Chapter Ten – Escape
The deadly unseen shock wave approached the outer limit of Jalnuur’s atmosphere unnoticed. Only hours before, it had belched forth from the smaller of the two stars, covering the distance in a matter of minutes as it sped away from its birthplace in space. Like a giant unseen tsunami it struck, wreaking havoc in the fleet and causing widespread destruction on the planet below. Ships crashed into one another causing major damage and rendering the fleet powerless. On Jalnuur, violent quakes beneath the surface opened vast fissures, swallowing everything in their path. Magma from the planet’s core erupted through long dormant volcanic chimneys onto the surface, burning everything in its path and then cooled into vast new lava fields changing the landscape forever. How my cousin Pashtek survived is still a mystery to me!
When the Alliance peacekeeping fleet achieved orbit around Jalnuur the ‘Wave’ had moved on. On board the Alliance flagship the medical teams were kept busy patching up survivors of the Drana fleet. Skeleton crews repaired the few Drana ships still serviceable.
Admiral Memnet surveyed the damage reports coming in from what was left of the Drana fleet. Lord Seth, senior general, read the reports of the destruction coming in from the planet. The only survivors found so far were Drana. No other race had yet been encountered. Alliance fighters searched the surface looking for any sign of life but their reports were negative. “Let’s hope the diplomats can settle this eh, Memnet,” Seth said. “One more planet either way makes no difference to old warriors like you and I,” he added, pouring himself a glass of vintage Kalak wine from the admiral’s private stock.
Manesh scowled to himself. “Bad enough I’m unable to move. Now I’m a prisoner of the Alliance!” he muttered.
“Do lay still, master sergeant.” The young Nephile nurse insisted as she readjusted the intravenous drip in his arm. “You’ll soon be up and around,” she added cheerfully. Manesh groaned – being at the mercy of someone like her was the ultimate humiliation for any Drana warrior!
“Easy with him,” said Hoetep, as the stretcher was passed through the narrow gap in the rock passage above the gaping fissure. Shansur closed his eyes as dust from above his head was dislodged by the minor after-shocks, which followed the quakes. Iset shielded him as best she could from falling debris. Delal led the way, stopping from time to time to check the new passage before beckoning the rest to follow. After what seemed like an eternity, they arrived at a small cave big enough for all of them to rest. By now, the supply of phosphor lights was down to practically nil. Food and water was rationed. The quakes had greatly reduced the community’s numbers once more. Now there was only thirty-five left, including the sick and injured plus a handful of children, out of the hundreds who had made it to Cydon-1. Taking Shansur with them was not what Akhen and Khan had in mind. They wanted to leave him behind. They had enough to worry about without the added burden of a wounded Drana officer. Of all people Iset made the decision for them. The diminutive, normally quiet and gentle woman stood her ground arguing that, ‘They were all going, and that was that!’ Forcefully backed by Nefer, no one was going to argue with her, especially Akhen. The look Iset gave Akhen and Khan when she announced her decision, with her delicate hands firmly planted on her hips, spoke volumes. After the quake, the fissure that had opened where the power plant had been, gave them a way out no matter how dangerous using it might prove. While Delal, Apis, and Manouf scouted the route forward, Nemaar and Raman inspected the meagre stock of equipment—so much had been lost when the quakes happened. Thanks to Seti, a few useful items had been added to the pile. Khan and Akhen cleaned the few remaining weapons while Hoetep checked the explosives.
“The passage divides into three about half a kilometre ahead,” Delal informed them, pointing to the hastily drawn map of the recon.
“The left is blocked by a rock fall,” Apis added.
“Yes but the centre and right-hand passageways are clear as far as we can tell,” Manouf said.
“We decided to split up and followed them for a couple of hours before meeting back at the junction,” Delal explained. “The central one opens out into a magma chimney, which leaves the right-hand passage as our only real choice, given the fact we have children and sick people with us.”
“All right, lets sleep on it; we’re all exhausted,” Nefer suggested, cradling a small sleeping child in her arms.
Next time – Chapter Eleven