Unfinished History

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Part Two

Hundreds of kilometres above the surface of Dira Tulag, the colony ship Tireless maintained a more-or-less geostationary orbit above the colony. It had drifted a few degrees of longitude over the years since they had arrived, and would continue to do so, but since it wasn't important to keep the ship in exactly the same place all the time, it had been decided not to crowd what was likely to become very contended orbital space. Geostationary satellites were always in demand and Dira Tulag was already surrounded by several separate networks of them; some for communications, others for navigation, yet more for study of the planet, and others for the monitoring of the planet's weather. It was this last group which had the attention of Sirenya Del

She was in the Tireless's command centre, a large room with walls covered in display screens of varying sizes and a large table in the centre. The table had a screen embedded beneath its surface and a holographic projector mounted above it. That projector was the main
reason people came up to the ship these days; they hadn't gotten around to building one on the surface yet, as the necessary materials were far from abundant on their adopted planet and there were always more important things to be done. Sirenya could have done her work analysing the structures of local viruses using her workstation on the surface, but she found a three-dimensional display far more intuitive than the fairly small two-dimensional screens available in the colony.

That work had flown out of her head when the ship's computer had alerted her to the reports from the meteorological satellites. Although it wasn't the season for them, and the colony was at entirely the wrong latitude for it, there was a large hurricane headed straight for it. 'Large' might have been an understatement for, as far as Sirenya could tell without investigation she didn't particularly have time for at the moment, it had about five times the diameter of the largest
hurricane ever seen on Alledora and appeared to have about ten times the maximum wind speed.

It was also moving extremely quickly.

'How long do you think we have?' a tense voice asked. It was Koro Tilin, the de factor mayor of their little settlement, speaking from the surface. She'd rousted him out of bed as soon as the computers had confirmed the hurricane's course.

'An hour at most. It's moving at an incredible speed.'

'How much damage is it likely to cause?'

'Well, judging by what it's doing to the coast, I wouldn't go looking for the forest after it's passed overhead.'

There was a pause from the other end of the line. 'I see,' Koro said eventually. 'Well, thank you Sirenya. I have no doubt the alarms are blaring in the meteorological office about now, but you know, we never pay much attention to the weather anymore. It always seemed very stable.'

'Maybe it was just building up to this.'

'Maybe. Can you get back down here and take off again within an hour?'


'Good. Come to the surface immediately. You'll take some supplies, essential equipment and some of the children back to the Tireless to sit out the storm up there. We'll load up the rest of the shuttles immediately and send them as well.'

'I'll make sure the ship's set up to receive them.'

'Good, good. We'll get everyone else we can into a suitable vehicle and out of the line of the storm. The rest will have to sit it out in cellars and caves and hope for the best, I'm afraid.'


'You'd better get moving. Koro out.'

The line was cut off. Sirenya stared at the satellite images a moment longer, then jogged back to the hanger where her shuttle was docked. Getting into the pilot's seat was a matter of moments, and less than a minute later she was in free space, angling for re-entry even as she sent commands back to the Tireless' computer, instructing it to restore life support to long-unused living quarters and cargo spaces so that there would be enough habitable space for everyone who would be coming.

She landed about quarter of an hour later to find the settlement in an uproar. Everyone was awake and it was clear from the clouds rapidly blotting out the stars that something bad was coming. There was also an unusual quiet to the forest surrounding the settlement, testimony that the animals also knew something was coming and had gone to get out of its path.

As Sirenya's shuttle came to rest on the empty landing pad, one of the other shuttles, fully-loaded with children and essential equipment, rose into the air, balancing gracefully on its jets until it was a scant hundred metres above the ground, then engaging the main drive and accelerating upwards with a roar. The backwash knocked several stacks of boxes over, and a couple of people as well. Sirenya opened the shuttle's loading ramp and scrambled down the cockpit access ladder onto the ground. Koro ran over to her.

'What the hell are they doing hitting the main drive so close to the ground?' Sirenya yelled at him over the general babble of people trying to get things organised how they wanted it to be.

'Saving time,' Koro said. 'If we're lucky we can get two shuttle runs before the storm hits.'

'If we're very lucky.' Sirenya looked around. Stacks of boxes and crates were already being loaded onto her shuttle and a group of children were gathered nearby, looking scared but staying remarkably calm as they eyed the sky. 'How much am I taking up?'

'As much as you can carry. We'll have to load you to the maximum as with your descent time there's no way you can make a second run, so it doesn't matter so much if you're a bit slow.'

Sirenya nodded. She saw a man and woman - Zaya Dekarantos and Ashlar Tiu Vor - leading their son Riik to join the group of waiting children. Despite being one of the older members of that group, he was crying and protesting as his parents herded him toward the shuttle. Over the
background noise she heard a few snatches of what he was shouting.

'She's still out there! She doesn't know it's coming!'

His parents firmly put him with the group and walked away, heading for one of the low-altitude flyers which looked to be loaded to the absolute limit. Ashlar, Sirenya recalled, was a superb flyer pilot and thus an ideal choice for getting valuables out of the path of the storm even on a heavily loaded craft.

'You'd better get ready to take off again,' Koro said. 'Looks like you're nearly loaded. Don't worry, Dalar flew out already in the biggest flyer with the hospital patients and the babies.'

'Okay. Are you coming with me?' Inwardly relieved to hear that her husband was safe, Sirenya was able to concentrate once again on the business at hand.

'No, I'm staying here. We're rigging up a shelter in that big cave a few hundred metres back in the forest. The mouth is fairly well sheltered, and we're working on improving that with a couple of
forcefield generators.'

'Well, good luck.'

'To you as well.' Koro jogged away, and Sirenya looked, around then climbed the ladder back to the shuttle cockpit even as the children went up the ramp into the cargo section. She flipped on the intercom. 'Grab hold of whatever you can,' she told them as she shut the ramp. 'Sorry we don't have any seats. Try and sit down against something, facing toward the front of the shuttle, and grab something solidly fastened in place. Most of the takeoff force is in the first couple of minutes, so just keep holding on and it'll soon be over.'

The monitor cameras showed the older kids urging the younger ones to find suitable places to sit and, when she was confident they would all have a reasonable chance of avoiding injury during the ascent, she powered up the engines and lifted the shuttle into the air.

The ascent went smoothly and as she left the atmosphere she saw one of the other shuttles on the scope, heading back down for another run. 'Cutting it a bit fine,' she muttered to herself, then concentrated on docking with the Tireless. It was only after everyone got off the shuttle that one of the older kids came up to her.

'Are you going back?'

'No, there's no time. Why?'

'There was a boy, Riik, was with us before we got on the shuttle but he run off into the forest.'

Sirenya stared at him in shock.

'He said he was looking for his sister,' one of the girls supplied. 'As she'd run off and didn't know about the storm.'

Sirenya said some things she probably shouldn't have said in front of the children, then started ushering them toward the living quarters.

'I'll call and let them know,' she said. 'One of the flyers might be able to pick them up.' Inwardly though, she knew what their chances were likely to be in the forest without any cover, a sister alone and her brother out looking for her. They were going to have to have at least two funerals when this was all over.


The forest was dark, so dark that Riik kept tripping over roots and twigs and undergrowth and walking into branches and ferns and leaves and bushes, including one rather nasty one with thorns which narrowly avoided taking out one of his eyes. He stumbled on in the direction he'd seen Arkyna enter the forest a few hours before, hoping more out of blind panic than reasoned judgement that he'd run into her and warn her and they'd be able to return in time to fly out of the path of the

After a quarter of an hour or so of this he caught a glimpse of a blue white light flickering through the trees ahead. What was that? He pushed on through the undergrowth towards it, tripping over several times, and saw as he moved closer that the light was actually steady and pure, it was just the leaves moving in the growing wind which made it seem to flicker.

The light led him to a small clearing, where he stopped in disbelief. Arkyna was sitting calmly in the middle of the clearing. A blue-tinted ball of light floated in the air a few feet above her head, illuminating the entire clearing quite clearly and leaving no mistake at all about the four fist-sized rocks which were hovering uncertainly about half a metre above the ground in front of her. There was a look of extreme concentration on Arkyna's face as she reached out a hand towards a fifth rock, which slowly, ever so slowly, began to rise from the ground.

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