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       Eldnium, p.43

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  Landon had never been to the docks. Li’an’s tour hadn’t included them in the orientation. Having come to the planet with Isaac, who used some form of teleportation, Landon was a bit anxious to see space for the first time. Anxious to ride amongst the stars. And the docks didn’t hold back on first impressions.

  As the three crested the final ridge, riding bareback on the rabodons, Landon could see the docks lined up before him, massive metal posts that started from deep within the ground and reached all the way to the edge of the atmosphere, disappearing into the sky. At the base of most, Landon could see ships attached to the posts, each ship different from the next. There were several hundred scattered across the land, stretching to the horizon.

  “Whoa,” Landon said. “How do we pick one?”

  “We’ll need something small,” Li’an started, “because the larger ones are too easy to track and detect.”

  “Not too small,” Tommy argued. At eight feet tall, Tommy would need a ship large enough to accommodate his immense size.

  “Not too small,” Li’an winked.

  They scouted the ships and eventually settled on a Triptech Mark VII because of its cargo capacity and fuel type. Tommy explained that this particular Mark VII had been used as a smuggling ship at one time, and so it had a number of hidden compartments that would be good to use for hiding things, if needed.

  The ship was a steely gray, pointed at one end and round at the other. The round end, Tommy explained, was the engine. It ran on hydrogen, which is, apparently, pretty easy to find in space. Along its sides was a pair of short and stocky wings. Tommy said that these made it capable of planetary entry without the use of docks, which would be great for planets that either didn’t have docks or required a stealthy landing.

  They boarded the ship and Tommy went straight to the cockpit. Landon started to wander, eager to check out the ship’s interior, but Tommy stopped him. “You’ll want to strap in for this. You can get up when we hit cruising speed.”

  Landon heeded Tommy’s advice and followed Li’an to the passenger area, where they clipped themselves into five-point harnesses attached to a couple of bucket seats mounted against the wall of the ship.

  “Ready?” Tommy asked over the intercom, his voice ringing and crackling through speakers Landon couldn’t see.

  Landon and Li’an looked at each other. “Ready,” she said.

  “Then hold on tight!” Tommy let out a little chuckle.

  There was a deafening boom, and in an instant, the ship was rocketing upward. Landon could feel himself being crushed beneath the force of the engine propelling the craft upward, and he tried to get a finger on his eldnium stone in order to help with the pain, but he couldn’t move his hand at all. The force was too great.

  The forces died out just seconds later, though; and Tommy entered the passenger compartment, hunched over so as not to bang his head against the ceiling.

  “Come on,” Tommy invited, “and I’ll show you around.”

  Landon and Li’an unbuckled and climbed out of their seats. Li’an started after Tommy, who was already out the door, but turned when she noticed Landon lagging behind and asked, “Are you coming?”

  “I’ll catch up in a minute,” he answered. She nodded politely and exited the room.

  At the far wall, a little porthole was mounted in the side of the ship. A soft beam of light passed through it and illuminated the ceiling. Landon went over to the tiny window and had to climb up the wall using some pipes and rivets as footholds in order to peek out.

  “Wow.” He caught his breath in his throat.

  Outside, the Sanctuary, a planet that once served as a hero’s only safe haven, glittered beneath him, its oceans bouncing light back into space, and its land and sky casting shadows that seemed to dance. He’d never seen so beautiful a thing in his entire life, and he wondered if any other planets could possibly be as beautiful as this one.

  For some reason, he found a knot hit the back of his throat, like he needed to cry, and it occurred to him that he was no longer just an orphan. He was homeless, drifting through space with two people he’d only known for a few days, running from the deadliest force in existence, and trying his best not to be The One.

  But he brushed that thought quickly out of his mind. It wasn’t the time to feel sorry for himself. There was an ocean cradling twenty-eight brave and selfless heroes on the planet below him, and he knew that there was more to life than self-pity.

  “No,” he whispered to himself, the glittering globe shrinking beneath his window. “I’m a fighter. And I have hope.”

  He climbed down from the porthole, his feet clanking against the metal, and stood up straight, his head held high. With a graceful spin, he turned his back to the window and faced the door. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then hurried to join Tommy and Li’an somewhere within the belly of the Triptech Mark VII.

  The End

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