Starport: Zeta Prime
When Kahlia is arrested and accused of being a supremist with the intent of sabotaging the star portal, she’s almost too stunned to protect herself. Her instincts drive her to run when she gets the chance, but since she runs straight into the arms of Rani, chief of one of the savage, native tribes, she isn’t convinced she hasn’t leapt from the frying pan into the fire.
Word Count: 40,570
Genre: Interracial Sci-fi/Futuristic
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, TBA 2014
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Kahlia raced down to the steel fence circling the perimeter of the gateway. The call on her communication device from her second-in-command had been an urgent ‘code yellow’. This meant military presence–which indicated to her that there may be a threat on site.
Her second-in-command was waiting for her by the entrance gate. She lifted her arm to shield her eyes from the glare of the headlights on the military land pod. There were three approaching the construction site and their arrival had caused intrigue amongst the workers, many stopping their duties and craning their necks to look.
“Mikey. Open the gate so we can check I.D.,” she instructed the dark-skinned man beside her and then lifted the communication device to her mouth.
“All security, military incoming. Stay focused on the back perimeters.” She raised her head to see several of the gateway builders still staring from the large mound in the center of the area.
“And can someone locate the foreman and tell him to get his men back to work.”
Mikey used a magnetic fob to unlock and swing open the gate as Kahlia walked forward to greet the two soldiers who emerged from the first pod.
“I.D. please, gentlemen,” she requested. They wore the standard red and green uniform of all soldiers–the colors made for the best camouflage against the colors of most foliage on planet Zeta Prime–but she liked to be thorough. As the head of security for the site, she made sure that she knew every single person who entered the gateway side of the fence. The men complied and flashed her identification cards with serious expressions.
“What’s your business here,” she asked the taller of the two–a shaven-headed¬ man with a square jaw who she had noted was named Tom? “We’re looking for a Miss Kahlia Tierney.”
“You’ve found her.” She gestured to herself and made to extend her arm in a handshake, but as she reached forward Tom grabbed it and twisted it behind her back, pulling her other arm in the same way.
As the shorter of the two soldiers clipped handcuffs tightly to her wrist, she yelped in pain at the overstretch in her shoulders. Mikey dashed over and placed hands on the short guy.
“Hey. Hey. What do you think you’re doing,” he demanded, trying to stop him securing the cuffs?”
“Sir. Please step away.” Tom lifted a gun in warning and Mikey lifted his palms in surrender, feeling hopeless for his boss but admiring the way her face remained emotionless. Seeing her shake her head at him he backed away slightly, knowing that she wanted him to keep out of trouble.
“Miss Tierney. We are arresting you for conspiring with rebel supremists in a plot to sabotage this gateway.” Tom had placed his gun back in the holster and proceeded to rip Kahlia’s stun gun, magnetic fob and communication handset from her solid silver belt.
“What?” Kahlia’s expression finally reflected disbelief at the ludicrous allegation. “That’s utterly ridiculous. I’m head of security here. My whole life on this planet has been about protecting this gateway. There has been some mistake. Let me go and we can get to the bottom of this.” She struggled against her cuffs.
“We’ve been given orders to arrest and take you in, Ma’am.” Tom motioned to his colleague, who then placed his hand on Kahlia’s back and marched her towards the third land pod.
She twisted her around, glimpsing a growing crowd underneath the silhouette of the starport, their work abandoned in favor of watching this dramatic scene.
Mikey watched, too, frustrated at being unable to stop this madness and resolving to help Kahlia as soon as he got more information. He attempted a comforting smile in her direction, trying to signify to her that he would resolve things from his end and wanting to calm the growing concern he caught flash across her face.
Unbeknownst to any of the humans, someone else was also watching with interest. Hidden up high in the branches of a tree, sat Rani–one of the cat-like people native to Zeta Prime. His eyes glowed an iridescent yellow in the dusk as he looked upon the events unfolding before him. The human female he had followed for some time now appeared to have been captured by soldiers of her own kind.
Rani had observed the invaders before. When they had first landed and built their colonies, he and his tribe had spent years gathering all the information they could, from a distance. They wanted to learn their ways, their strange language–and he needed to learn if they were going to be a threat to his people.
He had noticed this female on one such tracking mission. It had been her eyes that drew her to him. This race all had extremely strange, small eyes, but he had never seen such a color before. Hers were stormy grey, the same hue as the most beautiful of Zeta Prime’s five moons. He’d marveled at her spiraled hair, how it bounced and was the shade of night.
Witnessing her capture, he growled with displeasure. From what he had seen of this race, they were greedy and seemed to take whatever they wished–without thought to the consequences of their actions. As he noticed a large troupe of them stamp out of an unfamiliar vessel and into the place the female spent most of her time, he assumed they were taking her area too now, and decided perhaps it was time to stop observing at a distance.
Blinking against the bright lights inside the pod, Kahlia stifled a moan as she was slammed into the side of the vehicle, the sensor on the cuffs activating the safe-hold feature–strong titanium bars on the wall fixing onto her handcuffs, securing her to the ship. She was on a prison pod. The stark grey interior housed only sporadically spaced bars in a circle, one of which she was now attached to. The blue sensor on the bottom of each bar flashed, ready and waiting for more handcuffs–more prisoners.
There was a vague shudder as the pod lifted from the ground and began its journey. Kahlia was now completely alone and utterly bewildered. She shuffled her feet in an attempt to ease the pressure in her shoulders. Her thick boots were covered with a film of red dust from the site, but the black leather trousers and thick, long-sleeved top remained clean–their anti-stun coating repelling the brightly colored dirt of planet Zeta Prime.
Knowing it was futile to fight or shout in the unmanned ship, Kahlia waited patiently in her awkward position until she felt the descent to land. As the hatch opened, the bars released her cuffs and two soldiers held her arms, escorting her into a dingy bunker in a clearing of Zeta Prime’s peculiar red forest.
Kahlia shook her head as she walked, trying to make sense of all that had happened. Arguing with the soldiers wasn’t going to help, so she stepped inside without a fight.
She was shunted forward inside what could only be described as a cage. A small box covered with thinly spaced metal strips on all four sides and the ceiling contained a narrow bed, toilet and sink. She was astounded at the archaic prison facility–inside the dimly lit bunker she could see long rows of cages like hers, scuffed concrete forming a grid of paths between them. She saw that the locks on the cell doors were much higher tech than the old fashioned cells, and similar to the magnetic locks they used on the site she had just been removed from. One of her escorting soldiers pressed his fob to the keypad–she was officially imprisoned.
“Excuse me.” She asked him as he tucked his keys back into his pocket.
“When is someone coming to explain this to me? When do I give my statement?” She had to fight to keep her voice steady. Being locked up like a zoo animal had made the seriousness of the situation more apparent, and concern had started to grow.
“Someone will be with you shortly.” The soldier replied flatly, providing her with zero reassurance that that would actually be the case. Kahlia paced the floor, mind racing. She had been arrested for assisting supremists to sabotage the gateway. The very idea of it was so ridiculous it was almost funny. Her job was to keep those extremist protesters away from the site, and she had done so successfully for a long time now. Heck, the build was almost finished and there’d been no trouble at all–thanks to her. She inhaled, feeling some confidence build. She would be able to clear up this misunderstanding and prove her innocence, for sure. That’s all it was after all, some silly misunderstanding.
A loud explosion interrupted her thoughts. The ground underneath shook and rumbled, and Kahlia had to spread her feet to maintain her balance. Shouts echoed around the bunker as the atmosphere charged with panic. For the first time, she noticed other prisoners–their hands clutching onto the cold metal bars of the cells, the lurid orange lights above illuminating wildly panicked faces.
“What was that?” One prisoner yelled to the guards, some of whom were huddled talking in urgent tones into communication devices, some running out of a wide door at the front whilst a couple of them sped up and down the aisles–pulling on the doors of the occupied cages, checking that the locks had held after the vibrations from the explosion.
“Was that a bomb?” A large man on Kahlia’s left spoke.
“Did something blow up? What’s blown up? Are we under attack?” The first prisoner continued. At his questions, all hell broke loose. There were probably only twelve of them locked up, but it sounded like ten times that as everyone started screaming for answers and speculating on the event. Kahlia heard one person she couldn’t see start to sob–great, huge wracking gasps of fearful tears.
In her peripheral vision, she noticed the prisoner in the box next to her waving maniacally. He was a short, tubby man in his forties and looked more like a pompous school teacher than a criminal, she thought. Kahlia squinted to try and see him better, pressing herself as close as she could to the edge of her sealed cage.
He joined the fingers and thumbs of both hands together to make a circle then, raising his eyebrows as if to make sure she were ready, he splayed his fingers and moved his hands apart, signifying the ruin of the circle.
“Gone.” He whispered, waiting for her reaction with a gleeful smile.
For some reason, an icy trepidation started growing in the pit of Kahlia’s stomach. Logic began creeping into her consciousness, no matter how hard she tried to fend it off. The prisoner’s crude actions and shouted assumptions from other prisoners had done nothing but confirm her initial fears. There was only one thing in the near vicinity that would require a bomb big enough to cause an explosion of that magnitude. There was only one thing that would cause such a shake to the ground as it collapsed… the star portal.
She chewed on her bottom lip as she analyzed what this may mean. The military clearly thought she was already a part of some rebel group working to destroy the gateway. If it had now been blown up …. Kahlia sank onto the hard bed as she exhaled. It would be bad news for her. Regardless of the ludicrous accusations that had already been made, she had clearly failed in her job somewhere if a rebel organization had planned an obstruction of that size without her picking up on it. And as the bomb had gone off so soon after she had left the area, it would look like it had been brought in while she was still on duty.
The conclusion was that she had either missed something crucial on her rounds, which she very much doubted–she knew for a fact that she was good at her job, nothing ever got past her–or, the bomb had been planted as soon as she’d left. Which left her with the theory that this had to have been an inside job, and if that was so, then somebody had set her up to take the fall for it.