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Tara stood stock-still, waiting for the
first tiny gleam from the scout craft to appear in the darkness of the
wormhole. The gentle constant breeze of recycled air from the vent above
blew an annoying hair against her nose, but she ignored it.
A gasp from the psychic broke her silent
vigil, and she turned.
"Results, Harmon?" she suppressed
the surge of annoyance that ran through her as she contemplated the psi's
gift of getting all the hot news first.
Harmon's face slowly animated - joy sweeping
in to replace stern concentration. "Tarrin says the planet's a freaking
gemstone! Thriving with life, large and small forms, no buildings of any
kind, hydrocarbons, metals, and a stable atmosphere. He's not even bringing
them back through for a face to face briefing. He says we should come
through now, immediately, before the probe is reported late."
"Harmon, tell that good for nothing
son of a beta to get his hindquarters through the gate and back here NOW,
or I'll open fire on him when we come back through." Tara fumed.
Of all the impertinence! Tarrin, no doubt with orders from Mason, was
questioning her command decisions. That's what I get for not using
She returned to her watch, regarding her
own reflection in the long window. Mahogany-black curly hair, cut short
in the typical military style framed a careworn, dark-skinned face. It
was not an attractive face right now; her ebony eyes shadowed by hours
on the watch, full lips pursed with frustration. She had the look of every
leader she had ever known. At six foot two, she stood a full head taller
than even her Arrallin first officer. Her glowering expression completed
the imposing effect. She picked imaginary flecks off her stark gray jumpsuit,
and snorted. You look like hell, Tar. Don't blow this. Don't let fatigue
get to you.
She used the discretion of the mirrored
window to secretively survey her crew. Harmon was an excellent addition
to the bridge team, but was she open minded enough to defy United Earth
Command and sever all ties from Earth? She watched the psi bob her head,
unaware of the rest of the bridge, shaking blonde curls as she chattered
away with the approaching psi relay on Mason's ship. She seemed so depthless
- self conscious and shallow on the outside, but having that incredible
gift. There had to be more to her.
Well, if she didn't pan out, she'd be terminated.
Any crew member that would jeopardize the project was meat. It would be
a shame to lose that talent, though.
Rakal, her first officer, was staring pensively
at his panel. He was what this was all about. She watched his graceful
fingers ending in thick black claws tap out calculations on the panel.
His pointed ears swiveled back and forth, catching every sound from the
bridge, while his long tail swished to the rhythm of his thoughts. Only
those of the Arrallin Insurrection inner team knew he was no common 'beta
furry'. His silken fur, which would be tawny golden and striped with jet
black bands, was dyed perfectly to a pure black, and his mane trimmed
and thinned as to be indistinguishable from the rest of his coat. His
eyes had been treated and darkened to a rich purple to disguise the brilliant
golden yellow color that would mark him as an Alpha Arrallin, and leader
of his hive. Right now, he looked like an overgrown wolf who'd learned
The scout ship re-emerged from the hole
- a brilliant speck emerging from a sphere of velvety blackness. It's
hail crackled across the comm, and Tara spun to retake her seat at the
helm. "Launch the second probe. Won't Central be crushed to learn
that another gateway has yielded little more than a class F planet and
a white dwarf system. Level 1 and 2 staffers should prepare to be briefed
and move out. This sounds like it's the one." The distinctive whuffle
of pleasure rippled through the betas on the bridge, and Rakal let loose
a small growl, as if to caution his charges against false hope. They'd
scouted twenty-seven gates so far, and none had turned up anything worth
the Insurrection's time. Tara would not let giddy hopes drag them onto
a rock that would spell the end for the project, and the Arrallin species.