Now that our year of short stories is over, we thought we’d share a little sneak preview from the sequel to Dreaming of Xeres, tentatively titled Running to the Past.
In the epilogue of DoX, we dropped a bombshell and revealed the true identity of one of our characters. In this piece, the prologue to book two, our characters finally find out what happened to Xeres and where it was located.
Photo credit – Bftws on Deviantart
Running to the Past – Prologue
“I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” Memveta said, her voice trilling into hysterics. “How could this have happened?”
Thion shook his head. “It must have been something in the interaction between the Bylantians’ weapon and ours.” His tone was flat, though Ezarra could see the horror in the Klymurian elder’s eyes.
“These readings are impossible,” Ezarra said, her body thrumming with tension. “The sensors indicate that the debris is not even chemically compatible. It’s as though several vastly different planets exploded here, not just our home. Something happened when our weapons combined. Xeres wasn’t just destroyed, the basic building blocks of the planet were warped into incompatible elements.”
“That’s probably what tore it apart,” Thion choked out. He gestured toward her screen. “There isn’t enough material out there to account for the mass of our home. Was it vaporized, or just ejected?”
Memveta asked the question they all dreaded. “How can our colony on Venki survive? We only recently finished modifying the planet for our use. We don’t have enough resources to support everyone. We have six hundred thousand people to feed! And barely six months until we completely use up all the resources we have stockpiled. When our people find out, they’ll riot.”
Ezarra placed her arms around the frightened woman’s shoulders. “I know we counted on being able to resupply from home until our local sources matured, but we will just have to find a way to make do with the few plants and animals we already have. We’ll ration our supplies. We’ll divert extra resources to the eco-mancers to help them establish viable crops. I’m confident they’ll find a way to adapt the indigenous flora and fauna for our use.”
“The Council will find a way to save us, Memveta. You’ll see.” Returning to his command chair, Thion collapsed into it. “There’s nothing more we can do here. Let’s return to our…new home.” He scowled. “At least we have the satisfaction of knowing that the damned Bylantians are gone for good. They were destroyed along with our beloved Xeres.”
Their teardrop ship maneuvered out of the debris field, abandoning the ruins of their past.
“Thion, if I am no longer needed….”
“Of course, Ezarra. You are dismissed.”
She fled the bridge before her resolve broke and she began sobbing in front of her shipmates.
The door whisked open on her approach.
Once inside, her hand lovingly stroked the Tesseract Storage Device sitting on her desk, the only memento she had left of her lost love, Jember. She’d spent several lifetimes trying to break his encryptions. She could access the whole of Xerian history, but not his personal notes, nor the plans for his Sheitan-destroying weapon.
“TSD,” she ordered, “begin recording personal journal entry.”
“Confirmed. Begin journal entry for Ezarra,” the device replied in Jember’s deep bass tones.
“Jember, my love,” she said, “why did you have to be so damned good at hiding this from us? Why couldn’t you have shared your crusade instead of going after the Sheitan alone? Ponacowa and I would have helped you.” She bowed her head, cuddling the golden thing to her. “You didn’t have to die!”
She thrust her chin out and forced back the threatening tears. “I’ve kept your history of our civilization up to date. And I started this journal as a way to keep some part of you with me.” Her head bowed. “I miss you. Oh, how I wish I could have you back by my side! At the same time, I’m glad you’re not here to see what’s happened to our once-peaceful society at the hands of the Sheitan. I thought having them stir up the other guilds against the Tesham was the worst that could happen, but what they’ve done now? The Sheitan pushed the Bylantians and Klymurians so far apart that their war inadvertently destroyed our world.”
She glanced out the viewport at the debris field that had once been their beautiful, lush planet. This time she didn’t even try to hold back her tears. “I can’t believe I’ll never walk the halls of our Discovery Center ever again. I always felt safe within that great pyramid.”
Thinking of the Center reminded her of her other mate. She wiped the tears from her eyes. “I hope you’re safe on the colony on Marba, Ponacowa.” She paused to collect her thoughts. “I’m sorry, Jember, he and I…went our separate ways, after you…left us. There was just too big of a Jember-shaped hole in our lives together. He’s with Adianis and Immiek now, filling the hole left when Divista was taken over by the Sheitan. I’m….I’m making do. Alone.”
She brought up a holo of their solar system with all nine planets displayed. Zooming in on the inner planets, she continued her journal entry. “I hope that little blue planet, with it’s nascent humanoid population, is enough of a buffer between our worlds to prevent a second war from breaking out between our people.”
She closed her eyes.
“TSD, end recording.”
* * *
Tessa woke abruptly as a hand shook her shoulder.
“Wake up, honey,” Riley said, reaching through from the front passenger’s seat. “We’re in La Salle. Time to stretch our legs and get some food.”
Outside, she saw Alex filling the tank for the last leg of their cross-country trip.
Her hand caught at Riley’s arm.
“I know where Xeres was!”