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Episode Four


Ed Charlton


© 2017 Ed Charlton

All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-1-935751-38-0


Published by Scribbulations LLC

PO Box 1106

Kennett Square

PA 19348



Jim Able has traveled to a planet called Turcanis Major V. On TMV-I, the largest moon, he has met Sopha Luca, a member of the Regdenir religious sect and the only inhabitant of the TM system to have traveled offworld. Jim has discovered Sopha has illegally purchased a military-grade weapon.

Jim has returned to TMV-I with Tella of Neraff, a philosopher with chameleon skin, to pursue Sopha. The pair has met with Sopha’s religious superiors, who agree he must be stopped from attacking the inhabitants of TMV—or Beauty, as they call it. Unfortunately for Jim and Tella, Sopha has found them first and has opened fire on their craft.


Chapter One

Tella was already back in the cockpit, and the flier was dipping into the atmosphere of TMV-II, before Jim had truly comprehended what was happening. He switched the scanner to view farther toward the origin of the hostile fire.

“One contact. Profile suggests a PR233, solo flier. Weapons firing!” Jim reported.


Their flier lurched farther into the atmosphere and banked hard. Jim saw the missile explode, but Tella had moved them clear enough not to feel the blast.

“This is not good, Jim.”

“Agreed. It seems he’s been shopping at other places besides Pilo’s House of Lasers.”

“Without knowing what he’s got, I’m loath to get in front of him again.”

“Let’s try talking first.”


Jim activated the standard ship-to-ship system.

“Sopha Luca. Sopha Luca. Reply, please. This is James Able. Reply, please.”

There was no reply. As Jim began to transmit again, another missile entered the atmosphere ahead of the flier.

“Unbelievable!” cried Tella. “He knows where we are, and he’s even compensating for the minimal refraction of the atmosphere! Jim, he is good at this!”

“Yeah, great. If you’re so impressed with him, I’ll have him stuffed and mounted for you.”

“Hah! Let’s see what we can do here.”

Tella looped the flier back up to the edge of the atmosphere and threw the craft around the smaller moon, its engines howling with the sudden strain.

“If I’m correct, we should have just blindsided him.”


“I think he’s using his scanner array on TMV-One to follow us. Around here, we should be eclipsed by TMV-Two. He’ll have to come and find us himself.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“We have time to see if he’s done us any damage.”

“And he’ll be able to carry on with his new hobby while we do.”

“Keep on the scanners and power up the weapons modules. I’ll check on our skin.”

Jim did not need the instructions. He opened the safety catches on the weapons controls and sat poised to act should Sopha’s flier come around the moon. Tella opened the maintenance stores and took out a small camera unit. He unhooked the door of a small clear hatch in the ceiling and loaded it inside. He restored the seals and returned to the cockpit.

“Okay. Launching remote eye. Let’s see how close he got.”

Tella watched the monitor receiving the images from the camera. The flier’s black wings rolled by, small glowing spots showing where missile fragments had melted into the enamel coating.

“Nothing too bad. No pressure leaks. Nothing broken off.”

“How did he track us so easily? This is supposed to be undetectable!”

“My fault,” admitted Tella. “We haven’t been running quietly. He had clues to follow. I’m putting that right.”

“Good. Being fried isn’t in my contract.”

Within a few minutes Tella announced, “Running silently. He can’t find us.”

“Thank you. Now what?”

“We can wait, or we can try to find him. You’re the expert. What do you think Sopha will do next?”


Jim sat with his head in his hands. He stood to pace the confines of the flier. He unpacked Liz Curacao’s paper folder. He sat again in thought.



“Check my math here. To get accuracy to one or two meters, how far apart do the first and the last scanning nodes need to be?”

Tella leaned down to look at the scrawl of figures that Jim had written on the back of one of the sheets of paper. Curls and strokes echoed up its finger as it traced the flow of the calculations.

It nodded. “Yes. That is correct.”

“The spread is too big. He can’t fit them both on TMV-One.”

“Hmm. Interesting.”

They were both silent for a moment.

“That’s why he was on TMV-Two,” said Tella.

Jim shook his head. “We didn’t see any sign of a node. If it were there, we would have seen something.”

“But he needs the spread, so it has to be!”

“How can he hide it?”

“There’s no way...except we know he purchased other armaments. Could he also have gotten some concealment technology?”

“If he did, we’re sunk. Without knowing where he bought it or who it’s from, we can’t know what kind of system it is or even begin to think of countermeasures.” Jim threw down his pen. “Damn him!”

He felt again the rising desire to be gone from the area. Turcanis Major was no longer where he wanted to be. It could sort itself out for all he cared. Tella was watching him closely.

“Jim. You must think clearly.”

Tella sat down opposite Jim.

“I have been around humans for several years now. I know they are wonderful creatures in many ways. But you all share one major problem.”

Jim bit back his irritation at Tella.

The Neraffan continued, “You do not manage your resources well.”

Jim frowned.

“You try to use the same resources over and over in a variety of tasks. You do not specialize well. How often, Jim, have you pried something open with the blade of a screwdriver, or hammered a nail with the side of your pliers?”

Jim laughed. “What are you on about?”

“You, Jim. Since Ch’Garratt, you have not known if you are screwdriver or hammer. Your boss, the troubled Elizabeth Curacao, also does not know her place. I do not understand why this is so difficult for you humans.”

Jim turned away but glanced sideways at the Neraffan, unwilling to continue the conversation but curious enough to listen.

“You blame yourself for a lapse of judgment on Ch’Garratt, for failing to notice

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