Ethera brushed the dust of her travel clothes and looked around. She had made these travels many times before, but this one was different. It was her first solitary run, a thrilling experience, even if she was only allowed to step two feet of the gateway and pick up some mineralised rock for analysing back at the lab. Ethera brushed some dirt away with her right foot and found a likely piece of mineral to take along.
Ethera crouched down and grabbed it, stepping back in the still swirling vortex. On her way in she smiled, mission accomplished and she had taken three steps into the new world. It was only a little victory on her part, but it felt like she had done more than ever before in her life.
She reached the end of the vortex and stepped back into the concrete building she called home. Everywhere she looked she could see tables and desks in efficient off-white, the colour scheme of the computers fit in the room, but it was hell to clean, she knew. All new recruits were put on cleaning duty as often as possible... It was almost funny how the worst jobs were always given to the recruits, but you could only see the funny part of it when you were past getting those jobs. They were just irritating when you actually got them.
Ethera walked down the row of computers and handed over the piece of mineral. When she turned around she suddenly saw him. Him. The guy everyone had been talking about. A first year who had surprised everyone in the center to be allowed to travel alone because of his excellence. Excellence, was that even a word you could use for someone? Wouldn't it make people overly proud of themselves, leading to their destruction? Ok, maybe she was jealous... ok, not maybe, she was definitely jealous. She had worked hard to get where she was and this oaf had just walked in and made everything change. He looked yummy though.
Ethera sighed. She shouldn't let Freon disturb her like that... on the other hand, one of their places would be sacrificed for him. Maybe she shouldn't keep standing here, it might look like she was dreaming. Ethera looked around and left the center as quickly as she could to get to her room.
But like these things always turn out, she never got to her room. On her way through the white-grey hallways with their bright lights and colour code markers she was stopped, by non other than the frustratingly gloating Freon.
"I saw what you did today..." he said as she passed him, determined not to let him bug her twice on one day. But as soon as Ethera heard those words she knew what he meant. Her third step. A direct violation of her education contract.
"What?" she asked, playing it as casual as she could.
"I can count..." Freon smiled, "One.... Two..."
"Ok, that's enough!" Ethera said, a little louder than she intended.
"Whoa girl, no-one needs to hear us."
"Blackmail?" Ethera was stunned. What could Freon ever want from her? She meant nothing in the center, she had no money. He could tell the board what she had done wrong and then she'd be out and he'd get his internship space.
"Nothing as exotic as that." Freon smiled, "More of a bet."
"A bet?" Ethera sounded incredulous.
Freon smiled his sly smile when he thought about the torture he was putting the second year through. He was tempted to stretch her agony on for just another couple of minutes... But Freon had always known how to control himself. He loved to tease, to irritate, but truth be told, he liked Ethera. She had a daring spirit and he missed that in most of the people around him. Many of them had been selected for their brilliance and strategy, not their need to go further into the unknown. But this girl... she had spunk.
"What if I tell you, I want you and me to make a trip."
"We're not allowed to make trips." Ethera said, "Like you didn't know that."
"But I have the access codes."
Freon waited for a while to let his words sink in. "I've been observing this planet called Pern. It's inhabitants intrigue me. Many of them seem to know about outside life forms and the readings on alien activity is waaay to high considering their current mechanical development. Think of how they'll treat us when we pull it of." Freon said.
"Think of how they'll treat us when we fail." Ethera said, "In fact, they'll always punish me, while you, the prodigy," she said with sarcasm in her voice, "will continue your happy little life."
"They wouldn't." Freon said, "I'd give you credit, I really would."
"Just tell me how you think of keeping our little escapade secret..." Ethera said, much too eager to accept the dare than she should have been. But the prospect of unsupervised travel thrilled her to her core.
"We'll go at night. I've got the computers hacked, and the guard owes me. He likes snooping around illegal internet sites and even more if he can charge them to the center phone bills." there was that grin again, Ethera wanted to slap it from Freon's face. If the boy was that confident know, how big would it get? And how hard would he hit the ground when he fell?
"It can't go wrong, it isn't my first time out there."
That drew her over the line. If Freon had tested the connection than she knew it would be safe. Though irritating and boastful, he was a good traveller.
"When?" she asked.
"This night."
"Today?" she called out.
"Quiet..." he whispered, "meet me in the lab at 2 am. There will be no security."
Ethera nodded and left through the corridors. She couldn't believe she was actually doing this. But she knew she had never been sensible, she had always rushed into things and this time was no different.

Freon looked at his watch. Where was Ethera? If she had chickened out he would have to be more careful in the future... all he could do was hope she wouldn't squeal on him, but if he had to go, he'd take her with him. He wasn't that forgiving and though her error was smaller, it was still enough to get her expelled. Freon decided to wait another 5 minutes before he called it a night.
When the last minute started, he heard the faint sound of footsteps in the dark. Stealthy footsteps, not the kind from guards. Freon smiled, so she had come!
"Hello." he said when she got close enough, "Ready?"
Freon saw that she was panting, maybe she hadn't intended to come until the last possible time... or maybe she had run all over the campus to avoid being seen. Either way it didn't matter. She was here know and they were wasting precious minutes, minutes they could be spending on Pern, learning about the dragons.
Freon hadn't been completely honest with Ethera, he hadn't actually left the portal yet, but he had looked out and the sight he had seen had made him want to keep the discovery to himself. A beast, so large it cast a shadow that covered more than the substantial open field he had been standing in, had flown -yes flown- past him. He would never forget it. 
And now he needed more. He would learn more about these dragons, no-one in the center had done that before. Dragon-worlds had always been left on the sideline, marked as barbaric and dangerous, but Freon knew it to be different. He had seen a child... running on the field as he left, her arms stretched out, her laughter sounding like bells, calling out to the world: "One day I'll ride a dragon too!"
His little trip down memory lane over, Freon turned to Ethera and asked her if she could monitor the screens while he adjusted the coordinates. This got him an angry look from Ethera so he assumed she knew what she was doing.
Half an hour later all machinery was fired up and ready to go. The coordinates had been set, the vortex was open and secure. Ethera breathed in deeply and stepped through first. Freon smiled at her little action to keep him in her control when in fact she had none to begin with... 
He stepped in behind her and was instantly transported to the field he had been on before. This time, he stepped out. What had always fascinated him about the travel was the smell, when you came out of the vortex, which was void of everything from smell to sound, everything smelled richer, better. Freon enjoyed the smells for a moment until he felt his temporary super-sensitivity ebb away. 
"Where are we?" Ethera asked.
"Just below a volcano." Freon remarked, "Don't worry it's inactive." he added.
"I wasn't worrying, I can see whether it's active or not."
"That's just bragging." Freon said.
Ethera cursed. He was right, why did she want to outstage him? She hated him for bragging... In stead she turned around and looked at the field. Soon her circle was complete, but what she saw wasn't what she had wanted to see.
"Freon, where's the vortex?" she asked.
"Oh, it will rematerialise here in an hour." he said casually.
"Have they finished testing that procedure?"
"Does anyone know where we are?"
Ethera sighed... forget about getting expelled, start panicking about the prospect of never being able to go back. What if she had to spend the rest of her days here on a planet that was low-tech? Slowly she was starting to regret her decision.
Ethera settled down and started exploring. There was nothing she could do while she waited to see if the portal would reappear. It was better if she kept her mind of that ugly possibility. The hour went quickly... too quickly. The more time she was able to spend on the planet, the more she realised that all the trips she had made had been obsolete. She had not even scratched a surface. How could you learn anything from a world if you hadn't spend a week, even a single day in it?

When the hour had passed completely, Ethera looked at the spot they had left the vortex through. A sudden feeling of relief came over her when she saw that the vortex was coming back. Gradually at first, but it was there unmistakingly.

Freon gets pushed in by Itheron ~> Star City
Meanwhile Ethera calls for help and finds herself being led around By Ralleigh who brings her to the Weyr (Black Dragon) he's been searched for. They promise to help her, but she is searched in stead for Draco



Freon fights a bit with Itheron, get to know Itheron and then learn about Star City


Back to Lantessama Isle
Ethera is a candidate at Draco's Inferno Weyr
Ralleigh is a Candidate at Black Dragon Weyr
Freon and Itheron are candidates at
Star City Dragonry
Font used is called 'Hypmotizin' and can be found here.