Ruce Pery sliced the spikey purple skin off the large fruit. The orange flesh underneath was veined with red. Perfect. He took a bite. If he closed his eyes, it almost tasted like apple.
He hadnít had an Earth apple in three years, not since the night of his promotion. Not promotion. He corrected himself. Exile. How else could he explain being named captain of a one-man team stationed in the middle of nowhere? Ruce took another bite of the fruit, allowing the sticky juice to dribble down his beard and onto his uniform.
For three years Ruce had monitored the space around the planet, waiting for an enemy that never showed. And this was supposed to be their new base. To make matters worse, headquarters maintained a strict communications blackout. Unless Ruce spotted the Resistance fleet, he would be on his own indefinitely.
Planet L6N52 orbited a small sun on the far side of the system. Exiled to a planet without a proper name. Rife with natural resources, the small planet provided a perfect location for an outpost. Life here was self-sustaining, once Ruce figured out what greens, fruits, and roots were safe to eat.
Still, solitary live on L6N52 was starting to affect him. Ruce found himself talking to the trees more than once in the few earth months. If only. It was no use whining about things that could not be.
Ruce stood and slipped the knife back in its sheath. Red soil clung to the seat of his once blue uniform. He flung the fruit pit into the thick foliage beside the game trail, sending some creature scurrying away. Thatís right. Run toward my snares, tasty morsel. With any luck, he would have meat tonight.
The cloaked observation dome sat in the middle of a clearing. A spring bubbled up nearby. Ruce refilled his canteen before entering the dome. He made a courtesy check of the sensor readout. The report showed activity in the northwest. He switched to visual feed, but the screen remained dark. Great, another faulty sensor. It would be a two day trek to fix that one. Probably got bumped during a migration. Wouldnít be the first time. Ruce walked over to his bunk and pulled off his uniform jacket. Iíll get to it after my siesta.
Incessant beeping woke Ruce. He yawned and pulled on his jacket. He wiped the sleep from his eyes as he walked to the central consol. He shut off the alarm. Lights were flashing in three quadrants of the northwest. Big migration. He switched to visual mode, but there was no feed from any of the sensors.
Ruce grabbed his gear. He was tempted to take his speeder, but the walk would do him good. Besides, the forest is so think in some places that old speeder with its low clearance would never make it. He checked the blade on his machete and opened the dome door.
Five hours later, Ruce neared the first to the malfunctioning sensors. Funny. Thereís no migration path. He climbed to the top of a bluff, but the tree cover was still too dense for distance viewing. The sensor was there, hidden in the branches of a mammoth tree. Ruce scaled the rough trunk.
The sensor looked completely normal. No signs of trauma. Must be an internal malfunction. Ruce pulled his repair kit from the pack. He turned on the display, but it showed static. Ruce banged it with his hand, trying to get a reading. Great. Now what? Without the reader, he couldnít fix the sensor.
At first Ruce thought he was hearing things, but the unmistakeable whine of a speeder engine grew closer. Ruce pulled himself against the treeís massive trunk and gazed down at the speeder zoomed mere meters under his position. The red uniform told Ruce exactly what he needed to know.
Ruce left his pack in the tree. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he ran back to the observation dome. He had to break the communications blackout. Headquarters needed to know what he had learned.
The Resistance had finally come.
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