The Unity Chronicles


Insurrection

As a taste of what "Insurrection" has to offer, here is the prologue...

Prologue

We interrupt your regular televised schedule to bring you breaking news from the mining colony on Galapagos IV. In the last few hours, the colony has experienced unprecedented tectonic upheaval, and early reports indicate extensive damage to not only the mines but the colony as a whole. Naval recovery forces are on hand to lend assistance to any survivors, though all indications are that over half the population has already perished in the disaster.

The mining facilities on Galapagos IV are the galaxy's main source of weapons-grade gorinum, and it is thought that the presence of this often-volatile substance may have contributed to the scale of the destruction. Let us hope that this great tragedy is not compounded by a subsequent reduction in the availability of this vital commodity.

- The Unity News Network, unscheduled
bulletin, 22:44, 29th of January U70 (UST)

- - - - -

Kilya choked on the dust and smoke that still filled the air hours after the first concussions had rocked the colony. Her eyes had long since ceased streaming, dehydrated as they were, and now simply stung as she made her way, half-blind, in the direction of the spaceport. If there were any help to be had, she reasoned, it would be there.

She had already searched what was left of the residential district, forcing herself to calmness at first but growing more frantic with each passing minute. Felicia had been at school, on the other side of the spaceport; Gable had been on his way home from the mines, and had called her mere minutes before disaster struck. There was still hope for both of them, and she thanked the Creator that her husband had not been down the mine when it had happened. As for her daughter, the school had emergency measures in place and would have evacuated to the spaceport with the rest of the colony.

It was so hard to find her way. The familiar streets were not only shrouded in dust and smoke, but so many of the buildings were simply shattered and the usual landmarks by which she would navigate were no longer there. She could hear voices through the smoke, some distant and some nearby, but all filled with the same fear and despair that threatened to overwhelm her. There were a few cries for help from the rubble, but these were greatly outnumbered by the heart-rending sound of those searching for loved ones, calling out names with everything from hysteria to weary despondence.

The few militia who served as the colony's only emergency services were nowhere to be seen, and whether they had been lost themselves or were simply too few to make a difference was entirely unclear. The only ones responding to the calls from the wreckage were passers-by, be they the community-minded or simply those who had no loved ones left for whom to search.

For the rest of her life, she would never quite know what sent her down the side street she chose then; it was not the most direct way to the spaceport, and in fact even doubled back slightly on the route she had been taking. The rational part of her said she was turned about a little in the smoke and chaos, and that the air was clearer away from the main street so she sought it out. But there would always be a part of her that believed it was something more, the hand of Destiny perhaps, that showed her what she needed to see.

It cut through the local shops, taking her between the shell of a general store and a pile of rubble that she remembered had once been a popular drinking den. No sound came from either side as she stumbled against a part-shattered wall, pausing to catch what she could of her breath. Her lungs were burning and she was beginning to feel light-headed. There was a strange sense of unreality settling over her as she saw another pile of rubble partly blocking her path. The dust had already settled enough onto it that its shape was obscured, and she might have passed it by entirely had she not nudged it with her foot and felt it yield far more than any mere rubble should have.

She should not have been surprised to see a body there, given the circumstances, but something made her examine the figure more closely. As she did so, a sense of familiarity grew rapidly, accompanied by a gut-tugging dread. She did not feel her tears falling, nor hear her wails cutting through the smoky air of the colony. Gable, his big strong hands limp at his sides, his dark features lightened by their dusting of unicrete, lay in the dirt of the nameless side street. Kilya's world froze as the core of it was stripped away silently, a moment of gentle annihilation.

She had no recollection later of how long she knelt next to the corpse in the dust; it could have just as easily been days as seconds. But she would always remember what brought her back to full, conscious awareness; first of all were thoughts of Felicia, their daughter - and now the only thing left of her husband.

Second of all was the patch, almost obscured by dust, of dark red on the ground next to Gable's head. He had perhaps tripped and caught his head on a sharp outcrop of wall; but no, upon examining the half-cauterised wound in the back of his head, at the very base of the skull, it was clear to her that it had been no accident that had taken her love from her. The wound was the unmistakable signature of a laser burn. He had been murdered.

Her frozen blood very rapidly reached boiling point, and grief was swamped by pure anger as she rose from her knees. His burial would have to wait, and would most likely be dealt with along with the other casualties of the disaster. For the time being, she had only two objectives: find their daughter, and find the murderer responsible for her husband's death. She took off towards the spaceport, heedless of the continuing burning sensation in her lungs and face. Adrenaline coursed through her and she broke into a run, passing a few others making the same trek at varying paces. It was not long before she reached her destination, feet pounding across the wide spaces of the landing zones towards the terminal building.

Given that it was several hours since the first tremors had begun, she was taken aback by how few figures she could discern in the main concourse of the spaceport. The run had burned off much of the adrenaline and now she leaned against a wall taking ragged breath after ragged breath. Her head swam and dizziness threatened to send her sprawling on the floor, but her desperation to find Felicia kept her upright.

As soon as she felt able to step away from the wall, she set off to find evacuees from the school, casting around for familiar faces in the mere hundreds that had made it to the spaceport building. She recognised a few from her local neighbourhood, but none with ties to the school, and it was not long before she realised that there were very few children there at all.

She half expected someone to call after her as she ran from the building, taking the shortest route she knew to the school, but none did so. The air was clearer now, and it was only a few minutes before she crested the rise before the school as she had done so many times with Felicia in hand, the girl's perfect little face flushed from the short climb. On a clear day one's eye could follow the road all the way to the edge of the colony and beyond to the distant, dark and inviting smudge of a forest just creeping over the horizon. They had always talked of taking a day to visit there, getting out of the colony and trying for just a few hours to forget the life they were forced to lead.

This day, however, the dust had formed a haze that obscured anything more than a few hundred metres away; but even this was enough to see that the school no longer stood as it had, a squat but cheerful building painted in different designs and colours every year by the older students. Now what little colour was still visible lay under a layer of dust, muted and melancholy in the still air. Her mind was already building defences, trying to protect herself from the worst that she feared she might find as she approached. The only thing keeping her legs moving was the desperate hope that she had not lost everything in one terrible day. That the Great Destiny had not been so cruel.

There was a sound nearby as she started picking her way through the rubble, of very quiet, muffled sobbing. Kilya searched as best she could between the broken walls to find a small boy of around Felicia's age sitting in the corner of what looked like it had once been a classroom. His knees were cut and his hair was white with dust; he had his arms wrapped around his legs with his head off to one side as if he were trying to look away from the rest of the room. She touched him gently on the shoulder, but got no reaction from him save the continued mechanical sobs. She almost could not bring herself to ask him if he knew her Felicia, but her desperation once again overrode all else and she asked him. He did not react, so she asked him again, and again, trying to control the note of terror she knew was creeping into her voice. Finally the boy's arm unwound from his leg and he pointed towards the rubble a few yards away.

The pieces of fallen masonry and classroom furniture clattered aside as she half-frantically, half-carefully removed them from the area the boy had indicated. Her heart lurched into her stomach as she uncovered the corner of the dress she had helped Felicia into that morning. It brought back the image as sharply as if she were truly reliving it, the brand new dress they had given to her for her birthday just two days before with its bright pink flowers on the yellow background; her daughter's eyes as she opened the box; her heartbreaking smile as she saw herself in the mirror wearing it for the first time.

Now with every piece of wall or ceiling she removed, Kilya's nightmare came that much closer to becoming her reality. The leg protruding from the bottom hem of the dress was limp and twisted unnaturally; the pink flowers were joined by blooms of blood on her tiny, delicate chest; and when Kilya finally steeled herself to remove the farthest piece of rubble, she saw only lifeless eyes staring up at the sky. Her entire reason for living had been taken from her, and she was utterly alone.


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