Temprare Four - @CarolinaC - Sword & Planet

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Temprare Four

A Sword & Planet Story by CarolinaC

I know you won't believe what I'm going to tell you. The nice young security men in their neat black suits and slicked back hair say it's got to be kept secret, but I can't think why. It's ancient history now, after all. Forty years. So you're going to listen, and listen good.

The landing was hard, but it was a landing, not a crash. I was shaken up; I had wrenched my knee, and my left arm ached, vague but persistent, reminding me that I had broken it once, as a child. My translator gem looked okay, but the necklace had snapped, little blue beads everywhere. I stuffed the gem in my pocket before turning to the screens. A quick check of the computer confirmed that my engines were completely offline. No surprise, given the violence of my landing, but still, a disappointment – and a heart-wrenching one.

You have to understand, this was forty years ago - the Temprare System was poorly-explored and rarely visited. The only Solaris Navy ship that had ever made it out that far, the Cassolimi had disappeared without a trace. Stories said she'd fallen through a portal into a parallel universe, or her crew had been kidnapped by slavers, or the first officer went mad and murdered all three thousand people on the ship. Gone, though, definitely gone. And without so much as sending a map of the system back for the rest of the galaxy to enjoy. So far as I knew, nobody, and I mean nobody, had ever touched down on one of the planets – until that day. I was the first.

I had enough air and water for a month, but only enough food for a week. I was raised on Jelanon Station, so starving to death has always been a particular fear of mine, in a way you won't understand if you didn't grow with endless Redisc-day stories of the Kitarwas Rebellion. Suffice it to say, If I couldn't get the engines going again, I was planning to vent the oxygen and let myself strangle long before I'd starve. Except, of course, that isn't what happened.

After kicking the computer console – something I regretted because of how much more my wrenched knee suddenly hurt – I made my way into the vessel's sole airlock. I wiggled into an environment suit and tucked my ponytail awkwardly up into the helmet. The air evacuation pumps whined into life, and when the little blue light turned red, I opened the door.

Now, I don't want a safety lecture, okay? This was forty years ago, and people are still needling me about it. Yes, I know my vessel exit protocols. And yes, I know that it is important to take these protocols seriously. And furthermore, I do realise that it's wise to look before you leap. Nevertheless, I stepped out of the airlock, and fell down a drop equal to twice my height. Yes. It did hurt. Thanks for asking.

Specifically, the aching in my arm turned up to 11, and my knee hurt like a house on fire - by which I mean like a house probably feels when it burns to the ground. I found myself blinking up at a violet sky and the back end of my vessel. Worse yet, I found myself blinking up at a violet sky and the back end of my vessel with no helpful pane of PMMA between me and straight, unadulterated, native atmosphere. My helmet had broken. For a half second, I panicked - I wasn't ready to asphyxiate quite yet, you see. Then I cottoned on to the fact that I was breathing the native atmosphere just fine. The air even smelled good, like a greenhouse, all soil and water and growing things.

I sat up, pulling the remains of the helmet off from around my neck. My ponytail swung free as I took in my new environment. I was in a clearing in what you'd have to call a forest. There were weird, red-brown fronds, like fern leaves the size of apple trees, all around me. I was sitting on a lawn of little, leathery red-brown heart-shapes, obviously some smaller plant. A little blue thing like a triangular bat soared between the fronds. It took one look at me, and did its best disappearing act. Apparently Temprare Four had life on it. Complex, multicellular life. And I don't just mean plants and birds, because the next thing I saw was a person.

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