Excerpt: Klaxon at the Core
When the shuttle from the starship Lighthammer docked at Central Terra’s groundside hub, Bastian and Theo Kautzer were first out of their seats in their eagerness to disembark, ready to be out of cramped, confining corridors with nothing but recycled air and ship personnel that stared at them like they were a pair of caged beasts. Bastian was beyond ready to be off the ship, aching to breathe free air and see the wide-open spaces that Central had to offer. They left the shuttle on the heels of the four remaining members of the Deuce Squad with nothing but the clothes on their backs. It was Bastian and Theo’s first shuttle ride, but the excitement was lost in larger concerns. They were facing huge unknowns, and they didn’t even have the charge-rifles that had been like extensions of their arms for the past three years. Knowing that Central was supposed to be safe didn’t lessen their ingrained need for weapons.
Bastian and his twin brother Theo had spent their whole lives on the planet Noise, a mining installation that had been one of the first hit during the deadly Incursion that had claimed everyone they’d ever known. As the sole survivors due to their mother’s final act of locking them into the main compound’s surface-pressure lock, their psionic powers had risen to their requirements for survival. They had teleported out of the surface-pressure lock, discovered their entire colony dead and the bodies gone, and had scavenged and survived for three years until rescue had arrived in the form of the Deuce Squad led by Lieutenant Bane. Though the Federated Planetary Organization’s Armed Elite had arrived for the hydronium, Noise’s sole export, Bane and the last few Deuce Squad personnel had helped to get them off the planet alive. Central was an entirely different realm, and massive on a scale neither of them had been expecting.
Bastian turned wide eyes up at the immense steel-gray cavern of the shuttle docking bay. It was an enormous span of metal, glittering here and there with inlaid electronics. The space and the swoop of the archway overhead reminded him of the heart of the mining installation on their former home planet and he faltered against Theo, troubled.
We should have our charge-rifles, Theo grumbled in Bastian’s head, echoing the impression they were missing a vital tool in their repertoire as they faced the unknown. The mental aside was a habit they had begun on the crowded Lighthammer when they’d wanted to speak privately in the presence of others. Alone on Noise they had known one another’s thoughts but rarely made the effort to articulate mentally. The trip on the Lighthammer had gotten them familiar with their telepathy until it was as natural as whispering to each other but socially permissible.
Can’t carry, we’re part of a civilian population now, Bastian chided. And we left ours back on Noise, remember?
Like I’d ever forget.
Bastian stayed glued to Theo’s side as they followed Bane and Schoen down the long metal gangway that provided access to and from the shuttle. He was breathless with a wave of anxiety, and he wasn’t sure if it was the docking bay’s resemblance to the mining cavern, the throng of people, or Theo’s nerves jangling against his own. They had always been able to ‘feel’ one another, but once their powers had increased three years before, everything had been heightened. The strongest psionic gain had been their sense of each other.
To calm the anxiety that gripped both of them, Bastian took deep breaths as they walked down the narrow strip of metal. He was definitely regretting the lack of the familiar shape of a charge-rifle in his arms. He and Theo had pleaded with Lieutenant Bane, who had remained firm in his denials. They had attempted to bribe Lassiter, whom they’d befriended on the return trip, and had even tried reasoning with Corporal Schoen, who seemed the logical type. No civilians on Central were allowed to carry arms without a permit, they had been told. Bastian didn’t consider them to be civilians, and Theo had argued the point fiercely. It hadn’t gotten them anywhere, though Bane had promised to work with them for the clearance to carry.
They were walking into the unknown and neither of them had a gun. It made the hair on the back of Bastian’s neck rise. As he walked forward, fingers plucked at his shirt and Bastian knew without looking that it was Theo. It was a carryover habit from younger days, when Theo had held fast to his shirt to avoid getting lost in larger groups, and underscored the terrifying unknown of their current situation.
“Tee,” Bastian sub-vocalized, seeing a line of FPO Armed Elite in uniform—not battle gear—waiting beyond the docking area. The Lighthammer’s shuttle was the only craft in the immense docking bay, so the Armed Elite had to be there for them, or Bane and his people.
They can’t hurt us, Bastian, Theo responded in his mind, though the firm words were shaded with a wave of uncertainty that came with it. We proved that on Noise.
Yes, but Roberts tried to bomb us! Righteous anger colored Bastian’s rejoinder. The Lighthammer’s captain had given the order to send ship-to-surface missiles to Noise with the goal of destroying the entire installation. If Bastian and Theo had not risked their lives on a desperate teleportation jump to the Lighthammer’s cargo bay, they would have died along with the Armors that had infested the planet.
Captain Roberts had spent the voyage from Noise to Central Terra avoiding Bastian and Theo. There hadn’t been so much as an apology or an explanation.