PHANTASIA by R. Atlas Read Free Book Online

Book: PHANTASIA by R. Atlas Read Free Book Online
Authors: R. Atlas
everyone else around them. Without a word to each other, they placed their palms on the sensory grips of each of their bikes until they came alive, and then shot away in silence towards the incoming darkness.  

Chapter 3: The Evil Eye

    The direction they rode out to pointed towards Eio, Avalonia’s largest moon, which hung above the clouds like a rising planet in the distant star lit concave. The moon was so close, and so enormous in its shape, it seemed as though if they continued at this pace, in a day’s time they would be close enough to touch it. Bodies of Lumazoas swam in the air high above them — wide umbrella shaped creatures that were light enough to float and had gelatinous bodies with hundreds of trailing tentacles. Solstice was their single mating season; the jelly-like critters would attract mates by lighting up their bodies in the darkness, a process that caused their tentacles to glow like viscous coils of heated plasma and flicker auroral scented lights of every color across the barren desert.  
    Solstice separated Avalonia’s two seasons, Hale and Torid; the seven nights in between were characterized by a near perfect weather. Neither the scorching heat of Torid nor the sub-zero gas storms of Hale would bother the desert now, but the rain from earlier had saturated the air with wisp, a vapor like substance that looked like fog but carried a heavier weight. There wasn’t enough to blur their vision, but it added an ominous tone to the grey desert. Noticing the strange coloring of the wisp that must have resulted from the Cron pollution in the rain, Red briefly wondered if the substance was safe to breathe.  
    From the corner of his eye, he noticed a single green flare several tezras to their left shoot up high above the sky, and then another one far ahead of them a few minutes later. Flares were how teams signaled to each other across the desert. Because field tests were standardized, the event took on a more cooperative than competitive nature. Green flares signaled that someone had just seen a stage 1 critter. Likewise, multiple green flares indicated a group of stage 1 critters (desert creatures tended not to form packs, but there were exceptions). A yellow flare indicated that someone had found a supply of food or a place where shelter could be made. They were the most important ones to note and record, as they could be circled back to in the future to make camp among larger groups.  
    “Ignore it,” came Raven’s voice over the intercom. The cut-off for qualifying for WEAPON was so high that recording contact with stage 1 critters would be nearly pointless. For Red, the second and third highest achievements would be to qualify for the corps that fought Xenosite directly in the outer planets or the ones getting ready to fight them if an invasion past Iris ever took place. These required 150 and 125 points, respectively, a stretch from WEAPON’s incredible 475 point cut-off. Very few teams were aiming that high, which meant they would find less and less extra help the further they forayed into the desert.  
    It had been hours since they crossed the boundary between Echidna and the Alloy Desert. They were heading full-speed down their route without interruption, save for an eating break sometime an hour ago. Green and yellow flares were starting to appear less frequently. Red glanced at his microAI and flipped to its compass to see how far they were from the nearest team, locating one about ten tezras north of their current position, and another about fourteen tezras to the west. They had to be sure never to stray too far . A single tezra could be walked in 20 minutes. The rule of thumb was to stay walking distance of at least two other teams.  
    “Someone just Pinked,” Butz interjected. Red glanced at him and saw Linx laying comfortably behind him on the bike, the cat’s head welcoming the surge of wind with an open tongue. It seemed to be enjoying the breeze and the dewey feeling of

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