By Richard Barrett
Aboard the glittering steel encased private command center of the I.U.S.S. Far Dawn Capt. Lawson Fuller stood. The stars from the bridge port’s vast panoramic window bathed him in light.
He was stripped to the waist, only in riding breeches and boots. In the corner piled high were 11 steel nails bent into a horseshoe shape. In Lawson’s vice-like grip was the 12th…awaiting the same fate.
He bent over and tensed his every sinew. His eagle eyes were slitted and sweat poured down his chest. His steel grip tightened on the leather that surrounded the nail and his jaw was set.
Slowly, slowly, slowly the steel’s tension melted as Lawson’s tension increased. With a final grit of his teeth he tensed his chest and arms and pushed his fists together…
The 12th horseshoe.
No sooner had he flung it across the room then he descended into 300 dive bomber push-ups. 500 deep knee bends later, he stood erect, sweat pouring down his face and shoulders and chest as he breathed deeply.
His eagle eyes slitted and gazed across the stars.
To Lawson, the stars seemed to shine as never before, their glimmering white light sparkling through the blackness of space. They bathed him in their radiance, those spheres of luminance highlighting his Apollon frame.
His eagle eyes gleamed as he stared hard into the vastness of the uncharted wilderness that beckoned him.
Come. It seemed to whisper. Into his soul into the call delved, the call that compelled him to venture onward, ever deeper, ever deeper, ever deeper…
Vast was the sleek starship that hurtled him a million miles a minute toward the call. It’s steely silver frame dazzled brilliantly as it reflected the stars’ light. Like a bullet the I.U.S.S. Far Dawn shot toward its destination….
That destination was a distant orb of green and swathed in aqua blue and whisps of white…Xoshana! Forbidden jungle land rumored bountiful in her fruits and deadly in her hostility to man.
A land ripe for conquest.
A uniformed officer walked in and saluted.
“Captain,” he said. “We are nearing the orbit.”
Lawson turned and nodded. “Very well, lieutenant,” he said. “Assemble the men at 0600.”
He swung to the stance of attention as the lieutenant followed suit. With a click of their heels their hands rose their temples in salute.