Author : S. C. Wells

“Over there. See it?” Tellis’ gaze followed Mark’s pointing finger toward the last planet in the system they were passing through. The surface was invisible, covered entirely by a glowing cloud, deep blue streaked with iridescent greens and yellows and rich, dark purples. The planet had been filled with prosperous mining colonies, before an accident created the cloud, making the world uninhabitable.

“We’ll be a few minutes passing through,” Mark said. “The energy from those clouds totally distorts sub-space here; that’s why we can’t use the hyper-drive.” Mark leaned casually, playfully on the observation deck railing, eyes sparkling. “We’ll be a on our way again soon. Unless…”

“Unless,” Tellis smiled, “the main engines don’t start once we get past.”

“No one knows what’s wrong,” Mark continued, “but then you pick up odd, transmission-like energy signals coming from under the planet’s clouds.”

“They sound like nonsense, of course.”

“Of course. But we go out secretly to investigate anyway, because you are convinced that whatever’s stopping the engines is down there.”

“How do we–?”

Mark cut her off, not wanting to get lost in a technical discussion. “I’ve figured out a way to rig the jump shuttle to get through the clouds. We land on the planet, and find the ruins of an ancient colony. But…”

“…The planet isn’t uninhabited!” Tellis exclaimed. “The descendants of some of the colonists have been living underground, and they have their own society and culture, and their own form of communication transmissions.”

“Which is what you picked up.”

“Right. They want to be left alone, but the colony’s old guidance and landing systems malfunctioned and stopped our ship by accident, and now that we’ve found their underground city, the colonists’ descendants won’t let us leave so that they can keep their existence secret!”

Mark grinned slyly. “And they’ve heard of you and me by picking up Rendothirii transmissions, so they know how capable we are, and they put us under heavy guard. Their leader doesn’t want to kill us, but her advisors tell her that we’re bound to escape, just like we did the last time the Rendothirii captured us.”

“The leader gives the order to kill us, reluctantly, but just before the public execution, a cloud storm of deadly energy strikes without warning, and the city is in jeopardy! It turns out that the advisors knew it was coming, but were keeping it a secret in order to kill the leader and take control of the city during the confusion.”

“But I save the leader just in time, and you—”

“–Stop the city from collapsing by reinforcing it’s molecular structure with my powers.”

“OK… So then the advisors are arrested, and the leader gives us her thanks…”

“…And the people hold a feast in our honor…

“…And after we swear not to tell anyone about them…”

“We turn off the system that’s been holding our engines, and come back to the ship. No one even realizes that we were gone, because your programs kept the computer misdirecting people about our location on board to cover our tracks, so we wouldn’t get in trouble for leaving without permission.”

“And then,” grinned Mark, “the release of the engines allows the ship to continue as if nothing happened.”

Tellis returned his smile, and they stood in silence for a moment, gazing out on the shifting colors of the cloud.

“You know,” announced Tellis, “I don’t miss TV and the internet nearly as much with you around.”

“Same here,” Mark answered, as the main engines revved up for the next leg of the journey.

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