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There was an eerie tranquility to the total darkness that engulfed her. No sounds of engines roaring or weapons firing, no status updates or orders being barked in her ear. No worries about strategy or survival. Simply a quiet and absolute emptiness. Pheny sat perfectly still, reveling in the sound of her own heartbeat. She would never leave this cocoon of sensory deprivation if she had her way. Peaceful moments such as this were rare, even more so for a Captain in the Alliance of Free Systems Navy. Soon the rhythmic thumping of her pulse gave way to memories of her home on Jorya.

Jorya was a warm world, on the inner edge of its primary star’s habitable zone. Sapphire blue water stretched over fifty percent of the planet’s surface, with two large continents connected by a wide natural land bridge. Due to the generally elevated temperature there was almost no polar ice to speak of. With no axial tilt there were no seasons on the planet, and the plant life thrived in only two bands of land set between the equator, and its poles. This made Jorya look like a blue and brown ball with two horizontal verdant stripes against a brown background from space.

The Joryan people, over time, became masters at seamlessly mixing their cities into the forested areas of the planet. All buildings were made of stone, and wood was only used from trees that had fallen naturally. Stone quarries had always been near the equator where it was too hot to settle. They had also built metal and plastic refining facilities in the equatorial region. This all changed when the Joryans took to the stars. All planet side quarries, mines, and refineries were closed and moved to one of the moons. This made space freight a large part of the economy. Another side effect was the overall reduction of pollution planet wide. Pheny thought fondly of stepping out into the street and taking a deep breath of clean Joryan air.

Pheny was never one for collecting, well, anything really. If she could not foresee a use for something in the three days to come, she did not acquire it, or threw it away. It’s not that she is a credit pincher by any means, she just turned out to be extremely practical. Due to this, she chose a residence that was perfectly suited for her. One bedroom, a small kitchen with a dining nook connected, a living room that was slightly smaller than the bedroom, and a small bathroom. If anything Pheny would constantly remind herself that it was probably more space than she needed.

She kept herself on a tight rotation of clothing. Only enough garments to wear something different each day for two weeks, three pairs of footwear, and her old flight school cap was the extent of her wardrobe. All of which fit into a single four drawer dresser that sat next to a single bed. An empty nightstand sat on the opposite side of the bed with an entertainment screen mounted on the wall beyond the foot of the bed. The only other furnishings in the entire loft was a tiny round table and a single chair in the dining nook. She liked her home life orderly and simple which was a thorough reversal from how she grew up.

Her father was an abundantly gifted scientist who devoted his life to interstellar propulsion systems. When Pheny was about eight years old, her father made a breakthrough that would change the galaxy, the Slip drive. The Slip drive was a leap forward in propulsion technology that was orders of magnitude ahead of anything else being built. It could reach, at its peak, eighty-five percent of light speed making it the only near-light propulsion system in the known galaxy. The next closest competitor had been running a top speed of just about thirty percent of light speed. As soon as thorough testing was completed, Clarrington Drive Systems was born and production of the Slip drive went into full swing.

Seemingly overnight the family went from a barely surviving wage, to one of the richest families on Jorya.
So, a young, innocent Pheny watched as her world completely changed. They moved out of their four-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Selena, Joryas capitol, and into a twelve-bedroom mansion in Selena’s most affluent neighborhood. She witnessed her older brother Tursto, who was fifteen years old at the time and a perfect example of a teenage slacker, go through one of the weirdest personality changes. Suddenly Tursto was motivated, but not to commit to his studies at school, no. His first whim was vibrostring lessons. A few months later it was a voice coach for singing, followed four months later by acting lessons. Tursto was determined to be a star. Eventually he did find moderate success as a comedian. Needless to say the sudden influx of funds had changed her big brother forever.

Compounding the feelings of confusion over her changing world was the birth of her younger brother Trayce. Pheny was ten at the time, and she suddenly found herself sandwiched between two black holes of attention. Tursto and Trayce would occupy mom and dad so much that at times Pheny felt invisible. It is common for most middle children to end up with any number of psychological issues due to neglect, both real and perceived. However Pheny was blessed with a gift from her father. A gift that would negate any such negative effects from being a middle child. His Brain.

Like her father, Pheny was remarkably intelligent, logical, and practical. At age twelve when most of the children that went to her school were just entering their last unit of primary school, Pheny had begun her second unit of secondary school. She fully understood the situation at home with Tursto being nineteen and just starting his foray into comedy, and Trayce at the delicate age of two, Pheny would have to hunker down and take whatever attention she could get. This drove her deeper into her studies. Her secondary schooling was complete in just three years instead of four and with finishing primary two years early she was heading into final schooling at age fourteen as opposed to seventeen.

It was when she began final school that she decided to use the extra time and complete a double major in chemistry and engineering. This path would take her straight into her father’s field of interstellar propulsion. After all if her father could get people moving at eighty five percent of the speed of light, she would break it. She studied like a synthoid, dedicated and unwavering, allowing nothing to distract her from her goal. Six years after beginning final school, at age twenty Pheny graduated with a doctorate in both chemistry and engineering. The day of her graduation however would mark the beginning of a great struggle for all of the inhabited systems of the galaxy.

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Daniel Boguslawski

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