Choices Meant for All
What Choices We Made Vol II
Problems on Eldora Prime
Problems on Eldora Prime
When 17-year-old Helmswoman Khiry Okerson crashes on Eldora Prime, ACI beacons still ring in her ears. She might have solved one problem, but she courts more danger than she realizes when she liberates some unexpected hostages on a foreign planet. Will the dragons she releases become her allies? It’s more likely they’ll join the inhabitants of this unforgiving world to hunt terraformers and the Instigator’s dwindling crew. She must find a way off this rock and into the United Society for Peace and Strength’s good graces. She’s got a capable marksman on her team in the handsome and renown Kor, but Khiry still wonders how her people can escape with Captain Marlon’s treason on her hands and a political leader’s sister in her care—care she can’t guarantee.
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Lift Off | Dragon Contact | Uneasy Plans
“They’re bringing out a phase canon!” Khiry announced. She pointed to the front bank of windows as if no one would know where to look. As if she didn’t speak to someone three years her senior, she ordered, “Kor, you better power up something if we’re not planning a quick surrender.”
“Why are we not off the moon?” Marlon demanded.
“Why are you not telling me what’s on board?” she demanded back.
“It’s none of your pegging business. Now get us off the ground before I have Trane fire you out the airlock.”
Khiry pulled another lever and slammed her hand down on a button with the words “fuel mix” etched below it. “I’ll try again. Let’s hope we don’t shake apart on the platform.”
She looked back at Gibson, who cringed as if he’d been hit. For a security chief, he didn’t display much bravado clinging to the doorway with white knuckles. He stared wide-eyed out the window as if he expected a plasma bolt to crash through and spang him. Khiry wondered if he was about to run away into the depths of the ship.
Over the complaint of the ship’s engines, she heard the familiar whir of the Instigator’s phase canon power up. Kor was fast. She spared a glance from her controls to him. The young man’s stoic presence set her at ease for some reason.
The high-pitched beep, double beep, beep sounded on Khiry’s console. She didn’t even glance at the red light this time. Too many fingers were needed to trouble-shoot this lift-off. Better to pretend their communications were down anyway.
“Is that USPS?” Kor asked.
“Mind your business,” Marlon snapped. “Target that phase canon. Spang it.”
“Aye, Captain. And you’ll speak at my trial?”
“We’ll get no trials,” Khiry muttered under her breath. “This gets wetter by the minute.” She knew no good could come of this day.
Whatever her personal opinions on the United Society for Peace and Strength or its Presidente Lamahl Endh back on Earth, she didn’t condone treason. To ignore a direct request to power down and submit to an investigation bordered on treason. Spanging an Authority Customs Investigation team? That didn’t just cross the line. That jumped up and down on the line while thumbing your nose and mooning someone pretty high up the chain of command—possibly Presidente Lamahl Endh himself.
Marlon leaned over her console again. He flipped the switch to speak to Red in engineering. “When you get us enough energy to get off this rock, start fixing things. My ship’s falling apart around my ears.”
“When?” the tinny female voice sassed back. “You mean if, right?”
“Make it happen!” He neglected to flip the toggle back before stepping to his space behind the stations, watching ACI vehicles move toward his vessel.
“Why are we still on the ground?”
As if she heard his furious question, the ship slowly began to rise. She shook and shuddered, screaming and wailing as if every bolt and weld would fly apart from the strain. Despite the thrust of the engines, the rise was maddeningly slow. The ACI vehicles on the moon’s surface backed away from the enormous energy and heat. Sound became all anyone knew.
Sound rattled their teeth. Sound joined the shudder of the ship to bang their brains against their skulls. Khiry closed her eyes against the pain of it, praying to God that they’d break atmosphere without falling back to the moon’s surface.
“This is gonna be a short trip,” she heard Red shout over the communications link.
“Your brother’s politics aren’t welcome here,” Jay sniped.
“And what’s it to you? Aren’t you an alien?” one of the transports asked.
Khiry frowned at the man who had spoken. “Here now. We’re getting off topic. Alien or not, Mozart saved your hide when we were avoiding the mountains out there.” Despite the pain still throbbing in the back of her head, Khiry nodded in Jay’s direction so the transport couldn’t mistake to whom she referred. “Now he’s part of the crew that’s going to save your hide again. Who’s to say these dragons aren’t also part of the crew that’ll save us from these beasts? The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Up to this point, Red had been uncharacteristically quiet. The idea of dragons on board the ship frightened her, of course, but seeing Khiry befriend one of them loosened her up a bit. She slowly approached the dragons’ cage out of curiosity while the debate carried on behind her. Gibson seemed to be the only one out of sorts over it. Even Electra, who had seen Jack die, sounded as if she could be persuaded to Khiry’s point of view. Interesting. Red wondered what about these creatures so appealed to Khiry that she’d fight to release them into their midst.
“Apart from Khiry’s use of Arabian proverbs, what do we have to convince us these dragons would help us?” Kor asked. “As far as they know, we caged them and brought them to some foreign planet. Now evil beasts that look something like us on this foreign planet are going to try to kill them.”
Jay looked to the transport nearest him. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what an Arabian proverb is.”
The female transport shrugged. It was obvious she felt uncomfortable now that she knew she sat next to an alien. “Something before my time on Earth.”
Red tried to tune out the conversation. She was too intrigued by the mythical creatures before her to let the crews’ words distract her. The large, reddish-black dragon currently stared at her. The other three uninjured dragons huddled around the wounded one. Like elephants, Red thought. It was well known that the elephants of Earth had worried over injured companions and fondled their dead, unwilling to leave fallen comrades. She wondered if that’s why they went extinct—elephants starving to death keeping watch over elephant graveyards. Not everything could be attributed to global warming and shifting climate zones. She also wondered if the wounded dragon was going to die. It seemed a shame to lose such a pretty creature. Just like it was a shame when the last elephant died on Earth.
As if it took great effort, the reddish-black dragon shifted its weight to move toward her. Obviously it was difficult to move in the cramped space with four dragons to maneuver around, but she made it over to the bars and stared out at Red as if expecting something to happen. Red stared back. If Khiry can pet a dragon, I should be able to as well, Red thought. She smiled up at the creature and reached, slowly, as Khiry had done, toward the bars. She let her hand carefully pass the bars, palm up, and stop a few centimeters from the dragon’s lovely reddish-black snout.
The dragon blinked her reddish-brown eyes. She seemed rather sad for a dragon about to make her first contact with a human. Her contact surprised everyone.
“You’re talking about covering seventy-five miles in less than two days of sunlight,” Kor said in amazement.
“Ah, this crew can do it,” Bilal announced, just loudly enough that the folks straining to overhear them overheard that. It sounded jovial.
Khiry shot him a withering glance. “You can fill their heads with nonsense, as I think someone suggested to Kor earlier, but running them into the ground until dark tomorrow night will just make them unable to fight whatever comes after them.”
“By tomorrow night, they’ll either be within the city’s walls or reinforcements will have come out to help us. Those aren’t the only buggies we own, you know.”
Khiry’s eyebrows arched as she considered this.
“Of course,” Kor mumbled. “You wouldn’t have risked all your powered vehicles at once.”
“If there’s hope, then,” Khiry thought out loud. “These others just might be convinced to double this pace tomorrow. We might be able to hold them together through the night, no matter what’s sniffing around their hiding spot in the dark. If there’s hope that these powered vehicles can come out to greet us close to the city tomorrow evening and pull us in where it’s safe, we just might get everyone to survive.”
Rewk offered a weak but genuine smile. “How long have you been leading this crew?” She was about to continue with “They must love you heartily; they will follow you to the ends of Eldora Prime.” But Khiry had snorted some sort of laugh that interrupted her.
“About twenty-four hours. Our captain, sot that he was, died in the crash. I assumed leadership by default.”
Rewk and Bilal exchanged nervous glances. “By default?” Rewk finally asked.
“Gibson is our security chief. By all rights, he’s next in the chain of command aboard our ship. But, look at him. You’ve seen his actions. You know his quality. That couldn’t lead us.”
Rewk nodded in agreement, but there was a hesitation in her agreement. Bilal stared at the ground.
“Say what you’re thinking,” Kor ordered them. “There’s no sense in us having secrets from each other out here. We depend on each other to survive the night.”
Bilal looked him in the eye. “You’re right, of course.”
“We think you sound a lot like resistance,” Rewk said. “You’ve got Presidente Lamahl Endh’s sister on your ship, yet you didn’t give her leadership when your captain died. She sounds like a hostage to a renegade band of jumpers who’ve got alien dragons for allies. You crashed here on your way back to Earth with these dragons. Were they a gift to the resistance blenders?”
Khiry’s jaw dropped open. What an inane theory! Kor reached up to scratch the right side of his beard with the knife no one had seen him palm. “We’re not jumpers,” he said calmly. His voice was all reassurance.
Testimonials for Problems on Eldora Prime
“Sandy Lender’s space adventure…is fast-paced and action-filled with villains you will love to hate, and heroines and heroes you won’t soon forget, especially the spunky pilot Khiry whose indomitable spirit heartens and inspires.” –Midwest Book Reviews
“What a ride! Problems on Eldora Prime was one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read…I absolutely fell in love with the dragons.” –Greta Gunselman, Timeless-Teens.com
“Problems on Eldora Prime is a fast-paced thrill ride of an adventure that is sure to keep even the most reluctant readers engaged.” –Marleen Iffrig, middle school communication arts teacher
“…take some diced Jurassic Park action, fresh bits of I Am Legend, a pinch of Star Trek, and simmer them in a stock of Sandy Lender’s dragon-meets-heroine…Well done!” –Zack Sargent, father of teens
Book Club Questions for Problems on Eldora Prime
1. When Khiry reveals her willingness to help the dragons in the cargo hold, do you think she acts out of compassion for them or to make allies of them? Both? Why do you think that way?
2. When Rewk and her rescue party reached Khiry and her team, what did you expect them to do for the crew of the Instigator?
3. Do you think you have the stamina to hike and run 70 miles in two days?
4. Why do you think June was willing to give up and become a “touched” near the end of the story? What does this say about her state of mind?
5. Which dragon was your favorite and why?
6. If you were part of a terraforming team stuck on a planet with scary monsters and limited power, would you concentrate your resources on defense or on escape?
7. Which team would you rather be on: the government officials who guard and protect the outpost on Eldora Moon or the terraformers who build a new city on a new planet (NOT Eldora Prime this time!)? Why do you prefer the one you’ve chosen?