The Merciless

The woman had been given a new identity by the authorities: Lina Chen. It was a name that felt foreign on her tongue, but she had grown used to it. She had settled into her new life on Mars, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that her past was still out there, waiting for her.

One day, as she was walking through the bustling streets of the Martian capital, she saw a familiar face. It was the Tiger, the man who had led the terrorist group that she and Astra had infiltrated.

Lina’s heart raced as she watched him disappear into a crowded marketplace. She knew that she had to act fast. She contacted the government agents who had helped her before and told them what she had seen.

“We need to take him down,” Lina said. “He’s the only one who got away, and he’s still out there, plotting his next move.”

The agents agreed to help her, but they warned her that the Tiger was a dangerous man. He was known for his brutality and his merciless tactics.

“He won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way,” one of the agents said. “You need to be careful.”

Lina nodded, knowing that she couldn’t let fear stop her. She was determined to bring the Tiger to justice, no matter what it took.

Over the next few weeks, Lina tracked the Tiger across the solar system. She followed him to the barren wastelands of Venus, where he was recruiting a new army of followers.

Lina watched from a distance as the Tiger addressed his new recruits, promising them power and wealth beyond their wildest dreams. She felt sick to her stomach as she saw the desperation in their eyes, knowing that they were being manipulated by a ruthless killer.

But Lina knew that she couldn’t let her emotions get in the way. She had a job to do, and she had to do it well.

She waited until nightfall, when the Tiger and his followers had retired to their camps. She slipped into the Tiger’s tent, her heart pounding in her chest.

The Tiger was there, sleeping soundly. Lina pulled out her knife, ready to strike. But as she looked down at the man who had caused so much destruction and death, something inside her hesitated.

She knew that killing the Tiger would be the easy way out. It would be a quick and simple solution to a complex problem. But it wouldn’t bring back the lives that he had taken. It wouldn’t make things right.

Lina lowered her knife and backed away from the Tiger’s tent. She knew that she had to find another way to stop him, a way that didn’t involve violence or revenge.

As she made her way back to her ship, Lina felt a sense of purpose and clarity that she had never felt before. She knew that she had found her true calling: to fight for justice and to protect the innocent, no matter what the cost. And she knew that she had the strength and the courage to do it, even in the face of the most merciless enemies.

Lina returned to Mars with a renewed sense of purpose. She contacted the government agents and told them about her decision not to kill the Tiger.

“I know it might seem foolish,” Lina said. “But I believe that there’s always another way. Violence only begets more violence.”

The agents were skeptical, but they knew that Lina was a skilled operative and that she had a deep sense of morality.

“We’ll support you,” one of the agents said. “But we need to be careful. The Tiger won’t stop until he’s taken down everyone who stands in his way.”

Lina spent the next few weeks gathering intelligence on the Tiger’s movements and plans. She learned that he was planning a massive attack on a government facility on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Lina knew that she had to stop him, no matter what it took. She gathered a team of operatives, including Astra, and they set out for Titan.

They arrived on Titan just in time to see the Tiger’s forces approaching the government facility. Lina and her team raced to intercept them, engaging them in a fierce battle.

The fighting was intense, and Lina knew that they were outnumbered. But she refused to back down. She fought with all her strength, her mind focused on her mission to stop the Tiger and protect the innocent.

As the battle raged on, Lina caught sight of the Tiger himself. He was leading the charge, his eyes blazing with fury and bloodlust.

Lina knew that this was her chance. She charged at the Tiger, her knife flashing in the moonlight. The two of them clashed, their blades ringing out in the night.

For a moment, it seemed as though the Tiger might overpower her. But Lina refused to give up. She fought with all her might, her heart filled with a fierce determination to protect the people she had sworn to defend.

And then, in a single swift move, Lina disarmed the Tiger. She held her knife to his throat, ready to end his reign of terror once and for all.

But as she looked into the Tiger’s eyes, she saw something that surprised her. She saw fear, and pain. She saw a man who had lost his way, and who didn’t know how to find it again.

Lina hesitated, her hand shaking. She knew that she had the power to end the Tiger’s life. But she also knew that she had the power to show him mercy.

In the end, Lina chose mercy. She spared the Tiger’s life, and handed him over to the authorities.

As she watched the Tiger being taken away, Lina knew that she had done the right thing. She had shown that there was always another way, that violence wasn’t the only solution. And she had shown that even the most merciless enemies could be redeemed.

Human Bait

The woman and Astra had been in prison for some months when she received an unexpected visit from a government agent. He had a proposition for her and Astra.

“There’s a terrorist group on Mars,” the agent explained, “and they’ve been causing a lot of trouble lately. They call themselves the ‘Tigers,’ and they’re responsible for a string of attacks on our colonies. We believe that they have ties to the group that you were involved with. We want you to go to Mars and infiltrate their organization.”

The woman listened, intrigued. It was a risky plan, but it might be their only chance to get out of prison.

“What do you want us to do?” she asked.

“We want you to act as human bait,” the agent said. “We’ll give you fake identities and a cover story. You’ll go to Mars and make contact with the Tigers. You’ll pretend to be interested in joining their group, and you’ll gain their trust. Once you’re in, you’ll gather information about their operations and report back to us. In exchange, we’ll reduce your sentences and provide you with new identities once the mission is complete.”

It was a tempting offer, but the woman was hesitant. She didn’t know if she was ready to go back to a life of deception and danger.

“What if they find out who we are?” she asked.

“We’ll have your backs,” the agent assured her. “We’ll be monitoring your communications and providing you with backup if necessary. You won’t be alone.”

After much deliberation, the woman and Astra agreed to the mission. They were given new identities and transported to Mars, where they were met by a contact who would introduce them to the Tigers.

The Tigers were a ruthless group of extremists who believed that the government of the Solar System was oppressing the Martian colonists. They were responsible for a series of bombings and kidnappings, and they had a reputation for being incredibly secretive and dangerous.

The woman and Astra were introduced to the Tigers’ leader, a man known only as “The Tiger.” He was a tall, muscular man with a shaved head and a fierce gaze. He greeted them with suspicion but seemed intrigued by their story.

They told him that they were refugees from Earth, looking for a new home on Mars. They claimed to be sympathetic to the Tigers’ cause and eager to join their group.

The Tiger listened carefully, then nodded. “You may join us,” he said. “But you must prove yourselves first. We have a mission for you.”

He handed them a dossier containing information about a Martian government official who was planning to crack down on the Tigers’ activities. They were instructed to kidnap him and deliver him to a secret location.

The woman and Astra knew that they had no choice but to carry out the mission. They followed the official for several days, monitoring his movements and looking for an opportunity to strike.

Finally, they found their chance. The official was attending a gala at a local museum, and they managed to slip into the building disguised as waitstaff.

They waited until the official was alone in a side room, then pounced on him. They gagged him and tied him up, then dragged him out of the building and into a waiting car. The Tiger was pleased with their success. He praised them for their bravery and dedication to the cause.

“You have proven yourselves worthy of our trust,” he said. “But there is still much work to be done. We have plans for a major attack on the Earth colonies. You will be instrumental in making it happen.”

The woman and Astra listened, their hearts racing. They knew that they were in deep, but they also knew that they had to see the mission through to the end.

They had become human bait, but they were determined to turn the tables on the Tigers and bring them to justice.

Over the next few weeks, the woman and Astra worked closely with the Tigers, gathering information and laying the groundwork for the attack. They discovered that the Tigers had smuggled weapons and explosives onto Earth, and they were planning to launch a coordinated assault on several major cities.

The woman and Astra knew that they had to act fast. They contacted the government agent who had recruited them and gave him the details of the Tigers’ plan.

“We need your help,” the woman said. “We’ve done everything you asked of us. Now it’s your turn.”

The agent agreed to send a team of operatives to take down the Tigers, but he warned the woman and Astra that it would be a risky operation.

“You’ll have to be our eyes and ears on the inside,” he said. “We need you to stay in contact with us and give us updates on the Tigers’ movements. We’ll do our best to keep you safe, but you need to be careful.”

The woman and Astra agreed to the plan. They continued to work with the Tigers, gathering information and waiting for the right moment to strike.

Finally, the day of the attack arrived. The Tigers were preparing to launch their assault on Earth, and the woman and Astra were in the thick of it.

They watched in horror as the Tigers unleashed a wave of destruction on the unsuspecting cities below. Buildings crumbled, people screamed, and chaos reigned.

But the woman and Astra knew that they had to stay focused. They contacted the government agents and provided them with detailed information about the Tigers’ whereabouts and movements. The agents moved in, launching a coordinated assault on the Tigers’ base. The woman and Astra fought alongside the agents, using their knowledge of the base to help take down the Tigers’ defenses.

In the end, the operation was a success. The Tigers were defeated, and their plans for a massive attack on Earth were thwarted. But once more the Tiger himself escaped.

The woman and Astra were hailed as heroes, and their sentences were commuted. They were suggested to be given new identities. Identity. The woman sighed. She still didn’t know who she was or where she came from, but she knew that she was capable of more than she had ever imagined.

Queen of Magic

Jarmo Dorak and Leonore Wagner were no strangers to adventure. They had faced danger on Mercury and emerged victorious. But now, three months after their first encounter with the crystal, they found themselves on a new quest. The crystal had been examined by the world’s top scientists, and they had made a remarkable discovery. The crystal had once belonged to a member of the Order of the Blue Sorcerers, a powerful sorceress known as the “Queen of Magic.” With the crystal, she had been able to travel through space at will.

Jarmo and Leonore knew they had to find out more about this mysterious figure. They had heard rumors that the palace of the Queen of Magic was located in a remote valley on Mars. They set out to find it, determined to uncover its secrets. Their journey to the valley was treacherous, and they faced many dangers along the way. The harsh Martian landscape was unforgiving, and they had to rely on their survival skills to make it through.

Finally, they arrived at the valley, and it was just as they had heard. The palace of the Queen of Magic was there, hidden in the shadows of the cliffs. It was a massive structure, made of black stone and decorated with intricate carvings and glyphs. Jarmo and Leonore were awestruck by the palace’s grandeur, but they knew they had to be cautious. The Queen of Magic had been a powerful sorceress, and her palace could be filled with traps and magical defenses.

As they approached the palace, they noticed something strange. The entrance was not where they had expected it to be. Instead of a grand doorway, they found a small cave, barely large enough for them to crawl through.

Jarmo rolled his eyes. “Of course, it’s another cave. We’ve been in enough of those lately.”

Leonore chuckled. “Well, we can’t let a little thing like a cave stop us, can we?”

Together, they entered the cave, and what they found inside was nothing short of incredible. The cave was lined with crystals, and they shimmered in the dim light of their torches. As they made their way through the winding passages, they found themselves in a large chamber, filled with strange artifacts and ancient books. Jarmo and Leonore were both mesmerized by what they saw. It was clear that the Queen of Magic had been a powerful figure, with knowledge and abilities beyond anything they had ever seen before.

They spent hours in the chamber, examining the artifacts and studying the books. Finally, they came across a small, round mirror with a handle. It was intricately decorated, with swirling patterns and sparkling gems.

Jarmo picked up the mirror, and as he did, he felt a strange energy coursing through his body. He looked into the mirror, and his reflection started to shimmer and warp. Suddenly, the mirror exploded into a shower of light, and Jarmo was sucked into a vortex of energy. Leonore screamed, but there was nothing she could do. Jarmo had disappeared, and she was alone in the chamber.

She was about to give up hope when she heard a voice calling to her from somewhere in the room. It was Jarmo, and he sounded excited.

“Leonore, come look at this!” he shouted.

She made her way over to where his voice was coming from and found him standing in front of a bookshelf. He was holding a book, and his eyes were wide with wonder.

“Look at this, Leonore,” he said, holding up the book. “It’s a map. A map to the Temple of the Windharp.”

Leonore couldn’t believe it. The Temple of the Windharp was a legendary place. It was said to hold great power and secrets, and many had searched for it throughout the ages, but no one had ever found it.

She wanted to pat Jarmo on the shoulder, but her hand didn’t reach. It went through Jarmo as if he weren’t there. She cried out in shock.
“What is it?” Jarmo asked innocently.
“You… I…”, Leonore stuttered. Then she tried to touch him again. Her hand went through him again. Like he’s not real. Or was she the one who wasn’t real? Something had happened.
“What do you remember?” she asked.
“Remember? I walked across the room, picked up the mirror and looked, then I discovered the book,” Jarmo replied.
“There was a flash of light,” said Leonore. “You don’t remember that anymore?”
“Er… no.”
“That explains a lot. I’ve been wondering why you’re standing here in the corner so clueless after what happened.”

Jarmo and Leonore had stumbled upon something incredible, and they knew they had to follow this map and find the temple. But first, they had to retrieve Jarmo from wherever he had been transported.

They searched the room for any clues, and finally, they found a small crystal that looked similar to the one they had found on Mercury. They realized that it must have been the key to activating the mirror.

Leonore took the crystal and held it up to the mirror. She focused her energy on it, and suddenly, the mirror flashed, and Jarmo fell to the floor.

But he got up immediately. He was grinning from ear to ear. “That was amazing! I traveled through time and space, Leonore. It was incredible!”

Leonore rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m just glad you’re back in one piece.”

They examined the mirror, trying to figure out what it was capable of. They realized that it was a tool for transportation, but it wasn’t just any kind of transportation. The mirror allowed people to travel through time and space, to any location. But how exactly it worked was not clear. Jarmo had apparently ended up in some kind of parallel dimension. He was still visible here, but not present.

They went on exploring the palace, uncovering secrets and learning mysteries. They found artifacts of incredible power and knowledge. Eventually, they gathered all the knowledge and artifacts they found to study those on Earth more closely. It was time to move on.

As they left planet Mars with their spaceship, Jarmo turned to Leonore and said, “You know, we make a pretty good team. Maybe we should stick together and see what else we can discover.”

Leonore smiled. “I think that’s a great idea. There’s a whole universe out there waiting for us, and we’re just getting started.”

Fighting the Fire Dragon

One month had passed since Jarmo Dorak and Tashana Oyan had fought for their lives in the Tournament of Death. They had emerged victorious and had become instant heroes, but they had no time to celebrate their triumph as they had other pressing matters to attend to. Jarmo had his birthday coming up, and Tashana had promised him a well-deserved break, a chance to relax and rejuvenate after the grueling tournament. She had arranged for them to take a vacation on the shore of the ocean on Planet Mars, a place Jarmo had visited several months ago.

As they arrived on the planet, they were taken aback by the stunning beauty of the ocean. It was vast and deep, and the waves were calm and soothing. They set up a small tent on the beach where they would stay for the next few days. Jarmo was thrilled at the prospect of being away from his work as a special agent for the ASTROCOHORS CLUB, and he looked forward to spending some quality time with Tashana.

The first few days of their vacation were peaceful and relaxing. They spent their time exploring the surroundings, walking on the beach, and swimming in the ocean. Jarmo was grateful for the respite and felt recharged with energy. However, on the morning of his birthday, their vacation took an unexpected turn.

Jarmo woke up to the sound of something roaring in the distance. He got up from his bed and went out to investigate, with Tashana following close behind. As they walked along the beach, they saw a massive fire dragon, soaring high in the sky, and breathing flames that scorched everything in their path. It was headed straight for their tent.

Jarmo and Tashana quickly realized that their vacation had taken an unwelcome turn, and they needed to act fast to save themselves. Tashana remembered that the planet Mars had a history of frequent dragon sightings, and she had come prepared. She had brought along a special weapon, a particle thrower that could extinguish the fire dragon’s flames.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Jarmo grabbed the particle thrower from Tashana and aimed it at the fire dragon. He pulled the trigger, and the particles coming from the weapon engulfed the dragon, extinguishing the fire that it breathed. However, the dragon was not going down without a fight. It swooped down towards Jarmo and Tashana, its massive claws aimed straight at them.

Jarmo and Tashana were skilled fighters, and they knew how to protect themselves. They dodged the dragon’s attacks and counter-attacked with their weapons, striking the dragon in its weak spots. However, the dragon was persistent, and it kept coming back, determined to defeat them.

Jarmo and Tashana realized that they were not going to win this battle alone, and they needed help. They called for backup, and within minutes, a team of ASTROCOHORS agents arrived on the scene. They brought along a more powerful weapon, a laser gun, capable of piercing the dragon’s tough scales.

Jarmo and Tashana fought alongside the agents, taking turns to attack the dragon and defend themselves against its attacks. They coordinated their efforts, each one covering the other’s back. The dragon was fierce, but they were relentless, and they kept fighting, determined not to let it defeat them.

As the battle waged on, Jarmo and Tashana’s bond grew stronger. They trusted each other implicitly, knowing that they could count on each other in times of need. They fought as a team, each one relying on the other’s skills and expertise. They were united in their goal, to defeat the fire dragon and save themselves.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of intense fighting, the fire dragon began to weaken. Its attacks became less frequent and less powerful, and its flames started to flicker and die out. Jarmo, Tashana, and the agents took advantage of the dragon’s weakness and intensified their attacks, using their weapons to pierce its scales and strike it in its vital spots.

The dragon let out a final roar before collapsing on the ground, defeated. Jarmo, Tashana, and the agents cautiously approached it, ready to defend themselves against any last-ditch attacks. But the dragon was truly defeated, its breathing shallow, and its flames extinguished.

Jarmo and Tashana breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that they had triumphed against all odds. They turned to each other, and in that moment, they both knew that their bond had grown even stronger. They had fought side by side, facing danger together, and they had emerged victorious. Now the agents would take over and take care of the dragon’s body.

As they made their way back to their tent, Jarmo and Tashana were just happy to be alive and to have each other. The rest of their vacation was uneventful, and they spent their time recuperating from the battle with the fire dragon. They swam in the ocean, watched the sunset, and talked about their future together. Jarmo realized that he had developed deep feelings for Tashana, feelings that went beyond friendship or camaraderie. He knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, facing whatever dangers or adventures lay ahead.

On their last night on the planet Mars, Jarmo took Tashana out for a walk on the beach. The stars were shining bright in the sky, and the waves lapped gently at their feet. Jarmo turned to Tashana and said, “Tashana, I know we’ve been through a lot together, and I know that we’re both fighters. But there’s something else I want to fight for. I want to fight for you. I want to be with you, always, no matter what.”

Tashana looked at Jarmo, and her heart skipped a beat. She had always felt a deep connection with Jarmo, a connection that went beyond mere friendship. She realized, in that moment, that she too had fallen in love with him. She took his hand in hers and said, “Jarmo, I don’t want to fight for anything else, but I want to fight for you too. I want to be with you, always, no matter what.”

They embraced each other, their hearts filled with love and hope. They knew that the road ahead would be long and treacherous, but they also knew that they could face anything together. They walked back to their tent, hand in hand, ready to face whatever the future held, together.

Battling the Sea Beast

Aisha and Jarmo sat on the cold metal floor of their cell, the only light coming from a small crack in the door. They had been here for almost a month now and every day was the same routine. They would receive a bowl of fish soup, then be allowed to exercise for an hour in the small courtyard, before being locked back in their cell.

“It seems like STAR COMMAND doesn’t even care about us,” Aisha said, frustration clear in her voice.

Jarmo shook his head, “They do care, Aisha. They just have to be careful. The Shark Men are a powerful force on this planet.”

Aisha sighed, “I know, but it’s just frustrating being stuck here. I miss the sunshine and fresh air.”

Jarmo put his arm around her, “I miss it too, Aisha. But at least we have each other.”

As they sat in silence, they suddenly heard a loud bang from outside the door. A figure quickly slipped through the crack and closed the door behind her. It was a woman, about 30 years old, with brown hair and a determined look in her eyes.

“I’m Marion Alsy, from BUREAU 07,” she whispered, “I’m here to get you out.”

Jarmo and Aisha stared at her in disbelief, unsure if they could trust her. But they knew they had no other choice. Marion pulled out a small device and placed it on the door. It beeped twice and the door slid open. “Quickly, we have to go now,” she said, leading the way.

Marion brought with her advanced underwater technology, including special breathing apparatuses that allowed Aisha and Jarmo to breathe underwater for an extended period of time. Aisha and Jarmo should quickly find out why. For not the entire city of the Chardadon was filled with air like the cell in which the two had been held captive. Some parts of the cave system in which the city was built were submerged. That was only logical, since the Chardadon were amphibians.

With Marion’s help, Aisha and Jarmo managed to escape their cell undetected. Then something strange happened: Marion put the breathing gear on the two before they were supposed to climb down into a tunnel that was flooded with water. Only Marion didn’t put on any equipment. Jarmo wondered if she could hold her breath that long, but then he realized it was different: she was breathing underwater! How was that possible? But now was no time to think about such details. They swam through the maze of tunnels and caverns that made up the underwater city, careful to avoid the Shark Men’s patrols.

As they swam through the dark, murky waters, they could see the glowing lights of the city growing smaller and smaller behind them. They knew they had to move quickly if they wanted to escape before the Shark Men realized they were missing.

Marion led the way, using her knowledge of the city’s layout to navigate through the twisting tunnels. Aisha and Jarmo followed closely behind, their hearts pounding with fear and anticipation.

As they swam, they could hear the sounds of alarms ringing out across the city, signaling that their escape had been discovered. They could also hear the sounds of the Shark Men’s weapons firing, echoing through the water.

Photo by Kris Mikael Krister on Unsplash

Marion led them to a small, hidden chamber, where she had stashed a small underwater vehicle. They quickly climbed aboard and Marion piloted the craft out of the city and into the open sea.

As they sped away from the city, they could see the Shark Men’s submarines in hot pursuit. The chase was on.

Marion expertly maneuvered the small craft through the twisting underwater canyons, using the terrain to her advantage to stay one step ahead of the pursuing Shark Men.

Aisha and Jarmo manned the vehicle’s weapons, firing back at the Shark Men’s pursuing craft. The water exploded around them as the two sides exchanged fire.

Finally, after what felt like hours of intense fighting and heart-pumping action, Marion managed to outmaneuver the Shark Men and lose them in the maze of underwater canyons.

Exhausted and exhilarated, Aisha and Jarmo collapsed onto the floor of the small craft, their hearts still pounding with adrenaline.

“That was close,” Aisha said, looking over at Marion. “You’re a mircale.”

Marion smiled, “Don’t thank me too early,” she said, “We’re not yet at our destination.”

With that, they set course for the surface, leaving the underwater city of the Shark Men far behind them. Aisha and Jarmo were amazed when they looked out through the submarine’s portholes and saw countless jellyfish. Wasn’t that the case before? But it had already been a month since her trip to the city of the Chardadon. Finally they surfaced in a small cove and Marion turned to Aisha and Jarmo, “I’m sorry it took so long for BUREAU 07 to find you. We had to wait until we had a safe opportunity to get you out.”

In the cove a small, sleek submarine was waiting for them. “This is our final ride out of here,” Marion said with a grin.

The trio climbed aboard the sub and Marion set the coordinates for a nearby STAR COMMAND base. As they began their journey, Aisha and Jarmo couldn’t help but express their gratitude to Marion for rescuing them.

“Thank you so much for coming to our rescue,” Aisha said. “We thought we were goners.”

Marion smiled at them. “It’s all part of the job,” she replied. “I’m just glad I was able to get to you in time.”

Aisha McClure, Jarmo Dorak, and Marion Alsy had finally made their way back to the beach where they had found the slate with the map to the Temple of the Wind Harp. They were exhausted and battered, but they knew that they had to press on with their mission.

As they sat on the beach catching their breath, they noticed something moving in the water. At first, they thought it might be a school of fish, but as the creature came closer, they realized it was something far larger and more dangerous.

It was a sea beast, a giant creature with multiple tentacles that reached out from its massive body. The creature was heading straight for the beach, and it was clear that it was not going to stop until it had caught them.

Marion quickly sprang into action, grabbing her laser gun from her bag and firing a shot at the creature. The blast hit the creature, causing it to thrash and writhe in the water, but it didn’t slow down.

Jarmo and Aisha also drew their weapons, ready to fight off the beast. Aisha fired her blaster, but the creature’s thick skin absorbed the blast, leaving no visible damage.

Jarmo quickly realized that the creature was impervious to their laser guns and decided to try a different approach. He grabbed a nearby piece of driftwood and charged toward the creature, hoping to use it to block the tentacles.

As the creature got closer, Jarmo jumped into the water, holding the driftwood out in front of him. The tentacles wrapped around the wood, and Jarmo tried to push them away, but the creature was too strong.

Marion quickly realized that Jarmo was in trouble and fired another shot at the creature, hitting it in one of its eyes. The creature roared in pain and released its grip on the driftwood, giving Jarmo a chance to swim back to shore.

As the Sea Beast let out a deafening roar, Aisha, Jarmo, and Marion tried to dodge its incoming tentacles. Aisha and Marion took cover behind a large rock, while Jarmo tried to keep the creature distracted by firing his blaster at it. But it seemed that their efforts were in vain, as the Sea Beast kept coming at them with a relentless fury.

Suddenly, Marion had an idea. She remembered that she had a special device in her backpack that could temporarily stun the Sea Beast. She quickly retrieved it and activated it, aiming it directly at the creature’s eyes. The device emitted a bright flash of light, causing the Sea Beast to writhe in pain and confusion.

Seizing the opportunity, Jarmo fired his blaster again, aiming for the creature’s vulnerable spot. This time, the shot hit its mark, and the Sea Beast let out a blood-curdling scream before collapsing into the sand.

Panting and exhausted, Aisha, Jarmo, and Marion looked at each other in disbelief. They had just battled a Sea Beast and emerged victorious. But their victory was short-lived, as they realized that they had attracted the attention of the Shark Men, who were now approaching the beach in their submarines.

Without hesitation, the trio started running towards the nearby jungle. They knew that they had to find a place to hide and come up with a plan to continue their journey to the Temple of the Wind Harp.

As they ran, Aisha noticed that Marion was struggling to keep up. She had sustained an injury during their fight with the Sea Beast and was limping. Without a second thought, Aisha went back to help her, while Jarmo continued ahead to scout the area.

Aisha and Marion found a small cave that they could use as a hiding place. They quickly made a fire and tended to Marion’s wound. As they waited for Jarmo to return, they talked about their past experiences and how they had ended up on this planet.

Marion explained that she was a member of Bureau 07, a secret service within… well, that came up as a surprise to Jarmo and Aisha. They expected that Marion would say “Star Command”, but she said “ASTROCOHORS”.

“No, really!” Jarmo exclaimed. “They really did it?”
“That was to be expected,” Marion replied firmly. “After all the problems the space agency has had, this had to happen. This will be the case from next year. So starting tomorrow.”
“Wait,” Aisha interjected, “does that mean the organization has changed its name?”
“Yes, because of all the problems that have been going on lately,” Marion explained. “Besides, it has long been felt that STAR COMMAND sounds too terran for an interplanetary organization. ASTROCOHORS simply fits better.”
“At least literally,” said Jarmo. “Otherwise nothing changes. ‘ASTROCOHORS’ simply means ‘Starfleet’, just in GalStan.”
Aisha looked at him with mock severity. “Hey! Who’s the linguist here?” And to Marion she added: “And this Bureau 07 is what exactly again?”

“Bureau 07” was not known to everyone, but at some point the space organization had to recognize that it needed a secret service. A secret service that dealt with high-risk missions. Marion went on to explain that she had been sent to rescue Aisha and Jarmo after they went missing.

Aisha and Jarmo shared their stories as well. The Temple of the Wind Harp and all that. But they had never expected to end up in a situation like this.

As they sat in the cave, listening to the sounds of the jungle and the approaching Shark Men, Aisha, Jarmo, and Marion knew that they had to work together if they wanted to survive. They had battled a Sea Beast and escaped the Shark Men’s city, but their journey was far from over. They had to continue their search for the Temple of the Wind Harp, and they had to do it quickly before the Shark Men caught up to them.

As the Shark Men’s footsteps grew closer, the three braced themselves for the worst. Marion was still in severe pain from the sea beast’s attack, and they knew that they couldn’t outrun the Shark Men.

Jarmo frantically searched the cave for any possible escape route, but it seemed like they were trapped. Aisha tried to come up with a plan, but her mind was clouded with fear and uncertainty.

Just as the Shark Men were about to enter the cave, a sudden rumble shook the ground beneath them. The Shark Men looked startled and quickly retreated back to the ocean.

“What just happened?” Aisha asked, her heart racing.

“I don’t know,” Jarmo said, looking around in confusion.

Marion’s eyes widened in realization. “The Temple of the Wind Harp,” she said weakly. “The legends say that it has the power to control the elements. We must have awakened it with our presence.”

Aisha and Jarmo exchanged a look of disbelief, but they knew that they couldn’t waste any more time. They quickly helped Marion to her feet and made their way out of the cave. They could see it then. The beach where Aisha and Jarmo had found the stone tablet with the map had changed. A hole had formed, as if the sand had simply disappeared inside the planet. The walls of the hole sloped downwards. There was some kind of building there, a rectangular structure with an Obelisk on top.
“Look!” Aisha shouted, “The top of the obelisk!”
Jarmo took a closer look. Yes! The top of the obelisk was the slab of lyranium they had discovered and excavated. They hadn’t been able to lift it and assumed it was just too heavy. But that made it clear, they hadn’t just found a plaque, they had found this building. Was that really the Temple of the Wind Harp?

As they approached the temple, they saw that it was surrounded by a powerful energy field. Aisha reached out to touch it, but the field repelled her with a force that knocked her to the ground.

“We can’t get through,” Jarmo said, helping Aisha up.

Marion nodded. “We need to find a way to bypass the energy field. The temple must have another entrance.”

They searched the surrounding area, but they couldn’t find any other entrance. Just as they were about to give up, they heard a faint humming sound coming from a nearby cliff. They cautiously approached the cliff and found a hidden cave entrance. As they made their way inside, they saw a glowing crystal that emitted a soft blue light.

“This must be the source of the energy field,” Marion said, pointing to the crystal.

Jarmo examined it closely and saw that it was connected to a series of wires that led to the temple. “I think I can disconnect it,” he said.

Aisha and Marion stood guard as Jarmo carefully removed the wires. As soon as the last wire was disconnected, the energy field surrounding the temple disappeared.

They rushed inside and saw the ancient Wind Harp, a massive instrument made of crystal and metal. Aisha touched one of the strings, and the harp emitted a beautiful melody that echoed throughout the temple.

“We did it,” Marion said, her eyes filled with awe.

Suddenly the melody changed. She formed words that the three of them couldn’t understand at first.
“Uyu! Uyu!” the voice sang. “La! La! La! La! Hear what the voice has to say. Traveler who seeks the Wind Harp Temple, let me tell you that your search is not over yet, for this is not it. But much you have achieved by finding this place. So don’t give up! This place is a signpost. Four signposts point to the Temple of the Wind Harp. You have to find them all and then you will find the temple. Four signposts on four planets. Through the You can find signposts from planet to planet, and when you have all four, they will show you the passage to the temple.”
Aisha could hear Jarmo taking a deep breath. At that moment a compartment opened in the harp they had taken for the wind harp. A red crystal became visible.
“This is the first signpost,” the voice continued. “You will find the second on the planet that gets so much love from the mother star that life is hardly possible on it, and yet it exists. In a temple like this in the caves of Ruy’i Koolyan you will find the next signpost.”
Aisha took the red crystal from the compartment. It seemed to glow by itself. Marion looked around uneasily. She had expected that once the crystal was taken out, the temple would collapse. But that didn’t happen. The three were able to leave the temple.
They were even able to exit the hole where the temple lay. Only then did the ground tremble and, as if by magic, the sand rose and buried the temple beneath it.

“So the search goes on,” stated Jarmo Dorak.
Aisha gave him a silent nod and smiled.
“Hey,” Marion said, “do you still need help? Maybe my supervisor will let me go after what’s happened here. You could use a bodyguard. Well, at least if my leg is okay again.”
“Hm,” said Jarmo. “What are you thinking, Aisha?”
“Without her, we’d still be stuck with the Chardadon,” Aisha pointed out. “She is right.”
“Well then.” Jarmo turned directly to Marion: “By the time your leg is okay again, we may have found out what exactly the mysterious voice meant with these caves of Ruy’i Koolyan.”
They heard a noise and spun around. But this time it wasn’t an enemy trying to attack them, it was a small spaceship approaching.
“My friends,” Marion said, “our cab away from this place is here!”

Captured by Shark Men

Aisha couldn’t believe it, but it was almost a month now that she and Jarmo had built the camp on that beach. The beach was a true treasure trove. Not only had they found a stone tablet with a map, but other artifacts as well. Jarmo wondered why they hadn’t found them sooner, but Aisha explained that it was definitely due to the Mag’a cult. To the Mag’a cult, anything not written in their holy book was evil sorcery and blasphemy. Since the Temple of the Wind Harp supposedly held the key to much wisdom in the universe, but according to the cultists only the holy book held the key to wisdom, all references to the temple were also blasphemy.

That morning, as always, the two had woken up together. Jarmo smiled. He had never felt such a close connection as with Aisha. The two had clearly sought and found each other. Aisha got up and looked around. She always did, every morning. Perhaps their experiences had made them overly cautious. But in this area, especially on Mars, you couldn’t be too careful. And like every morning, she went to her backpack and pulled out her sword to have it ready.

When Aisha had shown him the sword for the first time, he had been very surprised, but Jarmo had to admit that she was very skilled with it. At least what he had seen from their exercises. In fact, there were some areas on the planets of the solar system that still used such or similar weapons. There was definitely an advantage in melee combat.

Now that everything was prepared, Aisha went to Jarmo and kissed him tenderly. “Morning swim?” she asked.
He nodded. This had become their daily routine. Wake up. Prepare. Swim. Breakfast.

After breakfast, Aisha and Jarmo examined the tablet further, trying to decipher the clues that would lead them to the Temple of the Windharp. As they worked, they heard a strange noise coming from the water.

Jarmo looked up, his eyes widening in alarm. “Aisha, look!” he said, pointing towards the ocean.

Aisha turned to look, and her heart sank as she saw several dark figures emerging from the water. “Shark Men,” she whispered, her voice filled with fear.

The Shark Men were a vicious species that lived in the depths of the ocean, known for their deadly attacks on unsuspecting prey. They were tall, muscular creatures with razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Jarmo and Aisha knew they had to act fast. They quickly gathered their weapons and prepared for battle. The Shark Men charged towards them, their powerful legs propelling them forward with incredible speed. Jarmo fired his laser gun, hitting one of the creatures in the chest, but it barely flinched.

Aisha swung her sword, slicing through the air with deadly precision. She managed to cut off the arm of one of the Shark Men, but it kept coming, its eyes blazing with fury. The battle raged on, with Aisha and Jarmo fighting for their lives. They managed to fend off several attacks, but the Shark Men were relentless, their strength and speed proving to be a formidable challenge.

Suddenly, one of the Shark Men grabbed Aisha by the arm, pulling her towards the water. Jarmo tried to intervene, but he was quickly overpowered by the other creatures. Aisha struggled against her captor, kicking and screaming, but it was no use. The Shark Men were too strong.

They dragged Aisha and Jarmo into the water, pulling them towards a waiting submarine. Aisha and Jarmo continued to fight, their hearts pounding with fear and adrenaline. As they were dragged into the submarine, Aisha and Jarmo felt a sudden rush of panic. They were being pulled towards an airlock on the side of the submarine.

But just as they were about to be thrown into the airlock, Aisha and Jarmo managed to break free. They fought their way back to the surface, gasping for air as they emerged from the water.

The Shark Men swam away, their angry eyes fixed on Aisha and Jarmo as they disappeared into the depths of the ocean. Aisha and Jarmo looked at each other, their bodies shaking with fear and exhaustion. But they were alive.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

A day had passed since the first attack, and Aisha and Jarmo were still hard at work, determined to find the Temple of the Windharp. But as they were searching the beach, they heard a familiar sound – the Shark Men were back.

Before they could react, the creatures charged towards them, their massive bodies cutting through the water with incredible speed. Aisha and Jarmo fought back with all their might, but there were too many of them. Within minutes, they were overpowered and dragged down into the depths of the ocean.

Underwater, the fight continued, with Aisha and Jarmo struggling against the Shark Men. Aisha swung her sword, slashing through the water with deadly accuracy, while Jarmo fired his laser gun, hitting several of the creatures in the chest.

But this time the Shark Men were too powerful, and soon Aisha and Jarmo found themselves being dragged towards the waiting submarine. They fought back with all their might, but it was no use – they were thrown into the submarine and locked in a small, dark cell.

Hours passed, and Aisha and Jarmo sat in their cell, their minds racing with fear and uncertainty. Suddenly, the door to their cell opened, and a group of Shark Men entered.

“We have orders to take you to the Kingdom of the Chardadon,” said one of the creatures, its voice deep and guttural.

Aisha and Jarmo exchanged a worried glance, unsure of what lay ahead. But they knew that they had to stay strong, no matter what. Their journey took about one hour, then the submarine arrived at a cave. The cave was sealed with a gate that slowly opened as they approached it. Aisha and Jarmo were led out of their cell and out of the sub. Now they saw for the first time where they had arrived: In a large cave with a kind of harbor where the submarine had docked. The Shark Men led them and down a long, winding corridor. As they walked, Aisha and Jarmo could feel the weight of their situation bearing down on them.

Finally, they reached the throne room of the Shark Men’s King. The room was vast, with high ceilings and ornate decorations. On the throne sat the King of the Shark Men, a towering figure with piercing eyes and a sharp-toothed grin.

“We have captured these two humans, Your Majesty,” said one of the Shark Men, bowing before the King.

The King nodded, his eyes fixed on Aisha and Jarmo. “So, you are the ones who have been causing us so much trouble,” he said, his voice deep and menacing.

Aisha and Jarmo exchanged a worried glance, unsure of what to do next. They knew that they had to stay strong, no matter what lay ahead. But as they looked around the throne room, they couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread creeping over them.

They were officially prisoners of the Kingdom of these people, and they had no idea how they were going to escape. Aisha had heard stories about these creatures, and “shark people” was an attempt to somehow name their appearance and habitat. They were amphibians. They lived in one of the few seas on Mars. They called themselves Chardadon and wanted nothing to do with the “ground people”, as they called the non-amphibious life forms. This had to do with their history, they had been oppressed for a long time by an emperor who belonged to the “ground people”. But what did they want from Aisha and Jarmo? Did they want to prevent the two from looking further? Or was the beach some kind of sacred ground that the two had desecrated?
The Chardadon king was apparently unwilling to answer the question. “Take them away!” he ordered. Guards grabbed Jarmo and Aisha and took them to another cell. Jarmo had tried to memorize as many details of the environment as possible for a possible escape on the way there. But it was just too much. The city was very impressive. The passages were carved into the rock. The walls were decorated with reliefs. Now and then there were doors.

The cell they were taken to, on the other hand, was pretty bare. Four walls. A solid metal door. And a porthole that looked out at the ocean.
“We have to be relatively deep under water,” Jarmo stated.
“How do you know that?” Aisha asked.
“See the surroundings glowing that weird blue hue out there? The light from the sun is made up of many colors of different wavelengths. When it’s sent through water, it loses one color at a time, depending on how deep the water is . In the end, all that’s left is blue. So we’re pretty deep.”
Aisha looked at him in shock. “But that means,” she stated, “even if we got out of this cell, we wouldn’t have a chance of escaping the city! We can’t hold our breath that long.”
“No,” confirmed Jarmo. “We’ll have to wait and see what the Chardadon intend for us.”

The only hope they had was that when regular reports stopped coming in, STAR COMMAND would be looking for them. But how long would that take?

The Tunnel of Terror

Jarmo and Aisha emerged from the Tunnel of Terror gasping for air, their hearts racing. They had faced one danger after another, but they had made it through alive. The hovercraft they’d taken through Mount Konomara made a few protesting noises, but it was still working.
“One thing I know,” said Aisha. “It wasn’t a good idea to take a vehicle that didn’t have a roof!”
“I guess I have to take my responsibility”, Dorak replied.
It had been about two weeks since they met in such an adventurous way. They had escaped the enemy city with the help of a few friendly Martians. Aisha was a linguist and was completely blown away when Jarmo told her why he had come to this place. She had heard of the legend of the Temple of the Wind Harp. She also knew that the temple obviously really existed, or maybe had existed. She was taking time off from her time as a Fleet officer, so she offered to accompany Jarmo. Maybe he would need someone who could translate languages. They worked closely together for the past two weeks. Even if the time had actually been short, a kind of intimacy had developed between the two. Maybe that came from the special circumstances of their meeting. In any case, they found that they worked well together. Almost as if they had known her not just for two weeks, but for several years. On several occasions, Aisha looked at Jarmo and was reminded of a friend she had known since she was a Fleet cadet. Then she smiled quietly to herself.

She had been able to prove her talent right away. Jarmo had photographed a stone slab in the museum in the city of Aresium. It hadn’t been easy, because the damn Mag’a cult had them hidden in the basement of the museum. To the Mag’a, the inscriptions of the ancient Martians were blasphemy. Luckily they hadn’t scratched the drawings and inscriptions out of the stone. Jarmo had seen that too, beautiful old works of art destroyed by blind faith.
The inscription on the stone slab dealt with the old myth about the so-called “Tunnel of Terror”. And that’s what it really had become, because according to what Jarmo had seen on the maps, it led through a mountain range and left the domed city at a point below ground. However, it would lead somewhere into a valley, and from there the search for clues would continue.

But, Jarmo Aisha had to agree, maybe they should have taken something other than a hovercraft. Or at least a hovercraft with a cockpit. They had indeed found the entrance to the Tunnel of Terror. And they had crossed it. They just got through.

As they stood at the entrance to the tunnel, catching their breath, they looked out at the vast ocean that stretched before them. The shore was rocky and treacherous, but they could see a path leading to a small cove where they could land their hovercraft. Jarmo quickly took out his scanner and began scanning the area for any signs of the Wind Harp. He had been searching for the ancient artifact for years, and he was determined to find it no matter what. The inscription on the stone tablet in the museum had contained a clue: a certain material, a kind of dark rock called lyranium, would show the way and the destination. Luckily, the stone tablet had a piece of lyranium embedded in it, so Jarmo could sample it. His scanner was tuned to the result of the sample and would show him the lyranium if any were nearby.

Aisha walked over to the edge of the water and dipped her toe in. The water was crystal clear and cool against her skin. She smiled, took off her top and pants, and waded out further into the water, beckoning for Jarmo to join her. He also took off his outerwear and followed her. For a few minutes, they forgot about their quest and swam and splashed in the lake, laughing and playing like children. But their fun was short-lived, as a loud rumbling sound interrupted their playtime.

Picture by Jakob Owens /

They both looked up to see a massive boulder rolling down the hill, heading straight for them. Jarmo grabbed Aisha’s hand and they ran as fast as they could towards the tunnel.

The boulder narrowly missed them and crashed into the water, sending a wave of water and rocks in their direction. They were knocked off their feet and swept up in the current.

As they tumbled downstream, they struggled to regain their footing, but the current was too strong. Suddenly, they were caught in a whirlpool, and Jarmo could see the entrance to the tunnel disappearing from view.

He knew they had to get out of the whirlpool fast, or they would be sucked under. With all his might, he grabbed Aisha and they swam towards the edge of the whirlpool, using all their strength to break free.

Finally, they made it to the edge, exhausted and out of breath. Jarmo looked at Aisha, and they both nodded, silently agreeing that they had to keep going. They had come too far to turn back now. But the hovercraft was no longer of any use to them, so they had to get their backpacks and started walking. The scanner showed a direction that went along the edge of the mountain, always along the water.

Jarmo looked out at the vast expanse of water, and he knew they had a long way to go. But he was determined to find the Wind Harp, no matter what dangers lay ahead. He turned to Aisha and smiled, grateful to have her by his side.

“Let’s go,” he said, and they set off towards the horizon, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead.

The path ahead was treacherous, but they were determined to keep going. They climbed over boulders, crossed rickety bridges, and navigated through narrow tunnels. They had to dodge falling rocks and debris.

Finally they arrived at a wide expanse, an almost picturesque beach. They put down their backpacks. The sun was already low and created an almost romantic mood. Jarmo checked his scanner.
“We seem to be right,” he stated. “Somewhere on this beach there must be lyranium. But I think it’s too late for today.”
The two set up their camp. The sun was almost down now. But there was still light.

Jarmo and Aisha decided to take a short walk along the beach, the waves lapping at their feet. The sun had almost set, and the sky was a riot of orange and pink hues. Then, Aisha sat down on the sand, and Jarmo joined her, sitting close. They both looked out at the ocean, lost in thought.

“You know,” Aisha said, breaking the silence. “I’ve been alone for a long time.”

Jarmo turned to her, his eyes searching hers. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I’ve spent most of my life searching for something,” Aisha said, her voice soft. “And in doing so, I’ve neglected other parts of my life.”

Jarmo nodded, understanding what she meant. “I know what you mean. I’ve been so focused on finding things that I’ve forgotten what it means to truly live.”

Aisha smiled, turning to look at him. “You know, when I first met you, I thought you were just another adventurer looking for treasure.”

Jarmo grinned, shaking his head. “I’m not looking for treasure. I’m looking for something more.”

“Like what?” Aisha asked, curiosity piqued.

Jarmo hesitated for a moment before speaking. “I’m looking for a purpose. Something that will give my life meaning.”

Aisha’s heart swelled with emotion, and she reached out to touch his hand. “You know, I think you’ve already found it.”

Jarmo looked at her, confusion etched on his face. “What do you mean?”

“I mean us,” Aisha said, her voice barely above a whisper. “We’ve been through so much together in this short time, and we’ve come so far. Maybe that’s what we were both searching for all along.”

Jarmo’s heart raced, and he looked into Aisha’s eyes, seeing the truth in her words. He leaned in closer to her, and without thinking, he kissed her. The kiss was soft and gentle at first, but it quickly grew more passionate as they both realized their feelings for each other.

As they pulled away from the kiss, they looked at each other, their hearts full of love and hope. They knew that they still had a long way to go in their search for the Wind Harp, but now they had each other.

Hand in hand, they walked back to their campsite, their hearts full of love and happiness.

The next morning, Jarmo and Aisha woke up in their small campsite, the sun already up in the sky. They lay in their sleeping bags, looking at each other with a deep sense of contentment.

“Good morning,” Jarmo said, his voice filled with love.

“Good morning to you too,” Aisha replied, a smile spreading across her face.

Jarmo leaned in and kissed her gently, feeling a surge of warmth and happiness spread through his body. “I had the best sleep last night,” he said, looking at Aisha with an expression of pure joy.

“Me too,” Aisha said, her voice soft and tender. “It’s amazing how much difference a good night’s sleep can make.” She emphasized the word “sleep” in a very special way. Jarmo grinned, he understood her perfectly.

He nodded, then got up from his sleeping bag, grabbing his scanner. “I’m going to scan the beach again, see if we can find any more traces of lyranium.”

Aisha watched him go, feeling a deep sense of admiration and affection for him. She picked up her notebook and pen, then set about translating the inscription they had found the previous day. Breakfast? Later!

As she worked, Jarmo came back, his face lit up with excitement. “I found something!” he exclaimed, holding up the scanner. “It’s about 200 meters to the east of here.”

Aisha’s heart raced with anticipation as she followed Jarmo to the location where the scanner had indicated. They started digging in the sand, and after a few minutes, they found a small stone tablet with an inscription.

Aisha examined the tablet, her eyes moving quickly over the ancient symbols. “It’s a map,” she said, her voice filled with excitement. “It shows the location of the Temple of the Windharp. I have to do some more work, but…”

Jarmo looked at her, a huge grin spreading across his face. “That’s incredible! We’re one step closer to finding it!”

Aisha nodded, feeling a deep sense of gratitude for Jarmo’s companionship and support. “I’m glad I went on this adventure with you,” she said, looking at him with love in her eyes.

Jarmo leaned in and kissed her, his heart filled with joy and happiness. “I’m just glad I get to share this journey with you,” he said, his voice filled with emotion.

As they sat on the beach, basking in the glow of their love, they knew that the road ahead would be long and challenging. But they also knew that they had each other, and that was all they needed to face whatever lay ahead. But now it was really time for breakfast.

The Planet of Peril

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash

It would have been an exaggeration to describe the planet Mars as “calm”. Scientists on Earth would have said that because the grid hid the events that were taking place on this desert planet from their prying eyes. Life had changed a lot since the climate catastrophe. Mars had previously been made up of large deserts, but it had gotten worse since the atmosphere was no longer renewed. The Martians had withdrawn to domed cities. The domed cities of Mars had always been epicentres for social unrest. And whenever the unrest increased, there was some high-ranking military member who willingly supported a politician. Then propaganda was carried out so that one could emigrate to other planets, one only had to conquer them. However, any attempt to conquer has so far failed. Not even the radical cult that followed the “Eternal” was successful. And in a world like Mars, that meant something.

The domed city Aresium was the capital of the planet. You could say that this was the most civilized place. But that was not an award. “Civilized” was a very relative description on Mars. The dome of Aresium spanned a large crater in the northern hemisphere of the planet. There was the city of Aresium itself with its tall buildings, several parks that were important for the preservation of the air and even a body of water. The water was also important for the ecological balance under the dome. The city had a whole authority that only dealt with the issues of balance.

Jarmo Dorak turned around. He stood close to a building under some sort of sun shield. He wore the black uniform shirt of STAR COMMAND, together with the trousers in khaki colours so everybody near him could recognize him as an officer of the space fleet. But he would have been recognized anyway.

Jarmo Dorak. Picture by
Jarmo Dorak. Picture by

Jarmo was still fascinated. He had seen inhabitants of other planets in the solar system many times before, but never had so many different ones in one place. They all looked like human beings from Earth, but what made them different was skin color. Of course, they looked like people from Earth, the ACELS had made them from Earth humans and adjusted their DNA. Martians, for example, were characterized by their extremely red skin tone.
“I shouldn’t be staring at her,” Jarmo said to himself. Perhaps the Martians felt that as an insult. And when they were offended, the Martians could get very unpleasant.

The dome’s waters sprang from various sources that were carefully monitored. And pretty much in the middle of the crater they ran into a large lake. The lake was the basis of life for many residents of Aresium. There were fishermen here, but also transport boats. Many goods were transported from one side of the lake to the other. Here, where Jarmo was, was the city’s residential and business district. There were large industrial plants on the other side of the lake. There was, of course, its own weather under the dome and, as so often on Mars, it was warm. The sun did not have the same power as on Earth, but there were fewer clouds. If any.

Jarmo sauntered down a sprawling promenade and reached a large structure that seemed to be made of something similar to wood. A pier, a large jetty that led from the promenade across the beach below into the water. The pier ended at a large platform. Here were small houses or stalls, to be exact. And a…
Was that a crane?

Although Jarmo had noticed the steel scaffolding and also that a lot of Martians were there, but now he realized why they were there. The crane had a winch, from which a rope was led over the boom, which hung down into the water. Jarmo had not seen it at first, but there was a person hanging from the rope! Not the way someone hanged someone to strangle him. No, the rope of the crane was wrapped around the person’s ankles, so that she hung with her head down in the water.
And that was why Jarmo had not noticed the person at first: she had been under water. Now he heard the crowd of Martians next to the crane yelling and screaming. Someone operated the crane and that was cheered on by the crowd.

Jarmo could only guess what the reason for this cruel spectacle was. But it was a very good guess. Because the person who was hanging on the rope was a Terran. And she had a dark skin, probably African roots, even if she did not even come directly from this continent.
Now Jarmo noticed a second group of people who stood aloof, but behaved completely differently. They were crowded together, talking softly. You could see that they did not like the spectacle, but they did not have the courage to intervene. That was no wonder, because all these people belonged to minorities. Green-skinned Venusians, blue-skinned Neptunians, people from Saturn and so forth. And Martian “Un-Pures”.

Jarmo had already heard about it: Amongst the Martians, a kind of “culture of purity” had developed. The pigments in the skin of an average Martians had to be red, then he was “pure”. But in the course of history many peoples had immigrated to the territory of the Solar System. Children from mixed relationships could be recognized immediately by a different skin tone or darker spots. It was simply a whim of nature, nature loved diversity, not monotony. The spots sometimes formed interesting patterns, may have different shades. But it led to exclusion. The darker and larger the spots were, the more the “pure” Martians looked down on others.

And now there had come a Terran whose skin was completely dark. An abomination for the “pure”! Such things were extremely rare among the Martians. Apparently that was reason enough for the mob to go crazy. Now you could even understand, what the crowd was yelling: “Mag’a! Mag’a! Mag’a!” It was a Martian word meaning “Eternal”. At least some of them supposedly were radical cultist. The rest were just followers.

“Please sir!” Jarmo Dorak turner around. He had been so focused on the crowd that he had not noticed how a man approached him. A Martian with a green pattern on the skin.
“Please, sir!” The man repeated. “I see you are also appalled by this. Please do something, we can not do anything without exposing ourself to the wrath of the crowd! She comes from your world, right?”
The Terran nodded. The young woman was about his age, about the end of her twenties. She had curly dark hair and wore nothing but a bikini. Apparently her clothes had been ripped off her.
She has just been pulled up again. You could hear her all over the pier gasping for air. The Martian operating the crane shouted: “Down again, yes?”
The crowd yelled. Maybe something like “Yes!” It was not understandable and it did not really matter. A button was pressed. The winch released the rope. The young Terran fell like a stone into the water. With a slpashing sound she disappeared between the waves.
“Get them up again!” Shouted the man who operated the winch. “Then she’s allowed to breathe again, and then let’s see how long she can stand underwater! They say Terrans are good athletes, let’s find out!”
Jarmo now knew he had to act quickly. But he too had no chance against the crowd. He had to do something different.
He winked at the Martian who was standing next to him. Then he ran from the pier down to the beach, under the construction.
He took off his clothes. He left his underpants on and hoped that the water would not be too cold. Above, the crowd screamed. He took his multifunction tool from a trouser pocket and went a few steps into the water. Not too cold, he noted. He went into the water and started to swim, always making sure to stay under the pier. The crowd up there should not see him.

Then it happened!

With a splash, the woman fell into the water and sank immediately. Jarmo did not understand that. Yes, her feet were tied up, but why did she sink in the water? Jarmo took a deep breath and went under.

The water was fortunately clear enough so that he could see. He saw the woman sinking to the bottom. Desperately, she moved her arms. Jarmo realized that the rope tied around her feet held a weight that pulled her down. And either she was not a good swimmer or just too exhausted, so she could not make it back to the surface.
Jarmo swam up to her. He realized that she was startled when he touched her feet. He took his tool and cut into the rope. It was tiring, but he managed to cut right through the rope.

He noticed that a large part of the rope lay loosely on the ground. The guy on the winch had given a lot of rope. He obviously wanted to make sure that the woman was really on the ground of the lake. He grabbed the woman and pulled her away under water until both were under the pier. Then they showed up. The woman gasped loudly. Jarmo hoped the waves were louder. He hoped the Martians on the pier wouldn’t hear them.
“Can you hold on here?” Asked Jarmo.
The woman was still breathing frantically, but she nodded her head.
“Why?” She wanted to know.
“I have to do something else.”
Then he dived again.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Underwater Jarmo grabbed the lose end of the rope and swam toward one of the pillars that held the platform of the pier. He put the rope around the pillar and knotted it. Then he swam back to the woman and surfaced.
“I’ll take you to the beach,” he said to the woman. Then he took her under her arms and dragged her to the beach in the cover of the pier.
Arrived in the shallow water, she simply remained face down. She was completely out of breath. Jarmo saw that her face was not in the water and let her breathe first. For now, they would be safe here. Then he saw how the rope tensed. The crowd wanted to see the woman pulled up again. But as the rope was now tied to the pillar, nothing moved. Then he heard the engine of the winch howl. The guy upstairs had given more energy. And then it happened: Since the rope did not come loose, the crane was torn from its mount. He fell forward and smashed into the pier. People screamed and ran off in panic while the front of the pier slowly collapsed.

“That’ll be a lesson to them,” Jarmo muttered.
“I do not think so.” The young woman had said that. She slowly raised her head and looked at Jarmo. “Thanks for getting me out of there.”
“Never mind,” Jarmo replied, holding out his hand. “I am Jarmo Dorak.”
The woman took his hand. “Aisha McClure,” she said. She straightened her and looked down at herself. “Where did these barbarians put my clothes and my glasses?”
Jarmo also got up. “I do not know,” he answered. “I came only when you were already on the rope.”
“I can not walk this way!” She said indignantly.
“Up there were some people who had nothing to do with the mob, I’ll ask them, maybe they saw something.”
He wanted to leave, but Aisha grabbed him by the shoulder. “Hey!” She said. “Although that’s a nice sight, but you can not walk the streets like that either!”
“Damn, I did not think about that anymore!” He walked over to the spot where he had taken off his clothes. At that moment, the Martian came running, with whom Jarmo had previously spoken. He had big towels with them.
“Fast, fast,” said he. “The evil ones are gone, but they’ll be back, and then they’ll want to know what happened.”
Aisha and Jarmo wrapped themselves in the towels.
“We bring you to our homes,” said the Martian. “You can warm up there.”
“Did you happen to find my clothes?” Aisha asked.
“Yes, we did, and your glasses are safe too, we saved everything.”
Jarmo smiled at Aisha and she smiled back.
“Hurry now!” Demanded the Martian.
“What an adventure,” thought Jarmo. “I only came here because of the library.”