Chapter 1: The Arrival

 “Three years, three years of being cooped up in this ship,” Captain Cortez muttered to himself as he readied the landing gears. “Finally, we have reached Planet MD-0715 and now the human race will begin their journey into the farthest reaches of the galaxy.” 

Captain Cortez stood at the bridge of the colony ship that he had been the proud captain of for three years. A ship that had carried 3,000 passengers and now was his, and his crewmates’ moment to begin anew.

“Captain, would you like me to alert the crew to begin preparations for colonization?” said Lieutenant William.

“Yes,” said Captain Cortez confidently with a tired, yet proud smile on his face. The years of multiple colonizations and battle could be seen in the man’s eyes, and his scar engraved body made the accent even more. His embellishment of scars wasn’t anything large in nature, little nicks and cuts here and there, most of them so old they almost looked as if they were supposed to be there and everyone thought they matched the man’s demeanor well, so he wore them with a slight sense pride.

The ship began to descend into the atmosphere, slicing through the clouds like a hot knife through butter. While on its way down, the pilot as well as the navigator began

searching for a place to land. They pressed buttons furiously at their stations while studying the data that was quickly appearing and disappearing on the screen, reading the data at an amazing speed like only a computer could do. They had been waiting for this moment for a long time and were anxious to get on the surface. Once they found an ideal landing spot the pilots began to maneuver the thrusters and gently decrease the power so that the ship would slowly touch the ground.

The thrusters from the ship started whipping the trees and other local flora around as the ship descended. Captain Cortez gazed out into the wilderness through the dust that was rising with the land, his green eyes piercing through the window to see a jungle that was just as green. It was amazing. Cortez ran his hand through his short chestnut hair with a sigh of relief that the land went smoothly. Taking in all the colors and beauty, he found himself starstruck. It had been a while since he and his crew had seen the color green and it was everywhere and it was absolutely mesmerizing. 

“What a place, what an adventure......” Cortez then quickly snapped around and said boldly to his men, “Let’s start prepping the ship, but I want to send out a few scouts to do some recon! I want a perimeter set YESTERDAY and guard posts set with alternating MP’s!” Cortez’s voice boomed through the ship.

The entire ship began to change as rafters began to open, walls began to shift, and the colonists prepped the ship to be converted into a small village pulling all sorts of contraptions and tools from the stowaway cabinets behind them.

The crew loved when Cortez got like this, they loved his fire for his job and his crew, his sense of adventure and keen eyes, and his diligent attitude that sparked fire and drove the crew, all that made him the great leader that they all knew and loved. Cortez treated them all like a family and they felt it.

“Alright sir, we’re ready to head out,” Lieutenant William said to Cortez, approaching him with three squads of six highly trained soldiers.

“Good, take a quick circle to check around and then proceed into the jungle,” Cortez replied. William’s men held their rifles tightly in their hands, for they were on an alien world and did not know what was ahead. “AND BE CAREFUL, THAT’S AN ORDER!” he barked while he was walking away. William smirked and they did a quick round then picked a small clearing and proceeded inside.

Once inside, they realized that very little light got through and the dense foliage diminished much of the light. Fortunately, it wasn’t too dark and they were able to see, so they proceeded further.

“Lots of bugs everywhere...” murmured one of the soldiers.

“Oh, quit your whining, Johnson, bugs aren’t that bad,” hollered Clayton from the rear.

“Hey guys, check this plant out!” The soldiers hustled over to investigate the peculiar plant that seemed to be bioluminescent and glowed in the shadows of the large trees around them. The plant had a slight blue glow that permeated the entire main stem and even into the minor stems, while the leaves had a violet-red hue to them. They admired the beautiful plant for a bit before moving on. When they came to an entire field full of these plants, a few of the soldiers took off their helmets to get a better look at the scenery.

“Hey,” crackled the radio. “You guys better head back. We just picked up a storm heading our way, it seems like they pick up pretty quickly here and this guy’s comin’ in fast!”

The squad leader Bruce Knell radioed back, “Don’t worry we will be on our way momentarily. After the storm though, you should send a team to investigate these plants we found. They’re quite beautiful, and sort of glow in the dark.” 

A small amount of rain began to come down. Some of the plants began to release pollen, almost as if they were dropping it on the soldiers. The soldiers quickly threw on their helmets and began to head back to the ship, except for Benson. Benson continued to stare at the plants, entranced.

Bruce turned to look at him, “Hey Benson, come on man, we gotta get back!”

Benson continued to stare at the plant as if not hearing Bruce. “Benson, come on, that’s an order!”

Bruce attempted to grab Benson but Benson shoved him aside and continued leaning closer to the flower as it opened its beautiful violet-red petals. Benson looked up and began to reach out for the flower. Bruce, who was quite shocked that Benson would disobey orders, swiftly darted over to him. Just as Benson reached out for the plant, it shot thorns straight into his face, incapacitating him immediately. 

Bruce quickly picked Benson up and began carrying him back to the ship. “We’ve got a man wounded! We need to return to the ship now!” yelled Bruce on the radio.

Benson had multiple thorns embedded in his face and torso that were several inches long and he was muttering deliriously. As they headed back to the ship, the storm continued to worsen. The rain fell very hard and a light fog began to set down in the area just as the soldiers reached the clearing where the ship had landed. Benson started convulsing as his eyes rolled to the back of his head.

“We need a medic NOW!” You could hear the fear for his comrade in Bruce’s voice.  While getting ready to board the ship they started to feel a tremor in the ground. “What is that?” muttered Bruce. The trees nearby began to topple over as something came furiously rumbling towards the ship.

“What the hell is that thing?” screamed Clayton. The crewmen inside the ship saw huge wings peeking through the trees towards the ship. The insect looked like a spider-beetle mix. The soldiers were horrified. Captain Cortez deployed two soldiers with mech-suits. These mech-suits weren’t really meant for a war but did carry some small arms weaponry, as well as augmented strength and decent mobility.  The two mech-suited soldiers briskly ran towards the enormous creature in an attempt to get it to focus on them, laying down a barrage with everything they had. The huge insect slammed one of its six legs down, crushing one of the mech-suits, then swiftly turned around spitting a web on a small group of soldiers, only to sever them all in half with its’ pincers in one fell swoop. Captain Cortez wondered how they could possibly defeat this beast.

Johnson, in the mech-suit, thought quickly and bolted towards the beast, clutching one of its legs in an attempt to tip it, or at least divert it. While the insect was distracted, the soldiers charged up to its legs and madly stuffed grenades between its huge exoskeleton plates. The grenades exploded, severely wounding the creature, even sending some of the shrapnel of its exoskeleton amongst the soldiers. This was just enough that the mech-suit was able to tip over the creature. When it fell, the soldiers darted up to it and began firing their rifles straight into the head of the beast, ensuring that it was dead. The soldiers then scurried back to the ship and waited for the storm to pass.

“Teerza, can you get a message to Earth letting them know of our situation?” asked Captain Cortez. Teerza had been on a few missions with Cortez now and they both trusted each other greatly. Cortez always requested to have Teerza at his helm and wouldn't have it any other way, hell, he even thought about asking her to dinner a couple of times. Her blond hair and fierce icy-blue eyes that backed her strong diligent personality captivated him; he loved the strength and potential he saw in her. Yet her porcelain complexion and delicate frame gave a grace to her that made him feel at home whenever he was on the bridge with her at the helm. With just herself, she provided him with a nostalgia he couldn’t explain. It also reminded him of the ambition of his younger self when he first joined the United Fleet.

“I will try but we may have to wait for the storm to pass.” replied Teerza. She began

attempting to reach Earth, but caught nothing but silence. As soon as the storm passed, she tried again but was still unable to contact Earth. “Captain, the storm has passed but for some reason we’re still unable to get a message out.”

“That’s strange” Cortez remarked, “have your men scan the area and see if anything is causing interference, I don’t really think that....”

“Sir, something appears to be in orbit,” Teerza swiftly interrupted. “It’s large... very large and right above us,” her words shaking after a long pause. “Sir, we’ve lost all control...our systems have been shut down and we don’t have any access.” Captain Cortez ordered a couple soldiers to step outside and check it out. They walked out of the cargo, stepped outside and witnessed something... huge. It started to block out the sun.

“What in God’s name?” one of the soldiers said under his breath.

“We’ve got to tell Captain Cortez!” shouted another soldier.

The soldiers hurried back to Cortez. “Sir, there’s a giant aircraft above us!” One of the soldiers reported in a hurry.

“Do you know whose?” Cortez inquired. “Bots, Thabians, Pirates? Come on boy, give me a little more information here.”

“I can’t tell, it’s so large it’s blocking the sun! I can’t see anything other than shadows, but I don’t think they’ve noticed us yet,” the private replied.

Captain Cortez went to the exit and saw three crafts passing over them. “Okay, unfortunately we need to move post, I don’t know if they noticed us, but I’m not taking that chance. We’ll move somewhere that the recon team already scouted out.” He looked around the room to the now worried and shook crew. “We’ll leave half of the pop-up buildings and supplies so it looks like there’s a camp here and we may be able to set up an ambush in the near future. As of right now, we need to get moving, so grab what you can with the teams you were assigned and let's hustle!” The crew scampered around in an organized mess to grab what they could and get moving before any imminent threat became a possibility. They eventually came to a small clear patch in a heavily wooded area and Cortez ordered everyone to set up the new camp presently.

“Great job everybody,” he stated confidently hoping to improve the morale. “It’s been quite a rough welcoming party, so I’m calling operations a bit early this evening. You guys know I won’t lie to you and this is kind of sticky, but we’ve all been through worse together and I think we can survive a fun night of camping” he joked, noticing some of the people giggling and getting a pep in their step. “I want everybody to focus on security and taking inventory to see what we were able to salvage. We’ll pick back up on everything first thing in the morning. You’re all doing a great job out here; let's not let a little rain ruin our parade. Remember why we’re here.”

Cortez went to the edge of the clearing to collect himself after the day's events. How could he be so calm after losing those men? His soul burned for their loss. How did his crew feel about that? Would he lead them in the right direction? What if he lost more? He'd already lost so many. What about all the supplies? What about—

“Hey...” Cortez snapped out of his spiraling worries. He turned around to see Teerza softly walking toward him and he immediately felt at ease. “Everything okay?” Teerza asked with concern.

“Yeah, thanks, I’m just worried about the crew and our situation. I know we’ll be okay; I just only imagine what must be going through their minds right now,” Cortez said softly while staring down at his feet.

This is why we love you sir, Teerza thought to herself. Cortez didn’t even notice how injured he was, or how damaged his armor was, his sole focus was his crew members. The moss that had already collected on the soles of his boots, the dings and burns from the recent blasts, and the little bits of blood, grime, and scrapes became him.

“...But I’m going to head in for the night, Teerz.” Cortez dragged himself back to camp. The evening sun hit his shoulders and the beautiful environment and foliage encapsulated the surreal moment.

Has he always walked like that? Teerza noticed heat rising in her cheeks.

“Sir, I’m sorry to disturb you, but you have to come here now,” said a frightened private peeking into Cortez’s room. Cortez awoke and walked outside to discover a POW in their capture. A barrel-chested faun with hooves like a Clydesdale. Green-violet skin a red mohawk and a beard adorned his head. Insect-inspired coiling tattoos covered his arms and shoulders and he had woven large insect parts into his armor.

“He had two cleaver-like weapons on him when we found him. He was watching our camp from the tree line,” said one of the soldiers restraining him. “He fought pretty hard to not be captured, but he hasn’t really given us a struggle since.”

Cortez observed the man for quite some time, taking in every little detail, noticing the great braid work on his weapons and armor, the intricate detail of his tattoos, and his demeanor as he sat bound and tied, every little detail.

Cortez crouched next to the captive trying to be polite, yet direct. “Who are you?”

“Tʉr Hʉru!” spat the captive.

“Gotcha, well I’m going to assume you don’t know English. Unfortunately I’m going to have to keep you because I have a mission to search for water and I can’t let you just go running off willy-nilly,” Cortez remarked facetiously.

“Xetechʉnguz tʉr!” The captive lunged forward, miraculously breaking free from his bonds, reaching forward to grab the Captain’s neck. BANG!

“William!” Cortez shouted now staring at the lifeless corpse of the prisoner. “I did not tell anyone to open fire dammit!”

Just then, a spear lodged its way into Williams’ chest and he hit the ground immediately. Cortez snapped his head to the tree line behind him to see three more men that looked the same as the prisoner sprinting directly toward them. “Open fire!” he barked and the three men were gunned down just as fast. Silence.

“Okay Teerz, I need you and your team to try and make communication again and tell Fleet that we have met resistance and await further orders.”

“Yes, sir” Teerza saluted pensively and marched off to her team.

“Great job everyone, it’s because of YOUR diligence that we succeeded here today, keep it up and this colonization will be as swift as ever!” Captain Cortez exclaimed to the group.

“Sir, communications are online since the unidentified aircraft has passed, Fleet Command has ordered to proceed with colonization and to remove any obstacles to the mission,” Teerza chimed in over his comms. “However, I feel we should go back to the old camp for the communication equipment from the ship. I don’t want to damage the ship, but comms are already scratchy and we don’t know how far out we’re going to have to go.”

“Thanks, Teerza. Alright guys you heard the lady, it’s time to buckle up and remember why we’re here. This is for our planet, so we gotta go back there and retrieve that comms equipment before anything else happens. We have run into resistance. This is a reality now, so stay on guard and be ever-vigilant. I want a recon team to go out and do a patrol; this is not happening again. If anyone’s going to strike first, it’s going to be us. Bruce, gather and send the men. I want a small strike team of five volunteers to execute this mission, so if you’re willing to do what you came here for, then meet me by my tent in five.”

The entire camp was in a hustle, you could see the new-found strength amongst all the colonists and soldiers working in unison. People shouting, equipment being handed down assembly lines of men, even medical staff and scientists were getting involved with setting up the new camp for the return of the strike team. Bruce Knell’s team approached Cortez with his collection of MPs’ for the patrol.

“Sir, preparations are in order and we’re ready to move out, are there any further orders before we proceed?” Bruce inquired.

“Thanks Bruce, I know Benson and William were good friends of yours, which is why I chose you for the patrols.” Cortez’s voice was soft, then abruptly dropped to a serious tone and with a smirk on his face he said, “So give ‘em hell and show them what it means to tangle with the United Fleet.”

Bruce’s face lit up with rage and excitement at the opportunity to avenge his comrades and it made him feel even better that Cortez knew. “Yes, sir!” Bruce snapped fiercely. He turned to leave with his unit just as five men approached Captain Cortez.

“Sorry if it’s a bad time sir, but we’re the volunteers you asked for,” said one of the members.

“Don’t apologize, I asked for you. As for the mission at hand, is everyone here prepared?” Cortez asked and looked around the members to assess their current condition. They seemed fine enough, a little shaken, but you could see the fire in their eyes just underneath it.

“Yes, Sir!” the strike team confidently roared.

“Let’s move out!” Cortez screamed like a battle-cry with blood in his throat. Birds and other various fauna left nearby trees and other homes as his voice shot through the dense jungle like a cannon. Cortez was enraged. His ship was damaged, his crew wounded, the colonization had been on hiatus, and he was ready and determined to change their luck. All the men saw Cortez’s rage and it provided them with some much-needed poise.

They left promptly and started off for the tree line they had come from before. After some time wandering the jungle and the destruction that had been left from the weird giant beetle-spider that everyone chose to not talk about, Cortez had the men stop not too far from where the downed ship was located.

“I see four men of the same kind we captured earlier up ahead... looting MY ship dammit...” Captain Cortez coarsely muttered under his breath, irritated at the fact that it was even able to happen in the first place. He took a long clearing sigh and proceeded to devise a plan.

“Okay, six of us and four of them, piece of cake guys. I want to try and keep this silent; we don’t know if they’re wielding firearms, or if there are any more of them in the immediate vicinity. Two of you go left and two of you go right, last one I want to flank around the entire back and get behind them. I’m going to approach directly in front in case anything goes south, I can distract them toward me. Everyone set your watches to the same time, we execute in three minutes, get in position.”

The strike team made preparations then sank into the shadows around the area waiting. They could see that the humanoids were ransacking the ship, but oddly enough, they weren’t taking anything of significant value. Either they didn’t care about the value, or had no idea what they were even pilfering through.

The left and right men of the team started slinking forward, using the rustling of the foliage in the wind to help muffle any sounds of movement they might be causing. After getting into position, they waited around to observe the humanoids and the area around them. Even with all this commotion, it was still beautiful. The sun poking through the tree tops danced playful rays of light that created such a contrast in the thick jungle, it was oddly serene.

It was time to move though. Left team snuck up behind one of the men, muffled his mouth and rammed his knife directly in his collarbone, killing him almost upon impact. Right team concurrently executed the same plan but right as one of the soldiers drove his knife into the humanoid, the other two that were walking back and forth from the ship caught them in the act. They snapped to the right team and started to raise their spears in retaliation.

“Hey!” Cortez shouted, catching the humanoids off guard, while simultaneously shooting one of them in the chest after laying down some harassment shots. The last humanoid, noticing he was now the last at this point went to turn and flee, only to be met by the knife of the last soldier who snuck around back. The dagger pierced his gut so deeply from the force of the running that it had lodged in his spine and the soldier couldn’t remove it. His lifeless body hitting the hard ground was almost like an exit bell to a hard day's work.

“Perfect,” Cortez said complacently. “Nothing more satisfying than a plan actually going as planned, I find it hard to believe that could’ve been executed better. Great job men, quick, clean, and efficient, we keep this up and this little bump in the road will be something we all laugh about in the chow hall later!”

The men felt great about how well everything had gone. It was so short it was almost like they didn’t even engage in combat only moments ago. Cortez could definitely see the rising morale with this mission and he was glad that it went so smoothly. This was exactly what the colony needed and when they got back with the comms equipment and were able to proceed with the mission, it would feel all the better.

“Hey everyone,” Cortez collected attentions. “We need to dispose of the bodies. Eventually they’re going to notice that their scout party has gone missing, so the best we can do is get rid of the bodies so they assume that the scouts simply aren’t here anymore, until they actually figure things out.”

“Sir, might I suggest we bring a cadaver for research? We could learn a lot about this planet if one of our scientists took a look at their anatomy,” one of the members piped in.

“If you want to carry him,” Cortez chuckled.

“Yeah, you guys would look cute together,” another member popped off.

“Piss off, it’s for research, it’s not like I want to carry his heavy ass,” the first member replied sharply.

“Don’t lie, you guys would be adorable together as you carry him off into the sunset.”

The two men kept teasing each other as they approached the body of one of the humanoids. One of the men then promptly started to lift the bodies when a beautiful crystal rolled from his pants pouch.

“The hell is this?” one of the members asked puzzled. The crystal was a beautiful shimmery white pearl or seashell, no bigger than a half dollar, and emitted a slight energy that felt like licking a weak battery. It was something no one there had ever seen before.

Cortez examined it with great intrigue. In all the years he had been with the United Fleet and all his travels, he had never laid eyes on something like this. Was it a crystal? A useful mineral? Some dumb rock? His brain rocketed through all the possibilities and assumptions of what the thing might be. He jogged over to the comms on the ship to miraculously find that the scavengers hadn’t tarnished it.

“Hey Teerza,” he commented over the ship radio.

“Yes, Captain?”

“I’m currently talking to you over the ship’s comms. Mission Success. However, we seem to have an independent variable. I need you to request counsel from Fleet Command for my return. We are heading back your way now.”

“Yes sir, I’ll get on that immediately.” Teerza confirmed.

Cortez then turned off the comms and began unhooking all the equipment they were going to need for the new camp location. After several minutes the team was ready to move out. It took them about an hour and a half with the weight of all the tools and equipment, let alone a corpse, between just the 6 of them. When they finally arrived, the entire colony met them with praise and open arms, knowing what the success of that mission meant for them. But Cortez wasn’t worried about praise, he was content with just knowing what he and his men were able to do for the colony.

“Sir” Teerza approached Cortez through all the congratulators. “Fleet Command will be ready to speak with you in thirty minutes. We should go now to avoid any kind of delays.”

“Yes ma’am.” Cortez said seriously, yet sarcastically. She wasn’t sure how to take it. Cortez about-faced and started on his way toward his tent, leaving Teerza confused, alone, and embarrassed. He giggled to himself while leaving her a few steps behind him. While it wasn’t the focus of his mission, seeing her cheeks flush was the first thing he had cared about seeing when coming home... Coming home? Cortez thought. Teerza handed him the phone they had ripped from the wall of the ship and he went into a deep stare at the realization he had just come upon. Oh my god... all this time... it wasn’t the ship... It’s HER...

“Uh, sir, everything okay?” Teerza asked the wall-gazing Cortez who couldn’t collect himself.

“Uhhh yeah, totally, it’s great.” Cortez fumbled over every word and swiftly turned to face the wall to call Fleet Command.

Yeah, totally? Teerza thought, worried. She knew something was bothering Cortez and he normally didn’t hide things from her, which made her all the more nervous about what it could be, especially while he was calling Fleet Command!

“This is Captain Cortez of the United Fleet, Colonization and Intergalactic Affairs Division 616326, aboard the U.F.S. ‘Diligence’.” Cortez’s voice cut through her thoughts and she listened in on the conversation.

“Afternoon Captain Cortez, this is Ambassador Fraulic, your subordinate Teerza updated us of your current situation and said you had requested council in regards to a situation that may interfere with colonization?”

“Yes sir,” Cortez confirmed. “When we went to retrieve the comms equipment, we ran into some resistance, upon the end of our battle, we found some sort of material we think is worth taking a look at.”

“Alright Captain, can you take a picture of that and have it sent really quick?” The ambassador inquired.

Cortez rolled up his sleeve to reveal a watch that scanned the material and he sent the file over post-haste. “Thank you Captain, I will be back with you shortly. In the meantime, take inventory of supplies and rest up to await further instruction”.

“Yes sir, thank you, sir.” Cortez hung up the phone and turned to Teerza who had a puzzled look on her face. “He told us to wait,” Cortez said with disdain. They both exited the tent to join the rest of the colony. Everything was going well despite the few setbacks they had so early on in the mission. However, moods were improving and so was the camp they were setting up. Buildings were about halfway done, security had been set in place, and everyone was working swiftly and efficiently together. Harmonious.

After taking a few tours around the camp to view the progress of everything and to check up on personnel, Cortez went back to his tent to await the call of Ambassador Fraulic. It wasn’t before too long before he received the call. The comms hailed and Cortez hastily answered.

“Hello? This is Cortez.” He patiently answered.

“Yes, Captain Cortez, this is Ambassador Fraulic returning your call and I’ve discussed the matters with my associates. We have a few questions we would like answered.”

“Of course, sir,” Cortez replied.

“Where did you find the material?” Fraulic asked.

“We found it on the body of what we assume to be the natural inhabitants.”

“Yes, Miss Teerza informed us of them. Our scientists would like to have a look at that material. If we send a team to retrieve it, could you and your colony hold out until then? It would take about 30 hours. Obviously, we would be sending more soldiers and supplies with them, seeing as how we are now aware of resistance.”

“Yes sir, I have great faith that this team can hold out just fine,” Cortez answered confidently.

“Good. We will send them out immediately, they are already preparing as we speak, so hopefully we can get them out there even sooner than intended. I want you to gather a squad of men to send out to look for more of this material. If we don’t know precisely where it comes from, then we need to find out, even if that answer comes from the natives. Consensually or not. They seem to be aggressive in nature, so we give full authorization for lethal force. Hold your position until they arrive and retrieve the material, then, once we have it in our possession, we can give you further details on the mission.”

Teerza watched as Cortez’s eyes shot around in concentration as if almost reading a book trying to absorb all the information.

“Yes Sir, it will be done.” Cortez answered directly. He ended the call and proceeded to leave the tent to relay the message to the colony. Upon doing so, the chatter rose amongst the colonists. Some were worried, others excited, emotions fell down like a thick fog and permeated the entire camp. Cortez watched as the gossip unfolded, worried about how the differences of opinions might cause unrest among his people. He knew he had to do something or say something in order to try and subdue the chaos before it got started, otherwise the entire operation could fall apart and he wasn’t about to have that happen.

“Alright everyone, listen up!” Cortez’s voice boomed through the camp. “I’m going to need everyone’s help here until this shuttle arrives. We’ve been told to sit tight until they get here, so unfortunately that also means we can’t leave this position.”

Eyes darted around the crowd as some were just coming to the realization of what that meant. They were in a half-built camp with only a fraction of the supplies they came with. Their ship had been ransacked and destroyed, the inhabitants of the land were volatile, both creatures and humanoids, and they weren’t settled too far from a location the enemy knew.

Cortez continued, “We’re not sure of the material found or what it is yet, but we know that they were carrying it on them, so it has value. Since we don’t know how much of it there is, it may be of enough value to come looking for so we need to make preparations in the event that happens. We have no knowledge of this enemy or their intelligence except that they don’t speak our language and they seem to favor primitive weaponry. Now that’s not to say that they don’t have firearms. We haven’t seen firearms, but we have seen spears, so small arm projectiles are a threat. We are not about to underestimate our enemy, so we will set up to strike with full prejudice, should they decide to ambush. Everyone get to your assigned ‘full alert’ positions. Remember why we’re here!”

There he goes with that again... Teerza chuckled to herself while watching the veins in Cortez’s forehead and neck pop out with each enunciation as he hurtled his words across the entire camp. The camp broke out into a scatter, every person going every which way to complete their assigned duties for battle. It was uniform chaos. Captain Cortez sat back and watched the beautiful unified display of his team unveil itself. Seeing all his crew members help one another and be a real team like this reminded him why he had joined the Fleet in the first place.

Teerza sat back and just watched him. The veins in his forehead are silly, look how passionate he is about his people... Ugh, just look at the spit fly out of his mouth as he yells. What a fool... All this going on and all I can seem to do is focus on how... and there he was, staring right at her with that stupid, clever grin on his face. Teerza felt the heat rise in her cheeks again and all through her chest.

Cortez turned away once again to the colony to address them a final time, and with a grin on his face yelled, “Great job today again everyone. I’m glad to see no disasters happened and that we’re all still here. All we have to do is just camp out one more day and we’ll be right as rain. We caught the last ones before they attacked right? Well, now we know they’re here and we’ll be even more prepared! Keep your heads up and keep working together and we’ll be just fine!”

Cortez, hoping his speech was motivating, given the fact that he’s already had to give so many, turned to Teerza in a moment of “did I do good?”, only to be confronted with those scarlet-red cheeks that he loved so much. Embarrassed and worried that he may’ve said something wrong or his speech wasn’t up to par, he looked to Teerza with concern in his eyes and asked, “Is everything okay?”

Teerza, taken aback by him catching her admiring him, was at a loss for words and just stared blankly at Cortez. Cortez, with a slightly concerned look on his face, left and trudged off back inside his tent.

Oh no, why did I just stand there!? He’s going to think his speech wasn’t good! Teerza’s mind spun into a panic. I have to go talk to him!

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