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Daris Moon

 

 

DARIS MOON

 

 

by

Juliana Rew

 

 

 

Published by Juliana Rew at Shakespir

 

 

Daris Moon

Copyright 2016 Juliana Rew

 

 

 

License Notes

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to Shakespir.com to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

 

This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

 

 

*****

Daris Moon

by Juliana Rew

 

When news of Old Abraham’s discovery broke, Andrew was in hospital recovering from wounds received mopping up on Farana. Ashley didn’t hear that he was back on Erenarch, until Adamma told her about it.

“I don’t know. . .” Ashley said, remembering her and Andrew’s last fight.

“Oh, go on. At the very least you can thank him for that bracelet. I loaned him the credits to buy it, and it took him years to pay it off,” Adamma said.

For once, Ashley was speechless.

Armed with a bouquet of rosepithia flowers and a solemn expression, Ashley paused at the door to Andrew’s room. Would he recognize her? Her hair was back to its normal blonde color, and she had temporarily removed most of her AI implants and jewelry, except for a polished obsidian bracelet. She regarded him, floating in the medical field trussed up like a turkey, brown hair waving gently. Andrew opened his eyes.

“Hi, Ashley,” he said, croaking a little. She reached into the field and hugged him.

“Please forgive me,” she said, burying her face on his shoulder. “I made a complete ass of myself.”

“It’s all right, it’s all right—really,” he said, patting her gently on the back. “Now, maybe you ought to get out of the medical field before you grow a new arm.”

#

They headed across the quadrangle of Erenarch Academy, toward the Administration Building. The aroma of freshly cut grass contrasted with the frosty smell of winter outside the dome housing the capital city. Andrew still had a slight limp, and could have used an antigrav assist, but he said he wanted to walk, get away from the medical facility under his own power and see his old comrades.

If there were any left, that is. After war broke out across the Dragon Stead solar system, most of the kids he’d grown up with had shipped off-planet on various missions for Network Command, eager to show leadership on the battlefield. Luckily, the Norns, powerful AIs, decided to ally with their human creators and helped to defend Erenarch from invasion by Farana. The war came to an abrupt standstill when Old Abraham made his presence known on the moon of the remotest planet, Daris. The religious zealots on Farana, worn down by a decade of war, realized Old Abraham was about the closest they’d ever get to talking to God.

They passed through the lobby of the Administration building and entered the Network Command Center. Laughter rang out from a trio of children playing the latest strategy game. They scrambled to their feet when Ashley entered.

“Brings back memories,” doesn’t it?” Andrew said.

“At ease. Everyone, it’s Andrew, back from the war. He’s a hero.”

“Like your friend Edward?” one said.

“Yes, exactly like that,” she replied and smiled at Andrew.

“What was it like, Sir?” one asked.

Andrew was silent for a minute. “You know, when I was in the field with bloodshed and brutality occurring all around me, I often looked back on my Academy days. It seemed strange that life went on as usual back at Erenarch, while we were fighting just to stay alive out there. It was—literally—another world. It made me appreciate my Academy days, that’s for sure,” he said. “Ash, do you have a minute?”

“Of course,” she said, absent-mindedly touching her bracelet. The halo of displays revolving around her head abruptly turned off. He had her full attention.

“Can we walk? I can’t get over how beautiful everything is. . . What are you drinking these days? I’m buying.”

“I think you’ve done your share of paying for stuff,” Ashley said. “There’s a Kombucha shop up the way. They have a lovely blend of wildflowers and fermented tea.”

“Um, this is good,” Andrew said, savoring the sweet-sour beverage they had ordered. He lowered his eyes.

“What’s up?” Ashley asked.

“First, I’d like to say how much I admire you for organizing the antiwar demonstrations here. Having one of the key strategists call for a ceasefire made a big difference in making people understand what was really happening underneath all the war machine propaganda. All the children seem to love you, too. But—”

“Yes?”

“I’m lost, Ash,” he finally said. “I’ve been fighting so long to save the world, and now everything’s going to be alright. Except I don’t know what to do with myself.”

Ashley touched his hand. “It took me a long time to get over Edward’s leaving, as you probably know all too well, since I made you suffer the brunt of it. And then when he was killed, I want ballistic. That was the real reason behind the demonstrations. I had anger issues. You’ve always been the rock-steady one, A. You still are, you just need to rest a little.”

“Yes, but I’m not fearless any more. I learned what fear was, and it changed me somehow.”

“I’m sure I can’t possibly understand all you went through, and you can tell me to shut up if you want, but I think it’s partly that it’s a side effect of growing up. When we were kids, we didn’t think about dying. We were invincible. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t do. Am I right?”

“Of course. And I’m back, safe, in the most beautiful city of Dragon Stead system, but I can’t shake this feeling that I have to be ready for something. I just don’t want to be alone.”

“You aren’t alone, A. I’m with you.”

“Thanks, Ash. I know that.”

“I mean it, A. I’m with you. Forever.”

They walked back to the campus, stopping in front of Ashley’s quarters.

“See you tomorrow, then?” Andrew asked, leaning in for a kiss.

“No.” Ashley pulled back.

“What?”

“I still don’t think I’m ready to forget Edward. I’m sorry. I love you, really, but I need time.”

A bitter expression passed across Andrew’s face.

“Of course. Take all the time you need.” He turned on his heel and felt a sharp stabbing pain from the not-quite-healed wound that was his heart.

#

Old Abraham would have shivered if that were possible. Of course, he had no body like the biological species in Dragon Stead. They and their silicon-based AI constructs were the first intelligent species to arrive within a 20-light-year radius in eons. The humans thought they’d discovered him buried in the ice on the moon of Daris, but in fact it had been the other way around. It was a little disappointing that they held to the firm belief that faster-than-light travel was impossible. Well, it was, but there were ways around that. And he was waiting to show them. The humans were primitive and warlike, not to mention impossibly fragile, but they also showed prudent caution, all muddled together with childlike trust. They’d arduously crawled their way out to the Sigma Draconis system from a planet called Earth. He’d adopted them without reservation.

He especially loved the children on Erenarch, and chose a human girl, Adamma, to communicate through. Now he held a secret that would take away the childhood of these young, new species he had discovered.

Overman star system was only about 20 light years away, quite close, actually. About the same distance in the “opposite” direction to Earth. The odd emanence from Overman Prime was worrisome. No, more than that. It was shocking. He had managed to evade the dark force that destroyed his civilization all this time, and no sooner had he showed himself than maybe it had reappeared. He couldn’t be sure. He began to doubt that the passive strategy he’d used was the right one. Of course it was. When an implacable and hostile intelligence was passing through the galaxy, it was best to simply hide. Stay in his fortress. Best not to call attention to yourself if you weren’t up to the task.

Should he urge these humans to return to Earth? He suspected that wouldn’t work. Though he knew nothing about humanity’s home planet, it couldn’t be all that different from Erenarch, or Farana, or Daris, or the other planets in this system. And the people couldn’t be very different, either. Only three or four hundred years’ distance as the slow spaceship flies, they would undoubtedly be a noisy, unorganized bunch, just like the Dragon Steaders.

Thus far, both Sol and Sigma Draconis systems had remained relatively obscure, perched as they were on obscure stars in a far-flung spiral arm of the galaxy. Still, it would only be prudent to check more closely on both the emanation and Earth. Then he could devise a new strategy that would keep his protégés safe. Unfortunately, he would have to warn them that their childhood was at an end.

#

Restless, Andrew lay awake and mulled over the offer Old Abraham had made. It was an amazing opportunity to explore beyond the solar system. But the dream he’d had the previous night elbowed its way forward. He was talking to Ashley, and she was explaining to him about the things that she loved. Somehow, he didn’t seem to be on that list. She could be extremely dense, sometimes.

“This conversation is killing me,” he’d said.

“Just tell me what you want me to say—” she’d replied. Then he woke up. It was time to move on.

#

If looks could kill, Ashley’s eyes were daggers.

“Why does it have to be you? The trip to Daris alone will take six months, and then you have no idea where Old Abraham plans to send you.”

“I can’t sit around here forever twiddling my thumbs, and Adamma says he specifically asked for me. Of course, I don’t know if that’s true, but she does have a direct telepathic link to Abraham.”

“Maybe, but he’s never asked anyone else to do anything remotely like this before.” She plopped down in front of her holo display. “Why not send an AI? You know, like a probe?”

“It would have to relay data back at the speed of light, and that’s too slow.”

“I don’t get it. If Abraham can bring you back from deep space faster than light, why can’t he bring back an AI?”

“I’m not sure—that’s what I expect to find out when we get to Daris. Besides, Adamma will be with me, and Miranda’s been there a year, ever since they found Old Abraham on their moon.”

“I don’t like it. This is like Edward déja vu all over again. He was too stubborn to listen to sense.”

“I’ll be fine. You’re the brains of the outfit anyway. You’ll keep an eye on us.”

“Not with a four-hour time delay on communications.”

“I’m sure you can use the hyperlink. It’s expensive, but. . . “

Adamma appeared at the door, her panther AI at her side. A princess by birth, she would have become regent of Nioba, until her father had sent her to Erenarch Academy for her own safety.

“Ready, Andrew? The launch prep is done, and we just need to get checked out for cryosleep.”

“Right.” Leaving the Command Center, Andrew turned for one more look. The daggers had melted somewhat. “You coming?” he said to Adamma.

“Go on, I’ll be right there.” When the door had closed behind him, Adamma spoke.

“Listen, Ash,” she said. “We have to do this, and Andrew is the right man for the job.” Since Old Abraham had chosen her as spokesperson, she’d risen quickly through the ranks and now had authority over Network Command, and beyond that, Erenarch Administration. Even the Norns obeyed her without question. She opened her mouth to add something, but Ashley cut her off.

“Feeling entitled as usual to take whatever you want, Adamma?”

“You know what they say about absence, Ash.”

“Screw you, Adamma.”

#

“Hello, sleepyheads.” Miranda Powers hovered over the cryosleep capsules, holding out sippy cups with straws for Andrew and Adamma. “Get started rehydrating. Your uniforms are right beside you.”

Adamma grinned, reaching out a dark arm for her silk undershirt.

“Don’t dress up, Adamma,” Miranda advised. “Everyone on Daris wears two colors: mud gray and drab gray. And don’t get too comfortable. As soon as you feel up to it, you’re heading to the moon.”

When he and Adamma had donned their Network Command fatigues, Andrew announced, “Well, ladies, you’re both a sight for sore eyes. It’s almost like old times.”

“Except now you two are all grown up,” Miranda said. “Say, Andrew, did you ever get over that crush you had on Ashley? I recall I had to assign you a lot of extra sparring so you could work out your issues. . . um, physically,” the former battle instructor noted with a slight grin.

“That’s kind of a sore point,” Adamma said.

“Then we shall speak of it no more,” Miranda said.

#

The nearly airless moon of Daris was even bleaker than the planet below, and they could see the discovery site below as the lander approached, garishly lit with banks of klieg lights. The only evidence of the “artifact” that housed Old Abraham was a circle of darkened ice and rock, where scientists and the military had done their best to blast through the force field surrounding it. But so far, nothing of that sort had worked. For some reason, Old Abraham had decided to communicate.

“Greetings, children.” Andrew and Adamma heard the voice in their heads.

“Did you hear that?” Andrew said. “Yes,” Adamma said. “No,” said the shuttle pilot. Apparently Abraham could broadcast selectively.

“I’d like to ask a favor of you, Andrew,” said the nonverbal voice.

“Yes, Adamma mentioned that. By the way, it’s an honor to speak to you, Sir.”

“Thank you, child. This is a rather serious favor, I’m afraid. It could result in your individual termination, but I think if we don’t investigate this, it could lead to the extinction of your whole civilization. It’s my fault, I’m afraid, for showing myself in the first place.”

“I’m at your disposal,” Andrew replied. “Just tell me what you want me to do,” he said. He realized he was unconsciously echoing Ashley’s words, even after all these months.

“Ah, yes, I see,” Abraham replied. “You’re doing this for your mate.”

Andrew set his jaw. “She’s not my mate.”

#

The white hole to Overman Prime was a thing of wonder, seemingly far beyond the technical ability of humanity. Andrew’s pupils widened slightly as he prepared to step into the sparkling field that Abraham had woven just outside the artifact’s perimeter. He checked the readouts in his visual field. Nominal. Years of battle had trained him to keep his airsuit temperature on the cool side. He’d warm up quickly if there was any action.

“What do I do when I get there?”

“Just tell me what you observe. Or, rather, what you sense.”

“If it’s something bad, I die, right?”

“Possibly.”

“But you can stop it from coming here?”

“Possibly.”

“Wish me luck, then,” Andrew said and stepped into the portal. The portal vanished.

“How long will it take for him to get to Overman Prime?” Adamma asked.

“He’s already there.”

“Can you tell what he’s found?”

“Unfortunately, no. Something has gone wrong. I know he got there successfully, but the route back is unclear.”

The sound of a scuffle drew their attention, barely detectable in the thin air.

“Ah, it’s the mate,” said Abraham.

“Let go of me,” Ashley said to the guard who strove unsuccessfully to keep her away from the portal that was no longer there. “I’ve come to help.”

“Yes, I see now that I made an error in calculation, and you’ve brought the solution. Thank you, child.”

The portal reappeared, grew brighter, and Andrew stepped out.

“Nobody home, I think. But what was the holdup? I was ready to come back, but the portal disappeared for what seemed like an hour.” A woman’s voice replied.

“It was more like 10 minutes, round trip. But the hole did collapse. Not enough mass. It would have been a one-way journey anyway, not a round trip. Abraham realized that and set up a return hole.”

“Ashley? What are you doing here?”

“I just came to make sure you got back safely,” she said. “Abraham’s been deluging us with new tech since he appeared, and I had a chance to look at wormhole generation technique on the way here.”

“On the way here? You mean you were awake for the whole journey?”

“Yep, six long, boring-as-hell months. But it gave me time to think. I knew there was a slight problem in the transcription of one of the equations.”

“You figured this all out by yourself?” Adamma asked, obviously amazed.

“With a little help from the Norns. You know, they’re interested in surviving just as much as we are. I’m just glad the hole lasted long enough for you to get there in one piece.”

“And you collected a lot of valuable. . . impressions, I might add,” said Old Abraham. “Things aren’t quite as dire as I had worried, though we won’t have a lot of time.”

“I’m truly impressed, Ash,” Adamma said. “And not just with the fact that the correction arrived just in time. Also with what you went through to bring it to us. You know what they say about. . .”

“Oh, no, not another love cliché,” Ashley protested.

“. . . black holes often becoming white holes when loop quantum gravity is exceeded.”

“Oh. . . Right,” Ashley said. “Well, like I said, I’ve had a lot of time to think, and since I’m here, I’d like to stay.”

“What a coincidence. That’s exactly what I wanted you to say,” Andrew said.

Old Abraham spoke for Adamma’s hearing alone.

“Odd. Those two certainly behave as though they were mates.”

 

###end###

 

About Juliana Rew

 

Juliana Rew is a software engineer and former science and technical writer for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. She has sold stories to The Colored Lens, Stupefying Stories, PerihelionSF, and Mad Scientist Journal, among others.

Juli’s YA science fiction novella series, “Dragon Stead,” has been published by World Castle Publishing and includes “Erenarch Academy: Under the Dragon Banner” and “Miranda of Daris.” Find out more on her author website, julianarew.com.

 

More short stories by Juliana Rew on Shakespir

 

Office Politics

https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/129026

 

Mountain Ma’am

https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/306022

 

 


Daris Moon

Juliana Rew's Dragon Stead series is set in the solar system of Sigma Draconis 300 years in the future. Ashley Emerson and Andrew Kennedy grew up together as students at Erenarch Academy, but their friendship ended when Ashley's boyfriend enlisted in the war against Farana and was killed. Ashley has crusaded against the war, while Andrew has become a hero. The appearance of a strange alien presence on a remote moon of Daris brings uncertainty, and Ashley and Andrew find themselves together once again on a mission to save humanity.

  • ISBN: 9781370692811
  • Author: Third Flatiron Publishing
  • Published: 2016-08-08 00:50:09
  • Words: 3171
Daris Moon Daris Moon