On the same day of that conversation, repairs to the ship were almost completed. Attitudes among the crew at this point were frayed, due to various issues that had sprung up from the entire extent of the expedition.

In this excerpt from The Official Record of First Expedition to Other Side, Lumpher Phorro tells of their final intense [Irrdnis] day on Earth:


    186th Day, Year 135 of Helan Phorro Xamium

  Today ends the first expedition of the Minare on an alien planet, though it went in an unexpected route, completely different from how I would have imagined.

  It began the best way for a crew stranded away from home. After about one hundred and five days of receiving help from humans in repairing the vessel, whether by bringing materials that could be fashioned into crude temporary replacement parts or reaching places our crew could not possibly get to, Moloj Phorro proudly reported to me that we would be able to return to Irrdnis after a few finishing touches and tests. The aid we received from this group of humans, had given me strong reconsiderations about Randee’s occasional requests to let his kind return with us to Irrdnis. At first, I didn’t see a purpose in doing so, but these creatures could be of great use to the kingdom. Subjecting them to a form of husbandry could breed out the worse qualities to make their future generations more stable and docile. Our Eldest will be most pleased, and this would surely bring much prestige to the kingdom.

  I discussed this with Moloj Phorro and Tonglok Phorro, and Tonglok Phorro opposed the idea, which was not unanticipated. He insisted, taking those creatures from their home planet and introducing them to Irrdnis, would endanger their wellbeing as well as our own ecosystem somehow. He thought the Humans harbor enough intelligence and reason to be regarded equals, which was laughable. He has grown too close to the suited examiners that visited him regularly. The suited examiners worked for a human power that sought to keep us here, thus could not be nearly as reliable as Randee, his friends, and the Seekers. From the horror stories of what Randee had kindly translated for me as much as he could, the human powers ruling that world are temperamental, territorial, and ignorant. It is to the extent that they cannot even form a civilization unified in some cohesive understanding, to prevent large scale environmental damage and large numbers of their population from dying, in embarrassingly unnecessary ways. It had gotten so bad that their own kind could not stand to live on their home world any longer. With that, I made the decision that we take the humans who wanted to go with us, and I made it final.

  After the first sunrise of the day appeared, the Window of Symbols on the small hill flashed its request for another tribute. I ordered one of our extra recycler filters to be placed in the circle outside. Guardian Junget did the exchange, but a sadness symbol showed. Incensed, she took back the filter, pulled out her mini combat blade and tossed it into the circle where it embedded itself. The sadness symbol stayed but she ignored it as she stormed back into the ship. Champion Zalhang ordered her to go back outside for a proper exchange, but she refused on the grounds that for the time we were stranded, they neglected helping with any ship repairs and, above it all, gave no information on the potential whereabouts of her brother Junget Darruf. She admits that him being alive somehow are astronomically unlikely, but she wants to, at the minimum, see the body so she can give their parents closure when we returned to Irrdnis. I stayed Zalhang’s order, for leaving an improper offer on the day we leave would do no considerable harm to us, but I did give Junget a warning for her insubordination. The sadness symbol disappeared, and a group came to take the offering. Took them longer than usual because they had to use machines to dislodge it out of the ground, but once it was out, a large whirler landed, loaded the blade on board, and left.

  When the suited examiners came to visit later, I had only Tonglok Phorro and Guardian Tempun meet them, utilizing Tonglok Phorro’s cordial relations to smooth over any tensions that resulted from the tribute incident earlier. It was not long after they left the vessel when they returned, because the suited examiners abruptly left the area. However, before they left, one told Tonglok Phorro the location of Junget Darruf, who was being held at a nearby soljer nestI. Moreover, they said they would help us out of our limited area and guide us to the nest. All we must do is send out a team to the other side of the burned forest and wait for the ignition of one of their red flairs, as soon as we see all the perimeter lightsII go out. I was skeptical at first, but I decided to assign Champion Zalhang, Guardian Junget, and Moloj Phorro to the mission. If Junget Darruf was somehow still alive after all this time, they were to bring him back. If he was dead, the alternative would be left entirely up to Junget Darrif, for she was his immediate available closest living relative.

  Randee, his friends, and the priests of the Seekers, showed up at the vessel during the day’s first night. I told them their kind could come to Irrdnis with us when we left during the day’s second night. They cheered, hugged, and shook hands before leaving, presumably to tell the rest.

  The final night arrived, and the suited examiners who conspired with us executed their plan and sabotaged the perimeter lights. Champion Zalhang, Guardian Junget, and Moloj Phorro slipped out of the ship, while I, Tonglok Phorro, Guardian Tempun, and Guardian Horskul stayed. Horskul and Tempun kept watch at the gunports. I and Tonglok Phorro checked and double checked all instruments throughout the vessel to ascertain there would be no oversights when it was time to finally leave. I planned to take a tally of how many humans would accompany us as they came through the station.

I "Soljer nest" was what the Minare called a human military base.

II The perimeter lights, unbeknownst to the crew, included the military’s surveillance systems.


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