Gralnak stood on the balcony of his house and looked through teary eyes at his fields. Who or what could have wrought such destruction to his crops?
He had been feeding his small herd of tholeks when his son, Krelton, had burst into the barn shreiking like a madman for his father. Once Gralnak got the excited youth under control, he listened sceptically to the boy's assertions that something had destroyed all of the khala roots planted in the fields to the poleside of the farm.
At Krelton's frenzied insistence, the old farmer dropped the rest of the feed into the hopper and followed the boy outside. A short walk later, his worst fears were realized. The boy may have overestimated the damage a bit, but Gralnak's experienced eyes confirmed that someone or something had decimated nearly the entire crop.
His sole crop for this season was the khala roots. They were labor-intense to grow but yielded significant profit if grown properly. Gralnak had wagered the future of both his farm and his family on his belief that this crop would, not only, recoup the losses of the last two seasons but would insure comforts for some time to come. His scorched fields guaranteed that would not be so. He wept openly.
Halos Frenik, Prefect Constable, barely listened to the voice on his comm unit. Not Gralnak too, he thought. It seemed every farmer and rancher in Dushala Prefecture had lost their sanity in the last ten cycles.
His office was bombarded every cycle with call after call, each more fantastic than the one before. Strange lights and noises in the nightside skies many claimed. Others ranted of their animals burned or horribly mutilated. The report from Gralnak was to be added to those who spoke of crops burned and destroyed. Gralnak went so far as to say unusual patterns or designs had marred the land. Gralnak's balconied house was one of only a handful in the Prefecture that allowed the lands to be observed from an overhead view.
Constable Frenik was dutifully sympathetic and understanding of Gralnak's losses. With bureaucratic precision, he parroted the statements on the information release that had arrived from the Office of Planetary Defense. All incidents were being investigated...important to remain calm...nothing to substantiate rumors...and so on. Frenik knew that Gralnak was not much mollified. To be honest, the constable felt foolish being forced to supply the absurd explanations. Yet, he was a loyal servant of the State and did as he was told.
The small deep-space exploration ship completed its latest geosynchronous orbit of the planet. Seven days left until the survey was completed, Jeffries noted. Tossing the remains of a ration pack into the recycler, he swivelled around to his partner, Thorssen.
"So what ya say, buddy? Ya up for another foray planetside tonight", he asked with a big grin.
"Aw geez Jeffries, I dunno about that. This beast burns up a LOT more fuel when it goes atmospheric. And it took me like four hours to replace the coil you burned up on the portside chemical laser makin' those dumbass crop circles. Besides, do you KNOW how pissed off Corporate would be if they found out we were dickin' around with the indigenous species here? We'd be lucky to finish off our contract runnin' garbage barges through the Antares Cluster."
"Yeah...fine. Have it your way, ya spoilsport.", Jeffries snarled. "Just like them Corporate jackholes to deny a hard-workin' stiff a little bit of fun during his downtime." Still grumbling, he returned to monitoring the survey data feeds.