I stayed with your great-grandma, because I was so little. The Emerald Emperor was very kind to us. Grandma Irelan said as she turned the page of her leather bound journal to continue reading to the children at her feet.
“We’ve been in a shooting war with the Union for over a century now. I was in my early twenties when it happened.” The green armored man said as he lead them across the grassy area. He let Irelan hold his wrist charm. “Still have it, Irelan?”
“Yes. See!” She held it up to his amusement.
“Keep it safe for me, okay? As long as it twinkles, it will keep you safe, too.” He had a nice smile.
“So, you look like you’re only in your forty-somethings now.” Commander Espiosa observed. “Please, explain.”
She didn’t trust the leader of the Emerald Empire. She strongly suspected that he might be lying, and she was going to find a way to escape if she could.
“Remember when I told you about the vaccination that made me a kind of chameleon?” He pulled at his ear, as if he was reciting common knowledge. “Some of the vaccines came from a slow-growing sea life. A giant clam. The virus was killing people at a geometric rate. In the first month, a thousand people died with their flesh turning into a soup right on their bodies. The first five days of the second month, there were another thousand. After that, the government was in a hurry.”
The commander nodded, imagining when the world stood on the brink of being sterilized by a virus mutated from a biogenic toxin of a war on another world.
“The government inoculated everyone, and like in the Pirate Confederacy home planet, it had unexpected results. Effects were varied. Mine was hiding in plain sight, but I also age slower.“ He thought for a minute. “By a factor of three or four. So, for every year I age, there is perhaps four decades that go by.”
He took a deep breath.
“Others, like my girlfriend at the time, she became somewhat…” They stood still for a moment while he paused in a memory. “Feline. She changed her name to Felinae Qatamount, then went into the hills to fight against the Union on her terms.”
“So, what happens when you get a vaccine now?” She looked at him. “I’m not going to have my daughter turned into a mushroom or anything.”
“Mush brooms? Yuck!” Irelan shook her head. “I don’ wanna be a mush broom.”
“No, after the government vaccinated everyone and it stopped the Rot, we went back and corrected the transcription errors. But those that were affected will have to live out their lives. The planet itself is under tight quarantine. You were only able to pass because you didn’t know of the magnetic flux of the planet.”
“This place sounds more like hell than a colony.”
“In some respects, yes. The virus mutated from a bio-weapon, from the DNA tests we did. How it got here, is unknown. Too many people died at once, but the magnetic fields of the planet are the root cause of it. We knew the life here would be a challenge with multiple north and south poles. with how many times they split and how fast they move across the planet it created genetic changes no one expected. “ They approached a transport surrounded by men and women in uniform who carried weapons. “The fastest was a north pole. It moved at a speed of six-degrees per day before it faded.”
He shook his head. “The effects were devastating with that intense of a flux. Machines failed immediately. The only things that worked were fiber optic powered systems with heavy shielding.I think that’s what nearly destroyed your ship.”
“We need to go back up and get it.” She said, there was no denying the force of her will. “There are personal effects of everyone, and I think the captain might still be there. We might have more passengers in stasis, still.”
“What?!” That stopped him from his tale of sadness and heartbreak. “We don’t have a place to launch a space rescue from. The Union took it over six months ago. They’ve been trying to figure out what is of value, and trying to sell it back us. “ A heavy sigh. “They are dismantling the systems as we speak.”
“Who, or what, is the union?”
“The conflicts between the colonies were political, but everyone believed in being green at the beginning, after terraforming. When the first colonists got here, there wasn’t anything alive. Lots of abundant resources, but no plant or animal life. Iron was abundant and there was no oxygen in the air. What my great-grandfather did was to start the great oxygenation of the planet with the use of plants. Grasses mainly, but trees have responded well to the high carbon dioxide content. There have been other challenges, including raw heavy metals that we exchange with Kepler-B for supplies.“ Ian explained. “It’s why this planet was more visible to the space-based telescopes that orbited around Longe Planeta near Pluto-Charon system. All this, was white rock and water. The reflectivity was much higher than Kepler-B, so astronomers discovered this planet first and colonized it second.”
“How do you keep us from dying, when we are out in the open like this?” She looked around.
“Oxygen levels are adequate, some twenty-six percent, but the carbon dioxide is at four percent. Which, is too high for humans and animals to tolerate more than a week or so. It gives us a limited ability to engage the Union on moves, but everyone has to run home and rest after that.” Ian said. “It’s okay to walk through, however. Just make sure you spend a few hours per week inside in a human-normal atmosphere.”
“You live here and can’t breathe the air?” Irelan’s eyes got big.
“Yes, sweety, we can breathe the air. That’s what you’re breathing now.” Ian chuckled. “You just have to stay inside more while you are here.”
Irelan made a face, clearly unhappy with that prospect.
“Don’t worry,” Her mom smiled. “We aren’t staying. We’re going to that spot in the sky.” Larsya pointed at a pale disk of Kepler-B, the first colonized planet.
“Mama? Do they have kids there?” The child asked.
“Yes, they do. We just have to get there.” She picked Irelan up and carried her in a big hug.
“I wanna go there.”
A child’s wish gave energy to the leader of the Emerald Corps to get them to their destination.