Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 12 – Conclusion


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 12: An Imposible Mission and a Conclusion?

The Techno-Mage ships sat in space like darker versions of themselves. “What are they waiting for?” Jan asked. The ships had arrived almost an hour ago and seemed idle.

“The Techno-Mage had said about a day and it’s only been half that,” suggested Annie.

“Okay. That means we have less than half a day to get us a way out of this. Any thoughts?” The Captain rubbed his bald head as he asked. The man was a decorated stations captain and this was supposed to be his last command. When Hokulua Station was finished inspections, the real captain was going to take over and he was going to retire to a cushy quarters.

Seren raised her hand. The senior crew looked at her father and he shrugged. She started by explaining a little about the repository, “The repository runs like a translation AI for the Mother-of-All-Suns just like Hoku does now for our micro-sun. Hoku proved that they can take over some of the stations systems and that was before they had complete integration with the AI. Now they could take over any system they want.”

“So it can kill us at any time? How can we trust it?” the Doctor asked, sounding incredulous.

Annie laughed loudly enough to stop people murmuring and said, “I can kill you at any time too. Any of us is capable of murder. Why would a micro-sun be more inclined?”

“Yes, but we enslaved it.”

“We can either give up space travel or take the suns at their word that they don’t hold a grudge and won’t kill us,” Seren said before going on, “The only reason that Hoku was able to communicate and take us here was because of a glitch in the AI that let them access it. The changes we’ve made since to help relieve their pain, give them better control, and better communicate are all easy software updates.”

Mr. Plentyn smiled and added, “She’s right. It’s a small update and could easily be applied to other ships. The update would also allow the station’s suns to talk to each other. What my daughter is suggesting is that we upgrade the Techno-Mage ships and let their micro-suns take over.”

The Captain smiled, “We’d have to leave the Techno-Mages to the mercy and justice of the Mother. Great, sounds like a plan. Push the update to them.”

“Well…” Mr. Plentyn started but trailed off.

“We’d have to push it locally,” Seren finished.

“You’re telling me you have the perfect solution but we have to somehow get onto each of those ships to implement it? That’s suicide.” The Captain sat down.

“It can be done by drones but they’d still have to get close.”

Annie stood up, smiling, this caused her brother and her flight group to groan and look worried. “I can get the drones there. The new ship has limited stealth tech. All we would need is a distraction.”

“Can the repository make more of those ships? Or maybe a cruiser?” the Captain asked.

“I’ve already requisitioned a dozen. They’ll be ready within the hour but that’s the best it can do. It only has that design because of Annie’s help.”

Standing up again and looking not at all confident, the Captain said, “You all have until those ships arrive to be ready. Commander, with Annie’s help, prepare a dozen pilots for the new ships and a battleplan that the Techno-Mages won’t expect. Plentyn, get everything ready to deploy. The rest of you, prepare for combat.”

As they were leaving, the Captain stopped Mr. Plentyn and Seren. “The Techno-Mages have a reputation of being all knowing and able to hijack computers. Are you sure they don’t know what’s coming?”

“When we linked up with the repository I had it and Hoku scan for bugs, trojans, and any back doors. We cleared them out before the meeting.”

“So you’re sure?”

“As much as I can be.”

The next hour on the station almost made it feel like it was fully crewed. People were rushing everywhere and getting everything ready. When the ships arrived and it was time to go, Seren brought Annie the drones. 

“You have four drones per ship. Try to space them out…” Seren trailed off looking worried.

“Don’t worry. I’m the best pilot here.” Annie took Seren’s hand and kissed it. “I’ll come back.”

“You’d better.”

The hardest part of the mission was being quiet. Annie missed the radio chatter, but she had to disable her coms both incoming and outgoing in order to avoid detection.

The trip was quiet and space felt bigger than it ever had to her, despite the relative smallness of that solar system. When she arrived at the first ship, she gently dropped her charges. She expected resistance but her stealth tech seemed to be working. The same near boring procedure occurred for the next two ships.

On the way to the last, and furthest ship, she wondered if she should have started on the far end. Her thoughts were interrupted by a blast to her aft. A small pirate ship had seen her and now she was being chased by a squadron of fighters. 

She dodged and evaded the ships and thanked the Mother for her shielding. One impressive dodge also had her avoid a direct shot from the last station. Had she not avoided it, she would have been destroyed. The Techno-Mage ships had weapons that could implode a sun; her shield meant nothing to it.

It was starting to look and feel useless. Every time she got close, the station would fire and she’d have to move back. She was about to retreat when the other stations started firing at the last one. They took out all the guns and Annie was able to fly down and drop the drones.

As she flew back towards Hoku she saw hundreds of fighters and escape pods leave the stations. It seemed the Mother-of-All-Suns was feeling merciful and they weren’t shot out of the sky. By the time she made it back to the station the cloud of pirate and Techno-Mage ships had left the system.

Seren was waiting for Annie when she landed. They hugged and both blushed. Jan rolled their eyes at their friends.

The Captain came by and shook Annie’s hand. “With the stations and Hoku no longer blocking coms we reached the council and given them all our information. I think the Techno-Mages are done. The council has also agreed to work with the Mother to make things right.” He smiled and sighed. “Alright. You two get some rest. We’re headed back on our original course. We have a few million crew to pick up.”

Surprisingly, it was Jan who spoke up, “Sir. Are we leaving a team to work with the Mother and the Repository?”

“Yes we are. A small engineering group, some archeologists, and a fighter wing.” The Captain smirked.

All three of them started volunteering at the same time.


Thank you for reading.

If you’d like to read more serial stories please have a look at the previous years versions.

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 11


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 11: Mothers and Suns

“Pirates? How did they find us?” Jan sounded annoyed. “How do we stop a sun from exploding and defend against pirates?”

There was silence over the private channel. Seren was thinking. The situation did seem dire. With the Techno-mage gone, there was no way of interrogating him to figure out what he’d done. He’d said, “You can die when the sun implodes.” But hadn’t specified which sun. There was the micro-sun that powered Hokulua Station, the Mother-Of-All-Stars in the centre of the planet, and the small yellow sun that planet was orbiting.

“I don’t know, but we need to figure out what sun he meant.” Seren said.

“Any of them imploding would cause enough damage to trigger either a black hole or a chain effect in the other suns,” Mr. Plentyn theorized.

“Yes, but he’d have to use some sort of tech to collapse the yellow sun and that seems unlikely.”

“Right, and if the repository is as sophisticated as you say, it should have defences.”

Jan exclaimed. “So it has to be Hoku.”

“We have to get the repository talking to the station instead of just receiving data. If we can do that then we can hopefully get the station to figure out what the Techno-mage did.” The first enemy fire hit the station as he was explaining.

Jan cursed and explained, “This is a massive fleet. We’re outnumbered fifty to one. The captain says we’re not going to survive this and recommends evacuation.”

The words hung heavy over them and both Seren and her father said the same thing, “What if we get the star-ships to help?” It would still mean being outnumbered ten to one but those were better odds.

They were about to formulate a plan when Jan cheered, “Whatever you two did, it worked. The star-ships and the repository just joined the fight.”

“We didn’t—”

The sound of Annie’s voice flooded to coms, “Woohoo! This is MOAS fighter A, requesting permission to join the fight.”

While Jan and Seren had been teleported to the station and where they’d been thinking of before teleportation, Annie had been thinking of piloting a ship.

Deep in the repository was a fabricator that could create nearly anything. With Annie’s knowledge of fighters and the repository’s impressive fabricating, they’d created a new type of fighter.

“Annie is that you?” Tower command asked.

“Yes big bro it’s me and I’m bringing some friends. You concentrate on defence and we’ll start picking off the bombers and long range gunners.”

The new ship slipped around the pirates, making them look slow and clumsy. The weapons from the repository were its biggest weakness. They were half as effective as those from the pirates and the defending force. The people who became the Mother-of-All-Stars weren’t as vicious as those who’d enslaved her children.

Annie relied on her speed, shields, and gravity ray. The gravity ray worked like her tractor beam on her regular fighter but faster and with bigger objects. She quickly discovered that weapons were not as effective as hurling the enemy’s ships at each other.

Everything was quiet while Seren and her father worked to network Hoku to the repository and the rest of the station worked on repairs and defence.

“I got it!” Mr. Plentyn cried over the sound of alarms.

“Jan, tell the captain that Hoku is running a diagnostic as we speak.” Seren turned from the coms to her Dad. “So do we turn off the AI interface?”

“No. The micro-sun has been interacting with it and the two are working together. It’s like the repository and the MOAS. The AI will interpret and help us understand each other.”

The computerized voice of Hoku said, “Thank you, Mr. Plentyn. You have been quite kind. Diagnostics are complete. I did not find anything in my systems that could create a chain effect big enough to destroy me and mother. Mother has done the same. I’ve also scanned my brother and he has no technology or way of being imploded.”

“Then what has the Techno-mage done?” Seren asked.

“I do not know. However, I have compiled a list of systems that cause me pain and how to alter them to not hurt me.”

Not knowing what else to do, they looked over the list.

The battle outside the station was quickly ending. The Pirates were taking heavy casualties and the Hoku fighters weren’t. Annie’s tactics made her a target, but the advanced shield made her almost invulnerable. Even with that, the ship would need some serious repairs.

The Hoku pilots cheered as the remaining pirate fighters retreated and the entire fleet moved away.

“Why aren’t they leaving the system?” Annie asked as she held patrol while the other ships returned to the station.

Her answer came quickly when four massive cruisers appeared in the system between the pirates and the station. These cruisers looked like the standard stations, if they’d been built for war instead of exploration.

The pirate flag on the side of the ships was quickly replaced by the Techno-Mage flag.

“They didn’t have some sort of bomb of self destruct! They’re just planning on blowing us up the old fashioned way.”

Read Conclusion


While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 10


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 10: Trapped, Escaped, and Pirates (again) 

“And now, so must you!” Annie mimicked. “That’s overdramatic and a little clichéd.” She’d met the Technomancer a few times before. He’d always come off as a nerdy goof. That wasn’t the air he was projecting today though. 

“Don’t mock me child.” The man looked frustrated.

“So… what’s your plan? Are you going to rip us apart atom by atom?” Seren seemed annoyed and more curious than frightened.

“No. Absolutely not. I will turn off this section of the repository and you can die when the sun implodes. It’ll be a little over a day.” With those words he stepped back and the door closed. Annie ran for the door but couldn’t get out. The lights and computer terminal went dark.

The only light was from their headlamps and portable computers. 

“So what are you two planning?” Jan asked. When Seren and Annie didn’t say anything Jan scoffed and said, “I’ve known both of you since we were kids. There’s no way you sat through that without thinking of a plan.”

“Well…” Seren said. “Maybe if we can connect with another part of the repository with our computers we can reroute power.”

“I was going to use the battery in my computer to try and power the door,” Annie replied.

“Great, both of you get to work and I’ll take a nap,” Jan said, stretching out on the floor.

It was a few hours before Jan heard a pair of curses. Neither method had worked. 

Seren said, “There’s some sort of interference, every time I think I’ve connected, something cuts me off.”

Annie said, “I can power the door but it’s locked somehow and I can’t power it and disable the lock.”

“What if we asked for help?” Jan’s question seemed to surprise the other two. They swung their heads around to stare at them.

“Um… Who are we going to ask?” Annie questioned. 

“Isn’t there anyway to ask the repository or Hoku?”

It looked like Annie was going to argue but then she just smiled and said, “Yes. That’s brilliant. You’re brilliant. All we have to do is connect to the repository not the systems.”

“Wouldn’t the Technomancer have thought of that?” asked Annie skeptically.

“That arrogant gas planet wouldn’t think of talking to the repository like it was a person. He still refers to her as an it like the Mother-of-All-Stars was only some sort of computer instead of the spirit of an entire civilization.” Jan started calmly but as they spoke, they became angrier at the thoughtlessness of the Technomancers and their ancestors. 

“Okay let’s give it a try,” Seren tapped away at her computer. After what felt like too long a time the same black screen with green text appeared on Seren’s computer.

“Hello again. Why have you disabled terminal 13?”

“We didn’t. The technomancer did.”

“Designation not recognized.” 

Seren looked around and wondered how to explain that they were not the same. “There were four of us in this room. Now there are three. The other isn’t our friend, he wants to destroy the mother-of-stars.”

“That is illogical. Can you stop him?”

The three friends looked at each other and shrugged. “I don’t know, but we have to try.”

It must have been the right answer, the doors opened and the floor showed arrows. Jan smilled and said, “Lets follow. Seren, can you keep the link on your computer?”

“I think so. Why?” 

As they ran following the arrows, Jan said, “If the Technomancers learned everything from the repository than we, and your Dad, are going to need to study quickly to beat him.”

Laughing, Annie said, “And you say we’re the ones that always have a plan.”

The arrows didn’t lead them back to the transportation room they’d been in. Instead it brought them to a larger but almost identical room. Again, nothing was in the room but a raised circular platform and that’s where the arrows ended.

Shrugging, the three of them stood on the platform and waited. The first time they teleported there was no sound or feeling but this time there was a bright flash of light and a slight feeling of nausea. 

When Seren’s eyes adjusted she was in her father’s lab. Her father was looking at her like she’d just appeared out of thin air, which she had. “Matter teleportation is supposed to be impossible. How, where…” he trailed off as he pulled her in for a hug. 

“It’s a lot to explain. We need to stop the Technomancer from destroying the planet and the station.” She shoved the computer at him and started to explain. When she was done she looked around and said, “Where are the others?”

“You’re the only one that teleported here.”

Just as she was reaching for her communicator, Jan’s voice came over the intercom, “Seren and Annie, are you there?”

“I’m here but I don’t know where Annie went. I’ve filled my Dad in on what’s happening.” She saw that her Dad was already talking with the repository.

“Great. I’m with the Captain. Apparently teleporting into his office was enough to convince him. Whatever the Technomancer did, his ship is already gone. The captain has no idea what he did.”

Mr. Plentyn interrupted with, “I’m trying to get a more direct link between us, the station’s sun, and the repository. I think the station’s sun is like a toddler and if I can get the repository to help it, it can run a diagnostic.”

The alarms went off and another voice came over the intercom, “Pirates have been spotted. All pilots to fighters, everyone else to your stations.”

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While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 9


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 9: Research, Reveals, and Reactions.

The screen sat there blinking, “Hello.” 

The three of them looked at each other and eventually it was Seren who said, “Hello.” They all watched the screen waiting for something to happen.

Nothing did and Jan asked, “How does it know our language?” The others shrugged and they added, “It even has the same configuration as our keyboards.” They point to the old-fashioned looking keyboard in front of the screen.

Feeling silly, Seren said, “Maybe it’s not voice activated?” She typed in, “Hello”.

They once again looked at the screen, this time their text appeared under the first hello and the screen replied with, “It has been 3,920,002 planetary rotations since your last session. Welcome back.”

“Assuming the same amount of days in a year that’s just shy of ten thousand seven hundred and forty years.” Annie thought that number sounded familiar as she said it, but couldn’t place it.

“Would you like to continue with your last session?” The screen’s green text blinked.

Seren looked at the other two and typed, “Yes.”

What appeared next was an interactive, multimedia document that showed the creation of a micro-star. It was absolutely fascinating. Seren had always assumed that the stars were created by compressing the planet or moon until it was so dense it self-combusted. She was completely wrong. The process involved taking a small piece of a micro-stars plasma and introducing it into the planet. Over the next year the piece grew and expanded, eating the planet from the inside and finally bursting through the crust to become a viable micro-star for space travel.

“Ten thousand years. The Great Techo-Mage! This is where they got all their information.”

“That means that this is the birth place of our civilisation,” Jan sat back and rubbed their face absently.

“Do you know anything about the Children of the Stars?” Seren typed.

“Each micro-star is a unique part of the parent and therefore equivalent to a child.” 

“That’s not helpful,” quipped Annie.

Seren tried something different, “What are you?”

“I am the Mother of Stars. Born from the collective of my people.” The screen changed again to a long text with images and information about the original inhabitants of this planet. They’d been very similar to Seren and the other Children but instead of taking to space they discovered a way to save their minds into a giant supercomputer. They developed alloys that could self-heal and an army of sentient robots to protect it. They hollowed out their own planet and installed a micro-star.

When they uploaded themselves, they discovered that the micro-star was sentient. All suns were sentient. Over time and interfacing they learned from each other and in the end the consciousness of the people merged with that of the star becoming something else completely.

This new entity made it it’s goal to teach others how to speak with and become stars.

“But what happened? Why did it stop?” Jan asked.

“According to this it got stuck in the void between galaxies. Something to do with a gravity well,” Seren did some more typing. 

“So Hokulua was just coming home to tell mum what was going on?” Annie sounded sad.

The screen flicked and moved quickly as Seren typed question after question. Finally she said, “Oh Mother… We did this.”

“What?” the other two said at once.

“The Great Techno-Mage did this. They trapped the Mother so she couldn’t tell anyone else and then took all the information and a plasma sample. All the technology our civilization is built on is from here and we hid it.” Seren felt sick at the idea.

“But why did the micro-stars not come back before Hokulua?” Annie asked.

From behind them someone cleared their throat. The man was tall and thin, his dark cloak and robe sparkled like the stars. His eyes were cold and distant, his sneer and disgust weren’t. “Because the Mother wants to teach everyone to be like her. We can’t let the other tribes and the pirates have the same technology as us.”

“Why not?” Annie stood defiantly in front of their ship’s Techno-Mage.

“We were almost wiped out. There were less than a thousand of us on half a dozen crumbling stations. We were the first to escape our dying planet but we were not meant for space. We were dying and if the others had the same technology, we’d be no better than we were. Our first mission as Techno-Mages was to protect the Children.”

“That was ten thousand years ago. We’re spread out over the entire universe. There are billions of us with powerful stations and… surely we can let the Mother go.” Seren felt disgusted. Her love of archeology was born from a civilization that used it to enslave. Their whole way of life was based on stealing and exploiting.

“We’ve spent ten thousand years trying to make sure the micro-stars stay quiet, subdued, and controllable. We hadn’t anticipated that the new AI would allow the stars to communicate. Once the Mother analyzes the data from the station it will know what we’ve done and it will be furious. It must be contained or destroyed. And now… so must you.”

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While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 8


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 8: Split the party, translate the ruins, and take a nap.

It was dark. Annie couldn’t see anything. It was the kind of darkness that sent people into a panic, but not Annie. She’d spent most of her teenage years in a small ship in space or crawling through maintenance vents. She took a deep breath and reached for her flashlight. She didn’t want to reach too quickly in case there was something in there with her or the area was unstable. 

Her flashlight was attached to a headband and she put it on her head and flicked the switch. She’d expected ancient ruins with pictographs on the walls. Something like an temple or pyramid. This wasn’t anything like that. She was in a small room with grey walls and a door with no handle. There was a large black rectangle next to the door that she assumed was a control panel. She moved towards it and noticed that the floors were made of metal.   

“I’ve been watching too many vids and reading too many fics,” she chastised herself. Although there was an improbable amount of crumbling trapped temples in the universe, they still were the minority.

The panel next to the door didn’t activate when she touched it and the rest of the room seemed pretty barren except for the spot she appeared in. That was exactly the same as the spot where she’d disappeared. The same markings that must have been a teleportation device or really smooth trap door.

She decided the best thing to do was wait. Annie knew that Seren would rush in and join her quickly unless Jan stopped her. Jan was both cautious and reasonable. It would make exploration longer but safer and Annie was okay with that.

It was just a matter of time. The room was secure; there was nothing for her to do but pry open the door so she decided to take a nap.

***

The hardest part about deciphering the symbols where Annie had disappeared was how long it took. Seren wasn’t a fan of waiting around and after they’d cleared the jungle growth from the square it was all about patience and decoding. It was a puzzle that should have excited her but she was worried about her friend.

They’d tried to reach her through coms but either she couldn’t answer or something was blocking the signal.

The symbols were trinary code. Similar to computer code but with a little more nuance. The markings quickly and efficiently described that the square was a teleportation device.

“Let’s go!” she said once they had the translation.

“This thing predates our civilization. How do we know it still works? Maybe it just transported her into space or underwater or into magma?” Jan was much too reasonable.

“Do you want to stay here?” Seren asked. She knew it was a mean question. No one wanted to be left behind.

They stood in the right place and everything went black. They waited and when there was no change in temperature or pressure they turned on their head lights.

The room was non-descript and there was a body in the corner. Seren threw herself at Annie saying, “Annie. Oh Annie.”

Groggily Annie responded with, “Nice to see you too. Took you long enough.”

“You’re a real jerk, you know that?” Jan said laughing. “You know it’s a two way teleporter?”

“I guessed but didn’t want to risk it being one of those sequential things where it sends me further away.”

The three of them did a much more thorough look around and found that the place had little to offer. 

“I don’t get it,” Seren exclaimed. “All we needed to do was walk into the right place and we were transported but the plants and vines weren’t.”

Annie nodded and added, “Also why aren’t there any animals in here? I can’t believe that a bird or small creature didn’t scurry across it.”

There was nothing in the room and nothing to indicate anything special. Finally, they decided to force open the door. It slipped gently into the wall, very similar to the design used by their own ships. It wasn’t hard to move, and on the other side of the door was a long corridor.

“No signage at all. How did these people find their way?” Jan asked.

“They might have been less dependant on sight and more dependant on smells or sounds?” Annie suggested. 

“Or whatever powers this place is shut down or dead and all the signage was projected or on screens.” Seren pointed at more black rectangles that looked like control panels. But the idea of smells and sounds made her wonder. “Have you noticed something about the air?”

“It’s clean. Not musty or shut in, but completely fresh. No outdoor smells either.” Jan looked surprised. “That means there’s something purifying the air.”

“So if something is keeping up life support but not signage or doors that means?” Annie asked and the other two shrugged.

They walked down a few more corridors without trying any of the doors. They were hoping to come across a control room or better, a library.

“This place is starting to feel familiar.” Seren couldn’t place why.

Annie, however, said, “It’s the same layout as the engineering floors of the Hokulua station.”

Taking the lead, Jan said, “That means there’s a control room just over this way.”

They ran towards the control room and opened the door. Inside, they expected a lot of computer equipment, but instead there was one screen attached to a small grey cube.

The screen turned on as they came inside and flashed several distorted images before simply showing green letters on black that said, “Hello.”

Read Next Chapter


While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 7


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 7: Landing, Walking, and Disappearing.

“Holy Mother-Of-Stars, the micro-star is sentient?” Annie’s surprise was uttered in a silent voice as they rushed through space. The station hadn’t sent anyone to escort them back yet and Annie was hurrying to make sure that didn’t happen.

“Yes, and we think the techno-mages having been hiding it the whole time.” Seren sighed at the implication that she’d come to believe. Their civilization, who’s guiding principle was to learn about and respect life, prospered on slavery.

They told each other everything that had happened and even after Annie explained that the star shaped ships had saved someone, they all held their breath as they passed the line of ships orbiting the planet.

When they’d passed the star shaped ships, Jan said, “Wow. There are a lot of them.” They were right; the ships seemed to have completely surrounded the planet with a hole where the station was transmitting something to the surface.

As the passed the line of ships, they saw the planet. Lush and green, it seemed to have more vegetation than anything else. The oceans were only forty percent of the planet.

Scans showed that under the plant life were ancient metropolises. “This planet must have housed hundreds of billions of people.” Seren sounded excited.

“Whoa! Can a planet even sustain that many people?” Jan asked.

Annie was the one who answered, “Not for long. I’m guessing they either left or died out.”

There were cities all over the planet according to the scans, but eight metropolises dominated the landscape. The eight formed a star pattern similar to the ships.

Scans also showed that each city had a giant building that hadn’t decayed and was shielded from sensors.

In the centre of the geographical star was an enormous version of these buildings. It was larger than most cities on the planets they’d visited. It was also where the station was transmitting information.

“Where should we land?” Annie asked, fully expecting the answer.

“We should go to the largest one. If the station is sending a signal, there must be someone to receive it,” Seren said, while taking deeper scans of the planet.

Jan had been looking at their screen and finally asked, “How did they get this much material? Those buildings are impossibly big. I can’t find any quarries or sign they recycled parts of the cities.”

“We’ll have to ask them when we get there.” Seren was practically vibrating in her seat. Annie expected her to dash towards the door and jump out.

The building was massive and had no obvious doors or landing places. The transmissions from the station was being sent to a small area of the building. Since it was the only reference they had, they landed nearby.

There was a small opening in the jungle that let them land, but the walk to their destination was going to be over harsh terrain. They had machetes to cut through vines in the survival packs but kept them sheathed. It was standard procedure to avoid slicing a sentient tree by accident. There were no paths, which was unusual. It meant there were no large animals.

The planet was definitely not dead, however, and they could hear bird songs and other small creatures.

“The larger animals would have no way to get up here!” Annie exclaimed. “We might look like we’re in a jungle, but we’re on a giant building’s roof. Big animals wouldn’t come up here since there are no large water sources.”

Jan looked impressed. “I thought you weren’t paying attention in school, spacebird.”

“I love flying, but I spent a lot of time with Seren and her curiosity is contagious.” They all laughed.

The laughter startled a small flock of birds and the sound of their wings was enough to bring the three back on task. They walked for over an hour before they reached the middle of the building, according to their devices.

There was no indication in the foliage or the ground to show this was the spot. Seren took out a scanner that would let them see what was under all the plant life.

She synced it to her computer and scanned. Watching the screen of her computer, she could see there was something under the plants, but it must have been blocking everything out. Just as she was getting frustrated, she saw an outline of a square.

Annie watched from over her shoulder and said, “I’ll go check it out.” She walked over to the square and started feeling for it. It was definitely an indent. She crawled slowly forward and when she was fully inside the square, she disappeared.

Seren yelped and ran forwards to help Annie. Jan’s strong arms stopped her and said, “Wait. If she’s been disintegrated or hurt, running into the same trap isn’t going to help. We need to study it some more.”

Her heart hurt at not rushing to help her friend but Jan was right and they had to be careful out here. She got closer and started to run scans on the area, hoping beyond hope she hadn’t lost Annie.

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