Copyright Eric Lee Gardner 2021
BUZZ AND CHUCK:
Eric L Gardner
Over one hundred years ago, an evil empire was born. The Lantreskin Empire, from the planet Lantreska.
They waged war against the other free planets in the Cygnus System. One by one, planets that lived in freedom and peace, were conquered and fell under the mighty weight of the merciless Lantreskin military machine.
After fifty years, all planets in the Cygnus System were under the control of the Lantreskin Empire, except for one.
The planet of Pollux resisted the Lantreskin forces and stopped the evil empire from assuming control of their lives.
The people of Pollux are strong and independent, they love their freedom and lived in peace until the one-hundred-year war began against the Lantreskins.
In a desperate effort to crush the will and resolve of the Polluxian people, the Lantreskin Empire developed the most deadly weapon to ever be created at that time and used it in the Black Battle of Pollux.
The mega-force weapon leveled ten cities and killed millions of Polluxian people in one day. Over eighty percent of the Polluxian military was also killed. But the planet of Pollux did not fall that day and was not conquered by the Lantreskins.
At the very hour, when the mega-force weapon was used against the Polluxians, a secret mission was successfully carried out against the Lantreskins.
In that very hour, when millions of innocent Polluxians died, the evil Emperor of the Lantreskins was also assassinated.
The death of the Lantreskin Emperor, destruction of the Lantreskin command base, and deaths of the Emperor’s inner council and military leaders crushed the spirit of the Lantreskin Empire.
They withdrew their forces from the Pollux homeworld and have not entered Pollux space in thirty years.
Thirty years have passed since that Black Day. The Lantreskins still control most of the Cygnus System and Pollux remains free to this day.
Pollux has rebuilt and thrives once more and now is a shining beacon of freedom for the building resistance that grows in strength and number on all Lantreskin-controlled planets across the system.
To rebuild the Polluxian military, the Space Academy was established. The founding mandate of the Space Academy was to recruit and train new Space Cadets to serve and protect the planet and people of Pollux. The Space Academy has grown in size and importance during the last twenty years and now serves as the central headquarters of the Polluxian military establishment.
The top two cadets at the Space Academy are Buzz and Chuck. Buzz and Chuck have been best friends since they met on the first day of flight training several years ago. Both are ranked as Ace Pilots, top of their class, and elite spies; sent out across the Cygnus System on top-secret missions to collect intel and secrets about Lantreskin military operations.
Two years ago the Space Academy deployed a deep-cover spy, working and posing as a Lantreskin officer, at a secret base on one of the Lantreskin moons. The exact location and precisely which one of the twelve orbiting moons of Lantreska was home to the secret base was unknown when the spy went undercover. He reported to the command center on the Lantreskin homeworld for deployment to the base. That part of the plan was easy. The hard part was the task of making this young spy blend in with the Lantreskins, as they look very different from the Polluxian people.
In preparation for this dangerous, but extremely important, mission, radical facial and cranial surgery was performed to make the Polluxian spy look exactly like a Lantreskin officer. Lantreskins do not look like anyone from Buzz and Chuck’s homeworld of Pollux, or any of the other worlds in the Cygnus System, for that matter.
Compared to the people of Pollux, such as Buzz and Chuck, Lantreskins have a very large and pronounced forehead and frontal lobe, marking a striking difference to a normal-sized Pollux-shaped skull. In addition, almost all Lantreskin people are hairless, very pale, almost grey-skinned, and very tall. A Lantreskin child can stand over five meters tall, and a fully mature adult Lantreskin can grow to an average of seven to eight meters tall.
Lantreskins’ massive heads, deep-set eyes, extensive height, and pale-grey skin are enhanced by the odd shape of their limbs and body. Lantreskins have very long arms and legs, a relatively short torso, and thin, boney fingers. Given these vast differences in physiology, the Space Cadet who volunteered for this mission had to have his entire body changed, lengthened, and radically altered by a team of the best surgeons from around the Pollux globe.
After nearly six months of communication silence, the Space Academy finally heard from their embedded Lantreskin-looking spy. In a brief message, he was able to relay the coordinates of the secret base. A few hours later, Buzz and Chuck blasted off from the Academy hanger, each in their space fighter, destined for the moon of Beta/Prime.
Just out of Pollux orbit, Buzz and Chuck jumped to hyperspeed for the trip to the outer rings of their system, the location of the Lantreskin homeworld, and the orbiting moon of Beta/Prime. Mere minutes after arriving in Lantreskin space, deep within enemy territory, Buzz and Chuck’s space fighters were both hit by cloaked space mines, forcing them to execute crash landings on the far side of Beta/Prime, miles from the location of the Lantreskin secret, hidden, and well-guarded base.
Moon rocks exploded into clouds of dust, raining down jagged shards of debris and slivers of glowing crystals, which pelted Buzz and Chuck from every direction. Buzz smiled and yelled out in delight, the danger being his favorite sport, as he and Chuck ran at breakneck speed away from the two sentry drones. The drones could easily overtake them in speed, yet they remained behind them, soaring in attack formation, fifty meters above the moon’s surface. Blast after blast, the drones continued firing near-constant rounds of laser cannons in their direction. Closer and closer the lasers hit the ground at their running feet and seared past them, singeing their spacesuits and helmets.
Buzz and Chuck could both feel the heat from the lasers whizzing by as the two sentry drones came ever closer to completely overtaking them. If the unmanned drones caught up with them or forced them to stop running and surrender, Chuck knew that an entire squad of Lantreskin ground forces would surround and capture them within minutes. While Buzz enjoyed the pursuit, the thrill of running for his life in the face of certain death, Chuck had other thoughts. Chuck was running scenarios through his mind of how to turn this perilous situation into a victory that would get them one step closer to accomplishing their mission.
Buzz and Chuck were both trained at the Space Academy on how to run in their bulky spacesuits, but no amount of training prepares anyone for the brutal reality of running in low gravity, low atmosphere lunar environment while being pursued by two flying sentry drone ships firing white-hot beams of energy in their running direction. One misstep, one mistake, one simple trip would end the mission for both Buzz and Chuck in the most literal sense of the word.
Buzz and Chuck, we’re close to making it to their goal, a hidden cave on a small hill, adjacent to the secret Lantreskin base. They flanked right, then left, and right again, gradually banking in the direction of the cave, hoping to elude their attackers and prevent them from knowing their destination. Finally, the drones made their move to end this game of cat and mouse. The lead drone raced over their heads, continuing several hundred meters in front of them, and performed an effortless aerial loop to come about and fly directly at Buzz and Chuck from the front, laser cannons at the ready.
As the lead drone raced toward them from the front, the second continued to blast away, forcing Buzz and Chuck to continue running toward the lead drone. The lead drone dropped altitude and pointed its nose down, moving into position to resume its attack, by laser, or guided missile. Buzz and Chuck knew that this was the end of the line. They could surrender or go out fighting, they chose the latter. Currently, fifty-plus meters from each other, both reached over their right shoulders to grab their laser rifles, and then it happened…
Just as Chuck was grabbing his rifle, he disappeared from the horizon of the moon completely, tripping and tumbling down into a large lunar crater. Buzz turned to signal Chuck to begin the assault on the drones, but his friend was gone, erased from view. His heart pounded in his throat, as Buzz quickly scanned the moon’s surface for any sign that Chuck had been hit by the drones, but he saw nothing, save a cloud of dust billowing out of the crater, and he knew then that Chuck must be inside.
Buzz knew that if Chuck was in the crater, he was a sitting duck, an easy target for the drones.
“Chuck! Chuck. Do you read me? Chuck, please respond” Buzz called into the communications module built into his helmet. There was no response.
The drones circled the crater, searching for Chuck, who was somewhere down below, unresponsive, but alive. Buzz hid behind a large rock at the crater’s edge and noticed that the drones were not firing their weapons anymore, but continued to circle, searching for Chuck, who was still hidden by the rising cloud of lunar dust. Thankful that both he and Chuck had this reprieve from their aerial enemies, Buzz remotely accessed the vital signs and environmental status of Chuck’s suit.
A blinking red blip on Buzz’s head’s up display, or HUD, told him that Chuck was losing oxygen. Not only were Buzz and Chuck’s helmets networked with voice communication, but they also had in-helmet cameras, allowing each other to see the other person’s point of view and complete suit diagnostics and HUD intel. Life support, power, weapons, and defensive systems could be monitored by the other person’s in-helmet HUD and integrated computer. The blinking red light was growing in speed and intensity, Chuck was losing oxygen fast, something had to be done soon.
Buzz peered around his large rock and saw that the two drones were still committed to a relentless search and destroy mission, still intent on finding and targeting Chuck. While the dust cloud was still present, continuously stirred by the two drones’ occasional blind laser shots into the crater, Buzz knew that this opportunity would not last forever. For some reason, both drones had either completely given up on Buzz as a target; or had mistakenly assumed that both had fallen into the crater. In either case, this was the break that Buzz was waiting for. If he was to save his best friend, Buzz knew that he had to act now!
“Chuck.” Buzz yelled again into his helmet comm-system, “I know you can hear me, at least I hope you can,” he paused and turned again to make sure that the drones were still circling the crater and not headed his way, “I’ve got a plan. Check your bag and suit compartments for your repair kit, we have to get that crack fixed in your helmet’s visor. I will take care of the drones, you just stay there, you’re covered at the moment, and worry about breathing.” Buzz charged his rifle and took a deep breath, “I’ll be there soon buddy, hold on!”
Following the lights from their helmets, suits, and rifles, they walked deeper and deeper into the cave.
According to their intel, a secret entrance to the base was hidden 500 to 1000 meters from the mouth of the cave. Mission parameters mandated that should the entrance not exist, or if the cave collapsed or was completely inaccessible; Buzz and Chuck should contact the command for further instructions.
Buzz and Chuck hiked well beyond 1000 meters into the cave. Along the way, they passed several passageways and offshoots from the main corridor. They continued on the main path, to not get lost. Chuck stopped and held up a fist to signal Buzz to stop.
“Buzz, clearly there’s no secret entrance unless it was down one of those side tunnels. Mission specs say that we need to backtrack and contact command.” Chuck said as he turned around, prepared to retrace their steps.
“Come on Chuck! We could still find the entrance to the base, it’s probably right up here. You know better than me that the intel we got regarding this cave was spotty at best. You read the brief three times, what did it say about how far, how deep into the cave it might be?” Buzz lifted his eyebrows and tilted his head, waiting for an answer.
“Hold on, I’m pulling it up right now.” Chuck flipped through pages and menus in his HUD, looking for the intel regarding the “secret back door” to the enemy base. “Here, check it out.”
Chuck sent the page with the cave intel over to Buzz’s HUD so he could read it for himself. Both Buzz and Chuck read through the intel doc. Chuck started at the beginning and read every word. Meanwhile, Buzz was on the final page already, as he was scanning the intel for the details about the cave and how deep they would have to hike.
“Got it. Chuck, last page. Says here, the door could be approximately 500-1000 meters from the entrance of the cave.” Buzz glanced at Chuck with a qualitative look.
“Alright, we’ll press on down this main passage another five hundred meters. Or, until we find the secret entrance to the base. Copy?”
“Sounds good.” Buzz smiled and slapped the back of Chuck’s suit. “See, we’re having fun already!”
Chuck gave a faint grin and rolled his eyes as he and Buzz switched their helmet displays back to the Explore/Tactical function, which gave them enhanced scanning, optics, and night vision. Buzz and Chuck continued to traverse the main corridor at a slow and steady pace. The proximity to the Lantreskin Lunar base made this cave a prime location to stage their covert attack The cave’s proximity would be essential and potentially life-saving, should the intel Buzz acquired, regarding the secret backdoor prove to be faulty.
However, this prime location made it a very dangerous place as well. Buzz was surprised that the cave’s entrance and main corridor were not crawling with Lantreskin soldiers on routine patrol from the base. Chuck had other concerns on his mind, of the mechanical variety. He had a gut feeling that the drones from which they just barely escaped with their lives, were not the end of such a threat, but could be the first of three very deadly types of drones.
Buzz & Chuck continued down the main tunnel as silently as possible. Chuck carefully monitoring various view screens located on his suit’s forearm and helmet HUD. Each screen provided faster-than-real-time monitoring of the array of sensors built into Chuck & Buzz’s suits and weapons. Meanwhile, Buzz gripped his rifle tightly and kept it aimed in every direction he looked, using both the built-in scope and wireless targeting data in his helmet’s HUD.
After 20 meters the cave floor began to gradually rise and each step that Buzz & Chuck took required more and more effort. This was not a problem at first, but another 20 meters deeper into the cave the floor practically became a wall. The path was so steep that it could only be climbed by using the jagged rocks, protruding from the surface, as a means of scaling this obstacle. Both Buzz & Chuck knew that about 10 meters above, the cave continued as a walkable path.
Both Buzz & Chuck trusted their sensor readings, knowing that the mini-drone had already flown up the wall and continued deeper into the cave, however, Buzz began to worry that they had chosen the wrong path, back when they had a choice of three possible cave tunnels.
Carefully they climbed, further and further into the heart of the cave, deeper and deeper into the unknown. Every hand placement and each foothold of jagged rock was a risk. One wrong move or indecision when climbing could result in one or both of them falling into the darkness below. If they fell, they could die or be injured from the impact or worse, lose pressure and the ability to breathe if their suits tore on one of the rocks sticking out from the wall or waiting for them at the bottom in the pitch blackness below.
The corridor was very long and seemed to slope downward forever. to their surprise, a door was at the end and opened into a massive chamber. after that, tunnels, switchbacks, stairs, more doors, ancient language carvings, etc. wet floors and walls. (ON A MOON???) expected secret hidden backdoor to Lantreskin base…not this!
Until next time, keep your eyes on the horizon, and never, ever, give up!
Eric Lee Gardner