Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

“Alright, put on your spacesuits and wait for departure at the teleport cabin.”

The rescue mission preparation took less than 10 minutes. Getting inside the Tarian spaceship, Lora and Derek looked around. A wide corridor, where they had been teleported by Stan, partially collapsed with clusters of bare wires sparkling, broken pipes and pieces of twisted metal. The flat bio scanner monitor attached to Lora’s spacesuit displayed the ship scanning data. Thus, receiving the directions, they headed to the place with several bio signals. From time to time, the piles of debris became a serious obstacle and moving ahead was badly hampered. Making her way through the blockage, Lora lost her step causing her leg to slip from a pipe, wet due to steam coming out of it. The girl screamed, lost her balance and rolled down on the floor with a crash.

“Hey, are you ok?” the earthling didn’t manage to catch her on time, but immediately rushed down to help her.

“It seems so,” she winced with the pain in her knee.

“Shall we move on?” he was watching her closely.

With the corner of her eye, the girl assessed her physical state indicators that flashed on the spacesuit virtual display right in front of her eyes and nodded affirmatively. Then they continued the way to their destination.

“What do the Tarians look like?” asked Derek, carefully following Lora.

“You’ll see for yourself,” the girl answered. “Here we are! Can you help me move this bulkhead.

Applying a great deal of effort, the young people managed to free the entrance to one of the passenger compartments where, according to the scan results, a few survivors were. The place was filled with thick steam and, judging by the squishing sound under their feet, there was a lot of water on the floor.

Suddenly, from Lora’s side, Derek heard a hoarse rattling sound resembling the kind of speech that they heard during the broadcast from the Tarian ship.

“What’s this?” the young man looked around.

“I just asked in Tarian if there is anyone there” answered the girl.

“How can you make sounds like that?” the young man was perplexed.

“Thanks to another element of the UCD, the personal speech synthesizer,” explained Lora. “The thing is that human vocal chords are not always able to reproduce the speech of alien races. I’m sure you have seen this gadget before. It’s a pendant that all the Titanium citizens wear around their necks. It works as a speech device, receiving signals directly from the brain and wording my thoughts towards it.”

“I need one!”

“Of course, but for now activate the interpreter, installed in the spacesuit.”

“We are the rescuers from the ‘Solar Flotilla’ shuttle, our crew is ready to help you!” Switching on the device, Derek heard a perfectly clear translation of the rattling created by Lora’s synthesizer. “Come out, don’t be afraid,” she added and within seconds they were surrounded by five short humanoids.

Derek had never seen the Tarians before and was now staring with great interest at the creatures that had appeared in the dimly lit compartment. In physique, they looked like short stocky men who, instead of skin, had small red scales. Their short strong limbs had long nails at their tips, while the heads and partially the shoulders and back were covered with a leathery carapace that resembled a helmet. From under this armour, yellow snake-like eyes observed the humans who had just arrived. The young man unwillingly smiled, watching the aliens’ clumsy movements while the rising water was up to their waists now.

“You were asking for help,” the girl broke the long silence.

“Yes, the captain of this ship tried to get in touch…” started one of the survivors, “But we don’t know where he is now…”

“Our friends will try to find him. For now we can offer to evacuate you to our shuttle. The atmosphere created in one of its compartments is the same as the air composition on Taria. We’ll take you to Titanium like this.”

“To Titanium?” the Tarians looked at each other. “But your Council had refused to get involved…”

“We’re not getting involved,” explained Lora, “We’re just offering help to a spacecraft that had crashed. This doesn’t violate the terms and conditions between our races.”

The refugees nodded in agreement.

“That’s great!” smiled the girl, “I’m going to stick a transmitter onto every one of you, and it will initiate your teleportation into the compartment with a suitable atmosphere.”

By the time Chris’s agitated voice was on air again, Lora and Derek had already helped a dozen Tarians they had found in different compartments.

“Guys, finish with it! The fighter ships are already near. Paul is talking to the unit commander, who had been sent to Gron after the spacecraft that was shot down. Their ships will be here in less than twenty minutes. They have orders to destroy the remains of the ship.”

Lora looked at her watch.

“Message received, we’re coming back!”

“You’ll have to climb one deck up so that the beacon signal becomes stronger,” added Stan.

“The scanner has detected three more life forms on the level above us,” noted Derek and pointed Lora in the direction of the correct compartment.

“We didn’t follow this route when we came here. There could be piles of debris,” answered Lora. “Let’s follow the more certain way.”

“But the Tarians will die then!” insisted the earthling. “We’re obliged to save them!”

The girl sighed deeply and peered at the persistently flashing red light at the corner of the virtual screen. She didn’t want to tell Derek about her injury she had got due to the fall. Besides, regardless of the leg trauma, the chances of saving several other refugees were miniscule. At the same time, the risk of dying under the fire of the Tarian fighter planes far away from the place where Stan could teleport them was quite high.

“We’re not going there, Derek,” Lora concluded calmly. “We did everything we could. It’s time to go back.”

“The sooner, the better,” Captain’s voice could be heard on air. “The fighters are seventeen minutes away, and we also need time to fly as far as possible before the shooting. Come back, this is an order!”

“We can’t leave like this!” insisted Derek, “I can make it!”

“Now it’s not only your life you’re endangering,” suddenly firmly stated the girl, “Your efforts are senseless, if the captain doesn’t risk the shuttle and everyone else on board.”

“She’s right,” the captain interfered into their argument, “We’d have to stay very close to the debris in order to teleport you and the other three. And, Lora, what are your bio indicators?”

“Everything’s fine,” Lora tried to calm him down.

“It wasn’t just a minor injury, was it?” guessed Derek.

“There’s no point discussing it now, the main thing is to get out of here.”

On arriving at the shuttle, Lora was immediately transferred into the medical compartment. By the time Derek took off the spacesuit and entered the bridge, the ship had already left Taria’s satellite.

“You did a good job,” said the captain noticing him come. “How’s Lora?”

“Mary said that she’d be fine,” answered Derek. “What about the Tarian fighter planes?”

“A few seconds ago they started heavy shooting at the remains of the ship.”

“What happened to those the cruiser was aiming at?

“They remained there. Not one of them took the risk any more. I think, sooner or later they’ll either land on Taria or die.”

“Can’t we help them in some way?”

“We have no right to interfere in the domestic conflict, but have the order to return back to Titanium. Today ‘Solar Flotilla’ will leave Taria’s orbit. The Council made this decision less than half an hour ago.”