He awoke sweating. He could feel the darkness pack in around him. He stood, quickly tossing off the arms draped on him. He walked quickly out of the room.

The coridor was lit every twenty paces, leaving most of the hallway in darkness, lit evenly by small pools of light. The air felt cool against his nakedness. But it was more than the temperature that was unnerving him. He was alone in the hallway, just him and the echos of his feet as they fell upon the tiled floor. He felt a presence though.

He had the distinct feeling that the air was pressing in on him, trying to slow him, yet at the same time there was not enough air to breathe. He began to run faster, the echos moving faster spurred him on.

After only moments he began to panic. The air felt heaver, he was running as fast as he could, but when he turned his head around, the lights behind him were shutting off, slightly faster than he could run.

He pushed harded he could no longer here the sound of his feet on the tiles, only his breathing and the blood pounding in his ears. He kept glancing back. Seven lights remained. Six. Five. The lights were going out faster than he could run. Suddenly the lights were going out as soon as he passed under them. HE pushed harder, he could feel his legs burning, his chest was on fire. But somehow he kept up with the lights, they dimmed only when he passed under them, a quick glace behind showed nothing past four paces behind him.

He felt it comming; his body just could not take it any more; he knew he would slow soon. He could not keep the pace up. His right leg suddenly didn't extend as far as it should have. And the world slowed.

In the span of a blink, the lights winked out. The one over head and then in order down the length of the hall. Until he was standing in darkness watching a small light get dimmer and dimmer.

It seemed his life was leaving with the light, he felt alone, empty. Then suddenly there was a THUMP. The air shook. IT came again, and again. And that is when he noticed it, the light almost so dim was getting brighter, in fact it was brighting much faster than it dimmed. Still the air thumped and the light became brighter, until he could hear something behind the thumping, a melody, a strained voice screaming. And the light at the end of the tunnel rushed at him faster than he could have ever imagined.

The darkness exploded! The light took up everything he could see. A star and so close he could touch it. The thumping and screaming were still there. The comforting music of Rock and Roll streaming though his cockpit. He felt the restraints, the subtil controls wired to varius parts of his body, tasted blood.

He pulled his fighter out of its descent towards the burning surface of the star. The screens were dark; information should have been pouring at him, more than he could handle. The air tasted fine, backup tanks had vanellia in them, and if you could taste it in the air it was time to leave. This air just tasted processed. He worked the ship rotating gently one way then the other on all three axes. All thrusters worked. He throalted forward slightly. The vibrations that shook him had nothing to do with the music. There was definately a problem with his main engines. but without computers he had to assume he was still falling towards the star, just no longer facing it. He maneuvered again putting the star off his left shoulder. He engaged the main engine again on its lowest setting. The cockpit vibrated hard. His gimbals were screwed, but he needed velocity; the best he could hope for was to sling-shot past the star. He kicked the engine up another notch.

It was sometime before he was no longer worrying. He now felt confident he would not fall into the star, well not before he was sling shot past it and hopfully saved.

About an hour later he saw it. A small planet. Orbiting this close to the star it was unlikly it held life, though humans had terraformed the worst of worlds. He started at the planet and for a moment felt horror, but with no purpose. Then it camp to him. Without the darkness of space as a background, he could see the debris. Between him and the planet was the defence force. Battle cruisers floated dead towards the star, and worse than that there seemed to be too many ships, too many to leave. And then as he looked over his shoulder he screamed as the sun exploded.

He sat up in bed, the woman at his side was awake. She was naked and staring at him, reached out a hand to touch his face, and he brushed it away. He stood and walked to the hallway. The lights were spaced about twenty paces apart but this time he could see both ends of the hall. He stood slowing his breathing. Fighting the images in his mind. The girl wisely stayed in bed, leaving him to his demons.

The university grounds were never crowded even when they were full. Studies of all the different races, or societies, moved freely within its walls, penilties for breaking the rules ranged greatly. Beyond explusion, the penalties were not spoken of, but widly believed to include life imprisionment or even death. Though all charges could be argued in a public fournm the verdic was delivered in private and for the more serious charges the person was never seen again. It wasnt the fear of the penalties that kept most of the students in line, it was the fear of being told to leave. Everyone who attended the university worked very hard to get there, and the fear of being sent away was enough to keep all but the strongest of habits in tack.

Today he did not see many faces just robes, as he made his way to class. Of the grand lecture halls, all had stadium seating, meaning that the speakers would stand at the lowest point in the center, and the students would sit in seats aranged in circles, each level higher than the last. Diagrams or instrustions could be projected above the head of the speaker, in a space know as the "Blackboard".

Given the relative calm of the university, in class, most students sat near robes of their own color; intermixing went only so far. Speakers, who would shout for diversity on the public grounds, no longer even comented on the seating arangments, having discovered that sitting students near others of different robes led to distraction and poor learning. So when one would look around the class, the students would be sitting in solid color schemes, often ending at a path that led up between the seats.

The buildings were being cleaned, the scafolds ran up the sides of the grand halls. The men working them leaping from scafold to scafold, hundreds of feet of air beneath them. Kilranum stopped walking and stared up at the men. No doubt they had saftey equiptment, but from this far he could not see it. From somewhere deep inside he felt the tingle, the beginings of the "Rage". He quickly drew his eyes away. His breathing was normal but he consintrated on it anyway trying to bury the growing feeling of excitment. Suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder, being so near the state of "Rage" he reacted without thinking, his training comming into play. His right hand darted towards his left sholder as he swong he left leg back, dropping his left shoulder. When he had the wrist he jerked forward and down across his body, pulling the man forward, and off balance.

The next step, being that their positions were now reversed, would be to immobilize his opponent, but he got back in control before that happened. As it was he was worried he was facing the back of green robe. The robed man was righting himself.

Kilranum's worries soon disapeared, as the green robed man turned to face him. The blad man was in his middle years, far older than kilranum, with a full beard. Wether they were bald or shaved no one of the Isand-societies, would say but you would never see one with hair on his head. Of all the societies the green robes were one of the most out going, doing there best to befriend even the most violent of races.

This particular man was named Steven, and Kilranum had meet him in prior classes, he had a quick mind and, though he was older had even more knowledge than you would suspect from his age.

"I seem to have forgot to not sneak up on you my friend." Steven said as he rubbed his wrist. Before Kilranum could so much as utter a word of apology Steven was waving his hands. "No worries my friend, no worries." It was a saying of the Island folk, 'No worries' meaning anything from no harm done, to hello, and everything in between.

Steven always wore his hood down, his almost black skin shining in the light. He always wore a smile as well. Today he had a bright red belt wrapped around his waist, no doubt it signified something, some holiday or religious event. Knowing no offesive would be taken if he slapped his face let alone asked after his belt, Kilranum did so.

"I see your belt is bright today, are you in celebration?" Steven looked down and said, "Walk with me." Kilranum nodded and followed. "Ah yes, today I was told my wife would be giving birth another child. This is my hope for a safe birthing for both my child and his mother." His smile held more of the meaning than the belt did.

"And what of you my friend? Have you any children? Forgive my question should it offend." Kilranum smiled no matter the question be it, 'How are you today?' or 'Did you kill your father?' he would always follow with 'Forgive my question should it offend.'

"I do not Steven, though one day I hope to have many. As you know we do not marry, though i have to admit sometimes marrage sounds eaiser." Steven laughed, not only that threw back his head and stopped walking. When he started again he had a tear running down his face, and chuckles still bubling up.

For a time the walked in silence. Then spoke of small things. What had they both learned since they had seen each other last, how Steven's Family was, his wife and children, his grandchildren. Steven inquired about Kilranum's family, but a glance was enough of an answer there, and they moved on to other things. Until Steven mentioned where he was headed.

Kilranum stopped, "What? He is here, at university?"

"Yes my friend, To speak on strategy and war games. The Battle-ship is under repairs in this very system. Tomorrow I take my family to see it, you are of course welcome to join us."

"I may my friend, I have dreamed of meeting him for a long time. And i wish also to see the ship again."

As they entered the building Kilranum was reliving the moments he had first seen the war ship "Phonix". It came floating through the darkness, his sensors were down, only had thrusters and those running out. There were no lights of course, it was war time, and all ships would run dark. But he could swear that at any second he would hit it, and yet to took so long. It came at him from the sun side, so he could actuly see it comming closer and closer until eventuly it blocked out the star completly.


continue to Chapter 4 of the story
return to Chapter 1 | Chapter 2
Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
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