Some time ago.
The Ganite crossed the barrens of Echo at a steady pace, moving by night, following the old river bed and sheltering from the sun under the heavy rock shelves that lined his path.
Once he awoke to find a pack of Jir Dogs gathered around him, their shabby hides gleaming blue in the twilight, their tongues lolling. He eased up from the ground, slipping the safety catch from the long barreled rifle while waiting to see what they would do.
For a long while the pack sat there, and then with a high pitched whine their alpha male trotted out of sight, and the rest followed. The Ganite sat there thinking, and then stood, picking up his gear and walking on.
The next night he smelled the wreck, long before he could see it. He skirted around to the south so he could get a view from the ridge. He lay in a hollow of the rock watching it burn, and then when nothing happened, he stood and walked down to stand next to it.
Once it had been a tank, he supposed, but now it was a dead and smoking ruin. The driver lay twisted and blackened. Coiled halfway out of the hatch. Other corpses were scattered in the dry wash.
The Ganite circled behind and found the remains of the commander propped up against the far side. He looked down at the big creature, with it’s spiny hairs. A bandolier of ammunition had been slung around its right arm, but now it had melted into the dead thing’s flesh so that it looked like a tumorous growth.
Further down the riverbed he found the bodies of Ganites and Riv commandos, he assumed they had been part of the team that had assaulted the tank. Picking amongst them, he found an unbroken stim booster and a few rounds for the rifle he was carrying. The long and thin assault rifle of the Ganite infantry.
Taking the rounds and the stim, the Ganite placed them into the small bag he had slung behind his shoulder, and strode off down the riverbed not really thinking of anything.
Just before dawn he heard a scrabbling in the gravel on his right, he dropped quickly to one knee, raising the rifle up to his shoulder in one movement. His eyes scanned the darkness. One of the planet’s swift footed bovines vaulted across the ridge ahead, silhouetted against the paling sky.
He stood. Shouldering the rifle he glanced back in the direction of the wreck, and kept walking. The sky was turning to a pale violet, he shivered with the sudden chill of pre-dawn.
As light revealed the blasted landscape, he began to hear the engines ahead. A throbbing growl from just over the horizon that became the murmur and clamor of a large convoy or station. High overhead he spotted the landing lights of a troop ship leaving orbit, then all at once a voice challenged him from the rocks ahead in lingua ganiton.
And then a second voice, “Identify yourself.”
For a long time, he couldn’t remember how to answer that or anything, and then he called back.
“Vecoid, Lieutenant, Thirty-third Combat Engineers.”
There was no response, but Vecoid could hear the sentries whispering to each other. Soon one of them appeared out of the rocks on his right, loping towards him.
The sentry was wearing the light green Tech badge, he was clean shaven and smelled of soap and food. Vecoid looked at him, and tried to ask him for food, but he couldn’t remember the words.
They took him through the rocks into a shallow valley behind, where the Alliance had set up an airfield. Ships were lifting off and land vehicles were coming and going, but Vecoid didn’t see many soldiers.
The Sentry showed Vecoid to the Mess Pod, and sat with him while he ate. Boldly staring while Vecoid inhaled his first hot meal in days, and then he led him to a pre-fab hangar across the airfield.
“The CO is over there Lieutenant.” The Sentry said, and then disappeared.
Vecoid approached a cluster of Ganites and Riv, gathered around a heavy fuel drum in the hangar’s rear. One of the Ganites looked up, and detaching from the discussion took Vecoid aside. Vecoid allowed himself to be led away and placed on a folding chair.
The CO turned out to be a GFS Captain, not much older than Vecoid.
“What’s your name trooper?” the Captain asked.
“Vecoid. Thirty-third Engineers, attached to Combined Fleet Operations Beta Seventeen.”
“Who’s your commanding officer Vecoid?”
“Wial, House of Assassins, he’s dead.”
“You were with one of the first strike units here?”
“That’s right. Pathfinders.”
“You’ve been on planet for three months Lieutenant.”
The Captain’s face was impassive, his tone neutral.
“Well, you can relax now it’s all over.” He said, and when Vecoid said nothing he elaborated.
“We’re pulling everybody out. Rest here a minute and then I want you on that shuttle out there-“ the Captain raised one finger and stabbed towards the airfield, “We’re hitting Jump Light in three hours and nobody’s coming back here again, ever.”
The Captain’s voice broke and then he coughed and said again, “It’s all over.”
On board the shuttle Vecoid found himself crammed into a cargo hold with a Riv on his right and a Ganite on his left. The air was thin and the lights dimmed to conserve power. The Ganite next to him spent the flight with his knees tucked up under his chin, rocking slightly. Vecoid turned away in embarrassment and found himself looking into the Riv’s pink-white face.
The Riv jerked his chin towards the other Ganite, his jet-black eyes catching a beam of light and flashing green.
“In shock, that one.” He said.
“Yeah.” Vecoid said. The Riv’s interface suit was wrecked, and his face was grimy.
“And you?” the Riv said.
“I don’t know.”
“It’s all over now you know.”
Vecoid twitched. His flesh crawled at the memory. The Riv nodded.
“Did you forget? Perfectly normal. The same happens to me. Perfectly normal.”
This is bad, Vecoid thought. The Riv’s brains are unique, built differently, they excel under stress, but even they are struggling with this.
“What ship are they putting us on?” Vecoid asked numbly.
“Your GFS Jubilee. From there to my world, Rai, many dead there.”
“I don’t have any orders.”
“Nobody does. Admirals and Leaders. All dead.”
“Well who’s in command?”
The Riv shrugged. “Situation is very confused. Combat officers are all dead, whole fleets are gone.”
“So it’s every ship for itself?”
“Exactly so. Your Admiralty issued open transmission, you know this?”
“After Pyrth. All Ganite vessels return to friendly space immediately they said.”
“So we’re abandoning Echo?”
“Yes it seems.” Said the Riv.
“We’ve been fighting on this planet for six months, and now we just leave it to those butchers.”
“Not many Dacor left now either.”
“Not on Echo at least.”
They were silent for awhile as the shuttle hummed towards the Jubilee.
“My unit was destroyed.” Vecoid said numbly. “I’ve been alone for weeks, I didn’t hear about Pyrth until a few days ago. I made a radio.”
“Radio?” the Riv laughed and a few faces turned angrily towards them. “Resourceful people you Ganites, but, how is it? Quaint.”
The shuttle jerked and there was a clang as it docked aboard the Jubilee. The soldiers and evacuees were left in the hold for hours, and then the doors hissed open and a clean cut Tech ordered them out.
Vecoid filed out behind the Riv and found himself in the Jubilee’s cavernous hangar. Troops were everywhere, and ships of every possible type. Nearly all were scored with battle damage. The hangar’s floor was piled with debris and scavenged parts.
As an officer, Vecoid was herded away from his mates in the hold and led towards the aft of the ship. He and the rest were billeted in an empty hangar. Once it had been used to store the Rhino field vehicles, now it was lined with bunks and a make-shift field kitchen. A screen had been hung on the back wall, it blared patriotic music into the hangar, interrupted occasionally by bulletins from Ganiach. Updated casualty lists and stirring speeches from the surviving Admirals.
While the rest lined up for chow, Vecoid threw himself into the nearest bunk. Dropping into deep sleep as the Jubilee’s FTL drive fired and hurtled everyone hundreds of light years from the star Clarion.
This planet has 7 moons:
QBH176.1.1 (no information available yet)
QBH176.1.2 (no information available yet)
QBH176.1.3 (no information available yet)
QBH176.1.4 (no information available yet)
QBH176.1.5 (no information available yet)
QBH176.1.6 (no information available yet)
QBH176.1.7 (no information available yet)