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Episode 1

Disclaimer: This is a free work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2020 Rhea V. May All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form, by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except quoted brief passages in a review, post, article or other pieces of content. This work is intended for mature audiences only (18+).

Terran Prime station, year 2398 TST (Terran Standard Time)


The beeping started again.

Zale sighed, then cracked his neck and swiveled the chair around, getting up to approach the console on the other side of the room. Activating the holocontrols, he selected the right feed.

“VALID, run a scan on sector 4-25, please.”

“Running, Commander Corvald,” VALID’s voice echoed in the small office. “Scan completed. No parameters detected.”

Zale grunted, visually confirming VALID’s assessment. There was nothing in that little piece of space. Still. “Detailed report, please.”

“I have detected no motions, no RSD trails, no flux disruptions. I received no hails, and the shield in that section is intact.”

“Thank you, VALID. Add the scan to today’s log, under miscellaneous errors. After, send a copy to Chief Miura,” Zale instructed the neuronet, then returned to his desk to finish typing the report. His eyes fell on the massive poster covering the opposite wall, printed on old-fashioned plasticine, and he paused.

Terran Prime station, or the Eye as the residents called it, resembled an eye no more. As the end of the Watch was approaching, the station’s modules started to disengage, being repurposed. The upper arch was already half gone, as the Ark detached over a month before and moved to hover in the exosphere. The other half was scheduled to go in a few weeks as well, down to the planet, to be used in the construction of the first habitats.

And soon, the lower arch would part from the Eye, with Corporate moving in.

All that would be left was the central hub, resembling a giant ball, as white as space was black.  

Just one more year, and Zale could move forward with his life. The Watch would end, and the Keepers would disband.

Time decreased but the pressure on his shoulders didn’t. Zale became more determined to succeed in his task, to end his term as Commander-in-Warrant in a dignified manner, befitting Evangeline Carter’s efforts.

After all, only the beginnings and the ends made history. So, he would earn his place among the legendary. And nothing could prevent that.

He would be the last Commander of the Prime and the first leader of the colony down on the newly healed Earth. Zale viewed his six years spent on the station as training for what was to come. He planned to direct his entire focus on leadership. Reconstructing society on old Earth was no easy task, after all. Zale figured he’d have to delve into micromanagement even deeper.

His wrist tingled, the embedded Correslink alerting him it was time to prepare for the welcome. At the same time, VALID announced, “The shuttle from Keepers Inc. just dropped out of RSD and entered the system.”

“ETA?” Zale asked, pressing his palms to the surface of his desk as he got up.

“Fifteen minutes, Commander Corvald. Directing them to service bay four.” Service bay four had been the only one used for docking over the past decades, so Zale wasn’t surprised the neuronet had assigned it by default.

“No. Bring them to the central bay instead,” Zale ordered. Dismissing VALID, Zale stepped into the small lavatory off to one side of the office.

When he got out, straightening his impeccable uniform, the Chief Security Officer was waiting for him, ambling around his desk. “Brade,” he greeted in a gruff voice. “Put that back.”

Brayden Connaway barked a laugh and placed the holoframe back onto the desk. “Yo. I’m not going to break any of your precious stuff, man. Even if they’re ancient.”

With a grunt, Zale flipped Brayden off. “That’s not mine. I found it on the desk when I moved in.” It was true. In the entire office, Zale didn’t think he had one personal item, even after all the years spent on the station. Shaking his head, he dismissed the thought. “Why are you here?”

“Well, they’re here, aren’t they?” Brayden drawled, eyebrows waggling.

Zale grimaced. “Yes. But I could’ve greeted them alone,” he replied, surveying Brayden’s uniform. “I see you dressed for the occasion. You even donned your jacket. The regulations state, however, for it to be closed all the way up.”

“Not everyone’s boots can be as shiny as yours, your highness, the King of Misfits,” Brayden’s upper half dipped to an exaggerated bow. After a second, he strengthened and his roguish grin slipped, his eyes turning serious. “Couldn’t let you alone, brother. Not today. Not… not now.”

Zale’s forehead crinkled. “You’re starting to worry me. What’s up, Brade? What’s today?” The glare he leveled on his best friend, the one that had intimidated countless others in the past, didn’t work. Brayden merely returned his stare.

“I take it you know something I don’t,” Zale tried again, crossing his arms over his chest. “How is that even possible?”

Brayden snorted and stepped forward to slap him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, brother. I got your back. I may have learned of something a few weeks ago. And I may have been keeping it from you.”

“What?” Zale barked. “What the hell, Brade?”

“You’ll get it when you see it, man… Come on, we’re going to be late.”

But Zale froze on the spot. Only Brayden could surprise him like that. And then treat the entire thing as inconsequential, when Zale’s heart burned at the betrayal. Logically, he knew Brayden rarely kept secrets from him. Zale had felt him pulling away for some time now, his best friend’s eyes taking on an uncharacteristically guarded look.

He worried he’d succeeded in alienating the only person left in his life. The only one Zale could call family. In fact, after all they’ve been through, the two of them were practically glued together.

What has gotten into Brayden? Why was there a sudden gap between the two of them, when even being forced to fight each other hadn’t broken them apart?

“Fuck, man. Don’t look like at me like that. I was trying to protect you.”

“By lying to me?” Zale scoffed.

“I didn’t lie. More like… I made sure certain information never reached you,” Brayden replied, throwing his palms up in front of him.

“Same thing,” Zale declared, storming past Brayden out of the office and into Central Control. Rick, the comms officer, startled at his abrupt entrance but threw him a hasty salute once he recovered. Zale nodded in return, then hurried down the corridor.

If Brayden was here, making an unscheduled appearance just as the shuttle from Corporate was coming… and he was keeping something from him… “Who’s coming, Brade?”

Silence. Zale looked back, scowling at his best friend. Shrugging, Brayden used a thumb to point behind him. “Shouldn’t we take the main elevator?” he asked, switching the subject.

Zale growled in annoyance but accepted the evasion, knowing he’d be fighting a useless battle against Brayden’s stubbornness. “No. We’ll take the western one instead. The main has been acting up lately.”

A lot of things started to act up on the station in the past year or so. Lights flickered, machinery broke down, doors opened for no reason. Proximity sensors went off when there was nothing around…

“Dude,” Brayden shivered dramatically. “I swear the station’s haunted.”

Despite himself, Zale chuckled. “It’s old, Brade. That’s all.” But Zale wondered if Brayden’s ridiculous, yet simple reason wasn’t true. He felt constantly watched nowadays, and it wasn’t because of the neuronet’s uninterrupted surveillance.

They advanced, their two sets of steps being the only ones echoing down the corridor. Sure, it was the middle of the night cycle. But even during the day, the station seemed abandoned. Built to house the thousands that were once on it, the Prime had to manage with a couple hundred now.

Nobody volunteered to be a Keeper these days. Only the outsiders, the crazy, or the ones running from something. Brayden’s nickname for him fit. He was a king over misfits.

After a brief ride down, the two of them exited the elevator just outside the central bay. Mason Miura, the Chief Technical Officer, was already inside.

“Yo, Maze,” Brayden greeted.

Mason turned around, a smile on his face. “Hi, Brayden. Commander,” he returned the greeting.

“We’re not late, are we?” Zale asked, checking his Correslink for the time. He was never late.

“No, no. I’m early,” Maze hurried to reassure him. “Couldn’t sleep so I went one level down to work on an egression pod. Being an older model, I was trying to retrofit it for modern use and… Anyway, just as I finished, VALID announced the Keepers were here.”

“VALID?” Zale addressed the neuronet. “Have you announced any of other Chief Officers?”

“None were up, besides the three of you,” VALID answered. “Should I wake them all?”

“That’s not necessary. Thank you, VALID,” Zale replied, eyes narrowing as he saw Brayden and Mason whispering to each other a little farther away. What were those two up to? He dismissed the issue when the shuttle came into view and the alarm started blaring as VALID lowered the shield and took control of the craft to park it in the bay.

The ramp lowered, and Brayden moved to stand at Zale’s side. Two men dressed in dark clothes exited but when the third person stepped down the ramp, Zale flinched.

Clenching his jaw, he straightened to his full height, cursing himself for the little slip. Abhorring any show of vulnerability, Zale felt as if his muscles turned to real steel.

“Easy, brother. It’s okay,” Brayden coached, whispering in his ear.

Zale glared. He was fine. He didn’t need Brayden’s protection. He wasn’t made of porcelain.

“I thought they were from Keepers,” Mason said from Zale’s other side. “But I see no Keepers insignia…”

Zale zeroed in on the woman standing at the center of the Corporate line. She met his eyes and raised her chin. Lima Harris-Pratt looked older, but it wasn’t as if time hadn’t carved a few lines in his own skin. After all, more than a decade had passed since they last saw each other.

Scoffing, he looked at Brayden. This was what his friend and brother had been hiding from him? The little kitten couldn’t harm him anymore; out of necessity, Zale built a sure shield around his heart years ago, one she couldn’t breach anymore.

When the bay’s pressure matched the one on the station, the red light turned green and the door opened. Lima was the first one out, leading the procession.

“Commander Corvald,” she greeted, right hand outstretched, which Zale ignored. “I…” she faltered and cleared her throat. “We are from Leeweather Holdings. I don’t know if you’ve been informed, but a deal has been struck between Keepers Inc. and Leeweather Holdings, regarding one section on the lower arch of Terran Prime.”

“Yes,” Zale grunted, then fell silent. Oh, how he enjoyed seeing her squirm!

Clearing her throat once more, Lima gestured to her companions. “This is the team assigned to my project. Um… this is Alvin Gray—“

Lima continued in her introductions, but Zale tuned her out. His eyes raked over her body, clad in a form-fitting dark blue dress. A pair of low-heeled shoes, matching the shade of her dress, completed the ensemble. Corporate attire. So different from the debonair dresses he remembered her wearing. She also filled out more, losing the youthful figure. She was still petite, but her hips and chest arched in delicious curves. The only thing that remained the same was her hair, a light-blonde with strands so fine, they gleamed in the light like spider silk.

“… so, Mr. Leeweather appointed me as hospitality manager,” she finished. “I hope we can assure this project’s success, together.”

Abandoning his perfect impersonation of a marble statue, Zale nodded. “Welcome to Terran Prime. I am Commander-in-Warrant Zale Corvald. This is Brayden Connaway, the Chief Security Officer, and Mason Miura, the Chief Technical Officer,” he listed briskly, scowling at the men gaping at Mason’s cybernetic implants. “You will meet the rest of the Chief Officers later, as it’s the middle of the night cycle for us. But frankly, I don’t expect for our paths to cross too much. You’ll do your job, and we’ll continue in doing ours. VALID will show you to your rooms. Good night.”

Zale knew his manner was more brusque than usual, and he was treating the newcomers with more disdain than normal, but the shock of seeing Lima again angered him. With Brayden, he would have words later.

The only thing that he wished for at the moment was to retreat into his office. As he turned to leave, however, a ruckus from the bay stopped him dead in the tracks.


Watching Zale slip into a hot mess was painful to watch. On the outside, he might project his ‘assholeness’, given the curt greeting he gave to the Corporate bastards, but on the inside, Brayden knew a storm was brewing.

He knew he was to blame for not telling him about Lima coming to the station sooner. He’d tried. He really did. But how could he tell Zale the woman who had hurt him so deeply in the past was coming for a reunion? How could he not hide the shuttle’s manifest from his brother?

Brayden had been there for Zale after she did what she did, picking up the pieces she left behind. Putting his brother back together again.

And now, the shrew was here. Back in his brother’s life. Haunting him. What the fuck was she doing on Terran Prime?

Through narrowed eyes, he watched their interaction. From the corner of his eye, he saw Mason stiffen too, no doubt picking up on the vibe in the room.

“Wait, stupid bot! Wow, Evangeline Carter… “ a distinctly feminine voice came from the bay. “OMG, hi! You look so lifelike!”

Brayden felt his eyebrows inching up on his forehead, and he leaned to one side to peer around the sea of people blocking his view. He chuckled as the woman continued to talk to the hologram of Evangeline Carter, the founder of the Keepers and the builder of this station, placed there to greet every person who stepped on the Prime.

“No! Wait! Um… stop. Halt! Stupid bot. What’s the right voice command—“

Brayden heard a thud, and the group parted, turning to look at the poor woman whose body had just met the floor. Shouldering past the chuckling gawkers, Brayden hurried to the prone woman’s side.

“Hold,” he instructed the bot, finally ending his advance. “Are you alright?”

Red-faced, the woman mumbled an affirmative and accepted his help in getting up. Brayden bit back a smile as she busied herself with arranging her clothing, refusing to meet his eyes. She looked so cute and innocent, especially with her dark curls in disarray, stressing her youthful face.

Pale blue eyes met his once she recovered. “Thanks. I’m Tessa… um, Theresa June Starr and… Oh, no,” she gasped, hurrying to the bot.

Brayden followed her, noticing one of the bags on the bot’s platform was opened, its contents spilling out all over the place. He proceeded to assist Theresa in gathering up her things, handing her a piece of lacy underwear with a wink.

The poor girl was so embarrassed, she actually whimpered. At least, Brayden hoped she whimpered because she was embarrassed, and not because she was frightened of him. To that end, he hunched a little, trying to make himself smaller.

“I’m Brayden Connaway,” he extended a hand out to her as they finished. “Nice to meet you, Tessa-Theresa.”

“N-nice to meet you, as well. I’m sorry,” she huffed. “For making a fool of myself and all.”

“No need for apologies. It happens,” he tried to console her, a bit awkwardly. “Come. Commander Corvald was just telling the Leeweather people off.”

When she blanched, Brayden chuckled. “Don’t worry. He doesn’t bite.”

“I heard he’s… difficult.”

“That’s one way to describe our fearless leader. But you’re a big girl. I’m sure you’ll be fine,” he joked.

Mumbling to herself, Tessa-Theresa followed him back to the group. Ignoring the others grinning at her, she went straight to Zale and introduced herself. Brayden felt a hot rush of arousal at her displayed confidence. That, coupled with the innocent air from before, made it highly dangerous. For her. He was addicted to the chase, and prim and proper Tessa-Theresa would make wonderful prey.

“Commander Corvald, I’m Theresa June Starr, Public Affairs Specialist, sent by Keepers Inc. to fill out the Corporate Chair,” she said, gesturing to her insignia. “I’m also the one they chose to work with our new Leeweather partners, to build the planned luxury resort in the lower section of H-1. I’d like to request a meeting as soon as possible, to go over the specifications—“

“Tomorrow morning, after breakfast. VALID will take it from here. Good night, Miss Starr,” Zale interrupted her, then disappeared inside the elevator.

Hurrying to catch his brother, Brayden left the discombobulated group behind. As he passed by them, several tried to get his attention but he ignored all, hurrying down the corridor to the other elevator.

Earning his brother’s forgiveness surpassed calming the corporate ignorants.

Next episode (Meet Kalon & Luna)

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