodied laboratory uniform.



Soldiers and station personnel bustle down a station corridor. A wall mounted sign reads: Deck 19. The lift pings and the door slides open.


Elona steps out and walks briskly down the hallway.



A door slides open and Elona enters. From a workstation, Comms Officer Delerev gestures for her to enter the communications booth.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: Deputy Chief Zoren, the comm relay is ready for you--

He looks her over and pauses.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV (CONT’D): Elona, are you up to this? You could just let Kron deal with... you know...

ELONA ZOREN: I’m not waiting for Kron. (then, friendly) It’s fine, Delerev. Whatever gets me back to my own work.

He nods and returns to his post.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: We’re ready, Rotonken Base. Broadcasting.

She steps onto a small elevated platform, entering commands on a raised console. An electrical system powers up and the comm relay projects a murky holographic image of a high ranking colonial officer. Elona stands at attention.

ELONA ZOREN: Deputy Chief Zoren reporting, Director.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): Your uniform is a mess, Zoren.

Elona glances down at her bloodied uniform.

ELONA ZOREN: I didn’t want to keep you waiting, director.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): Good. (then) How many station assets will need to be replaced?

ELONA ZOREN: We haven’t calculated the final number of casualties, but our losses were-- our losses are heavier than our estimates suggested.

DIRECTOR TETZI: I’ll mobilize an additional three garrisons to bolster the 443rd’s efforts. (then) And Captain Landris?

ELONA ZOREN: His injuries were... particularly severe. He suffered extreme stress fractures from the shuttle crash and the particle bolt grazed a thoracic neural node, but Rider was able to--

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): You’ll refer to the project by its formal designation, Zoren.

ELONA ZOREN: Apologies, director. Instance 6-1PC was able to repair the damage.

Pending continued treatment and regular physiological assessments, Captain Landris can be cleared to return to station duty within 5 solar days and field duty within 10.

The hologram shifts and warbles.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): He’ll return to duty immediately. The system is too volatile without an experienced officer commanding that station. Our diplomatic relations with the Holkari Empire have never been in greater jeopardy. Maintaining that cooperation is critical to your mission. When construction is complete on the Rotonken Base jump gate, I’ll come myself. (then) I have read your reports regarding your work with Instance 6-1PC. Your progress is unparalleled.

ELONA ZOREN: Thank you, director.

DIRECTOR TETZI: I’m approving your request to advance to the next stage of development. You’re being accelerated to Stage 6, with a number of non-trivial modifications. You’ll receive the details of your orders at your lab.

Elona’s brows furrow.

ELONA ZOREN: Stage 6... Thank you, director, but I’m not authorized to access--

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): I authorize you.

ELONA ZOREN: What about the chief, ma’am?

DIRECTOR TETZI: Chief Tava’s... reassignment... has become permanent. Congratulations, Acting Chief Zoren. I hope you’ll find a fitting celebration to mark your achievement.

Elona collects her thoughts, face downcast.



Wearily, Elona steps back into the Deck 19 Corridor. Putting her claws on her hip nodes, she stares ahead.

COMMAND DECK (COMM): Traffic Control to station commander.

She taps a claw to her comms, jolted from her exhaustion.

ELONA ZOREN: AC Zoren here, go ahead, control.

COMMAND DECK (COMM): Understood. Ma’am, we’ve made contact from the shuttle squadron. Now tracking their approach from Edari.

ELONA ZOREN: (to herself, relieved) Finally… (to comms) They’re approved for docking. Get them aboard as quickly as possible. Put the medical bays on notice.


ELONA ZOREN: (then, switching channels) Rider.

RIDER (COMM): I am here, Acting Chief Zoren.

ELONA ZOREN: Prepare the test environment for... for Stage 6 experimentation.

RIDER (COMM): Orders confirmed.

She beeps out. Elona draws a deep breath.

The door behind Elona slides open, and Delerev steps into the corridor.


He gestures back to the comm relay.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV (CONT’D): That sounded like a promotion in there. Congratulations.

Elona shrugs it off.

ELONA ZOREN: Ah, maybe... Thanks.

They smile warmly.


ELONA ZOREN: Well, acting chief. It’s probably temporary.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: When Chief Tava comes back, no, I understand.

She looks down pensively.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV (CONT’D): But for now... technically you even outrank Commander Tygg.

ELONA ZOREN: (thinking it over) That’s true...

The comms chirp.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN (COMM): Flight Officer Drejen to station commander.

ELONA ZOREN: Zoren here.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN (COMM): You need to come down to hangar 12. Kron just landed. He... he has a prisoner.

Elona and Delerev share a worried look.



Elona Zoren marches down a hangar corridor flanked by a team of soldiers armed with decontamination and containment gear. Elona’s eyes are dark. Delerev struggles to keep pace with her.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: We have a duty to report it to Rotonken Base immediately. With Captain Landris unfit for duty, jurisdiction over these sorts of matters falls to the Director, maybe even the Queen!

ELONA ZOREN: Per the Director’s orders, Captain Landris is still in command.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: (scoffs) Of course, but with all due respect the captain can barely regulate his hematics.



The entourage enters the hangar as personnel bustle past and around Kron’s shuttle.

Drejen approaches the other two officers.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: We’ve been holding them until the decon teams were in place.

Elona nods to the other soldiers, who begin setting up various complex equipment.

ELONA ZOREN: Okay: go ahead, Drejen.

He taps his comms.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: You’re clear, drop the ramp.

The ramp drops and Kron stands at the top, a battered and bruised Osborn shaking before him. His flight suit is disheveled. Blood trails from his nose and fresh cuts across his face.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: It’s... that’s a real human.

Kron roughly pushes Osborn down the ramp. Osborn stumbles and falls to his knees at the bottom.

Kron looks down smugly from the shuttle. Drejen’s mouth hangs open.

Elona and the colonials stare at Osborn as he stumbles back to his feet in a daze. He spits blood in the silence.

She shoots a withering glance at Kron.

ELONA ZOREN: Sergeant, escort this patient to the medical bay. I want a full assessment, including tissue sampling. (then) Officer Drejen, get this shuttle under quarantine. I want any organic material collected and sent to Deck 8 for analysis.

Drejen stares at Kron.


He gestures to a group of hangar technicians.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN (CONT’D): Sweep the ship. Deck officer, we need the beam scanner.

She turns to the comms officer.

ELONA ZOREN: Officer Delerev: notify the captain at his quarters.

He looks back at her with apprehension.



RIDER: I am here.


Prep the Medical Bay on Deck 9 for surgery. You’ll need to reference the xenophysiological archive entries on-- on humans...

RIDER: Of course, Acting Chief Zoren.

Rider chirps an affirmative.

SARANUS KRON: Deputy Chief Zoren.

She glares at Kron.

ELONA ZOREN: Lieutenant.



Kron and Elona walk tensely down the corridor. Kron’s armor is scarred and dusty. He clutches a claw to his bandaged side.

SARANUS KRON: Is Tygg back yet? How’s the Captain?

She stops. He turns back and notices her uniform.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): Hey, are you okay? Whose blood is that?

ELONA ZOREN: What happened?

SARANUS KRON: What? (then) A couple of zaridian assassins. They were targeting Senator Oo’than and Captain Landris, probably hired to destabilize Edari. They seemed pretty well funded. Major off world tech. We have a lot of casualties planetside.

ELONA ZOREN: And the human?

SARANUS KRON: He was the pilot. Got hired on a transport job out of Veristen, didn’t say much more. You should have Rider run his details through the registry.

ELONA ZOREN: What happened to him?

He looks at her curiously.

SARANUS KRON: We captured him.


SARANUS KRON: What do -- he shot down three gunships. He killed at least a dozen soldiers -- my soldiers. That human is dangerous, maybe as dangerous as the zaridians who blew the grekking city to dralk. The only reason we got him at all was because Corvan landed a lucky shot on his engine.

ELONA ZOREN: And once he was secured on the shuttle?

SARANUS KRON: What are you--? You know, you don’t-- You have no idea how bad it is down there, Elona.

ELONA ZOREN: We have an order from the Queen to conserve--

SARANUS KRON: The future of the universe is at stake with every decision we make our don’t out here. He’s grekking scum just like the grekking zaridians--

ELONA ZOREN: He’s a human, Kron. They’re a protected species and you have to--

SARANUS KRON: I don’t give a dralk if he’s human! This is the frontier, Elona. He’s dangerous and he’s not colonial. That makes him our enemy.

She can’t believe what she’s hearing.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): You should be thanking me for even bringing him here alive.

She steps away from him.

ELONA ZOREN: You know for someone who hates Tygg so much, you still manage to act exactly like him sometimes. (then) Debriefing is in one crek, lieutenant. Captain Landris is expecting you. (then) And I’ll take your gloves.

Kron looks down at his beaten gloves, deep red blood drying on the knuckles.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Seems like they got contaminated.

He hands them over. She turns and walks away. He turns to look out the corridor window, holding a bare claw to his bandaged wounds.



A door slides open and lights come on overhead in the brig. Oddie enters, escorted by Corvan at gunpoint. The zaridian’s snout is held shut in a metallic muzzle.

A warden sergeant enters behind Corvan, sets down Oddie’s particle rifle, and interacts with a security terminal.

WARDEN SERGEANT: Okay travorian, the system is ready for you.

Corvan vents, then grabs Oddie roughly by the neck. Oddie struggles, but his limbs are bound in a futuristic set of shackles.

Corvan’s arm rotates, and an injection barrel extends from the port. He jams it into Oddie’s neck. Oddie whimpers in pain, unable to open his mouth.

Corvan shoves the zaridian into a cell.


The door slides shut in Oddie’s face.

Corvan looks at the other empty cells in the brig. The shackles unlock from Oddie’s arms and fall to the ground. The muzzle unlocks from his jaws and drops. He snarls, hands examining the injection site on his neck.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): What the grek did you do to me?!

Corvan vents.

CORVAN: Where is the human?

WARDEN SERGEANT: He hasn’t been brought down yet from medical.

Corvan glances at Oddie, then hands the warden sergeant Oddie’s particle rifle.

CORVAN: Secure this.

The sergeant looks over at Oddie. Corvan vents.

WARDEN SERGEANT: Yes sir. Right away.

The sergeant takes the rifle and ducks out through a side door.

Oddie looks around the small cell: a single bed and hygienic station illuminated by a soft orange overhead light.

Corvan steps up and stares at him from the other side of the door.

CORVAN: A biologistics officer will address your nutritional requirements in time. Ask your questions.

Oddie grinds his teeth.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: The other zaridian, my brother. Where is he? What happened to the human?

Corvan vents and turns to leave.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): You’re on the wrong side, travorian.

Corvan vents.

CORVAN: Unlikely.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: You know, I met another one of your kind. A travorian. On Mukua 5. He was freelance, running, uh, procurables across the boundary. He liked it. Business liked him. (then) You know about business, don’t you, travorian?

Corvan turns away.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): His business was as good as it gets on Mukua 5. Basically honest. (then) Colonials came through the system, looking to collect dues that weren’t theirs to collect. (almost mournful) And he was a travorian of upstanding principle. (then, dark) We found him in his garage. Suit stripped open like a grombulan shell-gor. They left him to spoil. And they laughed. (a beat) Until we caught up with them.

Corvan looks back.


ODDIE KONIDARIAN: That’s right. Me and my brother.

Corvan vents. The warden sergeant returns through the side door.

CORVAN: I care not. He is in your custody, warden.

WARDEN SERGEANT: Aye, travorian. Larus, online.

The overhead computer beeps online.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMM): Larus virtual interface now online.

WARDEN SERGEANT: Log prisoner entry, one zaridian. Oddie Konidarian. For crimes see attached incident report.

Oddie watches as the travorian exits the holding cells.



Dressed in a clean uniform, Kron approaches the conference room doors. He clutches his side for a moment, grimacing, then slides a tarsal claw over the sensor.



The door opens and Kron enters to find Elona, Delerev, Drejen, and Commander Tygg sitting around a long sleek table framed under a set of massive observation windows. At the head of the table, Captain Landris sits waiting. Asteroids drift behind him.


CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Have a seat, lieutenant.

Kron sits next to Delerev. Elona ignores him from across the table.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): The death of Senator Oo’than is a crippling setback to our progress here on Edari. An entire cycle could pass before they replace his seat. Our main priority to secure the trade agreement.

He grimaces in brief pain. A medical device mounted to the front of his thorax gently injects a glowing blue fluid.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): We’ll also need to scrub the attack sites as quickly as possible.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Shuttle squadrons will be ready for redeployment within 5 creks, sir.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Why the delay?

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Decontamination teams are still working on, uh, on some of the fleet.

He glances briefly at Kron.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Fine. And what about the off- worlders?

COMMANDER TYGG: It was two zaridians that carried out the attack, sir. Dorgo and Oddie Konidarian. Brothers from the Theerian Family Blood clan, most likely based on Calixtal. They were hired by an arms broker called Vedrahn to assassinate you and the senator. We have Oddie Konidarian in a holding cell on Deck 61.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: What about his brother?

COMMANDER TYGG: (a beat) Dorgo is dead.

Elona looks at Kron.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: And the human?

Tygg snarls contemptuously to himself.

ELONA ZOREN: He was in the registry. Formerly a fighter pilot for the Terran Navy but there’s been no record of him since the war. He’s in the Deck 9 medical bay awaiting transfer to the holding cells.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: No, I want him transferred to his own quarters. See that it’s prepared, lieutenant.

The other officers look nervously at Kron.




CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Has Rotonken Base been notified about our human?

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV: No sir. We were waiting for your approval on the official transmissions to Rotonken Base and, uh, and Central Command.

Landris shakes his head.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I’ll make those reports myself.


CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Tygg, arrange a transport for the zaridian. Tell CoreSec they can collect him from Teristan Base on Faravor. He’ll stand trial on Myndal.


SARANUS KRON: Captain Landris...

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: We need to prepare a security team to travel planetside and retrieve the human’s ship. We can’t afford to let the holkari gain access to whatever off world technology is on board. Zoren I want you to assess and oversee the repairs yourself.

Bring Rider with you. Officer Drejen and Corvan will go with you.


SARANUS KRON: With all due respect, sir, that human killed at least a dozen of our soldiers and you want to give him, what, a private room on the station? His ship back?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Those soldiers will be replaced, Kron, and not because that human killed them but because you put them in a position to be killed. We’re following Queen’s directive here.

He leans back in his chair in pain.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): And we’ll need to make contact with the holkari council. Share everything we’ve learned. We can’t let the holkari come to the wrong conclusions.

SARANUS KRON: Captain Landris, this is a grekking farce--


CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Somehow I understand your emotional outbursts, Kron, but I won’t tolerate them. I gave you your orders. If you cannot follow them then you have no place on my station or in this system.

Landris winces and leans back in his chair.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): What about Director Tetzi?

The other officers look at each other.

Elona looks at him.

ELONA ZOREN: She’s awaiting another report, sir.

Landris looks away, then at the officers.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: You have your orders. Dismissed.

The officers rise and go to leave.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): Not you, lieutenant.

Kron glances up at Elona, then returns to the table. Elona, Delerev, Drejen, and Tygg exit the room.

Captain Landris studies Kron.


SARANUS KRON: If that human goes back to the core systems, there will be no justice for Edari.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Justice for Edari--? Cut the dralk, lieutenant.

SARANUS KRON: How many holkari died? We don’t even have a number for our own losses. Do you think the Holkari Empire is going to understand why we’re planning to release a terrorist back into the galaxy? (then) I came to the frontier to help make it a safer place. So let’s make it a safer place.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Damn it Kron, Academy didn’t just train you to fight and kill! It educated you -- to think! (then) Do you have any concept of how valuable a human could be to our work?

SARANUS KRON: (incredulous) On Edari?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: As a species! As a civilization! This is the entire reason we’re in the frontier! (then) By the Queen, Kron, your incompetence and your insubordination place my own capabilities as an officer under scrutiny. (then) My mission here is to ensure that Edari agrees to peace with the Colony. Our influence over this system is too tenuous for me to suffer an officer who isn’t ready for command.

He glares at Kron.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): I wish I could trust you, lieutenant. You’re suspended from duty until further notice.

Kron withers.



In the medical bay, Osborn awakens on a surgical table. He sits up, and a bed of robotic medical arms retracts into the ceiling above him. He scans the room but he’s alone in the uncannily sterile medical lab.

He hops down from the table and almost collapses in pain. He steadies himself against the table then searches a nearby workstation for a weapon. He tries a computer interface but it doesn’t respond.

He taps his eye implant and it spins up, almost powering up the console but a sudden power shift shuts him out.

RIDER: You are awake. For your safety, you are being restricted to the medical bay until an officer can collect you. I will be monitoring your compliance.

Osborn spots the door and limps across the room.

RIDER (CONT’D): I recommend that you limit your locomotive functions. Repairs to your organic components are suboptimal. Unfortunately, my knowledge of human physiology is incomplete.

Osborn tries the door -- it doesn’t open.

RIDER (CONT’D): Do not attempt to interface with station controls.

BEN OSBORN: Who the grek are you.

RIDER: I am Rider. (then) You are Commander Osborn, Benjamin K.

Osborn eyes a wall panel by the door. He pries it off, exposing wiring and fuses underneath. He grabs a handful of wires and roughly yanks them out. It sparks as he tries to rewire the door.

RIDER: I recommend that you avoid damaging station components.

BEN OSBORN: What are you, colonial tech?

RIDER: I cooperate with colonial forces. I recommend you cooperate as well, Commander Osborn.

He wraps a set of wires together.

BEN OSBORN: Don’t hold your breath.

The door slides open, and Corvan fills the doorway. Osborn gulps and steps back fearfully. Corvan steps forward with pounding footsteps.

RIDER: The prisoner is ready for transfer, Corvan.

He raises his arm and rotates his pulse cannon into action.



In the long range communications room, a door slides open and Captain Landris enters cautiously. He steps onto the small elevated platform and enters commands on a raised console. An electrical system powers up and a projection of Director Tetzi emerges from the digital gloom. Landris leans against the console for support.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): Captain Landris.


DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): I’m pleased to see you walking. Chief Zoren told me your injuries were quite severe.


DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): Oh yes, with Chief Tava’s reassignment, it seemed only fitting that his Deputy Chief assume his role and responsibilities.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Decisions regarding the rank and responsibilities of my officer staff fall to me, Director.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): Of course, captain. I have no intention to usurp your authority. But the situation at Edari has become too precarious for your attention to be divided. I’ll be joining you after the jump gate is complete.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Do you believe that’s necessary?

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): I trust your ability to manage the holkari, captain, even in your present state. I’m only interested in Zoren’s progress with Instance 6-1PC. I expect her to be far more capable than her predecessor.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I have no doubt.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): And with your acquisition of the human, we may finally see our asset restoration realized.

He freezes.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: You... already know about the human?

The warbling image smirks.

DIRECTOR TETZI (COMM): Of course I do, captain. I’m the Director of Frontier Intelligence. We’ll arrive at your station in a matter of solar days.



In the medical bay, a suite of robotic arms hangs down from the ceiling. Fine motorized appendages mend the knife wound in Kron’s exoskeleton. A heat ray passes over the surgical site, sealing the chitinous shell.

RIDER: I estimate your wound repairs to have an efficiency rating of 85.2%. If you avoid high intensity activities, your healing process will complete without incident in two solar days.

SARANUS KRON: (distant) I don’t think that will be a problem.

The door slides open and Elona enters. She and Kron lock eyes.

RIDER: Chief Zoren, I have completed all assigned medical tasks. I am ready to resume our normal work.

ELONA ZOREN: Stand by, Rider.

SARANUS KRON: “Chief Zoren?”

ELONA ZOREN: Acting chief.

SARANUS KRON: Congratulations.

ELONA ZOREN: Thank you.

A beat. Kron steps down from the examination table.

SARANUS KRON: Elona, listen, about earlier...

The comms beep overhead.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV (COMM): Command deck to Acting Chief Zoren.

ELONA ZOREN: Zoren here.

COMMS OFFICER DELEREV (COMM): The captain requested that you meet him at Deck 74.

ELONA ZOREN: Orders received.

SARANUS KRON: Everything below Deck 65 is still under construction.

She stares at him.

ELONA ZOREN: Will that be all, lieutenant?

SARANUS KRON: Yes, chief.

She leaves Kron alone with his thoughts. He looks down.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): (to himself) Acting chief.



In an empty hallway, Elona stares straight ahead at the lift doors. The lift pings and the doors slide open -- Captain Landris is waiting inside. Elona looks at him, then enters.



The lift hums quietly as it goes down. Numbers tick down on the deck indicator.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Since you’re assuming the chief’s responsibilities, you’ll also be inheriting his secrets, Elona. I don’t want you working on this project, but we no longer have a voice in the decision. (then) And this may be our only opportunity...

She turns toward him slightly.

ELONA ZOREN: For what, sir?

Landris stares ahead at the door.



Lights come on overhead in a small corridor. A mounted sign reads “Deck 74.” The lift doors open and close, leaving Elona and Landris in the quiet hall. They walk.

A door looms ominously at the end of the hall, illuminated by small red lights.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: You and I are the only officers with permission to access this level.

He indicates a door panel. She swipes her tarsal claw over it.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE: Authorization confirmed: Zoren, Elona. Acting Chief Science Officer.

Locks unlatch from the door. With a soft alarm, the door slides open slowly to reveal a storage chamber.



Elona enters the round chamber as pressure valves release clouds of icy fog into the air above and around her. She steps forward slowly.

Along the far wall, a row of cryo stasis tubes mounted into the metal paneling lie empty -- except one.

Elona creeps forward, wide eyed.

ELONA ZOREN: How... I don’t understand...

A human woman, dressed in a Terran Navy scientist’s uniform, sleeps in suspended animation. Frost coats the interior glass of her stasis pod. Her name tag reads: Foster.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): (horrified) What... what is this? What are we doing here?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: This is the asset. You need to reactivate her.

Elona reaches out and touches the glass.

Behind them, the storage room door slides shut.



Book 1, Chapter 3: The Last Human



A heavily damaged Terran Navy dreadnaught emerges from the shadow of the moon. Faded blue letters on its hull read: TSV Clement. Escape pods jettison from the ship, into a cloud of debris. Several explode. It’s the remains of the TSV-Komorie.

The rings of a jump relay drift nearby. Two of the Clement’s engines are destroyed. The dreadnaught’s bridge is blown out into space.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS): Hull breaches on decks 3, 13, 15, and 21. Alert: automated guidance offline. Alert: automated escape sequence offline. Alert: manual escape sequence offline.

In the distance... Earth... caught in the crossfire of a terrible starship battle. The relay powers up.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS) (CONT’D): Alert: Jump relay 001-Terra is now active. Alert: multiple flights inbound.


An alarm sounds aboard the Clement. Dull rumbles as the ship is assaulted by pulse cannon fire.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS): Alert: impact imminent.

A hatchway slides open and three human pilots sprint down the deteriorating hallway.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG (off her comms): Captain Hawking! The Komorie’s gone dark, too!

CAPTAIN HAWKING: Then we’re on our own. Come on! We’ve got to trigger the rest of those escape pods!


The Clement drifts in front of the relay, trailing debris. Through the relay’s aperture, space heaves. A sickening warp.

Squadrons of colonial starfighters and battlecruisers punch down the jump lane, releasing a barrage of pulse blasts. The volley rips into the Clement’s hull and the colonial fleets fly past into the battle raging above Earth.


The ship buckles. Dull thuds reverberate through the hull.

CAPTAIN HAWKING: Brace yourselves!

An explosion knocks the trio to their feet. They scramble.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG: Shit! Do those fucking bugs even know we’re out here?


CAPTAIN HAWKING: The colonials aren’t here for us. We’ve got to get to secondary control and override the drannik-side escape pod protocols before they totally destroy this ship. (he helps her up) Commander?

The third pilot stands and activates a wall panel. A single alarm sounds and the bulkhead seals shut behind them. The pilot turns.

It’s Osborn, six cycles younger.

BEN OSBORN: Yeah. I’m good.



The pilots scramble down a maintenance ladder. Another blast rocks the ship.


CAPTAIN HAWKING: Osborn and I will reset the fuses, Lieutenant Hennig, flush the system and get those pods jettisoned. Then we double back to the hangar and get our Raptors.

BEN OSBORN: The hangar? Come on, cap, we’re never going to make it there in time.

The ship is rocked by another salvo.

CAPTAIN HAWKING: We’d better make it there, commander, we’ve got a rendezvous at the lunar base.


A hatch is kicked out from the ceiling. The pilots drop into the secondary engineering room. Lieutenant Hennig activates a control panel.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG: Give me a micrek to prime the system.

Osborn and Captain Hawking stand by a large breaker switch.

BEN OSBORN: Here, cap. This one.



They flip the switch. The ship groans.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG: Secondary array is back online! Stand by…


Colonial ships zip past as the surviving rows of escape pods prime then eject from the side of the ship. The Clement rolls, drifting out of lunar orbit. One last colonial battlecruiser tears out of the relay. It adjusts its cannons toward Earth and opens fire.


An alarm sounds overhead. The pilots come flying down a buckling corridor.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS): Alert: impact imminent. Another salvo rocks the ship, throwing them to the ground. Then another. Hennig catches Osborn, steadying him.



Another salvo hits the ship nearby. The pilots are thrown to the ground and the corridor groans horribly.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS): Hull integrity at 18%. Hull breach on deck 20. Hull breach on deck 19. Hull breach on deck 18. Hull breach on deck 17.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG (panicked realization): It’s a fuel line rupture!


A series of rapid explosions, and the wall panel explodes out in a cascade of electricity, debris, and flame. Shrapnel zings past. The corridor behind them wrenches away from the ship, revealing open space through the hatchway. The ship begins to depressurize.

Hawking grabs the corridor railing and Hennig’s arm.


LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS): Hull integrity at 11%. Fire suppression systems offline. Fuel containment systems offline.

A piece of shrapnel spears Captain Hawking.


He is sucked out of the ship. Hennig desperately grabs into the grated floor. A crack. She cries out in pain.

Up the corridor, Osborn reaches desperately for the control panel. He pulls his pistol and fires at the panel. It sparks, then explodes out, sending shrapnel flying out into space. Osborn yelps in pain.

A single alarm sounds and the bulkhead seals shut. The corridor repressurizes.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE (COMMS): Repressurizing cabin. Atmospheric reserves depleted. Life support critical.

The pilots gasp for breath. Lieutenant Hennig sets her shoulder back in place with a sick pop.


Another salvo hits the ship.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG (CONT’D) (to herself): Come on... come on…

Hennig looks at the bulkhead and squeezes her eyes shut. She rolls over.


Hennig turns to see Osborn struggling to stand. He cradles his head in his hands.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG (CONT’D): Osborn? Are you --

He reaches out to steady himself against the wall, leaving a bloody handprint. She freezes. The lights blink overhead.

BEN OSBORN: I... I can’t see…


BEN OSBORN: I can’t... I can’t see. I can’t see. I can’t see.

She reaches out to grab him. He turns to her -- his face covered in blood. His right eye socket is mangled.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG (in horror): Oh, no…

She grabs him.


BEN OSBORN: Hennig, I can’t see…

Another salvo hits the Clement, sending the pilots tumbling. Hennig pulls Osborn up.

LIEUTENANT HENNIG: Come on, Osborn. We’ve got to go. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got

to survive.



The lift doors slide open aboard the colonial space station. Edari shines through the observation deck window. Osborn exits the lift apprehensively. He looks back. Corvan watches him, optic sensors focused.

CORVAN: Do not attempt to escape, human.

Osborn stares back, his cybernetic eye glowing. Corvan vents. The door slides shut.

Alone, Osborn stares out at Edari, silhouetted against its swirling red surface. A dust storm tears across the planet’s surface.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (O.S.): I’m sure you have a number of questions.

Osborn turns on his heel, startled. Captain Landris sits partially obscured in shadow. A medical device mounted to his thorax administers a glowing blue fluid.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): Unfortunately, I think you’ll find many of the answers to be beyond your comprehension.

BEN OSBORN: You’re the captain?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I’ll explain this very simply. You made a terrible mistake coming to this system. If you weren’t effectively a category zero species I’d be within my jurisdiction to have you executed. (then) The only way you leave the Gerlian System is by spending the rest of your life in a research lab on Myndal.

BEN OSBORN: How does that compare to the brig?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I’m not interested in letting you waste away in the brig. I think I can find a better use for you, Commander Osborn.

Osborn stares at him, his mouth tight.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): You are Osborn, Benjamin K.? Flight Commander, 19th Starfighter Regiment? Rider ran your biometrics against our database.

Asteroids drift past the observation window, drawing long shadows across the room.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): You must know how valuable you are.

BEN OSBORN: What do you want?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: To understand each other, human. In plain terms. (then) We find ourselves in a complicated position. I believe you may not realize what you and your zaridian friends have disrupted here. The Colony’s operation here is of galactic importance.

BEN OSBORN: They’re not my friends.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: And the Colony is not your enemy.

He studies Osborn. Another syringe of blue fluid is applied.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): Believe it or not, Commander Osborn, my mission is to secure peace in the frontier. Starting with the Gerlian System. Starting at Edari. I’ll do whatever it takes to realize that. Help me.

BEN OSBORN: I’m only out here for the money.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: It’s no issue.

BEN OSBORN: Why do you want my help?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I want to help you. (then) What happened to your species was... I wish things were different.


CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I was there. At Earth.

BEN OSBORN (bitter): So was I.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: I won’t let that happen again. Things will be different here. I am operating with the resources of the Colony at my disposal. When we complete the mission on Edari, we

can help you.

BEN OSBORN: Help me what?

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: To find others.

BEN OSBORN: Grek you.

Landris stands and crosses the room.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: This is your only chance. Swear an oath of allegiance to the Colony. (then) This is the same opportunity I extended to the travorian. Five cycles in the Queen’s service, under my command. Help me make things right on Edari. Help me bring peace to the frontier. When your contract is complete, I’ll purge you from our systems and release you. (then) Well, human?

Osborn stares up at him.


Two high security cargo crates are loaded onto a shuttle.

COLONIAL SERGEANT: The payload is secured. We’re good to load in, sir.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Okay, lock it down.

Flight Officer Drejen pushes past and into the cockpit. He straps in and flips switches.


CONTROL (COMMS): RV-281 confirmed.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Initiating pre-flight sequence.

CONTROL (COMMS):Transmitting.


Lieutenant Saranus Kron watches from the catwalks as Corvan marches Osborn up the shuttle ramp. His six eyes glare down at the travorian and the human. Osborn glances back and smirks. Kron’s mandibles tense.

CORVAN: Move, human.

Outside the shuttle, Acting Chief Science Officer Elona Zoren confers with Captain Landris.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Don’t get delayed down there. You only have a few creks before the storm hits. Ideally you’ll be able to avoid contact with any holkari forces, but there will be no way to track their movements through the storm.

Elona watches as Commander Strakker Tygg, in a tactical kit, boards the shuttle.

ELONA ZOREN: I’m not worried about the holkari, sir. I don’t like having Tygg along.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS: Commander Tygg has his own orders to follow.

He looks at her pointedly.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (CONT’D): And you have yours. Focus on your mission, Zoren, your success is paramount to our operation.

She salutes.


Kron watches as Elona boards the shuttle.


Elona glances up at the catwalks and spots Kron. They lock eyes for a somber moment.

ELONA ZOREN: Secure the cabin. Drejen, take us out.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Yes ma’am. RV-281 to control, initiating launch sequence.

The hatch seals shut and the shuttle’s engines spin up.

HANGAR (COMMS): RV-281 clear for departure. All nonessential personnel evacuate the

flight deck. RV-281 vector approved. Stand by. Command approved. Clear for launch.

The shuttle hovers, then flies out of the hangar bay, zapping through containment field.


Inside the buckling shuttle, Elona climbs into the cockpit with Drejen.


ELONA ZOREN: Acting Chief.


She glances back into the cabin. Tygg sits directly across from Osborn, pulse rifle resting across his lap. Osborn sneaks nervous glances at Corvan.

COMMANDER TYGG: Hey Corvan. Have you ever lain optics a human before?

Corvan vents.

CORVAN: I have encountered many deficient species through my associations with the Colony.

COMMANDER TYGG: What about you, human? Ever met a travorian?

Corvan looks at Osborn.

BEN OSBORN: I’ve never even heard of them.

Tygg smirks.

ELONA ZOREN: Rider... I hope you’re ready for this. She turns forward as Edari rolls across the shuttle’s forward window, bathing the colonials in a pale red light.


The shuttle flies nimbly through the asteroid ring.


Numbers tick down on a deck indicator. Lieutenant Kron leans against the lift wall.


SARANUS KRON: It doesn’t matter what I think about the human.

Communications Officer Delerev glances at him.


The lift door slides open. Kron and Delerev exit to an empty corridor on Deck 14.

CONTROL (COMMS): All hands: mandatory emergency reassignments are now available through station terminals.


They step through a doorway into Delerev’s research lab.


Delerev interacts with one of his work terminals.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: I just need to image the module update. It’ll only take a micrek.

An array of holographic readouts reveals an ongoing attempt to translate the holkari language.

SARANUS KRON: It’s so different in here.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Oh, I forgot. You probably haven’t been here since they refitted everything. Yeah, I picked up a secondary assignment updating the translator module so they -- (he gestures) -- built out the space and brought in all this equipment. It was right when we started meeting with the council.

SARANUS KRON: That was... I guess I didn’t realize how much time I was spending planetside.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Yeah. It’s been a lot lately. (then) Everyone’s still pretty upset about what happened.

SARANUS KRON: Come on, not you too.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Kron. What am I supposed to do? You’re my friend. Why would you do something like that?

SARANUS KRON: You’ve been down there.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Yeah, and look at me. (then) Anyway, I’m sure Captain Landris already let you have it. I’m just saying; we could really use your help right now and instead you’re on suspension.


He stares out the window into the asteroid field.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): Things are just... different out here. Down there. Everything academy taught us... What we’ve seen on Edari... on Kelter... Some of the stuff Tygg says is starting to make a real impression.

Delerev looks up at him.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: This hasn’t been the assignment any of us expected but... I don’t know, Kron. Tygg isn’t exactly an officer I’d want to emulate.

SARANUS KRON: He’s closer to making captain than I am.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: I guess, but he’d never get that promotion from Landris. Look, I think this suspension might be a good thing. Some time off might help you regain some perspective. Honestly I think you should have a psych evaluation.

SARANUS KRON: That’s not a bad idea.

Kron skims the digital notes. A colonial cipher runs against holkari glyphs.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): I didn’t know you could speak holkari.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: I can’t, really. Just fragments I’ve picked up from these notes.

SARANUS KRON: How close are we to a full translation?

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: If Rotonken Base had a battalion of xeno-linguists then maybe 12 cycles. Honestly I’m probably setting us back. There’s a lot of subtlety to their language that I struggle to grasp.

SARANUS KRON: You’re working on this by yourself?

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Yeah... It’s crazy, right? It’s been... a lot. Between all the dralk on Edari and this... I hate feeling so desperate.


They watch the data transfer. 48%.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV (to himself): Piece of dralk. Come on. (then) What will you do now?

SARANUS KRON: What do you mean?

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Well, I’ve got a shift on the command deck. You can’t just follow me around all day, you’re on suspension.

SARANUS KRON: I haven’t really thought about it. I’m supposed to minimize my activity. Maybe I’ll just...

He touches his bandaged side.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): Ow. I’ve got something to look into, actually. (then) Hey, where’s construction at on the lower decks?

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: I don’t keep up with the updates anymore, why?

SARANUS KRON: Just curious.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV: Hey, are you going to be alright?

SARANUS KRON: Yeah. I’ll catch up with you later. Keep your comms on.

Kron slips out the door.


The door slides shut behind him. He summons the lift, lost in thought. The lift doors open and he steps inside.


The door seals shut.


A denial tone. He scans his tarsal claw.


A denial tone.

SARANUS KRON (CONT’D): Larus, online.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE: Larus virtual interface now online.

SARANUS KRON: Override lift controls, authorization imprint: Saranus Kron.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE: Authorization confirmed. Kron, Saranus. Lieutenant.



SARANUS KRON: Override lift protocols.

LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE: Authorization confirmed.


LARUS VIRTUAL INTERFACE: Authorization denied.

Kron furrows his brow, lost in thought.


The lift pings confirmation.


Gusts of wind rip down a quiet street on Edari. The Berenian rests awkwardly on its slender hull. Its hammot-side atmospheric engine is cavitated. A pair of amber eyes watches the ship from the shadows of stone archway. Wrapped in a desert cloak, the figure surveils the ship.

Engines fly in overhead, disturbing clouds of red dust. It’s the colonial shuttle. It lands.

The figure slinks back into the darkness.

The shuttle hatch slides open. Elona Zoren jumps down to the planet surface, a pulse pistol strapped to her side.

ELONA ZOREN: Here, quickly.


Elona watches as two soldiers unload the high security cargo crates. Tygg jumps down behind them. A map flashes across his helmet visor.

COMMANDER TYGG: I’d better get moving. I’ll regroup here in two creks. Have the shuttle ready to take off.

ELONA ZOREN: That won’t be enough time for the repairs.

COMMANDER TYGG: Then it’s not enough time.

ELONA ZOREN: I don’t like this, Tygg. This wasn’t the plan I approved.

COMMANDER TYGG (annoyed): Look at that storm, Zoren. We’ll be lucky if we even get two creks.

She glances up, then back at the shuttle. He racks his rifle.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): Trust me, nobody’s pleased with this. If it were up to me I’d say we cut our losses and move on to the next primitive system.

He glances sideways at her.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): You’re not going to give me problems like Kron, are you Zoren?

ELONA ZOREN: Are you, commander?

COMMANDER TYGG: Don’t tempt me. I’m about done with this grekking planet.

He nods and walks away.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): Better not loiter, chief.

ELONA ZOREN: What if you’re not back in time?


He stalks into a narrow alleyway and disappears into the dusty haze.

ELONA ZOREN: ...acting chief.

Drejen hops down from the shuttle.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Okay, we’re set. Want to take a look at this ship?

ELONA ZOREN: In a micrek. Rider.

RIDER: I am ready, Acting Chief Zoren.

Elona turns to the cargo crates. She taps a device mounted to her forearm.

ELONA ZOREN: It’s time to get to work. Initiate Stage 4.

RIDER: Initializing process. Stand by. Uploading.

The crates slide open, revealing a pair of high tech drones. Sets of yellow lights turn green and the drones chirp online. Elona turns to the other two soldiers.

ELONA ZOREN: Sergeant, let’s secure this area.

COLONIAL SERGEANT: Yes ma’am. (to other) Come on. Optics?


COLONIAL SERGEANT: Right. Get up in that tower. I want control watching your feed.


The drones unfold, then spin up to a hover. The machines run through a diagnostic sequence.

RIDER 1: Upload complete. Calibrating.

RIDER 2: Upload complete. Calibrating.

Their optic sensors focus on Elona.


RIDER 1: These systems are significantly more complex than I was prepared for.

RIDER 2: These systems are significantly more complex than I was prepared for.

ELONA ZOREN: Take your time, Rider. I know we’re skipping a few developmental stages.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Is this all... under control?

ELONA ZOREN: We’ve never tested Rider like this before.

She studies the drones.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: But the director wanted you to let it fly us here?

ELONA ZOREN: She had almost no problems with the simulations. It’s just more complex when you consider the acclimation period and the... well, I’ll spare you. (then) How does the ship look?

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: You know, the damage doesn’t look too bad from out here. It should fly. Atmospheric array might be a redundant system.

The Rider drones chirp.

RIDER 1: Diagnostic complete. I await your orders.

RIDER 2: Diagnostic complete. I await your orders.

ELONA ZOREN: (tracking on her wrist computer) Okay Rider: it’s going to be a few creks until we can merge these images so let’s try to keep them working in tandem. (then) Get me a full system map and then get started on the engine array.

RIDER 1: Understood, acting chief.

RIDER 2: Understood, acting chief.

The drones fly overhead and circle The Berenian, scanning its hull. Mechanical arms probe the damaged atmospheric engine.

RIDER 1 (CONT'D): Calibrating.

RIDER 2 (CONT'D): Calibrating.

Elona watches the drones work.

ELONA ZOREN: Bring out the human.


The Berenian’s cargo ramp drops. Osborn waits at the bottom, his hands shackled before him. Elona steps up to him.

ELONA ZOREN: Anything we need to know before we go aboard?

Corvan’s optic sensors focus on Osborn.

BEN OSBORN: Don’t touch any of Oddie’s stuff.

Corvan’s arm rotates into its pulse cannon configuration.

CORVAN: Delay no further, colonial. The storm approaches.

Elona glances at Drejen. He draws his pulse pistol.


The hatch slides open and Osborn leads the colonials into the cockpit of the Berenian. The flight console is dark. Parts of the hull are visibly warped. The wind howls outside.

Elona and Drejen inspect the cockpit with handheld scanners.

Osborn collects an overturned cup and sets it on the flight console.

ELONA ZOREN: Where did you acquire this ship? Do you consider this human design?

No answer. Drejen taps a wall panel.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Hull integrity checks out in here.

ELONA ZOREN (sighs): And it looks like we’ve got power ship wide. Let’s -- (looking at a schematic) Look at all this.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Custom hardware. It’ll take forever to validate all those systems. Hard to tell what this ship can do at a glance.

ELONA ZOREN: Rider, what’s your status?

RIDER 1 (COMMS): Repairs to the Berenian’s hammot-side atmospheric engine array are currently underway.

RIDER 2 (COMMS): Repairs to the Berenian’s hammot-side atmospheric engine array are currently underway.

ELONA ZOREN: Rider -- sorry, I only need one patch.

RIDER (COMMS): My apologies, Acting Chief Zoren.

ELONA ZOREN: Can I get a third image on this ship before we bring it online?

RIDER (COMMS): I am unable to broadcast an image from this chassis.

ELONA ZOREN: Oh... dralk. I should’ve... thought of that. Grek. It’s fine. (ponders) Okay, just stay where you are. Drejen and I can handle things in here.

Rider chirps. She and Drejen share a look. Drejen holsters his pulse pistol.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Commander Osborn.

The pilot looks up at her. Drejen watches from across the room.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): It’s time. Carefully bring your ship online, please.

Osborn eyes the colonials, then crosses the cockpit slowly. He drops into the pilot’s seat. Drejen stares at him, claw resting on his pulse pistol.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Carefully, human.

ELONA ZOREN: When you’re ready.

Osborn breathes deep, then flips the switch. The ship hums up and a few basic systems come online.

Elona looks around.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Okay. Thank you, Commander Osborn. I think our partnership is going well. (then) Come on Drejen, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

She and Drejen get back to work. Osborn watches the colonials.

A blaster pistol is strapped underneath the flight console.


Aboard the station, a door opens to the deck 61 containment cells and Kron enters the brig. The door shuts behind him. He looks at the warden sergeant, then at the occupied cell. Oddie Konidarian stares back. The zaridian clings to the top of the chamber, scales bathed in orange light. He licks his eye.

WARDEN SERGEANT: Lieutenant Kron... you’re not authorized to be here right now.

SARANUS KRON: Just checking on the prisoner.

WARDEN SERGEANT: All the same, sir...

Kron pulls out Dorgo’s knife.

SARANUS KRON: I also brought this. It’s one of Dorgo Konidarian’s daggers. Confiscated planetside. It needs to be secured in the vault.

Oddie watches through the door’s view port.

WARDEN SERGEANT: Sir, this isn’t exactly protocol.

SARANUS KRON: Nothing complicated, sergeant. I’ll just file my report and go.

The sergeant glances toward the cell.


He takes the ornamented weapon and exits through a side door. Kron silently types at the console. He saves the report, then stalks up to the cell door.

Oddie watches him, upside down.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: Is there something you might need my attention for, colonial... or are you just going to stare too?

SARANUS KRON: What could you tell me that I didn’t already learn from the human?

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: Tt. Dorgo was right. You colonials don’t have a clue what you’re getting in for out here.

SARANUS KRON: How’s that?

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: If I were you... I’d leave the system before the holkari strike back.

SARANUS KRON: And I should take you with me because you know the frontier, right? Do you know how desperate you sound? You realize there’s no escape for you, don’t you? Whatever you tried to do here... it’s over. Even the human abandoned you.

Oddie’s tongue flicks out.


SARANUS KRON: Tell me this. How’d you get through the jump relay?

Oddie smirks.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: You’ve never been to Veristan, have you colonial?

SARANUS KRON: I might make a trip soon. Pay a visit to your boss, Vedrahn.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: I wouldn’t joke about that. Vedrahn would drop a lot of currency to recruit a defective colonial. Maybe I can arrange a little parley when we’re through all of this.

SARANUS KRON: You really think you’re getting off this station.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: Vedrahn owns the frontier. You’re just one little station half full of drones.

He nods to Kron’s bandages.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN (CONT’D): You’re lucky we weren’t after you. I’m thinking that’s changed now, just for the sport of it.

The door opens and shuts behind him.

SARANUS KRON: Pretty talkative family. It’s a shame your pilot wasn’t more forthright. (then) He’s all yours. I think we’d be better off putting the muzzle back on him, though.

CAPTAIN LANDRIS (O.S.): I think I can handle it from here, lieutenant.

SARANUS KRON (surprised): Captain...!

Kron spins to see Captain Landris by the security console. Medicine is injected. The warden sergeant hangs his head. Inside the cell, Oddie grins.

ODDIE KONIDARIAN: Good luck catching Dorgo, lieutenant.


The wind howls through the city of Bisson, carrying the desert sands. Colonial boots step into view. Commander Tygg references his visor readout one last time then switches it off. He kneels in the center of the alleyway. The sands shift constantly across the ground.


He glances at the stone wall nearby. A faded smear of violet blood, nearly scoured by sand.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D) (to himself): Well played, Dorgo. Finding ways to piss me off even after I’ve killed you.

He taps his comms.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): Tygg to Command.

The signal is weakened.


COMMANDER TYGG: The zaridian’s body is gone. The grekking holkari must’ve gotten here first.

He touches the bloodied wall.

COMMANDER TYGG (CONT’D): And it looks like there was trouble.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV (COMMS): Acknowledged. Should I inform the captain?

COMMANDER TYGG: There’s nothing to tell him yet, Delerev. One more block then I’ll circle back to the others.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DELEREV (COMMS): Better make it quick, commander, we’re starting to get some signal interference.

COMMANDER TYGG: Copy that, command. Tygg out.

He raises his rifle and carries on.


From the rooftops, a squad of amber-eyed figures watches the lone colonial. Their tusks are painted for war.


Across the city, the two drones complete their work on the engine. They seal the manifold. RIDER 1: Acting Chief Zoren, I have completed the repairs to the Berenian’s hammot-side atmospheric engine. Probability of achieving exo-atmospheric flight estimated at 68.1%. Additionally, fuel reserves are critically low.

ELONA ZOREN (COMMS): Good work, Rider. We’ll start bringing more systems online.

The second drone flies around the ship. Corvan watches from his post at the cargo ramp as the robotic approaches. It hovers in the intensifying haze, miniature pulse engines flickering.

RIDER 2: Hello again, travorian.

CORVAN: Rider.

Corvan reaches out and touches the drone. Their optic sensors focus reciprocally.

CORVAN (CONT’D): This is a fine vessel.

RIDER 2: It is... strange. I am limited in this form.

CORVAN: You are limited in all forms.

Along the rooftops overhead, holkari warriors creep into position.


In the cockpit of the Berenian, Elona seals up a panel. Drejen walks in through the hatchway.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Integrity checks out for the rest of the ship. There’s some really interesting gear in the cargo hold. Things I’ve never heard of.

ELONA ZOREN: We can catalog it when we’re back on the station. (then) Rider’s done with the engine. Ready to bring the primaries on?

He plugs a monitoring device into a wall socket.


She turns to Osborn.

ELONA ZOREN: Okay, Commander.

Osborn shifts around and flips another switch. Something powerful revs up in the ship but sputters out.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Dralk. Leave it on this time, human.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Grekking cardona... It might be the converter.

Osborn jangles his cuffs.

BEN OSBORN: This would make a lot more sense if you actually let me help seeing as it’s my ship. I’m starting to wonder why you brought me down here at all.

ELONA ZOREN: You’re already doing about as much as I’m comfortable with, Commander, thank you. (then) Okay I’ll check out the converter again, you go check Rider’s work on the engine array.

Rhythmic beeping sounds somewhere in the cabin.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: What about the human? We can’t leave him unattended.

Elona turns, her attention on the sound.

ELONA ZOREN: What about... what is that?

Drejen scowls. He grabs the human by the throat and pulls him out of the chair.

BEN OSBORN: It’s just -- wait, it’s not a --


She follows it to a wall panel. She toggles it open. An improvised device filters dark fluids into a pressurized tank. One pipe is labeled: fuel. It beeps.

ELONA ZOREN: Oh, dralk. (then) It’s on a countdown.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: It’s a grekking bomb!

BEN OSBORN: -- it’s not a bomb --

Drejen lifts Osborn off the ground.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: How do we disable it! Tell us! Tell us now!

BEN OSBORN: It’s not a -- coffee, it’s coffee --

Drejen draws his pistol.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Shut the grek up! Tell us how!


The timer reads: 15.

BEN OSBORN: Hhack! I can’t --


10. Drejen throws Osborn to the ground. He gasps for breath and scrambles to grab the cup off the flight console. Drejen follows with his pistol.

BEN OSBORN: It’s not a bomb. It’s a coffee -- it makes coffee -- it’s a coffee machine.

ELONA ZOREN: What is that?


ELONA ZOREN: “Coffee.”

BEN OSBORN: It’s -- you drink it. You just drink it.

The countdown ends, and the device beeps. Drejen’s pistol is locked onto the human.


Osborn flips a switch and a steaming brown liquid pours into the cup.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Is it toxic?

BEN OSBORN: It’s not supposed to be.

FLIGHT OFFICER DREJEN: Like kallif. You drink it. Like kallif.


Drejen slowly holsters his pistol. Elona watches him, finally relaxing the grip on her own weapon. She looks down for a moment.


The officer turns toward her.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Check the engine. I can handle it from here.


He grabs a scanner and walks out. Elona studies Osborn.

ELONA ZOREN: I apologize for that. You seem to bring out the worst in people.

She looks around.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): I’ve never seen a ship like this before. It seems... nice. It’s not too big for someone traveling alone?

He ignores her.

ELONA ZOREN (CONT’D): Most of us have never seen a human until now. We studied your kind in academy, of course, but nobody actually expects... Are you... Are there... others?


ELONA ZOREN: I just hope you understand that the Colony is here to help. I’m sorry we haven’t done a good job of following protocol with you but I want you to know that... you can trust me. I’m out here to help the holkari. I’m here to protect the frontier. I’m trying to help you. (then) And I think we can help each other beyond just this operation.

BEN OSBORN: Look I don’t know what you’re trying to maneuver here, but I’ve already made a deal with your captain. I’m just here for my ship. I’m not looking to get entangled in any other colonial dralk. Especially not whatever it is you’re doing with whatever Rider is.

She studies him, pensively.


From the curved window of a stone tower, a colonial soldier spots the advancing holkari. He adjusts his pulse rifle.

COLONIAL RIFLEMAN: All points this is tower watch. Visual on three holkari squads approaching rooftops 34 mark 6. Converging on the ship.


COLONIAL SERGEANT (COMMS): Travorian, we’ve got movement. Multiple fronts approaching. The two drones retreat to Corvan’s side. He primes his pulse cannon.

CORVAN: Krall drammak...

Along the rooftops, a large number of holkari warriors rise armed with glowing plasma pikes.

HOLKARI CAPTAIN: Ah rah lek Oo’than kalla oot ekka dalla!

HOLKARI WARRIORS: Oot ekka dalla!!