The jungles of Venus II were lush and verdant, much more so even than Earth II. The exoplanets were given rather uncreative traditional names that had more to do with history and orbital alignments than habitability. But the air here was still deadly acidic to fragile human lungs, so at least that was one thing the planet shared with its namesake.

Normandy stayed a few meters behind Cordelia, the ranger he’d captured this morning with Edo and Opal. His comrades flanked him now, and they all kept their pulse rifles at the ready.

“How much further?” Normandy asked.

“Just over the ridge, past the treeline.” Cordelia had agreed to lead the trio to the ranger base-camp in exchange for not being turned over to the Dominion for processing. Normandy hadn’t quite made up his mind on that last bit. There was no honor among thieves, and with a ranger base-camp up ahead he was definitely among thieves.

He crossed over the ridge at the same monotonous pace they’d kept to all day, and Cordelia caught him unprepared. She’d hoofed it 30 meters in the few seconds she’d been out of sight. But beyond the treeline, Normandy saw no ranger camp, but instead the lip of a gigantic waterfall. She had nowhere to go. He found her in his scope and brushed the trigger, but stopped from firing when she threw something small and bright into the vegetation. What could that be? They hadn’t found anything on her when they first checked her suit. Must be valuable, whatever it is.

He was so transfixed by the thought that it barely registered when Cordelia flung herself over the falls.

“Was that a lifespark?” asked Opal.

“Shit, you think?” asked Edo.

“I don’t know,” said Normandy. “Never seen one before.”

“What about the ranger?”

“Forget her. She’s back to being the Dominion’s problem. I want a look at that thing.” Normandy slung his pulse rifle behind his back and removed his sidearm. “Let’s move.”

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