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Episode Twenty

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I think that we were all relieved to get out of that place. We shut the heavy door behind us (the Pak'ma'ra had translated the sign as reading "airlock" but it didn't seem to be so much an airlock as a heavy duty firedoor) and retreated to the guard station. There we slotted the data crystal into a reader.

"Damn," muttered the Human. "It's encrypted. It's going to take something pretty powerful to break the encryption. This stuff isn't any use."

I collected my bag of food and we left the installation. We had to find a way back to civilisation.

"Transport is not a problem." The Pak'ma'ra showed us the ground vehicle he had found in his wanders around the compound. Nar'Bon and the Human set to work on the vehicle. The Pak'ma'ra and I broke into another building - an admin area. It was stripped of anything useful so we couldn't decode the data, but there was no power anyway.

The Pak'ma'ra tried to translate some of the writing on the plasfilms he had. Whilst he was doing that, I went outside and made use of the tank water. I had sand in places that I would prefer that it wasn't, and I was undoubtedly carrying radioactive material. I stripped my clothing off and washed my body as best I could with cold water and sand. I pulled at my arm muscles in dismay. "I'm scrawny! Oh, G'Quan! This is awful!" I had lost so much of my muscle tone - even my legs looked wasted.

I washed my clothing too - it was all I had to wear and I was loath to throw it out despite it being contaminated. I was not worried about appearing in front of others without clothing - it was simply that something was better than nothing to protect me from this terrible hot sun.

After I had finished, the Pak'ma'ra came outside and washed. I learned more than I wanted to know about Pak'ma'ra anatomy. He told me what little he could make of the papers. Much of it was technical lingo and all he could gather was that they had been working on some form of alternate power generation source. A company called Xenin Corporation owned the installation - it wasn't actually military at all.

We had decided to leave in the late afternoon, when the sun was dropping and the heat of the day had passed. I took the data crystal and went back to the guard's room in the pathetic hope that maybe whatever had guided my hand before would help me now. I tapped in random numbers, but could not break the encryption.

Something on another screen grabbed my attention. A cursor on the screen was flashing and something began to scroll up the screen. I could not read it and before I could call the Pak'ma'ra in to tell me what it was, it vanished.

I went outside and yelled for the Pak'ma'ra. "Djikiden! Can you come and look at this for me?"

He obliged me and had a look at the screen.

"Something happened. Stuff scrolled up the screen and a little cursor blipped across it, then it disappeared again."

The Pak'ma'ra tapped a few keys. "It looks like there was a security uplink. If there were any Markab around to know, they would know that we are here."

"But what about this other race? They might not be susceptible to Drafa." The Pak'ma'ra looked at me and nodded as I continued. "I don't think that they would be happy to see us here."

"We had better go," we said to each other.

We had raided the food stores and refilled a water sling for supplies. It wasn't that far to Talorus, but I wanted to be sure that we had plenty. Then we all looked at each other.

"Can anyone drive this thing? I'm a pilot."

The Human smiled. "I'll drive."

We all piled in, with our supplies and roared off. We bounced over dunes - the Human seemed to be enjoying finding the roughest bits to drive over. The sun was falling low in the sky and we were close to Talorus when I spotted something up in the sky. It resolved into two small aircraft passing high above us. The others saw them too. Russell at first slowed, then bolted after the craft passed.

They were heading towards the installation.

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Na'Tiel's Story / Lynne / last modified29 February, 2000