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 Darwin's Soldiers: Ship of State, sequel to Card of Ten
LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Jun 30 2010, 04:59 PM


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Finally, I feel I've gone far enough in this storyline that I can start publishing this story. It look like it'll be rather long, Card of Ten length.

This is a 'sequel' or sorts to Card of Ten. It shows what happened to Werner and Hans, who were left behind in the first story.

I don't expect anyone remembers the storyline to Card of Ten, so here's a recap:

A team of government scientists and soldiers (including Hans and Werner) traveled through a device called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, which transported them through time and space to a planet called Gaman. Werner was separated from the others early on and ingratiated himself into the Gaman society.

The rest of the team made an enemy of the Sapaar, rivals to the Gaman, who rigged the planet to explode. At the end, Werner's father Hans chose to stay with his son, and both were left behind on the disintegrating planet.

This is the story I really wanted to write; however, I am well aware that most of my potential readers who joined the Darwin's Soldiers RPs after Card of Ten may want a story that has more to do with the current storyline, so I am posting Nietzsche's Soldiers 2 simultaneously in a separate thread. I'll alternate which story I update every other day.

So, without further ado, Ship of State!
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A series of tremors rocked the city. Werner didn’t know why. Lights flickered and went out. Screams ripped though the air.

Werner and a large group of the cityfolk, called the Gaman, had just raided the power plant, in an attempt to capture it and cripple the standing government, controlled by a people known as the Sapaar. They were on the verge of success, when this suddenly happened.

Inside the power plant, Hans grasped Werner’s arm for stability as the people around them started panicking. “What’s going on?” he cried.

“Not sure, but whatever’s happening, we should get outside!” Werner jumped back as a large chunk of the ceiling fell in front of him. “Everything’s falling apart!”

Werner started forcing his way through those around him. The cry was rippling through the ranks. “Get out of the factory! Get outside!”

The walls started crumbling, leaving the air thick with dust. Sunlight peeked through, revealing both Gaman and Sapaar attempting to leave the factory.

“Why is the power plant collapsing?” asked Hans again, panting as they burst into the front lobby. Light from outside revealed that smoke and destruction permeated the entire city. “Why?” he repeated, as if he were incapable of comprehending this new development.

Werner could barely grasp what was happening himself; a few minutes ago, they were joyously celebrating their successful takeover of the power plant. Now, they were about to lose the entire planet, and probably their lives. “Keep moving!” Werner commanded, forcing himself to focus on the problem at hand. Get his people out of immediate danger, and then try and get them off the planet.

“It’s no better out there!” Menken, one of Werner’s soldiers, retorted.

“At least there’s no ceiling to fall on us!”

Outside, cries echoed through the city, and shockwaves broke up the ground under their feet.

“What do we do?” another, named Brut, yelled.

Werner tried his radio. “James? Shelton? Does anyone copy?” No answer.

“That reminds me!” Hans grabbed Werner by the shoulders. “James said the bridge back to Pelvanida opened up sometime around now. If we can get there, we might be able to get some of these people off Gaman!”

“Lead the way,” nodded Werner. “Stay with me!” he called to the people around him. “I have a way to safety!”

As he led the way through the crumbling streets, Werner started feeling light headed. Gaman was breaking up, and the planet was losing atmosphere.

His radio suddenly cackled. Werner snatched it up.

“This is Hawkeye. I am send—”

“Hawkeye!” Werner cut in. “What happened? What’s going on? Where’s the rest of the team?”

“They are with me. Please let me speak. The Sapaar are attempting to destroy the planet rather than let the Gamanians take it back,” Hawkeye reported grimly. “They will succeed. However, we have located—”

“—Where are you?” Werner asked. He saw the Einstein-Rosen Bridge ahead, a glimmering portal of blue light.

“Look up.”

A small shuttlecraft shot overhead, shooting towards the bridge. Before it entered, it pulled into a loop, to correct the angle of approach.

Hawkeye continued. “There is little time, so please don’t interrupt me again. I have transmitted coordinates to you showing the locations of more of these shuttlecraft. Two are in your proximate area—” Before he finished, the shuttle shot through the bridge and the connection was lost.

“Why can’t we just go through the bridge?” asked Hans, puzzled, when suddenly a figure was ejected from the portal forcefully. It hit the ground and went rolling.

Werner ran to it. It was Seska, a Gamanian, looking battered and confused.

“How did you get in the bridge?” asked Werner, helping her to her feet.

“I—I was on the shuttle with James, and…” She looked around. “…then, I wasn’t…”

Werner looked at the bridge. Suddenly he realized it. “We can’t go through the bridge!” he yelled.

“Why not?” asked Hans.

“I don’t have time to explain!” Werner checked the coordinates Hawkeye had sent. “We’re splitting up! Follow Hans or myself!” Werner showed Hans the first coordinate set. “It’s a few blocks away. Can you get there, and find the shuttlecraft?”

Hans nodded. “The portal?”

“Not now. Just trust me, and get half these people to a shuttle. Go!”


This post has been edited by LettuceBacon&Tomato on Jul 4 2010, 04:33 PM
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Serris
Posted: Jul 1 2010, 03:20 PM


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Oh wow, high test adventure from the start.

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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Jul 2 2010, 03:01 PM


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Yeah, decided to start this one off quickly to make up for the slow start in the other story.
----------------------------------------------------------
Werner led his group down the road to the new Sapaar playhouse. The door was locked with a steel bar. Werner slid the bar out and kicked the door down, leading the way backstage.

“Search for a trapdoor!” he yelled, gasping for breath. The air was dangerously thin.

Someone found it, and Werner pried it open with the bar. Ignoring the ladder, he dropped down and ran for the center of the room, where a dark shadow that must be the shuttlecraft sat.

Sliding the door open, he jumped back as a gunshot whizzed past him. There were two Sapaar guards in the ship.

Werner pinwheeled the steel bar at the first guard, hitting him in the chest and kicking him to the ground with a cry. He then took advantage of the distraction by rolling into the ship, kicking the second guard’s rifle away as he got up, and knocking him out with an uppercut.

He ran to the door, and dumped the guards overboard. “Get over here! Get in the ship! Move it!” he urged his followers, who were still climbing down the ladder.

His followers filed into the craft. There were only around a couple dozen, but they filled the craft. Another explosion from above rocked the entire shuttle.

Werner hopped in the pilot’s seat and turned the craft on. He examined the controls. They were very different from Earth controls, though he could tell which system was what. Hopefully Hans could make more sense of them.

He checked the sensory radar, and saw signals like his own. He contacted them all.

“Hans. Are you Hans? Copy.”

The one nearest him responded. “This is Hans. Werner, you made it!”

“Yeah. First of all, do you think you can fly the ship?”

Hans’ reply was cut off by a different ship, the furthest one from his own, responding. “Are you Werner? This is Hamat.”

“Hamat?” Hamat was a bright young Gamanian scholar. Werner was impressed. “You managed to find a shuttlecraft? On your own?”

“Yes, but I can’t fly it! Can you?”

Werner cursed. “Three shuttlecrafts full of people, and none of us can fly them!”

“I can!” There was a banging on the door outside. One of the Sapaar guards had regained conscious. “Let us in, or you’ll all die!”

Werner hesitated. He couldn’t trust the guard’s word, and the shuttle was over crowded as it is. But he had no choice.

“Open the door.”

Someone slid the door open. The guard crawled in, dragging his companion.

“Get over here, now!” Werner ordered.

The man got up, wincing and clutching his ribcage. “Give me the pilot’s seat,” he said.

Werner shook his head. “You’re not touching the controls. Tell me how to fly the ship.”

“Do you understand how close the planet is to completely breaking up? I can’t teach you in time!” snapped the guard.

“Your kind blew up the planet rather than lose. I can’t trust that you won’t just kamikaze us into a wall. Now get talking, I’m a quick learner.”

The guard grumbled. “If you want to fly your ship and your friends’, they have to slave their ships to your control.”

“How do they do that?” asked Werner, hitting the intercom so Hans and Hamat could hear.

“Werner, what is going on?” Hans yelled. “I don’t know how to fly this thing!”

“Will you give me a minute?” snapped Werner. “Listen to what this guy says, he’ll walk you through.”

After Hamat and Hans had done their part, Werner checked their locations on the HUD.

“Hamat, your ship is taking off first; buckle up. Did you open the hangar doors before entering the shuttle?”

“I did,” Hamat radioed.

“So did I,” Hans chimed in.

“You didn’t, though,” the guard noted, looking out the front screen.

“I know!” snapped Werner. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do about that, but he’ll get to that problem once the others are safe in the sky. “Hamat, you should be airborne.”

“Yes, we’re moving!” Hamat yelled.

“I haven’t even taught you how to fly yet,” said the guard.

“The layout’s not too different from what I used to fly. I think I can do this. Get out of the cockpit.”

Werner saw the lit dot representing Hamat’s ship on the HUD slowly move and escape Gaman’s orbit. “Hans, you’re next!”

There was another earthquake outside. Werner heard debris peppering the top of the shuttle.

“Werner!” Hans cried. “Gaman is going to break apart any minute! Do you have time to get yourself out?”

“I know what I‘m doing, just strap down and let me concentrate!”

“If you die, Werner, you’ll take Hamat and myself with you,” Hans warned.

“That isn’t going to happen.”

On the HUD, atmosphere levels were dangerously low. The ground shook again. The ship tilted to the sky. The people in the passenger bay cried out.

“I’m clear!” cried Hans. “Werner, get yourself out of there!”

Werner didn’t move.

“Werner? What are you doing?”

“My hangar door isn’t open; I can’t fly out.”

“Well, then what are you going to do? How are you going to get out of there?”

Werner didn’t answer.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Jul 4 2010, 04:48 PM


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“Werner, you can’t die, we’ve come too far! Not to mention you’re currently flying all three—”

“I know,” interrupted Werner. “I heard you the first time!” He activated thrusters, and hovered in place.

The atmospheric scanner was at zero. Gaman’s atmosphere was gone completely. Werner felt the ship list again. There were many cries in the back, but Werner couldn’t waste time stabilizing. Besides, he needed the leverage.

“Everybody strap in! Or hold onto something!” Werner ordered over the intercom.

The ground began to disintegrate under the ship. “Werner, are you still there?”

Werner didn’t bother to reply.

“Werner, what are you doing?” Hans sounded extremely panicked.

“I’m going to attempt to punch through Gaman’s weakened crust, and escape out the bottom. It should be brittle enough to work.”

“You’re in an escape craft! It’s not designed for punching through anything! Maybe if you had a mining ship, but—”

Werner turned the radio off. Hitting the back thrusters, Werner tilted the ship on its nose. There were several thuds from the passenger bay. “I told you people to strap in!” Werner yelled over the intercom.

“There weren’t enough seats!” came the panicked reply.

The ground shook, and the visible cracks in the ground got wider. The walls around the hangar started to crumble, but the ship was stalled, perfectly vertical. He couldn’t pull back.

There was a horrible grinding sound as the nose of the ship dented against the pressure of the ground. The dirt got looser and looser as the ship became wedged in a new fault line. Werner prayed the ship would hold together long enough.

An alarm went off near his head, scaring him half to death. Hull pressure was 30 psi greater than the preferred limit. And the ship wasn’t moving forward. It was stuck.

The ship was halfway into the fault when the ground shook a final time, and, with dirt and dust completely obscuring his vision, Werner felt the ship shoot forward. He kept the ship on course, unable to rely on his sensors to warn him of debris ahead. When he felt clear of the planet, he banked and stabilized, and after a few minutes found himself in the inky blackness of space.

Two other crafts were nearby, floating safely. Werner hit the radio and heard both of them cheering.

“What happened back there?” he asked. “The crust wasn’t supposed to give nearly that quickly!”

“We helped,” Hans explained. “Hamat discovered some explosives on his shuttle, and timed it so that the blasts would clear a path for you, or at the least get you free. Sensors showed you were stuck in the fault line.”

Werner felt his heart rate returning to normal. “I was. I owe you both one.”

Hamat came on the radio. “Where do we go now? I have enough air for two weeks, and Werner, with all the refugees, you probably have less.”

Werner checked the surrounding area. “Sensors weren’t picking up any large masses of rock that would identify planets or even large asteroids, except the remains of Gaman. I don’t know where we expect to go.”

“We can’t worry about that now. I have wounded, and Werner, if your shuttle was designed the same way as mine, you probably had unrestrained passengers during that maneuver of yours. We need to consolidate and repair what we can before we go anywhere.”

“You’re right, Hans.” Werner got up and exited the cockpit into the passenger’s bay.

He was greeted to cries and wails as the passengers lay strewn in over the cramped passenger bay. Werner noted several obvious cases of concussions and traumatic injuries with just a glance. Others appeared to be shell-shocked.

“Everyone, calm down!” he yelled, trying to appease those crying. He was marginally successful. “I need to know who among you have the worst injuries, and if there are any doctors who reached the shuttle in time!”

People immediately began acting up and calling out injuries, but nobody offered medical advice.

After a few minutes of trying to calm people down, Werner gave up and returned to the cockpit. “We’re in pretty bad shape,” he told Hans and Hamat. “There are more injured than not, and no doctors. Hamat, you’re a scholar, what medical experience do you have?”

“Nothing hands-on,” he admitted, “but I have read medical texts.”

“And I have morphine and a first-aid kit,” admitted Hans. “Not that that helps you much.”

Werner felt nettled. “All right, Hamat, I’m going to attempt to sort out who needs attention the most, and you do your best to explain over the radio what exactly I should—”

He broke off when he heard a thick thud from the passenger bay, and everyone started shouting. “One second!” Werner said to Hans and Hamat, and rushed into the passenger bay.

The settlers had ganged up on the two Sapaar guards who had been guarding the shuttle, beating and kicking the pair. The crowd roared with malicious delight.

“What are you doing? Stop!” Werner wrestled his way through the crowd and started pulling people off. “Stop!”

Eventually and with much effort the crowd backed down. Werner stood between them and the two guards, panting.

“Why can’t we kill them?” protested Seska, the young woman. “They’re responsible for the destruction of Gaman!”

“The Sapaar are responsible, yes, but these two men were just guarding a ship! We can’t blame them for what their leaders chose to do!”

“You lost just as much as we did!” Kixoo, a baker, chimed in. “How can you defend them?”

“I—” Werner broke off. He didn’t remember Kixoo being part of the rebellion. “If we kill them, we’re no better than they were to us! And our violence ended up destroying our planet!”

He stopped to take a deep breath. “We have to focus on surviving. We are the last of our kind, and we cannot waste what time and energy we have on anything that doesn’t benefit our survival.”

For a moment, the crowd looked ready to mutiny. Then one of them stepped forward, next to Werner. It was Brut. “I agree with Werner,” he said. “We shouldn’t hurt the Sapaar anymore.”

Another, Menken, stepped to Werner’s other side. “Werner hasn’t let us down yet,” Menken agreed.

The crowd begrudgingly backed down. Some of them, like Seska and Kixoo, looked less than willing, but at least they were in the minority.

Werner looked at the bruised and battered guards. At least he successfully found the most wounded.


This post has been edited by LettuceBacon&Tomato on Jul 8 2010, 03:37 AM
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Serris
Posted: Jul 7 2010, 11:19 PM


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Awesome, I find it really nice to see a story that stars Werner and Hans ever since they got "demoted to extra" in the RPs.

And I finally found out why this story is called Ship of State!

I hope you'll continue posting the story.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Jul 20 2010, 10:36 PM


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A short update, but I realized I'd been ignoring this story.
_________________________________________________

“Help me get these two to the cockpit,” Werner asked Brut and Menken. “I want them away from the crowd.”

The three carefully moved the two unconscious men into the cockpit.

“Was Kixoo part of the rebellion?” asked Menken.

Brut shook his head. “Never heard him take a side either way. Probably just saw us running for the ship and decided he had nothing else to lose.”

Werner put Hans and Hamat back on the radio. “Sorry, we just averted a near-mutiny. How are your two ships?”

“Minimal injuries,” replied Hans. “I’ve administered morphine to those who need it. The worst injury is a broken arm, and she’s currently asleep.”

“I only have a few with me, and they’re all uninjured,” said Hamat.

Werner nodded and turned to Menken and Brut. “Look throughout the ship and try and organize people by severity of injury, see who we should attend to next. Maybe try and find if there are any supplies on board.”

Both nodded and returned to the passenger bay.

“All right, Hamat, I’ve got two individuals, badly beaten on both sides. I can see bruising along their faces and…” Werner removed their shorts, “along their sides. Maybe broken ribs.”

Hamat whistled. “What happened to them?”

“They’re the Sapaar guards, and the passengers tried to kill them.”

“You kept yours alive!” exclaimed Hamat. “We left ours on the planet. You should just let them die. They’re wasting what air you have left.”

“Werner! Are you going to kill them?” exclaimed Hans.

“No,” said Werner. “I’m not going to kill them. Hamat, are you going to help me treat them or do I need to cut you off too?”

Hamat didn’t sound happy. “If the only signs are massive bruising, they probably aren’t in critical condition. Just lie them somewhere and don’t let them get up.”

Werner was unsure whether to trust Hamat, but eventually decided to do what he said. “Okay, if you say so. Give me a minute so I can diagnose the next patient.”

As Werner walked into the passenger bay, he heard Hans and Hamat continuing the conversation.

“You really just left your Sapaar to die?” asked Hans.

“Didn’t you?”

“Our shuttle was unguarded.”

“What if it hadn’t been?”

Hans was silent.
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Serris
Posted: Aug 17 2010, 11:01 AM


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I have to admit the dialogue is pretty good too.

I noticed there is a bit of "Aerith and Bob" trope here. Hans and Werner have normal names while the Sapaar have rather...unusual names. Possibly justified in that they are not Terrans.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Aug 18 2010, 11:54 PM


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Thanks! I admit I've always been better at dialogue than other aspects of story. That's something I've been trying to improve on.

I've been real slow in posting new material, but that's because I've gotten really far in typing up new stuff, so it shouldn't be so far in between posts! biggrin.gif

____________________________________________________________________

It was that night, not according to the sky (which was always black and dust-choked), but the ship’s onboard clock.

Werner was sleeping in the pilot’s seat, or trying to. While the shuttles seemed to float in a sea of dust, the stars and the inky blackness of space could still be seen beyond the ever-expanding particle cloud. He was busy staring at the stars around the ship.

For the first time, he really digested the situation they were in. Lost in space, with no supplies. What was he supposed to tell everyone when they woke up? What was their next move?

“Werner, are you awake?”

It was Hans. Werner sighed. “You’re awake too?”

“I’m surprised how quickly everyone else fell asleep, to be honest.”

“They’re exhausted. This was probably the most strenuous day of their lives.”

“Well, they aren’t going to get any easier.” Hans’ tone changed. “Werner, I’ve been wondering about something since we escaped Gaman. Why couldn’t we have evacuated through the Einstein-Rosen bridge?”

“Because when a being made of matter jumps through the bridge, they get duplicated, and spat back out where they started. That’s what happened to Seska, when she tried to escape with James’ team. And that would have happened to all the settlers who ran through the bridge. You and I would be the only real survivors of Gaman.”

“Ah.” Hans paused. “Of course, that’s assuming we find somewhere or someway to survive out here. Our options are kind of limited.”

Werner looked behind him. Most of the settlers were sleeping sitting up, to make more room for the wounded ones who needed to lay flat. “There are too many people on this ship, Hans. We can’t subsist at these numbers. Whatever food we have will never sustain so many people.”

“You’re thinking about how you saved the guards, aren’t you?”

Werner glanced at them. They hadn’t woken up. They might well be dead. “Not just them.”

“You made the right choice, Werner. Violence for revenge’s sake won’t get us anywhere.”

Werner nodded, but then Hans continued. “However, you are the settler’s leader, and that means you will have to make some hard choices in the upcoming days. One of them will probably be who lives and who dies.”

Suddenly a giant flash of light lit up the front screen! Werner fell backward in surprise, and when he got back to his feet there was only one shuttlecraft still floating in front if his.

“Hans? Was that you? What just happened?”

Two more shuttles suddenly flew by from overhead. Werner realized that some of the Sapaar had reached shuttlecraft, and had followed them. They were pulling around for another pass. “Hans! Hamat! Which of you is still alive?” Werner pulled his ship out of the Sapaar’s attack path and focused on the other ship. He realized with a sinking feeling that he wasn’t going to be able to pull the ship out of the way in time. “Surviving shuttle, hang on!”

The leading Sapaar shuttle dropped a mess of small blue cylinders on the Gaman shuttle. Werner guessed those were the explosives. Werner banked the shuttle hard, but the right side was peppered with damaging blows. The right engine looked destroyed.

“Werner? Do you read?”

Werner punched the intercom. “Who is that?”

“This is Hans.” He sounded panicked. “What happened?”

Werner glanced at the Sapaar. They were coming around for a third pass. “There are two Sapaar shuttles and they attacked us. They destroyed Hamat.”

“What‽ How?”

“By dropping explosives, same way you guys did—” Werner checked the Sapaar trajectory. “They’re coming for me this time!”

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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Sep 15 2010, 08:46 PM


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Behind him, everyone had woken up in the passenger bay, and panic was beginning to spread.

“People! Please!” Werner shouted over the frightened settlers. “Calm down! I need Brut and Menken to find the hatch where you release explosives, and let me know as soon as you do!”

The reply came back quickly. “Got it!” reported Menken, prying off a circular covering and dropping down into a cramped compartment. “The hatch release requires two people who have to pull at the same time.”

“That’ll be you and Brut, on my mark. Everybody else be quiet! And don’t get in their way!”

Werner jumped back into the cockpit. The Sapaar were coming head on. Obviously they didn’t expect the shuttle to fight back.

Werner waited until the last possible moment, then pulled up as fast as possible, barely clearing the roofs of the Sapaar shuttles. “Drop the explosives! Now!”

But either Menken or Brut was a little late, and the explosives sailed through the spot the Sapaar had been seconds ago. But they’d gotten the message: this shuttle wasn’t going down easy. Both Sapaar instantly broke off the attack and began retreating into space.

Werner ran into the passenger bay and started helping Brut and Menken out of the hatch compartment. “Which of you released late?”

They looked at each other.

“I thought I released on time,” said Menken.

“I did too,” said Brut.

“It doesn’t matter, I guess,” Werner conceded. “They still broke off the attack. Plus neither of you were prepared for the job or even fully awake, so you did as well as you could given the circumstances.”

He looked back at the cockpit. “I need to check on Hans.”

He hit the ship-to-ship intercom. “Hans. Damage report.”

“Our right engine is broken, and now there are a few more injuries, but hull integrity is maintained.”

Werner groaned. “You only have a left engine.”

“How bad is that?”

“If you hope to do anything but pinwheel in place, bad.” Werner slowly pulled up his shuttle alongside Hans.

“Werner? What are you doing?”

“Don’t say anything. Don’t touch anything. I need to concentrate.”

“Why do you always say—?”

Werner cut the intercom and switched to the passenger bay. “Attention all. There’s going to be a slight bump, but everything is okay.”

First thing Werner did was rotate Hans’ ship so it faced the direction the Sapaar had gone. Ignoring Hans’ repeated hails, Werner positioned his shuttle so it was right next to Hans’, he turned his engines and Hans’ engine on at the same time. His ship lurched forward. Hans’ ship lurched to the left and broadsided Werner’s ship, preventing sideways momentum and forcing it back on a straight path. Both ships began moving forward.

When he had finished, Werner turned the intercom back on. “Werner! Explain what you’re doing! Please!” Hans snapped.

“We’re following the Sapaar. They created these shuttlecraft, presumably they have a destination in mind. And even if they don’t, it’s no worse than moving in a random direction.”

“You couldn’t have just said that? Why do you have to keep cutting me out?”

“I needed to concentrate. I was using our shuttle as a barrier to force yours to follow the same path as ours, forward. If I was off by even a few degrees, you’d be shooting off in the wrong direction, or even worse, pinwheeling. I wouldn’t have the fuel to rescue you; I’ve got just enough to make a controlled landing if we find anywhere to land, and we’re already behind the Sapaar as it is. We just have to hope they never change their course, because they’re out of sensor range.”

“Werner? How are you going to land our shuttle if we reach somewhere?”

Werner had no clue. “We’ll deal with that problem when and if it comes.” He rubbed his temples and put his head in his hands. Now he felt tired. But he needed to calm the rest of the crew down. He got to his feet and walked into the passenger bay.

“What just happened?” demanded Seska immediately, the moment he entered the room. “Were we attacked again?”

“No, I needed to help the other shuttle on its course. They lost an engine.”

“What do you mean, ‘other shuttle’?” asked Brut. “There were two.”

Werner hesitated, but there was no way around it. “Hamat’s shuttle was destroyed. There was nothing I could do.”

A shocked silence greeted his words. “Hamat was one of the smartest young men I’d ever known,” said one of the men. “I believed we’d get through this because we had him.”

“We’re still going to get through this!” Werner assured everyone. “I never promised it would be easy, or that nobody would die, but I did promise that the Gaman culture would survive, and I stand to that! We have to keep strong, and not let sorrow or discouragement get the better of us!” He paused to let his words sink in. “We actually have a destination now, which is more than we had yesterday.”

“Where are we going?” asked Seska.

“We’re following the Sapaar ships,” he answered, hoping hoping they didn’t take that the wrong way. “We’re assuming they have somewhere to go.”

To his surprise, she nodded. “Good. We’ll follow them to their new home, and then we’ll take it from them!” Her eyes gleamed. Several members of the crowd showed support. Werner frowned, but knew it wasn’t time to argue. At least it lifted their spirits a little.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Sep 17 2010, 02:19 AM


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The next few days were hard. The supplies were rationed to the point that everybody got a single meal a day, an extremely small meal. Tensions broke out over who got what types of food, so Werner came up with the idea of giving each passenger a choice of a “larger” portion of less desired food or a smaller portion of better food. Every day at the same time Werner would unlock the storage compartment and dole out the rations for the day. It was that time now.

Werner had half a loaf of bread and some meat from last time he rationed, so he decided to pass it out before going to the storage compartment.

Most passengers were asleep. Sleeping or sitting in a dazed state had become the pastime of choice had become the pastime of choice for most on the cramped ship. Only a few had managed to keep their hopes up and appeared to be playing with cards cut out of cloth.

Before Werner reached them, he saw Kixoo, the baker, sitting with his face in a corner. “Kixoo? You’re up early.”

Kixoo looked over, surprised. “Oh, hi Werner. Yes, I couldn’t sleep.”

Werner raised his eyebrows. “Okay. What ration do you want?”

Kixoo looked at the food in Werner’s hands. “The meat,” he said excitedly. Werner handed him the small piece of meat, and and he gobbled it up.

Menken was the next person he saw who was awake. He looked up as Werner approached. “Bread’ll do,” he said, before Werner could ask.

Werner took a chunk off. “That’s good, because that’s all I have.”

Menken nodded, and started eating very slowly. Werner continued on.

After serving the few others who were awake, Werner approached the card-players. Their conversation, though hushed, carried through the small ship.

“Well, I say the damn guards go first,” one was saying. “after them, anyone who wasn’t in the Union.”

“What?” exclaimed another. “Why?”

“Someone’s got to,” the first replied.

Seska nodded. “I agree.”

The first man cast a glance at her. “You do know that includes you, right?”

“What?” Seska gasped. “I was in the rebellion!”

“You lived like a damn princess with the Sapaar for years!”

“Not willingly! I was treated like a servant, and I hated the lot of them.” Seska folded her arms defiantly.

“You’ve got some mighty fine clothes on for a servant,” the man shot back.

Werner quickly walked up. “What is going on over here?”

“Both sides looked down. “Nothing, sir,” the first man quickly said.

Werner doled the remaining bread between the card players. “Before the argument,I heard you debating on who should be killed first.”

“It was only a joke, sir!” the man protested. “Just making small talk!”

“Well, don’t joke about that. I appreciate you guys keeping your spirits up, but small-talk about something else.” Werner walked off. He was pleased that they didn’t seem to be grumbling behind his back.

More people had woken up. He needed he needed to grab more food from the storage compartment.

Stepping gingerly around the sleeping passengers, Werner reached the compartmentand took out his pick to open it. He felt a sharp pang of apprehension when the door slowly creaked open on its own. He’d forgotten to lock the compartment yesterday.

He pulled the door open and looked inside. There was still food, but not nearly as much.

Werner burst back into the passenger bay, startling everyone. “Okay, who went into the storage compartment?” he demanded angrily.

“The storage department?” gasped Seska. “They didn’t--?”

Werner glanced at every person, one at a time. “This is your one chance to give yourselves up before there are serious consequences.”

No one said anything.

He met the eyes of Kixoo, the baker. “Kixoo, come over here.”

Kixoo was shaking all over. He could barel walk over to Werner, cowering. Werner stared at him coldly for an unbroken fifteen seconds, and with every second Kixoo shook more. With his hand, Werner brushed his fingers along Kixoo’s lips. He found small remnants of bread crumbs.

“I gave you meat today, Kixoo.”

Kixoo’s eyes went wide. “I’m sorry,” he cried. “I didn’t want to, and I wasn’t planning to, but I saw that you forgot to lock the door, and I couldn’t resist, I was so hungry—“

“What do you think we are?” snapped Werner, drawing his fist back. Kixoo winced, but he restrained from hitting him. “Look at your fellow passengers! Look at them!” he ordered. Kixoo nervously glanced around the compartment. “Every single one of us is just as hungry as you, more so, now that you’ve stuffed your face!”

Werner forced himself to put his hand down. “You’ve made it much more likely that people will die on this voyage; you’ve eaten half our food supply, and I honestly don’t know what to do.”

Werner looked back at the compartment. He was silent for a long time. Finally he said, “You ate about two weeks worth of rations, so you won’t eat for two weeks. That’s all for now, but if I think of something else, I may add another punishment.”

Werner looked at the people staring at the quarrel. “Everyone try to go back to sleep. The longer you sleep, the longer our supplies will last.”

Werner grabbed more rations for the day and passed out food to those who hadn’t gotten any yet. Then he locked the storage compartment and walked back into the compartment.

The intercom was blinking. Hans was up. “Hello there,” Werner said, rubbing his eyes.

“Hey. Did you just get done passing out rations for the day?”

Werner murmured affirmatively. “I left the storage compartment open and Kixoo ate two weeks of our food supply.”

Hans inhaled sharply. “There were only three weeks on board.”

“It’s not even that.” Werner laid his head on his hands. “What I’m giving out every day wouldn’t be enough to feed a small family. There just isn’t enough food on board.”

“You’re doing everything you can,” said Hans. “I just hope we reach wherever the Sapaar are going soon.”

“We all do.” Werner looked at inky blackness outside the ship. After a minute, he checked the instruments. His heart skipped a beat. “Hans?”

“Yes?”

“Oxygen levels have gone down, which is expected, but psi has dropped also. There’s an air leak somewhere on this ship.”
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Serris
Posted: Sep 22 2010, 10:58 PM


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It looks like the conditions are getting worse. Where will they land?

In any case, I am liking this, though admittedly not as much as the "non-time travel variants".
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 1 2010, 02:24 AM


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Yeah, I knew when I started this story it wouldn't be my most popular, mainly because it's a spin-off from a year old story starring two characters who no longer do anything in the RP, but that was why I also wrote the much more relevant Nietzsche's Soldiers 2 and posted it at the same time. This story has just turned out to be longer. But I want to establish what happened to Hans and Werner when we left them on Gaman.
_____________________________________________________

Werner and several of the fitter and more reliable men searched the entire ship, putting their ears to the wall, feeling for cracks, and tentatively asking the more stationary passengers without giving too much away. The word still got out somehow, but by this point most of the crew merely took the news with a sort of resigned acquiescence. After all they’d gone through, it was hard for most of them to feel anything anymore.

Werner wouldn’t let that happen to him. He first hypothesized that the crack was in the cockpit, from the beating it took during the escape from Gaman, but when he sealed off the cockpit, the psi in the passenger bay continued to drop. It must have occurred when Hans’ ship crashed into his own, but he didn’t tell Hans that.

The first death came about a week later. One of the older men, the one who had praised Hamat, starved in his sleep. Werner wrapped up the body and moved it to the cockpit to keep it away from the others. He knew he’d need to jettison to body at some point, but he hoped to do it when more people were asleep than not.

Most of the crew was asleep at any time. Werner advised everyone to sleep as long and as often as possible, both to conserve strength and to use less air. He couldn’t tell if it was having any noticeable effect on the oxygen levels.

Kixoo’s punishment had ended after only a week. Werner couldn’t bear to pass him by in the food routes any more, and after so many days of little to no food, Werner found it much easier to sympathize with Kixoo’s mistake. Of course, that didn’t stop the food supply from running out only a few days ago. All that had remained in the storage compartment were seeds and uncooked beans. Werner had hoped to save these for planting if they ever reached land, but but before long he’d passed them all out for people to chew on.

He was finding it harder to make decisions. The oxygen levels had reached critical levels, and the air was noticeably thin. He had used up all of his options for maintaining morale, and now he spent most of his days sitting in the cockpit watching the stars move slowly past the ship.

This was what he was doing on the 16th day, according to the internal chronometer, of their voyage, when Hans suddenly shouted into the intercom, “Werner! Wake up!”

Werner blinked. His brain tried to snap out of its daze. “Huh?”

“Werner, finally, I’ve been shouting into the intercom for five minutes!”

“Sorry,” Werner choked. There was barely enough air to speak. Blackness clouded the edges of his vision, and his hands had a bluish tint to them.

“Werner! We’re approaching a planet, or something!”

Werner titled his head back and stared out the window. Only blackness and stars.

“It’s hard to see,” Hans counseled. “Look in the middle of the screen!”

Werner squinted. Come to think of it, there was a black circle where no stars shone. Something was there.

Werner lifted his head with some effort. (All he wanted to do was sleep, but he recognized that as a bad idea.) He checked the sensors. They clearly identified a large mass ahead of them. They would reach orbit in five to ten minutes.

Very slowly, Werner prepared the ship for landing. He extended landing gear, adjusted his trajectory so he was parallel to the rapidly approaching ground, and applied the reverse thrusters. When he entered the atmosphere, it was the sudden howling of the wind that tipped him off more than his own sight, which had become unreliable. He collapsed in his chair, unable to stand any more. Stay awake…so close…

“Werner? Shouldn’t we be doing something to prepare for landing?”

Werner’s eyes snapped open. He’d forgotten to prep Hans’ ship.

“Werner? Are you awake?” Hans asked. “Don’t worry, I can figure it out myself.”

“No, Hans—“ Werner choked out. In front of him, he saw the lone engine on Hans’ shuttle flare to life, sending the ship spiraling erratically through the sky.

“Ahh! Werner! What do I do‽ Werner!” Hans yelled.

Werner watched helplessly as Hans spun out of sight. There was nothing he could do; he could barely move, and he had to land his own ship.

They were coming in too fast. Werner opened all dampening foils and weakly pulled the nose of the ship up. The shuttle skimmed along the black ground, way too fast to land. But Werner knew he was seconds away from slipping unconscious, and a controlled crash was better than having the ship hit the ground nosefirst and start somersaulting as soon as he fell asleep.

Pushing the shuttle down, he felt the bottom of the ship skid horribly across the ground, sending everything shaking and rattling. Werner was thrown from his seat, sliding into the dead body and the Sapaar guards, who appeared unresponsive.

Werner felt the ship rotate ninety degrees while skidding, facing broadside and finally grinding to a halt. Gasping for air, Werner crawled towards the control panel. He needed to open the shuttle to the outer atmosphere. He managed to find the button that released the passenger bay exit, but the button to release the cockpit doors didn’t work. The cockpit remained sealed.

Before Werner could think or do anything else, he finally blacked out.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 5 2010, 03:35 AM


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“Werner? Werner?”

Werner groaned softly. He felt dizzy. “Hello?” he asked. His vision cleared, and he recognized Menken kneeling over him, concerned.

“You’re alive!” Menken helped get him to a sitting position. “We had to break the door down,” he said, pointing his thumb at the entrance between the cockpit and the passenger bay. “It was like puncturing a vacuum when we did.”

Werner smiled weakly. “Is everyone safe?”

“There were no deaths in the landing. Injuries, but most everyone is okay.”

Werner tried to get to his feet but his head started pounding. He lay back down. “Is there any sign of Hans’ ship?”

Menken shook his head. “We were wondering about that. Did it..?”

“I don’t know.” Werner tried to move his arms to rub his forehead, but he didn’t have the strength. “My head hurts.”

Menken handed him a cup of water. “Drink this. There’s water here.”

Werner drank his first glass of water in days. It was an incredible feeling. “That did it.” He slowly got to his feet. “Let’s go outside. I want to see where we’ve landed.”

With Menken’s help, Werner staggered out of the ship.

Most of the passengers were sitting or laying outside the ship. Several of them cheered when they saw Werner. “He’s alive! Our leader is alive!”

Werner made a quick head count. “We’re missing five people.”

“Brut took a scouting party to try and find more food and water sources.”

Werner tested the ground. The atmosphere was thinner than Gaman, and gravity was lighter. It would be easier to walk, but also easier to fall down. He would have to be careful.

“Where did the water you gave me come from?”

Menken grabbed a handful of the black sand from the ground and squeezed it in his hand. Water dripped out. “The soil is extremely moist. We’ve found cases of plants, mostly moss or fern-based.”

“Are they edible?”

“Sure hope so; we’ve eaten everything we’ve found.”

“I can’t blame you.” Werner looked around. All he could see was black sand stretching to the horizon, primarily dunes. There was no wind, and Werner could see all the footprints peppering the surrounding area.

“How far out have you gone?”

“Never out of sight of the ship. Brut’s team has gone farther than anyone else has.” Menken started squeezing himself a cup of water. “We’ve been debating what exactly we’re landed on. I say it’s a planet, but Kixoo is sure it’s a star.”

“You can’t land on a star,” said Werner, “but it’s neither. This is a moon.”

Menken looked up. “Of Gaman?”

“Gaman had a moon,” nodded Werner, “that’s taken up natural orbit since Gaman’s destruction.”

He turned to the group at large. “Excuse me? If everyone could listen up…” Once he had the group’s attention he continued. “First, I’d like to congratulate all of you on keeping your hopes up, and sacrificing so much on the voyage here. Without all the foodless days and motionless hours that each of you endured, we would never have reached our new home.”

This was met with cheers and applause from the collective group. The excitement from just reaching solid ground had not yet subsided.

“The worst part of our ordeal is over. We’ve found a home. But now we’ll have to sustain ourselves, and there doesn’t appear to be much to live on here. From what I’ve heard, scouting parties have already collected all the food available in this area. We’ll have to move.”

This decision was met with a more subdued response.

“Not right now, of course. No, we need a decent night’s rest, and this desert will work perfectly for that. Hopefully, Brut will find a food source or a better place to stay. But for now, relax and try and make yourself comfortable. You’ve all earned a break.”

The settlers gratefully laid their heads on the ground or went back to what they were doing.

Werner walked back into the ship. Menken followed him. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to try and use the data from our landing to estimate the direction Hans’ ship may have gone. If there’s a chance they landed safely, I want to know about it, and rescue them.”

“What should we do in the meantime?” asked Menken.

“You’ve earned a rest too. Just relax for a while.”

Werner started scribbling calculations and trajectories on a piece of cloth.

“You know,” said Menken, “if anyone’s earned a right to rest, it’s you.”

“I can’t just relax while Hans is still out there. And our troubles aren’t over yet. We still need to find a place to stay, and survive one season until crops start growing.”

“I know that,” said Menken. “And that’ll all be happening in the next few days. But it’s not happening now, and everyone needs to rest eventually. I just think you should take the chances to recover while they exist—“ he broke off when commotion sounded from outside.

“Brut’s back! And he’s got food!”

Werner and Menken ran outside. Brut and his men were hiking back into camp from the north, and they were all carrying large handfuls of fern leaves and other greens.

“It’s every plant we came across from here to the rock cropping,” explained Brut, smiling, as the people tore into the plants ravenously. “But that’s not the best part. “He drew his hand out of his pocket and held about a dozen seeds. “These are scattered on the ground around the rocks.”

“So there are rocks somewhere north of here?” asked Werner, looking in that direction.

“Hell of a walk, but yeah,” answered Brut. “It’s why we took so long. We took a nap in the shadows, away from the sun.”

“What do these seeds grow?”

“We aren’t sure. There weren’t any plants but some yellow ferns and the seeds.”

Werner looked at them. “That’s odd. But we won’t worry about it. Get some rest, and tomorrow we’ll set out for that outcropping.”

The night was peacefully warm, but the ground remained wet. Werner was afraid he’d have to draw lots to see who gets to sleep in the shuttle, but to his surprise nobody volunteered. Everybody preferred the uncomfortable dampness over spending another night in the passenger bay. Werner ended up sleeping there to keep an eye on the Sapaar guards, who had not regained consciousness in the cockpit.

The next day, they salvaged everything they could carry from the ship and set out. It was easy hiking, but many of the settlers were in no condition to be walking, so the pace was slow. Werner made sure they took frequent water breaks. The two Sapaar, the weakest of them all, were carried on stretchers, to several settlers’ chagrin. Thankfully nobody pressed the issue.

Following Brut’s old footsteps, they reached the rocks later that day. As Brut had reported, there were seeds scattered on the ground.

“I’ve never seen seeds do this,” frowned Werner, picking one up. “There should be plants around to have dropped the seeds.”

“Maybe they belong to the ferns,” suggested Seska.

“Ferns don’t grow from seeds; they have spores.”

“On Gaman,” noted Brut. “This is another planet. Who knows what life is like here?”

“I actually haven’t seen any animal life since we landed,” noted Werner. “We’re going to have a primarily vegetarian diet until we find sources of meat.”

They were fully settled down by around noon, which turned out o be unbearably hot. The sun baked the black sand, the water in the soil dried up and cracks appeared, and the shade under the rocks became the only real place to rest. Werner couldn’t imagine what they’ve have done if they had remained in the desert.

Once things had cooled down after a few hours, Werner started sending groups of sending parties, much like last time, to pick up food from the surrounding areas. This area proved to be much more plentiful than the desert, and after everyone had eaten their fill of plants for dinner that night, there was a sizeable amount still left over.

“So what if these are poisonous?” asked Brut through a mouthful of fern.

“I don’t think they are,” said Werner. “Poison is an evolutionary response to predation, and there doesn’t appear to be anything around here to eat them.”

“What if the plants are just naturally uneatable?” proposed Menken.

“Well, we ate them yesterday, and still woke up this morning,” pointed out Werner. He put down the rest of his food. “We’ll wrap all of this in cloth and cover it in moist sand for insulation. But pick out the plants that look like reeds. I want to try weaving a roof for protection from the sun tomorrow.”

After this was done, it was completely dark, and everyone went to sleep. It was the first time they’d felt full in weeks, as Werner drifted off, he reflected happily on the fact that morale was higher than it had ever been before.

When they woke up the next morning, they found that their food had been stolen.

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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 5 2010, 11:30 PM


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The settlers stood staring at the spot where the food used to be. No one said anything for a few minutes. Finally, Kixoo spoke up. “What happened to the food?”

Brut shot a glare at him. “You sure you didn’t eat it all like last time?”

Kixoo turned beet red and looked away.

“There was too much food for any of us to eat that quickly,” said Werner. “And we all ate as much as we wanted last night. It wasn’t one of us.”

Menken looked out to the horizon. “Could it be scavengers?”

Werner shrugged. “Nocturnal ones? Possibly. But I don’t think so.” He pointed at a trail of lightly disturbed sand. “They covered their tracks.”

There was a pause.

“Wait,” Seska said. “Are you saying you think..?”

Werner stood up. “We followed the Sapaar to get to this moon. It looks like they successfully landed as well. And they found us.” He looked over at the pile of hardened reeds. “At least they didn’t take the reeds. I still want to try weaving those into a roof. Anyone who feels strong enough for another hike, I’m going to try and find the Sapaar camp. Everyone else, either try and find food we missed the first time, or help weave a roof. Seska, you’re in charge until I get back.”

Seska nodded, and in fifteen minutes Werner headed out with a group of men.

The hiking was easy; the hard part was tracking the path the Sapaar had taken. They’d covered their trail well. Werner wished he had Hans, a natural-born hunter and tracker, to help him.

In about thirty minutes, Werner peeked over a large bluff and saw two shuttlecraft, with a small collection of tents surrounding it. Werner wondered where the tents were stored in a shuttlecraft; he’d never found any.

The Sapaar seemed to number in the sixties, mostly men.

“What now?” whispered Menken, spitting in the Sapaar direction.

Werner made to get up. “I go talk to them.”

Brut tried to stop him. “What?” he hissed. “You can’t talk to them!”

“I can and I will.” Werner shrugged him off. “Our relationship got off to a bad start the last time we shared a planet. I want things to be different this time.”

“At least take a weapon!” Brut urged, motioning to his rifle. The group had three hunting pistols and the two rifles taken from the Sapaar guards.

Werner grabbed a hunting pistol and tucked it in the back of his belt, flipping his shirt over it. “Wish me luck,” he said, and started down the bluff to meet the Sapaar.

They saw him coming, and by the time Werner walked into camp, he had seven rifles pointed at him. Werner kept his hands in a non-threatening position. “Hey. May I speak with whoever is in charge? Is there someone in charge here?”

One of the men leered at him. “Are you armed?”

“I have one hunting pistol for protection,” Werner admitted.

The Sapaar man extended his hand. “Give it to me.”

“No,” said Werner. “My people are struggling to survive on a foreign moon with inadequate supplies. We need everything we have, and then some. That’s why I’ve come. I’d like to open up trade relations.”

The man paused. For a moment, Werner thought he was going to refuse him or even attempt to capture him, but then the man turned to one of his companions. “Get Trano.”

Some of the men attempted to circle Werner, but he casually moved to a new spot before the circle completed.

After a few minutes, the man returned with a taller man. He wore a black unisuit and appeared to have been an officer in the Sapaar guard. He had small calculating eyes, and viewed Werner with disdain. “What are you doing here?”

“My name is Werner, and I’m the leader of the surviving Gamans. We’re living about fifteen miles from here in an outcropping of rocks. We wish to open up trade relations.”

Trano scoffed. “Trade relations?”

“We’d like to get over the animosity that resulted in the destruction of our home planet,” continued Werner, warily watching the other Sapaar who were getting antsy. “This is an unforgiving environment, and neither of our peoples are ready for the troubles we’ll be facing in the coming years. It would benefit all of us to work together.”

Trano shook his head. “We are well prepared for the future. We did prepare this entire plan as a backup in case it became necessary.”

“I’m sure you planned to end up with more than two ships,” countered Werner. “And you wasted a sizeable amount of your mining explosives trying to kill us. I know you Sapaar prefer to live underground.”

Trano was silent.

“Face it,” Werner continued, “neither of our groups are ready for this. We should join forces and share supplies.”

“You have no supplies,” retorted Trano. “I see no benefit for us if we side with you.”

“The Sapaar had a primarily meat-based diet,” pointed out Werner, “while the Gaman ate more plants. We are better at gardening, and when the food supplies you brought from Gaman run out, appreciate our capability with vegetable-based meals.”

Trano raised an eyebrow. “So, you’re saying, we give you food now, and you’ll teach how to make food tasty later?”

The other Sapaar snickered.

“There’s more to food than how it tastes,” said Werner.

Trano brushed him off. “Maybe so, but for now your argument doesn’t seem to hold much weight. Capture him,” he ordered his men, and started to walk away as the guards formed a circle. “Maybe the Gaman will surrender their remaining food or weaponry to get their leader back.”

The men started closing in, but Werner cried out, “I have two of your men!”

Trano turned around.

“There were two Sapaar guards protecting the shuttle,” continued Werner, “and we brought them with us. I ordered my men to kill them if I don’t return.” He hoped they’d take his bluff.

Trano looked suspicious. “Why should I believe you?”

“You know as well as I do that two men had indeed been guarding the shuttle. I’ve expressed an interest in uniting our two people. Saving their lives was my first step in proving this to you.”

“Your order to have them killed doesn’t sound very uniting,” said Trano derisively.

“You’re lucky they’re alive at all. I had to fight hard to keep my people from killing them on the spot in revenge for what you did to Gaman,” retorted Werner.”But I’m willing to return both of the guards for a reasonable serving of food and supplies; a blend of food we can eat right away, and things to plant for later. We don’t mind if it’s all vegetable products.”

Trano narrowed his eyes. “I’m still somewhat hesitant to believe that these two guards exist…” he started.

Werner held his ground.

“…but I’m forced to err on the side of caution,” Trano conceded. “However you’ll receive no supplies until I have proof that these guards exist and are well. If they are, then we can discuss an exchange.”

“Fair enough,” said Werner, and he turned around, calmly stepped out of the circle of guards, and trudged up the bluff back to his team.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 6 2010, 09:08 PM


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Werner didn’t hear from the Sapaar for several days. He decided not to pressure them until it was absolutely necessary. If anything, he’d stopped them from raiding their campsite again.

Plant collection had been faily successful, and the reed roofs gave adequate protection from the noon sun. The seeds had been planted in the shadows of the rocks, and the women had been working on a way to bring more water from the ground.

The decision to try and trade with the Sapaar was not a popular one. Werner tried to emphasize the importance that they gain access to more supplies due to the precariousness of their situation, but he struggled to get this across without focusing on the unlikeliness that they’ll survive for long regardless. Slowly, he managed to garner acquiescence, almost grudging approval, of the idea.

On the third day, Werner felt the Sapaar guards were healthy enough to be walked to the Sapar camp. Hoisting them onto their stretchers and bringing a band of men, Werner set off again.

After thirty minutes of walking, they reached the Sapaar camp. “Stand in a line,” ordered Werner. “They try to surround you; let’s make it difficult for them. Keep weapons in a non-threatening position,” he added hastily, as Brut looked to hold the approaching Sapaar at gunpoint. “We want to encourage them to willingly trade with us.”

The Sapaar stopped about fifteen feet away, and filed out to form a line similar to theirs. One of them held a stuffed bag, presumably with food.

Werner stepped forward. “Here are your guards,” he called out, motioning to the two men in stretchers.

Trano surveyed the men. “They look terrible,” he commented. “Have you been torturing them?”

“Our voyage was not as easy as yours. Many of our survivors look just as bad.”

Trano nodded to the man with the bag. “We’re taking some of the food back because of the condition of the prisoners.”

“Then we’re not turning them over,” Werner countered forcibly. “If you want your friends, you give us all the food in that bag.”

Trano was silent. “Very well,” he finally conceded. “Who passes their prize over first?”

“We’d like the bag, so we can verify that there’s indeed food in it.”

“If we pass the bag over, you could kill the guards and run,” Trano pointed out.

“That would accomplish nothing. As I’ve stressed repeatedly, I’d like to be allies, not enemies.”

Trano nodded. “All right. Let’s see if your actions can meet your chivalrous words.”

The man with the bag put it down and the Sapaar backed up ten feet. Werner’s men advanced to the bag and Werner opened it. He saw bread, dried fruit, and beans. Reaching to the bottom, he felt a medley of different seeds had settled to the bottom. “They gave up the food. Put their men down gently and we can leave.”

The men holding the stretchers lay them down, and Werner and his men slowly started backing up. The Sapaar didn’t move until they were out of sight.

There was a small celebratory feast that night. Someone managed to successfully start a fire for the first time, and the bread and beans were warmed before being eaten.

Menken gave the celebratory toast. “To Werner, the man who’s found us this food, this shelter, and this home!”

The collective people cheered. Werner smiled, but noticed that a group of people were isolated from the feast. Extricating himself from the revelry, Werner walked to the darkened part of camp. He recognized Kixoo and Seska among others.

“What’s going on over here?” he asked. “We’re getting to eat bread for the first time in weeks.”

Seska looked at him. “We still don’t think you should be cooperating with the Sapaar. They destroyed Gaman, and have a history of being untrustworthy. We should be taking this moon for ourselves, not living under rocks begging for portions of their food!”

The others nodded in agreement.

Werner sighed. “I know we all lived our lives on Gaman hating the Sapaar, so it seems odd that we’re trying to ally with them now. But we are not on Gaman, with buildings and technology and a stable population. We are on a barren moon, with little to no supplies and an uncertain future. We have to work together if either group is going to survive.”

They didn’t respond, just continued looking back at them. “We think we’re capable o surviving on our own,” Seska finally replied.

“That’s great,” said Werner, nettled, “and since you’re not in charge, you can go on thinking that. But I have to make real decisions regarding the safety and survival of this group, and that means I’ll have to make some tough decisions. I don’t care if you agree with me or not, but I need you to acquiesce to my decisions. We have enough problems already without inter-group conflict.”

Werner didn’t give them a chance to reply, just walked back to the feasting group. Menken raised his glass or water, but Werner shook his head. “No toasts. Not now.”

“What’s wrong?” Menken asked.

“Seska and the others over there. They don’t support my decision to try and make peace with the Sapaar.”

“They don’t understand what we’re dealing with here,” Menken shook his head angrily. “We don’t have a choice. But they’ll figure it out when they start starving to death.”

“No,” Werner shook his head. “I’m not going to let that happen. None of us are going to starve, no matter what opinion they hold.”

“What about Hans?” asked Menken. “Have you made any progress towards finding him?”

Werner stood up. “You’re right. I haven’t made any progress towards locating him.” He grabbed a handful of reeds, lit the top from the fire, and started out.

“Where are you going?” asked Menken.

“Back to the ship, to see what I can find,” replied Werner.

“You’re leaving now?” exclaimed Menken. “Can’t it wait?”

“”I want to avoid the noon heat if at all possible. Plus I’ve wasted enough time already. I’ll be back in a couple hours, before morning.”
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 12 2010, 01:07 PM


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Werner reached the ship as the sun started peeking over the horizon. Apparently he would not be back by morning.

The whole walk, he was trying to recall what he could of the events surrounding Hans’ disappearance, but oxygen deprivation made anything he remembered hazy at best.

“We were coming in for a landing,” Werner murmured to himself. “I forgot to prepare Hans’ ship, so he tried. He activated his remaining engine, and spiraled off in the wrong direction. We were already in the atmosphere.”

Stepping into the damaged shuttle, Werner activated the ship’s light (his torch had burnt out long ago) and sat down at the cockpit. The sensor was broken, but the grid was useful to attempt to reconstruct the landing with pebbles representing the ships.

After several hours’ hard work and countless estimations, Werner had managed to determine a probable direction, but even assuming a small margin of error the area would take a considerable time to cover.

Werner glanced out the shuttle window. It was approaching noon, and the shuttle did only a fair job at blocking the heat. He couldn’t hike out if he wanted to.

He drank several cups of water before the ground dried up, and then curled up to try and sleep through the heat wave.

A few hours later, he woke up. The air was now cool enough to travel. He debated whether he should hike out to find Hans, or check in with his people.

He ultimately decided on Hans. He could be critically injured, or dying of thirst and hunger. It had been several days. The rest of the group was in no immediate danger.

So he set out in his proximate direction. Before he left, he magnetized a sliver of metal and floated it on a leaf in his cup of water to make a simple compass. This way he could keep a bead on the direction of his shuttle.

For a while, he followed the footprints of what must have been a Gaman scouting party, but at some point the prints turned around and Werner was forced to be more careful that he kept his directions straight.

After several hours Werner spotted disturbed sand in the distance. Breaking into a run he climbed over a dune and spotted the craft.

Or what was left of it. It looked more like a twisted pile of metal, barely maintaining its general shape. Bodies and fragments of the ships chassis and frame lay scattered in its wake. The ship appeared to have skidded in a large semi-circle before grinding to a halt.

He stopped at the side of the shuttle. “Hello?” he called. “Is anyone—can anyone hear me?”

A figure poked its head around the side of the shuttle. It was a young woman, her arm in a sling.

“Werner!” She came running. “Werner, you’ve got to help!” She started sobbing uncontrollably.

Werner supported her weight, and tried to soothe her. “It’s okay, calm down,” he consoled. “You’re okay. Now you have to tell me, is--?”

“It was horrible!” she cried. “Hans said we were landing, then everything went crazy! It was all noise, and wind, and I couldn’t see anything, I lost my footing, and hit my head on the ceiling. When I woke up—“ She couldn’t bring herself to continue.

Werner patted her shoulders slightly impatiently. “I’m sorry you had to experience that, and the worst part is over, you’re safe. I’m sorry, but you have to stay in control; I need you right now. Did anyone else survive the crash?”

“A few, but one by one they…” she broke down again, sinking to her knees.

Werner pulled her to her feet. “Hans? What happened to Hans?” he cried out. Fishing the leaf out of his cup and let her drink the glass of water.

“He’s stuck in the pilot’s area,” she finally stammered. “I tried to get him out, but my arm—“

Werner ran to the shuttle and wedged his way into the passenger bay. Forcing his way to the cockpit, he tried the door to the cockpit. It was fused shut. “Hans! Do you hear me?” He pounded on the door.

“He was talking for the first few days,” called the woman from the entrance to the shuttle. “But then I couldn’t’ get a response out of him. I called his name over and over.”

Werner was ignoring her. Scanning the debris, he located a long thin bar and forced it in between the door and its frame. He pulled with all his might, his hands screaming with protest, and it started to give a little. Jamming it a little further, Werner dropped the rebar and squeezed into the cockpit.

Hans lay slumped over in the pilot’s seat. One of his legs was twisted in the wrong direction, and his forehead was bloody, as was the intercom on the control panel in front of him.

“Hans!” Werner extricated him from the seat and lay him on the floor. “Hans? Hans!”

He looked at his empty water cup. Forcing his way back out of the shuttle, he squeezed from the sand a glass of water, which he then splashed across Hans’ face. “Hans! Wake up!”

After three more glasses, Werner saw one of Hans’ eyes flicker. He splashed him one more time. “Hans, it’s Werner. Say something!”

“Werner…” Hans muttered. He smiled weakly.

Werner searched the cockpit and located Hans’ first aid kit. After injecting morphine and applying bandages to the forehead, he noticed a pile of grains laying around a large crack in the windshield, which was so scratched it barely let any light in. “Try to eat this,” he said gently, pushing a few grains towards Hans’ mouth.

Hans forced some down with water, and threw up. He coughed painfully. “I…guess I’m not ready for that yet.”

Werner heard the woman peep in the doorway. She was peering through the crack in the door. Werner wedged himself in and forced the door completely open. Stay with Hans and try and keep his spirits up. Don’t let him fall asleep.”

The woman nodded tearfully and Werner headed back outside.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 14 2010, 06:42 PM


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Werner walked around the ship collecting items he could make a leg splint with. He also checked the bodies he encountered for signs of life. He didn’t find any.

When it got dark, he left some reeds outside to dry so he could weave a stretcher tomorrow, and carried his supplies into the shuttle. “How is he doing?”

“I’m doing fine,” Hans said weakly. He smiled. “Ayla kept me alive these past few days. I would have given up long ago if she hadn’t been comforting me and pushing me food through the windshield.”

Werner knelt down and started preparing a splint around the broken leg. “Well, you’re talking in complete sentences, so that shows improvement. Do you want to try eating and drinking again?”

Hans nodded. “Just drinking for now.”

Werner tipped the glass and slowly poured water down his throat. Hans didn’t cough it up.

Werner looked outside. “We need to hike to the rest of the group tomorrow, after the noon heat.” He looked at Ayla. “Have you done anything for that arm other than that sling?”

She shook her head. “What else could I do?”

“Stay off it. Get plenty of rest.” He gently undid the sling and observed it. “Did you make this?”

She shook her head. “Falsta, the tailor, did. He was trapped in the passenger bay under a collapsed wall, and used his shirt. I thought he was okay otherwise, but it turned out that under the wall he’d lost both of his…” she trailed off. She looked horrorstruck at the memory.

Werner switched back to his original point. “It doesn’t look like you’ve been helping the arm heal.” He redid the sling, so it was tighter. “You’re not capable of carrying a stretcher, are you? I’ll have to think of something else.”

She wasn’t listening. She stared at the wall, lost in thought.

Werner gave Hans another glass of water. “Is anything else broken?”

Hans thought. “Some ribs hurt, but it’s not bad. It’s the concussion that’s causing me the most problems.”

“Well, it’s time to get some rest. You too,” he glanced at Ayla. “Tomorrow we have to start early if we want to be ready to hike by the afternoon.”

“Werner…” Hans whispered. Werner leaned his ear in close. “I was explaining to Ayla our whole story, where we came from and how we got on Gaman.”

Werner looked at her. “She knows we’re not Gaman?”

“She’s a great listener. But I was explaining the technology behind the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, and I realized,” Hans tried to lift his head, but winced and quickly dropped it back down. “I think we could create a rudimentary bridge using the materials from both shuttles. The energy supply is convertible, and the shuttle frame is ovular, which I think is close enough…” Hans was speaking too fast, and started coughing.

Werner closed his lips. “Shh, we can talk about this in the morning. For now, just rest. We have a long and difficult hike in the morning.”

Hans nodded, and drifted off to sleep. Werner, on the other hand, spent the entire night staring open-eyed at the ceiling, his head full of new thoughts.

The next day Werner got to work on weaving a stretcher for Hans. Since Ayla wasn’t capable of carrying her end, Werner had to make something closer to a sled, with a harness that he could wrap around his chest by use of coiled reeds tied into ropes.

With the ground heating up, Werner finished his sled and retreated into the shuttle just as the temperature reached its maximum.

“It’s done,” he said, sitting down. He glanced at the sled, taking the opportunity to observe it from a distance. The harness left him too close to the sled, but he didn’t have the reeds to make the ropes longer.

Hans and Ayla looked awake. Werner silently kept himself occupied cataloguing the remaining supplies. About two more days of food remained in the compartment.

“Have you given any more thought to my proposal?” mumbled Hans.

Werner jumped, but he’d already spent hours of time preparing his answer, and replied quickly. “Yes, and I don’t know if we can risk it. The gate has given us much more trouble than it was worth, and that’s when we could guarantee that the gate itself was built correctly. Plus we don’t know the coordinates to anywhere.”

Hans smiled. Slowly, painfully, he reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a piece of paper.

“What’s that?” Werner took it. It was a coordinate set.

“Earth. Shelton wrote it down and passed it out to everyone in case he was killed or incapacitated.”

Werner was silent.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to see Earth again?” Hans continued.

Werner was still hesitant. “Are you sure you can build one? I’m not sure I trust this idea.”

“There’s no reason not to give me a chance,” Hans pointed out. He closed his eyes and added sleepily, “but you’re in charge, so it’s your call.” He drifted off to sleep.

Werner finished preparing the supplies. He still looked troubled.

“Are you going to give him a chance?” asked Ayla.

“I don’t know.” Werner knew that deep down, there was only one thing he could do. “Probably. Like he said, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t get a chance, and if it works we could evacuate all of us to a safer planet.”
He sat back, and lay down. “I just wish I could feel more secure about Hans’ abilities.”

“He’s very smart,” said Ayla. “He was talking about all sorts of complicated things through the door.”

Werner nodded. “He is smart.”

When the day cooled down, the three started their journey. Hans took up most of the space on the sled, the remainder was filled with the two days of supplies. Ayla had to walk alongside Werner, who strained to move the heavy load across the sand.

The hiking was smooth, but very slow. Werner had to be careful not to bump Hans too much, and he had to take frequent breaks for himself. Ayla’s main job was to fill and refill the water cup for the three of them; she was getting rather good at filling it with one hand.

At almost twilight, Werner spotted light on the horizon. “That’s the camp. We’re almost there.”

But as they grew closer, he realized something was very wrong. There was blood in the air, and few of the figures were standing upright. Fearing the worst, Werner slipped out of the harness and sprinted into camp.
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Serris
Posted: Oct 15 2010, 11:48 PM


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Wow. Despite it being slower paced than the other DS stories, this is just as good. I kind of like the "post-apoc" scavenger type feel that this has to it.

And for some reason, this makes me think I should remove Hans from "Dumb Muscle" entry on the TV Tropes page and possibly put him under Genius Bruiser.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 25 2010, 01:11 AM


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Yeah, I've always played Hans as rather intelligent, mainly because it's a big help having a main character who helped build the original Einstein-Rosen bridge. I used him in this vein during Pavlov's Checkmate as well.

Sorry for the delay in posting this, my computer deleted my update the first time I tried to upload it sad.gif To make up for the delay, though, I'm posting two updates right now!
-------------------

There were bullet holes embedded in the rocks. Most of the woven roofs had been blasted into splinters. People were clutching arms, heads, and fallen companions. Crying wafted through the air.

Werner saw someone staggering to their feet, rifle in hand. He rushed over. “Menken! What happened?”

Menken gritted his teeth. “The Sapaar. They attacked us. Took what food we had left, destroyed our structures we were building, and ran off.”

Werner surveyed the wreckage. “Did they do anything to the seeds we had planted?”

“No.”

“I guess that’s something. Start trying to help those who are injured.”

“Who the hell isn’t wounded by this point?” Menken snapped. “And where the hell are you?”

“I located the other shuttle. There were two survivors, Hans among them.”

Menken threw his arms in the air. “Brilliant. I bet there are half a dozen dead people here to make up for those two.” He stormed off.

The next person Werner found was Seska, lying in the dirt clutching her ankle. “Do you need help?”

She spat at him. “This is your fault! You told us to trust the Sapaar! Now look what happened!”

Werner didn’t know what to say. He moved on.

He carried several people closer to camp, who had attempted to flee and were shot. By the middle of the night, only four people were still missing, Brut among them. His rifle was also lost.

All in all, no one had been killed, but about half of the survivors were wounded in some way. It was lucky that Werner brought the food from their shuttle, because it was all they had to eat.

Werner could feel the tension in the air, once things settled down for the night. Those who had gotten over the shock of the incident were starting to wonder whether Werner had let them down.

“Where were you?” Seska demanded. She was rubbing her arm, where a large bruise had formed. Her ankle was elevated on a rock.

“I went to rescue Hans,” said Werner. “I reasoned out the location of the ship, and I didn’t want him to wait any longer without help. He turned out to be a good thing I did, too, because he was unconscious, dehydrated, and near death.”

“Yeah, except while you were gone we were getting massacred by the Sapaar!” she shot back.

“I’m sorry,” Werner conceded. “I see now that I shouldn’t have left you all behind, or at the least tell you where I was going and when you could expect me back. I won’t do that again.”

He passed out food from the supplies they had left. He didn’t ration. He decided that keeping spirits up right now was a more pressing matter than running out of food faster.

“What are we going to do now?” asked Menken, biting into some bread. “We’ll be out of food in a matter of days. This area has been almost completely stripped of food.”
“We’ll move,” said Werner. “There are more rocks on this planet. It would also be a good idea to get as far away from the Sapaar as possible.”

“We’re not going to strike back?” exclaimed Seska incredulously.

“No, we’re not!” Werner shot back. “What do you propose we do? Menken was the only one who managed to hold on to his weapon, they outnumber us two to one, and almost everyone in the camp is seriously wounded. We need to cut our losses and get as far away from them as possible!”

Not everyone seemed happy about this.

“We’re giving up?” said Kixoo. “They win?”

“Nooo…” Werner put his head in his hands. “You people need to get over this animosity between us and them. If we can’t make peace with them, we should leave them alone and never see them again. Not start a crusade against them when we’re the clear underdogs and barely two-thirds of our people can even walk.”

“They started it!” yelled Seska. “They blew up Gaman, they stole our food, and now they attacked us! And you want to just lie down and let them!”

“No! We’ll post guards for the future, armed with the one weapon we still have, and we’ll be extra careful when or if we encounter them again. I guess they aren’t open to friendly relations. I’d kind of hoped we could accomplish that, but they’ve made their intentions clear.”

Werner stood up. “I’ll stay up tonight with the rifle and make sure the Sapaar don’t return again. Tomorrow, we pack up camp, and head for a different hill of rocks I saw about halfway between our shuttle and Hans’. This is also good because it’ll make it much easier to salvage both ships for supplies, though I want a team of men led by myself to clean up the area around the shuttle before anyone visits it.”

Werner sighed. “I know you’re all shell-shocked, and you’ve gone through more trauma in the past few days than anyone deserves to. But for the time being, just try to get some sleep and recuperate for morning. Right now that’s all we can do.”

The dissidents looked too tired to argue. Slowly, the people who we’re still awake started drifting off to sleep. The crying eventually ceased. Werner walked over to where Hans and Ayla lay.

Hans woke up. “Werner. What is it?”

“Can you tell me; in all honesty that you believe you have a chance of building an escape bridge to Earth, using only the materials at hand, and getting these people to a place of safety?”

“Yes.”

Werner’s eyes glinted. “Then you’ll have my full cooperation.”


Thankfully the night passed without further incident.

The next day, Werner attempted to get everyone moving. It wasn’t working. Nobody seemed interested in moving. Several people couldn’t.

“We need more supplies for carrying wounded,” Werner groaned. He knew the equipment to make stretchers was available back at the shuttles, but he couldn’t leave the colony alone again. He sent the remaining fit men under command of Menken while he doled out the remaining food as a morale booster.

The missing four people trickled back into camp throughout the morning. Brut was the last to return, and he sheepishly admitted that he’d lost his nerve when the shooting started and fled into the desert. He didn’t know what happened to his rifle.

Werner noticed that the settlers were much quicker to accept Brut’s abandonment than they were his own.

They lost a day waiting for Menken, and Werner knew it would be even harder to motivate people to hike out tomorrow when there’s no food. He decided he had only one option.

“Pack it up. We’re heading out tonight.”

Ripples of surprise streaked through the group. “We’re not sleeping?”

“We slept all day waiting for Menken. We’ll be hungry by morning, and there’s no food here.” Werner started raised his hands for silence, anticipating the outbreak of comments. “I’d like to propose a lifestyle change to the group. I propose we become a nocturnal society.”

Surprised whispers and quiet conversing broke out among the collective.

“It’ll solve several of our problems,” continued Werner. “Currently, we have to stop what we’re doing in the middle of the day to ride out the noon heat waves. Now that’ll happen when we sleep. And if the Sapaar attack by night again, we’ll be awake and ready for them.” He spread his arms. “If it doesn’t work, we can always go back. Let’s just try it, and see if it makes this easier.”

The group acquiesced.

“Thank you,” smiled Werner, bowing his head gratefully. “Now, those who are able, help me build stretchers and sleds for the injured while there’s still sunlight. We need to make this a single trip.”

As those people got to work, Hans gestured Werner. “Do you know the way well enough to not get lost?” Hans whispered weakly.

“I think so,” Werner nodded. “Menken just walked it twice. He’ll alert me if I make any course mistakes.”

Hans nodded. “He’s a trustworthy ally. You should keep them close; they’re hard to come by.”

He reached over and touched Ayla’s hand as he said this. She smiled back at him.

Werner left them to go help make sleds. In a few hours, the sun had gone completely down and Werner successfully got the hike started.

The going was slow, and the landscape was unfamiliar in the dark. Werner found himself asking for directions more and more often, until he finally just put Menken in navigational charge.

“I’m sorry you have to make this walk again on so little sleep,” Werner apologized to Menken as they walked. “It occurred to me that you and your men were the only people who didn’t spend the whole day resting.”

“We’ll rest when the hike’s over,” said Menken dismissively. “I’m sure you weren’t exactly relaxing when you watched over the group these past few nights.”

“Not physically, but mentally it was nice,” Werner replied. “My only job was searching the landscape for movement. Rather uncomplicated compared to all the problems we face during the day.”

“I liked the idea of living at night when you suggested it,” agreed Menken. “Peaceful. Solves another problem you didn’t mention.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, during the day all I ever want to do is go to bed. But then it’s night and I can’t sleep. Now I don’t have to.”

Werner nodded silently.

“It’s still going to take some getting used to,” noted Menken.

“For now let’s just focus on keeping the convoy moving.”

After a couple more hours of walking, they reached the first shuttle. Everyone collapsed. Werner realized he wasn’t going to get them all the way to the real rock cropping. “Let’s stop here for the night,” he said. “Move the wounded into the shuttle.”

“We’re not all sleeping in the shuttle,” complained Seska, rubbing her swollen ankle and wincing. Of all the wounded, she had been the only one who refused to be put on a stretcher, and instead had fashioned herself a crutch out of a large support bar. “It’s too cramped.”

“I have a solution for that,” assured Werner. He collected the now-unused sleds and stretchers and propped them in a line against the sides of the shuttle, forming a sort of tent. “It’s single-file, but we can move about ten people out here. That’ll leave a comfortable amount of space in the shuttle.”

“The fittest should sleep outside,” said Brut, crawling into the space between the stretchers and the shuttle.

Werner nodded.

At least it was still night, this’ll make the transition to nocturnalism easier, he thought to himself. When the outsiders had taken up resting in the crawlspace, Werner climbed in last.

Hopefully the colony will sleep through the day, but if not he’ll have to keep everyone calm and relaxed until the sun goes back down and they can start hiking again. Once the colony is situated he can start spearheading voyages to both shuttles and accumulating materials for the bridge for Hans.

Hans. Werner could tell he was recovering, but he didn’t know if it would be enough, especially with no medical supplies except his simple first-aid kit. Ditto for the other wounded in the colony, and their total lack of food. Their gardens had been left behind. He wondered if they should try returning and transporting them.

He yawned. Not tonight. Blinking slowly, Werner drifted off to sleep.
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LettuceBacon&Tomato
Posted: Oct 28 2010, 12:15 AM


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Spirits appeared to be up as the sun fell for the night, and the people crawled out of their shelters. It was remarkable what a full day’s rest and peace of mind could do. Werner believes promises of food at the end the short trip to the new cropping was helping as well.

Brut was grabbing planks of metal and preparing to lug it along to the new site. Werner shook his head.

“Hans is going to build the bridge here, so we don’t have to dismantle and heft supplies around. Tomorrow we’re going to Hans’ ship and bringing the supplies here.”

“How is Hans building anything anyway?” asked Menken. “He’s bedridden.”

“He’ll be more of a surveyor. We’ll be following his orders in piecing the bridge together.”

“How will we protect two places from the Sapaar at once?”

“I don’t think the Sapaar are going to bother us anymore. We’re over a day’s hike away from their camp, and they’ll see our migration as a retreat. They’ll think they’ve already won.”

“Not sure if I like that,” Brut frowned.

“It doesn’t matter,” replied Werner. “If they can live on their own, they’re entitled to that. We’re the ones who will be getting off this moon for good.”

The colony headed out a couple minutes later. Their pace was faster, the mood was lighter, and Werner was pleased to hear short conversation punctuating the hike.

They reached the cropping of rocks with plenty of time to spare before daybreak.

“Start propping the sleds to make sun protection,” Werner ordered after a long food and water break. “The next few days will be spent constructing more roofs to block the sunlight, but for now we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got.”

The night passed easily enough and in the morning Werner awoke to see Menken preparing food-collecting parties. “Don’t collect any plants within easy walking distance,” he said.

“Why?”

“Last time we cleared the area of all food and put it in a big pile, the Sapaar stole it from us. This time, I think we should just collect what we plan to eat for each day, and leave the rest in the ground for later.”

Work on the bridge began a few days later, when Werner and his men had lugged enough of the materials from Hans’ ship to start work.

“Several aspects of the bridge have to be adjusted to compensate for the differences in shape and design,” said Hans, as the preliminary plans were laid out. “tHe ride will not be smooth, and the bridge will not work for very long, but it will get us where we need to go, and it will last long enough for us to get the whole colony through.”

“That’s all we need,” replied Werner. “If you think you can do it.”

“I can,” Hans nodded. He had made great progress on his recovery, and though he was still resigned to a sled or stretcher, he was no longer in constant pain, and could move both of his arms to help direct people during the construction.

Those who weren’t building the bridge were making structures for people to live in. A field of reeds had been discovered to the south, and they were being used to weave roofs, walls, and hopefully in the near future, huts. Their home was starting to look like a village.

One time, in the middle of the day when everyone was supposed to be sleeping, Werner was awoken by Brut.

“Huh? What is it?” Werner asked, half asleep. Brut was supposed to be watching the borders in case the Sapaar attacked.

“Come with me. I think you’ll want to see this.”

Werner looked outside from under his sled. It wasn’t noon yet, but it was approaching it. Groaning, he climbed out and followed Brut.

Brut appeared to be leading Werner to the old shuttle. “Is it at the bridge?”

“Yes. You’ll see.”

Werner felt a chill, despite the warm day. The bridge was the most important project they had right now. If something had gone wrong…

They reached the shuttle, which was looking less and less like a shuttle with each passing day. “Look here,” said Brut.

It was one of the fuel canisters of the shuttle. It appeared to have been attacked, repeatedly, with a blunt object. Fortunately it appeared unbroken.

“Someone tried to sabotage our bridge by draining our fuel. Luckily they failed.”

“I’m not surprised. These canisters are built for space travel. I doubt anything on this moon is strong enough to rupture it, except the gun.”

“Do you think it was the Sapaar?”

Werner shook his head. “There wasn’t enough time. There’s only one explanation. Someone within the colony is attempting to sabotage our efforts.”
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