Monthly Archives: September 2012


Beads of sweat poured down Jake Kendrick’s ash-covered face, his teeth clenched as he tried to pull his arm out from under the burning rafter that had fallen on top of him. It was ironic, he thought. He fought fires every time he went to work and never got injured once. Now that it was his own home on fire, however, he had become all too aware of the risks involved in a firefight all too quickly.

He had awoken several minutes later with his house ablaze. Before he had even managed to get out of the bedroom, the fire had grown so much that the building was fallen into pieces around him. Just as he had been opening the door to the hallway, the rafter above him fell down, pinning him to the floor by the arm, where he now was struggling to lift the large shard of broken, burning wood weighing heavily on his now broken arm.

Grunting, he heaved his body backward into the floor again, his uninjured arm pushing up on the rafter in an attempt to lift it as his breath became more and more heavily filled with the smoke surrounding him. After a few more seconds, he gasped in exhaustion, relaxing his body in dismayed defeat. “Well, this is just great,” he thought to himself, his throat too hot and dry to speak aloud. “It figures I’d die in a fire when I wasn’t even on duty. Wish I had a priest, now I think of it.”

Thinking back on all the things he had done wrong since his last confession, Jake put forth what would surely be his last petition to God for forgiveness and absolution. He thought of the times he had passed by someone stopped on the road without helping. He thought of the times he had shouted at friends and loved ones who were doing nothing wrong when he was simply angry for no reason, and he thought of all the sins he had forgotten and neglected in past confessions.

Just as he was silently wording what he surely thought would be his final amen, however, Jake heard a voice past the crackling and snaps of the burning building. “Jake?! Are you still in there?” Trying to call out, Jake realized that he no longer had the ability to speak aloud, let alone shout back in reply. He tried waving his hand and beating it against the floor, but even that was such a weakened movement at this point that he couldn’t even hear the light thump of his fist against the floor beside him. Still, hope had been restored by that voice, though his ears could no longer distinguish who it was. His skin burned against his flesh as he tried again to shout out, pressing his chest out into the smoky air.

Weakly, he managed a light, hoarse cry that sounded nothing like the word he was trying to say, “help.” Nonetheless, it seemed that whoever owned the voice that had called out to him had somehow heard him. “Is that you, Jake?!” Footsteps resounded across the wood of the floor. Jake tried explaining that the rafter was too heavy, but his rescuer didn’t seem to care. After the footsteps reached him, he heard the wood of the rafter groan and split as it lifted off of his arm. Then he felt a boiling pain in his arm and shoulder as circulation was restored, and he found the scream he had lost until now. Before the scream had ended, he heard the wood bashing against the floor, breaking the hardwood planks as easily as it had broken his arm.

Then, Jake felt his weight shift as he was lifted up and onto his rescuer’s shoulder as if he were no heavier than a bag of potatoes. Expecting to head back through the burning hallway, Jake was surprised as his rescuer turned toward the opposing wall, not realizing, certainly, that there was no window through the smoke. Just as the weight of the rafter had been no matter, however, his rescuer seemed unperturbed by the absence of a window on this wall and simply kicked out at the wall, which simply gave way to the kick as if the wall were nothing but paper, its brick and studs flying outward like it had just been hit by a wrecking ball.

As they stepped out over the fallen bricks, Jake looked up at the collapsing house behind him that had once been his own. Then, he saw the stars as he was heaved over his rescuer’s shoulder once more and set upon the grass. Finally, he looked upon the green eyes of his rescuer, her usually blonde and blue hair now powdery gray from the ash and smoke.

“Jake! Are you alright?!” Lihandii’s usually light and calm voice was now faltering as she choked on tears which left a trail of smoky mud down her face. Her eyes were alight as he had never seen them. Smiling, he lifted up his uninjured hand to her cheek, wiping some of the filth from her skin, leaving dirty smudges along the side of her face. Her hand lifted to his own, holding it against her skin with a gentleness that almost seemed to contradict the strength she had so exceptionally displayed only moments ago. As he relaxed his arm in exhaustion, she clung more tightly to his weak fingers, her tears streaming down her face.

“No, no!” She cried out as his lids grew heavy. “You aren’t allowed to go to sleep yet! I have something important to tell you!” Jake wasn’t sure what his young wife needed to tell him, but at this time, could it really be so important that he couldn’t shut his eyes. He started to let his lids fall when he felt that strength of hers against his face. “Not yet!” She screamed out at him, trying desperately to keep him from falling asleep.

Just as the spotlights of Valkyr 52 cast out onto his face, he saw the face of Lihandii say, “I’m pregnant, Jake,” before he drifted off into a dark oblivion, even Lihandii’s strength now unable to keep him awake.

Article #2389

Article #2389, Thorlinthian Newswave
Terrorists’ Attempt to Assassinate Monarch Is Met With Failure.

Early this morning (TSD), there was an attempted assassination on the Great Monarch Fargerre Sheii’Cronell during a public right-to-knowledge forum related to the events surrounding the escape of a prisoner during a transfer from the Hel facility on Lohk to the Nivlahim Static Confinement facility. It is currently believed that the terrorist group responsible for the attack was the anarchist Ginnung movement, so named after the interplanetary alliance formed in the Rebel War.

At approximately 4.23 CD, TSD, an at-the-time unknown spacecraft which is now known to have been a stolen Brieti’Muld Industries 2740 Heavy Shuttle entered into the Thorran atmosphere. Upon attempted communications with the vessel, it was revealed that the shuttle’s wireless communications system was allegedly malfunctioning, though certain experts now theorize that it was intentionally sabotaged by the shuttle’s crew to give them access to the resultant Level 3 Emergency Repairs Service provided by the nearest spaceport, Qzcivden West Interplanetary.

Upon landing, the group then proceeded to disable the spaceport’s communications using an unknown device and to kill any and all QWI personnel who came within line of sight of their shuttle. Security recordings indicate that at that time, the terrorists were offloading a great deal of military-grade explosives from their shuttle along with a great deal of weaponry in direct violation of Code 3271 of the Thor Importation Act, which expressly forbids the importation of foreign weaponry or explosives to any of the core planets.

After the shuttle had been unloaded, it was fitted with 21 vegars of Edividt explosives and rigged to explode simultaneously with the other explosives. Before doing so, however, the terrorists fit each of themselves with similar quantities of the explosive and hid it under their clothing. They then took up their arms and drove a Gruh’din Dreft pulsecar out of the spaceport, whereupon they proceeded to the location where the Monarch was set to take questions.

At the same time, the Monarch was preparing for the forum by practicing ocular games. After being told that the attack had taken place at QWI only rosts from his location, the Monarch was heavily recommended to leave and save himself. He instead chose to stay.

The forum began with a few short questions concerning the prisoner’s possible whereabouts. The fugitive, considered to be highly dangerous and armed, is currently in whereabouts unknown. The terrorists, on the other hand, are now very conveniently in as many pieces as they planned to put the Thorran Forum journalists and the Monarch himself.

When the terrorists arrived, they dispersed evenly throughout the crowd and placed themselves as near to the Monarch as possible. Several millidays later, at about 32.14 CD, TDS, the terrorists revealed their explosives, ordering all persons present with the sole exclusion of the Monarch to put themselves on the ground. When the first terrorist raised his weapon to aim at the Monarch, however, the Monarch began to demonstrate his unique skill set as a Sheii’Cronell.

The first terrorist had been turned to a plume of red mist before anyone had had time to react to the chain of events that had so suddenly begun spiralling out of control by the terrorists and into control by the Monarch. One by one, each dying in an increasingly gruesome manner, the terrorists were picked off by the Monarch in a matter of less than one centiday.

After the Monarch had defeated the terrorist present, he moved forward to identify the men who had attempted to kill him so as to reveal those who had not come along for reasons associated with the possibility of such an event occurring, however unlikely they had thought it to be.

After only a matter of millidays, the other terrorists were on the wireless demanding the immediate advocacy of the Monarchy by the Monarch. The Monarch then tried to explain why it had to be him in order to maintain the correct balance of what little cosmos we had left, and there are still new things being learned about planets and stars that he could lead us to discover, but the terrorists denied his suggestion.

After conversing with the terrorists, the Monarch gathered together everyone who’d had explosives attached to them and removed their explosives before they could be remotely detonated, killing at least thousands. When the other anarchists found the remote detonator and tried to set it off, the Monarch lobbed the explosives to the sky, where they fell just in time to explode both the terrorist’s location and their shuttle.

Investigation into the incident has revealed that the terrorists were Nivlahimi in origin, and the ship was stolen from a homep
ort in the Eastern district of Lohk. The explosives used were allegedly stolen from the large storage facilities of the same area, and the weapons appear to have all or mostly been assembled by the attackers themselves as task-ordinance, just in case.

Through the course of the incident, two hundred twenty-four people were injured or killed. Prayers are greatly appreciated by families of the injured or dead. If you have any knowledge in reference to the escaped prisoner of further information regarding the attempt on the Monarch’s life and those of the others who attended the event, please contact your nearest Armadian representative or Peacekeeper. Any and all information will be greatly appreciated, and repeat information is also welcome.

Written by Felira’di Khuda’Felliangi

Lihandii closed the article when she had finished reading, for once grateful that she had set up newswave relays along the hype path that had been taken to the Solar System. “Well,” she said, “that certainly brightens up the morning a tad, doesn’t it?”

Jake had been listening the entire time as Lihandii had read out the article. Now, he leaned back a bit in his chair and thought. “So,” he said after a few moments, “what do we do now?” As he spoke, he pressed his hand against his pocket, where a now ill-timed ring sat, waiting for a new time to arise.


Gril’Die Khuda’Mundi sat in awe at the article that had just appeared on the newswave. Reading, his hand never left his lips as it attempted to shut away some of the horror. After finishing the article, he quickly picked up his personal wireless and entered the parameters to reach his contact outside Skogr, who then patched him through to Feriadd Khuda’Salongriell on a secure connection.

“This is the High Councilor speaking,” Feriadd said over the wireless. Gril’Die would never get used to the way voices sounded over a hypenet connection. It was like listening to someone inside a metal canister with water up to their knees.

“It’s me,” Gril’Die said, keeping his voice slightly hushed out of sheer paranoia, though no one was watching him. He was, after all, the one who made sure everyone was being watched properly. The person who was supposed to watch him very conveniently no longer existed. Nonetheless, the paranoia remained.

“Mi’Olnr!” Feriadd exclaimed, and Gril’Die imagined his hands being flung up into the air in welcome despite the form of communication. Quickly, however, he was back to business. “What is it? Why are you contacting me over the wireless? That’s not like you.” The suspicion in Feriadd’s voice was evident. Still, Gril’Die had very much contacted him for a reason.

“Have you read the latest newswave?” Gril’Die’s hushed voice met itself with a slightly morbid tone, and Feriadd grunted slightly as he made note of the tone.

“No, I haven’t,” he admitted. “I’ve been swamped with paperwork for days. Is there something I need to see?” A note of concern arose in his voice.

Gril’Die nodded somberly before remembering that he hadn’t opened a visual channel. “Yes,” he said. “If you can, open up today’s article 2389.” He waited a few moments for Feriadd to push aside some of his papers to find his newsfeed viewer.

“Alright, I’ve got it,” Feriadd said over the wireless. About a milliday later, he said, “Great One help them.”

Gril’Die took this as his cue to go on to explain further why he had called. “Councilor, if this had anything to do with the Ginnung, I need to know now.”

“Of course it didn’t, Mi’Olnr,” Feriadd went on. “If it had anything to do with us, we’d definitely have kept you in the loop about it when it was still being planned. I don’t think anyone in the Ginnung had anything to do with it. We’re much more precise than that.”

Despite the assurance, Gril’Die didn’t feel too much better about the whole thing. Even without the Ginnung being involved, they’d likely be blamed for it. Furious at that thought, Gril’Die slammed his fist into his desk. How was he supposed to keep this situation clean?

“Mi’Olnr, you don’t have to do anything for us over this,” Feriadd said in appreciation, but Gril’Die couldn’t believe that. He’d been on the other side of the news for altogether too long. He’d stood idly by for too long, working his way to the position he held now.

Still, he had never seen anything quite like this. This went to a whole new level of horrible that he had never witnessed before. “I want to, though, Councilor,” he said, sitting up a bit straighter in his seat. “The Monarch has caused me to do so many terrible things over all these cycles that I’ve been in the Armada. You know, I was an avid patriot before I went to the Academy.”

“Really?” Feriadd asked, quite intrigued. “And how, my friend, did you wind up on the other side of that coin? This is pretty far from patriotism for the Monarchy, all things considered, Mi’Olnr. You don’t exactly fit in entirely here, either, though, do you?” The question was innocent enough and not at all meant for harm. Still, it was true.

“No, I suppose I really don’t,” Gril’Die replied. “But I can at least speak my mind on the affairs of the Monarch when I go around town in Skogr,” He said, thinking back to a particularly nice evening in that city, though he still had trouble remembering all the different boroughs, so he couldn’t have told anyone where in town he had been.

“Very true,” the High Councilor agreed. “That’s not really something everyone can do around the system, is it? I remember getting into all sorts of trouble for speaking poorly of the Monarch when I was a child. I can almost recognize why someone might do this for that exact reason, too.” Gril’Die heard Feriadd’s chair lean back as he adjusted his seat.

“I can’t say I feel the same, Councilor.” Again, Gril’Die was offering a
voice of reason into the argument, but it wasn’t really a valid comment. His feelings about the subject were clearer than the glass panes that were missing outside so many of the stores in Skogr City. He had no way of reconciling what was being reported with anything that could be remotely good in any way, shape, or form. He couldn’t support what had been done, and the fact that it had been done so poorly just made it worse.

“I know, Gril’Die,” Feriadd said over the wireless, using his actual name instead of his title for the first time in the conversation. It was a mark of respect toward his attitude as a man that he didn’t call him by his job title during a time like this. Beside him, the newsfeed lay open to the article Gril’Die had brought up. It was only half-finished, still, but Feriadd didn’t need to continue reading to know what else was written. The story was pretty much told in the headline for the article.

“Well, I think it’s about time for me to go,” Gril Die said, setting down his own newsfeed. “I’ll call in again if there are any developments, but I doubt it.” Before finishing the conversation and putting away the wireless, Gril’Die took one last look at the headline across the top of the article.

Terrorists’ Attempt to Assassinate Monarch Is Met With Failure.

Second Trimester

“How does this thing work, anyway?” Jake Kendrick had his head stuck almost entirely into the housing for the TMDS on Valkyr 52, Lihandii standing next to him as she tolerated his sheer idiocy at such a risk. A TMDS could be a very dangerous thing, even when fully deactivated, which Lihandii had ensured this one was before letting her fiance stick his head inside it. Still, she understood his curiosity.

“Well, I could tell you, but either you wouldn’t understand or you’d have to sit through two years of lectures on quantum teleportation, extradimensional transport, and certain forms of mathematics that can’t be properly performed in base ten before I could even start on the basics.” She gave his neck a look that said she’d very much like to throttle it as soon as it would pull its attached head out of the ship’s most dangerous location.

Instead, Jake stuck his head in even more, saying, “You could just tell me you don’t know, Lihandii. I’d understand if you didn’t. Or rather, I wouldn’t, but neither would you, so it wouldn’t particularly matter to me.” Somehow, even from his hilariously awkward, backbending position, Jake managed to make Lihandii blush for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

In a mock fury, she tapped his foot with her own. Any more, and he’d had slammed his face into a particularly gruesome bit of machinery or fallen into the main power source of the TMDS, either of which would have made his a much uglier face than it was now. Somehow, though, it still managed to freak him out enough to pull his head out.

“Are you crazy, woman?!” His panic was evident on his face, his eyes wide and his lower jaw slackened. He quickly tapped his hands over his face to make sure it was all still there. Once satisfied, he smacked her shoulder lightly. “You’re going to be the death of me, you know.”

At this, Lihandii’s face turned somber. That was probably something she’d have to tell him at some point. Attempting to cover it up, she adopted a more critical face. “In any case, are you done having your fun poking about my drives? Can I spin them back up now?”

Jake’s grin cocked to one side as his mind went places it shouldn’t have from a simple comment like that. “You can spin your drives up any time you — ow!” Before he could finish, Lihandii had stepped on his foot considerably harder than she had when he had been inside the TMDS housing. As he reeled about in pain, she spun about and headed toward the cockpit, where she started enabling systems one at a time to get the drives purring again. Turning back to the housing, Jake noticed that it had automatically closed when the spin-up protocols had begun. Its whirring was gentler than the ship’s laundry machine, which Jake still had trouble with, even after a year and a half.

“What are you two going on about this time?” Frederick Ayling walked out of the Valkyr’s quarters in his pajamas, a white tee shirt and a pair of flannel pants that he wouldn’t be wearing if it weren’t so cold in the ship all the time. Apparently, Qzcivden was a much colder city than Lubbock, which worked out well enough for the girls, who could just stay in their ship whenever they thought it was too hot. It didn’t work out so well for the men, who felt like they were freezing just about any time they came inside, which was just about whenever they weren’t on duty at the firehouse.

“Oh, morning, Fred.” Jake nodded at his partner, who returned the gesture as he wiped his eyes. “How’s the missus?” Fred and Feri’Andi had gotten married about five months ago, and they had wasted no time in taking the Valkyr for their honeymoon, during which time Lihandii had stayed in Jake’s guest room. Now, they were living a happy married life right onboard, except when they needed ‘alone time’ and spent some time in Fred’s house.

“She’s the same way she has been for almost five months now, Jake,” Fred said, letting some breath escape from between his lips as he breathed out slowly. “Pregnant.” He grimaced a bit and looked back to the quarters area, beyond which was the head. “The morning sickness is over, but she still has some trouble getting up in the mornings.” Fred perked up a bit and headed to the galley. “Do you want some breakfast? I’m cooking an Irish breakfast today. My mom would be proud, but my dad would be horrified.” He chuckled a bit at the idea. His father had always taught that English cooking was the only cooking anyone needed to know, but his mother had been born and raised in the Republic of Ireland, so she had made sure he knew how to cook a good Irish meal, anyway, much to his father’s chagrin.

“You know me,” Jake said, sitting at the table and pulling out his newest binder of notes, opening it and beginning to write what he had learned about the TMDS during his reckless morning endeavor. “I love some good Irish food. It’s usually almost as good as Scottish food.” The two shared a laugh as Fred started up the range, placing a skillet over the flame and moving about to gather ingredients. Jake may have had a Scottish Great Grandfather who managed to pass down the name, but all of his other ancestors were Irish, giving him a majority share in Irish genetics over the Scottish.

“Don’t let your parents hear you say that,” Fred joked. “They might have heart attacks, both of them.” They continued in their laughter and joking, Jake writing and Fred cooking, until the girls came into the room.

“Something smells delicious, Fred,” Feri’Andi crooned, her belly barely showing her pregnancy, even at twenty weeks. It was likely from the baby’s metabolism that it was a Valkyrie just like her mother, but there was no telling just yet as Feri’Andi didn’t want to determine any of the child’s traits until birth. Fred had objected until she had revealed that Valkyrie perinatal mortality rates averaged around one thousandth of a percent. His objections had come to an end rather quickly after that.

“It will be, as soon as you have a seat, my dear,” Fred replied, scooping the last of the cooking onto a plate and turning off the range. She did, and Lihandii walked over to help her do so slowly and talk to her about supposed ‘girl stuff.’ “Jake, can you help me out?”

“Yeah, sure.” Jake put up his notes, stood, and began helping Fred to set the table. When they had finished, Lihandii took her seat next to Jake, and Fred took his next to Feri’Andi, who had received more than twice as much food as anyone else at the table.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Fred began the breakfast prayer, and everyone followed suit. After a minute or so, they all started digging into their food.

“So, I heard you start back up the Timids, Liha,” Feri’Andi said as she finished her white pudding. “Are we going somewhere?”

Lihandii took a sip of water before answering quite cooly. “As a matter of fact, we’re going to go check out that hypenet broadcast over in England. I think it was in a county called Wiltshire. Anyway, its putting out a signal that just doesn’t match up with the others in the northern hemisphere. We should look into it.”

Jake and Fred looked at each other. They couldn’t possibly mean — Could they? Their eyes grew wide.


“Gnome.. edit… Jake,” Jake said, the phrase hurting his brain a little. He and Lihandii had been trying to teach each other their native languages, but Lihandii’s learning was coming along much quicker than his own. He had barely gotten through numbers and basic vocabulary and was only now getting into self-introductions in Thorlinthian, but Lihandii was already quite capable of having flowing conversations about the technical specifications of an M16A4 assault rifle without skipping a beat. Still, Jake didn’t mind. It gave him time to spend with Lihandii, and Feri’Andi made them all, including Frederick Ayling, Jake’s partner, wonderful food just about every day. English cooking had been Fred’s contribution while Jake had been teaching (and eventually learning quite a bit about) the English language.

“No, Jake. It’s ‘Nom edt,’ not ‘Nome edit,’” Lihandii corrected in her most patient voice. Fred had pretty much given up the language thing. He said he had had enough problems with English already, and the Spanish in the Lubbock area made it even worse. Now, he’d just sit and play with Feri’Andi’s metal Kohstr deck whenever the lessons started up. He could name and translate just about every card, but that was because he knew his monsters, not his languages. At least, that had been his claim. Personally, Jake was pretty sure Fred just didn’t want to risk looking bad in front of Feri’Andi, who had acquired a bit of an admiration for him when he demonstrated his cooking skills. The only reason she didn’t want him cooking during the lessons was that she was fairly certain he was actually trying to learn her language, as evidenced by his whisperings to himself, trying to get the sayings right without anyone noticing.

Lihandii continued, “The ‘nom’ sound should be much like the end of the word ‘Vietnam.’ It’s a very light ‘ah’ sound in the middle. ‘Edt’ is more like the sound in ‘pet’ than ‘edit,’ but you don’t want to lose that soft ‘d’ sound in the middle. It’s used to remove the harshness of the consonant sound.” Jake was thoroughly lost, and his forehead drooped as he rose his eyebrows and opened his eyes a bit more, hoping to absorb the information through osmosis. Lihandii barely held a laugh in at the sight, but she continued in her explanation. “That sound is what makes the vowel sound longer. It doesn’t actually add a syllable.”

Jake blinked a few times, holding back a yawn that could be misinterpreted as boredom. He needed to sleep, but it seemed Valkyries didn’t sleep as often as mere mortals such as himself and Fred, who had already dozed off, Feri’Andi’s cards sprawled out across his side of the table, having fallen from his hand in mid-shuffle. The two had been coming to the girls’ spaceship during their off-time for about a month now, and the added activity during their 48 hours of rest time did nothing to detract from their mutual exhaustion. “Ok, so it’s, ‘Nahm eht Jake?’” He tried again, hoping to be right, and Lihandii’s slightly embarrassed smile told him just how close and yet how far he had been that time.

“You’ll get it eventually,” Feri’Andi chipped in as she placed a plate of bangers and mash beside his hands on the table, steam rising gently from the plate. Jake smiled in appreciation and again thought about how odd it was that of all Earth’s many plants, the two Thorlinthians seemed most fixated on potatoes. Apparently, their homeworld, Thor, didn’t have a lot of produce, and what it did have was nothing like the peculiar, starchy root that was so deliciously flexible in preparation and just seemed to go with everything in one form or another.

Certainly, they were amazed at all of the foods available on Earth, but they seemed most amazed at the one so many took for granted. Never had they eaten anything like french fries or baked potatoes. They’d never had the chance to mash up the delicious meat of the root and mix it with an animal’s dairy product to create the simple dish of mashed potatoes. So Jake and Fred had gotten used to seeing potato in just about every meal, and it never seemed to be the same.

“Wake up, sleepybrains,” Feri’Andi cooed at the almost-drooling Frederick, holding his plate near his nose to aid in his waking. Sure enough, after a moment, his nose flared once or twice, and his eyes fluttered open as he tried to figure out how long he had dozed off. “Dinner’s ready, Fred.”

Fred smiled widely, the bags under his eyes coming to meet the smiling lines bordering them, looking up at Feri’Andi like she was an angel who had just saved him from certain starvation. “Thank you, Feri,” Fred said, taking the plate and sitting a bit taller and, looking about for his mug full of water, taking a swig before picking up his saxpun, a Thorlinthian spoon with one serrated side and two teeth coming out over it, creating a veritable all-purpose piece of flatware for any occasion, its smoky translucence giving off a sense of fanciness beyond most things Fred had ever owned in a simple piece of tableware. After saying a quick prayer together with Jake, he proceeded to cut his sausage, pluck it from the plate along with a spoonful of mashed potato, and place it in his awaiting mouth.

“Delicious as ever, Feri,” Lihandii said, already slicing into her third bite of sausage. “Your talent with a flame and a bit of water will never cease to amaze me. You know,” she said, tapping Jake’s elbow to grab his attention away from the entrancing food, “Feri here was always making the meals on the trip here, too. There are things she could do with only pressure variation that I didn’t even know were possible until I tasted the dishes myself.” She nodded slowly as she said all this, attempting to show just how truthful she was being by agreeing with herself as she went.

“Well, I believe it,” Jake said. “This is probably the best mashed potato I’ve ever had. It might even be better than Fred’s.” He added the last bit just to probe Fred for a good response,
which he got only moments later.

“Hey, watch it,” Fred accosted. “My mashed potatoes are the best on Earth…” he let those words sink in before adding, “or off it. And you can take that to the bank.” He smiled with a facetious smugness which, had it been serious, would not have fit his face at all.

“I’m sure they are, Frederick,” Feri’Andi said, using his whole first name to add to the false condescension in her voice, her lips touching his forehead gently before she sat next to him to join everyone else at the table and start eating, herself. Just as Lihandii had done while Jake and Fred had been praying, Feri’Andi kissed her fingers and circled them over the plate before lifting them up to the sky. She proceeded to pick up her saxpun and start eating with the rest of them. “Could you pass a napkin, please?”


Prisoner 83109 awoke to a loud ringing in his ears. When he opened his eyes, he found himself only able to see a very bright light that seemed to come from every direction, so he closed them again. Realizing that he was seated, he tried to stand. His movement was immediately halted by the rattling of chains and an intensely searing sensation on one shoulder. He tried to feel his way about himself but found himself unable to do so. That was odd.

Then he tried turning his head. He realized at once that his neck was incredibly stiff and sore, which was a sensation entirely unfamiliar to him. He quickly let out a reflexive gasp of pain and heard the squealing of a hatch opening and the clang of the same hatch closing, followed by the tapping of footsteps.

“There’s no point trying to use your powers, 83109.” The voice was female. Pushing through his overwhelming headache, he found his most recent conscious memory. He remembered his ship being shot down, jumping after the same ship, the ship disappearing, and getting into a fight with a Valkyrie who somehow managed to defeat him, though the details were extremely hazy. He did remember something about his arm. That might explain the pain in his arm.

“What do you mean,” he asked. “Why wouldn’t I be able to use my powers?” Just to test the comment, he did, in fact, try to use his powers. First, he tried to crush the woman speaking to him, but he realized that he couldn’t feel where she was. The same problem kept him from entering her mind. Then, he tried to increase his own strength and break his chains. That was one of the simplest powers he possessed, yet even this evaded him. He couldn’t gain a drop of strength. He remembered the woman’s voice having been in his head and feeling weaker before passing out. “What did you do?”

The woman walked around behind him, a fact of which he was only aware due to the sound of her boots on the deck. She continued walking until she had completed a full circle around him. “Oh, I didn’t do much. I just locked away your powers with a bit of my own.” Her voice didn’t expose the satisfaction he was sure she should be feeling at this accomplishment. For a mere Valkyrie to be able to overwhelm a Sheii’Cronell was unprecedented. Yet, instead of satisfaction, he thought he heard the slightest tinge of guilt, as if she felt bad for what she had done. But he wasn’t fooled.

“You’re lying. You’ve done something else to trick me into thinking I can’t use my powers. Valkyries don’t have the ability to do what you’re describing. You can’t just lock away my powers.” He was indignant, and his voice spat the hatred he had accumulated through his years alone, fending for himself. He had fought Valkyries before. They were certainly stronger than the average person, but they weren’t anywhere near as powerful as he was.

“I told you before,” she replied. “I’m not really a Valkyrie.” Her pacing around him ceased, and there was a clicking sound near his face. The reddish orange that shone through his eyelids turned to black. He opened them to a prison visor. He should have recognized the feel of it on his skin and the light that shone into his eyes from every angle, but it wouldn’t really have made a difference, so he pushed it aside.

Through the visor, he was able to look upon the face of the woman who had beaten him. Looking about quickly, he also noticed that each corner of the small room held another Valkyrie, guarding him in still and total silence. He was actually amazed at the silence of their breathing. Even now, he couldn’t hear it. Then, he realized they were simply breathing in perfect time with him. It was quite an effective method, and it was an ingenious technique.

Looking back to the woman, he saw what seemed at first to be just another Valkyrie, a blue-haired woman with lightly freckled skin and green eyes. Wait. Her eyes weren’t green. They were the same seafoam color as her hair. The glow from her eyes was that same Valkyrie green, but the eyes themselves were not, a fact revealed only by his incredible vision, a common trait among Sheii’Cronells that wasn’t actually attributed to any power. It was just a fact of their existence that happened to coincide.

Now looking for more differences, he noticed that the skin tone of this woman was slightly redder than most Valkyries, who tended not to burn but to ever so lightly tan instead. He also noticed the silver in her hair. It was not the silver of a person who has accumulated it over years of age, though the wrinkles on her face bespoke the fact that she was quite old, as Valkyries did not even begin to wrinkle until they reached about two hundred cycles of age. The silver was simply there, as if it were the same color it had always been. It had a lustrousness to it not shared by the hair of the elderly. It was the tint of the blue in her hair that most intrigued him. It had too much green in it, just as her eyes didn’t have quite enough. Most would be fooled, and had she not pointed it out, he never would have taken the time to notice, but she certainly wasn’t a normal Valkyrie.

“Who are you?” 83109 managed out only these three words, and she immediately turned away, continuing her pacing. He looked at her as she walked, her eyes set in a thoughtful sort of way, as if she wasn’t exactly sure how to answer the question. When she reached the point behind him where she crossed to the other side, however, he let out another gasp. His arm was gone. He hadn’t realized in the fight that he had lost his arm, such was the extent of his furious rage at her attack. It was in this fact that he realized she was telling the truth about locking away his powers. Even if it had only been a few hours, his arm should have grown back by now.

“I am the person who can give you purpose in life, 83109. I am the one who can either save your life and let you live normally for the first time or let you find your way back to the authorities, who would be more than happy to proceed in processing you into the Nivlahim facility until your dying days whether you have your powers or not.”

He wasn’t sure where she was going with this. “Yeah? And how do you intend to manage giving me a normal life? I’m a criminal and a rather high-profile criminal at that. You’re a Valkyrie, or something of the sort at least. I’m not really sure exactly what you are, but your people aren’t exactly known for dealing kindly with criminals.”

What she said next were the words he came to remember for the rest of his life. “Right now, you’re in a city full of extremely high-profile criminals, none of whom want to come into contact with authorities any more than you do. If you agree to what I ask, you’ll be given a home here. All you have to do is agree to my conditions, and you will be assigned a house and a job, and you can live out a life free from any sort of judgement. People will just assume you lost your arm in the rebellion and got your prison tattoos before being rescued by the Ginnung. After all, if you agree to my terms, that won’t be too far from the truth. You’ll be as close to a free man as you’ve ever been in your life. No one will know you as prisoner 83109 or even as a Sheii’Cronell. People here will only know you by the name no one has called you in twenty cycles… Qzcivden.”

Hearing his name, given to him after the city in which he had been conceived, gave him shivers. He had almost forgotten his name, it had been so long since anyone had said it. Without realizing they had started, Qzcivden blinked the tears out of his eyes and choked out four words that changed his life and that he would never come to regret. “What do I do?”

End of the Line

The TAS Deathbringer was a peculiar ship, even when compared to its colleagues. It was the last of its line, and its shape reflected a time that had passed in spacefaring. Lacking a TMDS, the Deathbringer was not rounded, as was necessary for the functional use of a TMDS without tearing a ship apart. Instead, it used an older, fusion-powered positron drive system, which meant that its back was considerably wider than its front, which was brought to a point at the foremost part of the ship. The overall shape resembled an arrowhead aimed outward at space.

The Deathbringer did not have hypenet access, again due to the lack of a TMDS, which meant that its hull had to be heavily shielded from particles that would collide with it as it traveled at high speeds. The mass of all this shielding meant that the drive system had to be immensely powerful in order to push the hunk of metal through space. That also meant that the Deathbringer could not land planetside. The weight of the ship would be so imbalanced that it would be unable to take off from the surface of a planet.

The ship also had its hangar in the forward section of the ship instead of the aft section, as ultracarriers did. This meant that in order to deploy or land fighters, the ship had to slow down. It also meant that the upper array of guns that was present on an ultracarrier simply wasn’t present. The entire hangar had to be lifted from the main section of the ship due to the sleek design of the ship. If it were held above the main portion of the ship, it would be torn apart from colliding particles as the ship traveled at ultra-high velocities.

The bridge of the ship could not be in an exposed part of the ship for the same reason. Like the hangar, it could be lifted up at lower velocities, but this was rarely done. Instead, the bridge was kept docked with the main section of the ship, where it was completely shielded from outside damage. Such was the style of what Armadians called a Blockade Buster, so named because it was specifically designed to provide overwhelming offensive power against the ships holding the Ginnung Gap while simultaneously being well-shielded enough to withstand the beating dealt by the Blockade’s smaller fighter swarms.

All of this resulted in a rather peculiar wedge shape with arched sides that allowed for a slight increase in speeds. This was a stark contrast to the pill-shaped ships around it in the fleet, so shaped for their TMD Systems. The Deathbringer was a ship designed to fight a war in a way that had become obsolete. Even at its maximum speeds, its average velocity couldn’t come close to matching that of a ship that hyped to distant destinations, even when cooldowns were necessary. It couldn’t carry as many troops as an ultracarrier, and it couldn’t hold as many guns, either. Its drive system required massive amounts of fuel, and the TMDS required almost none. The bridge couldn’t maintain a constant eye on a battlefield, and the hangar couldn’t always launch fighters.

That was why today, Gril’Die Khuda’Mundi stood on the bridge of the Deathbringer as it was taken to its final destination, a museum dedicated to the Ginnung Wars. Thinking back to recent events, Gril’Die found it amusing that most people considered the Ginnung Wars to be over. Indeed, the museum declared that the wars had ended many cycles ago, even though the Treaty of Nivlahim only brought about an armistice on the Ginnung planets. Even so, the Ginnung waged the war onward to greater heights every day, even on its own worlds, where the Armada still held a moderate occupational force.

It was natural for people to resist occupations of any sort, whether their own government had agreed to it or not. In addition, some of the people on outer worlds such as Valhal and Nivlahim did not subscribe to the Thorlinthian state religion, Jalihu’dai. This made some tensions so great that guerilla warfare and outright intimidation attacks were utilized to keep the Armada back from those territories, where the people continued to practice as they saw fit freely despite the laws against the practice of other religions. The Monarch had decided to tolerate this practice in specific areas in order to prevent unnecessary Thorlinthian casualties, so instead of attacking them, he simply issued a mandated boycott on anything from those areas, preventing what he called, “the spread of the infection.”

As the Deathbringer approached the planet, Lok’hi, Gril’Die was reminded of a time long ago that he had stood in this bridge, observing charts and sensor readings while leading the attack on the same planet. He had been invited to participate in the ship’s retirement for that very reason. Of course, he had arranged for his own invitation, but that was alright. The important part was that he had been invited to do it instead of simply ignoring the retirement of such a significant ship as the Deathbringer.

The Deathbringer was the last surviving ship of its kind. Every other Armadian ship was driven by a TMDS. Every other ship was sleeker and rounded, while the Deathbringer was hard and sharp in shape. Its edges, Gril’Die thought, were its most attractive features. It gave the Deathbringer an intimidating look that the bulbous new ships just lacked. The Deathbringer was black and blended with the dark of space. The new ships were a very light gray, almost white, and stood out like sore thumbs wherever they were.

Nonetheless, the new ships had serious advances in technology and comfort that had never been seen in a military ship in Thorlinthian history. Despite their awkward-looking shape and size, the TMDS ships were capable of high-speed maneuvering within an atmosphere, and the largest of these ships were even capable of external hyping, wherein the ship hyped another object without hyping itself. The TMDS ships had more room for guns and less wasted space from heavy shielding and bulky drives. They utilized high-energy, cold plasma shields for protecting against colliding debris in space. This had been a nearly impossible concept before the aliens had come. The
TMDS wasn’t the only system that had been taken from them.

Gril’Die watched as the sensors began to indicate approach toward the gravitational point of no return as the ship descended toward Lok’hi. He barked orders just as he had cycles ago on this very bridge when it was cutting-edge technology. He remembered the casualties taken over the cycles during which he had held command of the ship. Finally, the ship was met mid-descent by a group of small ships that acted similar to tugboats at sea. At touchdown, the ship groaned loudly, unable ever to take off again without blasting away a quarter of the planet’s life with its powerful drives.

As he stepped out of the ship to a crowd of applauding civilians and saluting Armadians, Gril’Die smiled at them all and waved. When the time came for the decommissioning speech, he made his way through his notes as if someone else had written them. When he stepped down from the stage and looked at that ship again, now covered in battlescars and dented where smaller ships had collided with the Deathbringer, he spoke three words which had never sounded so profound to him before. “I’m getting old.”

The Box

It was a warm summer night as Jake walked home from the pizzeria after a typical post-shift pizza party. It had been a few weeks since he had met those two girls with the blue hair, but he still carried around that box. He didn’t know what he expected to happen, but he knew that it would provide some sort of connection to that girl, Lihandii. He had tried doing some research on the name to try to figure out where it was from, but he had come back with nothing. He couldn’t even find a name similar to it.

When he had talked to his partner about it, Ayling had told him just to forget about her. He said that the girls had probably been illegal immigrants and had been deported or that they had been faking their situation and lied about their names, but Jake didn’t believe that. When Ayling had suggested that it might have been a ruse, Jake had decide to look at the box more closely.

The brushed feel of the metal casing on the box reminded Jake of a very expensive refrigerator, but when he took a magnet against it, it wouldn’t stick. Furthermore, upon opening the box, it sprung open as if on a spring, but he couldn’t find one. He tried to figure out what it was next, pressing the strange characters on what he was pretty sure was the lower half of the device. When nothing happened, he started to wonder if it was a prop or something. He had closed it and noticed the tiniest bump on one edge of the box. When he pressed it down, it clicked softly, like the button on a handheld radio.

After he pressed the button, Jake had noticed a quiet beeping sound from the device. Opening it again, he had been surprised to find that the top half of the device, which had previously been plain metal, was now a small screen, as if for a television or computer. Again, however, he was confronted with characters he couldn’t comprehend. Deciding to learn more, he had drawn some of the characters on a piece of paper and taken them to the library.

At the library, Jake had discovered that the characters were similar to something called runes, though these were more precise and mechanical, much like modern type. Jake had taken home a few books on runes and a few cultures associated with them. Transcribing the equivalent type into the Latin alphabet had taken him quite some time, but he was fairly certain that the characters on the bottom half of the device were mostly numerals, resembling something he had found called the pentimal system, though these seemed to count all the way from zero to nineteen, indicating a base twenty math system.

Just the previous night, Jake had finished a complete redraw of the device in a form easier for him to read, though he wasn’t quite sure that helped much, except to give him actual words and phrases that he didn’t understand instead of just pictures. He had recognized one word, though: Valkyrie. Now, as he walked back from the pizzeria, he held a flashlight to shine on the paper drawing he had made of the device, trying to make some sort of sense out of it.

“That’s impressive progress you’ve made, Jake.” The voice sounded so familiar, but it came from behind. Could it be?

“Lihandii?” Jake almost whispered the name, such was his apprehension should he be mistaken. He turned to the source of the voice and saw that same girl from three weeks prior. For a while, he couldn’t speak at all as she smiled gently at him, her eyes so captivating that they almost seemed to glow with green. Then, he found his voice again. “I thought you couldn’t speak English.”

She signed to him as she spoke, occasionally substituting a spoken word for a sign, “I couldn’t, but when you signed with us, it gave me an idea on how to learn to speak this language faster. I’ve been learning from the deaf.” Her accent seemed a bit odd, probably in part due to her native tongue but also in part due to the way the deaf spoke when she was learning.

Jake couldn’t believe it. She had learned a whole language in just three weeks, though he supposed she had really learned two with all the signing discrepancies between her language and ASL. He had barely transcribed a screen and some buttons from one character set to another. “That’s amazing,” he said. “But how did you find me?”

Lihandii pointed to Jake’s pocket, where he kept the device she had given him. “You’ve been carrying around my–” No, that word couldn’t be right, Jake thought. She hadn’t spoken it aloud, but she had signed the word, “telephone.” This wasn’t a phone. Phones had numbers and cables and that weird dial tone sound when you picked them up. This thing had numbers, sure, but there were no cables, there was no tone, and there was the matter of that weird screen when he had turned it on. Still, if it were a phone of some sort, it would explain why she’d have given it to him. It might also explain how she had found him if it produced some sort of radio signal. She may have used some sort of triangulation technique to track him down.

“Do you want it back, then,” Jake asked, pulling the device from his pocket and holding it out toward her. She walked closer to him, and he found that he didn’t actually want her to take it. If she did, she’d have no reason to talk to him again. Still, it was hers, so he held his hand open. She grabbed his hand from the bottom and placed her fingers along his own, curling them back over the device.

“Keep it,” she said. Letting go, she resumed signing her words. “I’d like to talk with you about this place. I know you don’t really know me, but I’d really appreciate if you could trust me.” As she spoke, her eyes looked around the street. As she did so, Jake noticed that her eyes really were glowing. It wasn’t just his imagination. Her eyes finally set on the house next to them, a plain white house with a picket fence and a large tree in the front yard. To Jake, it was a site as normal as any other, but she seemed to look at it as if it were one of the most mysterious things upon which she’d ever set her eyes.

Jake stammered for a few seconds, then remembered that words were essential to any conversation spoken aloud. “Yes, of course. I was just heading home, as a matter of fact. If you haven’t eaten dinner yet, I’ve got some pizza left over. You could eat while I tidy up.” He held up the bag of food in his hand, and even through the box and the bag, one could easily smell the delicious scents emanating from the food. She smiled again.

“I haven’t, and I’d love that.” She walked closer to him, grabbing his free hand, which had dropped his flashlight when he had first heard her voice. As they walked away, the flashlight rolled off of the sidewalk and into the gutter. There, it sputtered out.


The day was at its brightest. Even now, however, the warmth of Linthia was not enough to keep away the cold, even here on the surface. At least, it wasn’t enough this far out into the eternal depths of space. As if that weren’t enough to keep away any signs of life, the limited atmosphere was incredibly toxic and a low enough pressure that the typical man would get altitude sickness at sea level. That was why, here on Nivlahim, civilization was several miles beneath the ice, its power provided by the surging currents of the ocean under the ice and the heat of the planet’s core. It was there, in extensive tunnel systems stretching entire continents, that the people of the planet had built one of the most unique and dreaded technologies ever conceived by the minds of men.

Here, beneath rosts of snow, ice, and sea, the people of Nivlahim had created the most terrible prison ever created. Prisoners were not kept in a secure facility with walls that held them in while they corrupted and rallied against each other. Here, in the prison known only as the Nivlahim facility, the greatest war criminals and mass murderers were suspended in the waters and kept alive through limited life support systems that were operated from systems half a world away. It was here, where prisoner 83109 was meant to be transferred, that he was least likely to come.

And that, of course, was why the Matriarch was standing on the surface, looking across the sky, looking for him. It was here, where he would never come in a million cycles, that she knew he would come. Surely enough, after standing totally still in the freezing winds so long that it covered her shoulders, she blinked at the flicker of movement she now caught in the corner of her eye. She looked toward the flicker, and it was more easily seen the second time through the wispy clouds above in the cold, green sky. Careful not to move, she adjusted her view to more adequately see the ship in which the escaped Sheii’Cronell was now flying.

The ship quickly came into the focus of the high-amplification camera of Valkyr Zero, the Matriarch’s personal ship which predated any Thorlinthian ship in the skies and which had been built long before any ship was fitted with the new Temporal Manipulation Drive System. In fact, Valkyr Zero was more accurately known as VA1L-KZ0 and predated most of the ancient ruins that were the basis for so much Thorlinthian technology. Even now, it was the most advanced piece of purely artificial technology in Thorlinthia. It was made with technologies that were decreed unlawful shortly after its construction. Its very existence was a secret even from the Monarch, and the Matriarch intended to keep it that way.

The ship started setting down. The Matriarch knew she wouldn’t get a better shot than now. Quickly, she sent out a mental command to her ship’s weapons systems, which fired on 83109’s ship with such precision and damage, one would have thought it was fired at point-blank range rather than from over twenty rosts away. As she expected, the forward viewport of the ship blasted open only moments before the round impacted, and 83109 lept out of the ship just in time to avoid the damage caused by the destruction of the ship’s TMDS. That, she thought quietly, was part of why such technologies had been forbidden.

As she predicted, the Sheii’Cronell barely set foot on the ground before a massive shockwave was sent out from his position as he jumped toward her ship. Not wanting to risk its damage, she quickly sent it into the spacetime dimensional matrix to which the Thorlinthians referred as the hypenet. Her ship, however, was not operated under the same parameters as a TMDS-driven ship. There was no shock or implosion as it disappeared. It simply vanished as it slipped out of the standard spacetime dimensional matrix.

Less than a milliday later, the sonic wave following 83109 reached the Matriarch’s location, and the snow that had built up around her was blasted away, even as she stood still as a pillar rooted to the planet like the lifetree. 83109 noticed her figure as he passed, and there was another shockwave as he clapped the air ahead of him, transferring his remaining kinetic energy to the air before him and dropping straight down to the ground. When he landed, the cracking could be heard in the ice, but it was rosts thick. Even a nuclear blast wouldn’t penetrate the ice deeply enough to expose the liquid waters beneath.

“You’re a Valkyrie, aren’t you?” 83109 projected his voice using their wireless systems, but every menacing drop of venom was still felt by the Matriarch as she turned her head to him coolly. He began charging toward her, much of his energy expended for now from his leap across the precisely calculated distance at which the Matriarch had placed her ship. When he reached her, his fist burned through the air so quickly that it seemed to be made of lightning, but the Matriarch was no longer in its path when it reached the intended point of impact.

83109 stumbled forward a bit as he felt for the first time the loss of balance from a missed punch with bad footing. He quickly saw the error of his ways, though, as the Matriarch caught his hand and pulled it forward to bring him off-balance even more, blending with the motion of his attack and turning him, twisting his arm back upon him, snapping his shoulder out of its place. 83109’s gasp of shock could be heard over the wireless as his dislocated arm was brought around behind him into a lock, and the Matriarch said back to him, “Not exactly.”

She placed her right foot on his back quickly, before he could recover from the shock of the event, and kicked his body away, his arm detaching entirely as she held it in place. He careened forward, falling to the ground for only a moment before his powers began kicking in fully. It had been so long since he had actually used it that the advanced healing factor innate in his body had been rendered ine
rt. Now, it reactivated, quickly sealing the wound where his arm had just been. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time to grow back the whole arm as the Matriarch was suddenly upon him, and he brought his other hand forward to block the blow he expected.

Instead, however, the Matriarch slid around him, grabbing him across the front with one arm and tossing him to the side like a rag doll. As she feared, however, the powers in him were growing to be more of a problem. He hadn’t even reached arm’s distance from where he had been thrown before he blasted himself to his feet with a pulse of air that he expanded in his path. Again, however, the Matriarch had predicted this. The reactions of 83109 were instinctual and animalistic, lacking forethought and rationality. He lunged forward again, screaming in rage and pain. As he approached her, the Matriarch jumped into a forward flip, spinning around and grabbing 83109 from behind.

This time, she did not let go as she recited the ancient words she had long ago committed to memory in order to protect her son from the dark fate of instinct to which all Sheii’Cronells fell at an early age. She reached into the deepest recesses of his mind, beginning to form the blocks. It wouldn’t lock away the rage or the fear that had built up in his mind as a boy, but it would secure his powers, rendering them useless. Only the most highly trained Supreme would be able to recognize the power inside him with a Level Five block, and as far as she knew, there were no more Supremes. The Guardians were gone now, too.

As she sealed the last of the blocks and released 83109, who dropped to the ground in sudden weakness, she wept for the galaxy only she remembered. She wept for her son, who had died long ago. She wept for the girl who had once accepted her son and who had died alongside him. She wept for the Kuli, who had nearly died out entirely in the war. She wept for the worlds that had been destroyed and the races that had been killed. She would never stop mourning the past that only she and the Monarch remembered, but neither would she regret a single action she took.

Casting aside her tears, she brought Valkyr Zero back from the hypenet and engaged its communications array. “I have him,” she said over the wireless. “We can begin interrogations as soon as I return.” She picked up 83109 as she headed back to her ship. She wondered how many times she could keep coming out of stasis like this. Even now, she could feel the toll time was taking on her body despite the processes that were now held as the deepest secrets of the Valkries.

Looking to the sky before entering her ship, she whispered out to the endless black that resided beyond the bright sky, “I’m waiting for you.” Stepping into her ship, she began preparing for the flight back to Valhal.


“I’m going to need you to run that one by me again,” Feriadd said, as Gril’Die finished speaking to him. Almost a full cycle had passed since that eventful day in the Council Room. It seemed so much longer to Feriadd now. With all the planning and operative placements along with the operation of the Ginnung as a whole, Feriadd’s hands were fuller now than they’d ever been. Despite that, there was no man in the Ginnung busier than its recently appointed Chief Strategist, Gril’Die Khuda Mundi.

Now, the two were in Feriadd’s office in Lower Skogr City, so named for its location under the water above’s surface. The Council Room was a part of Upper Skogr City, and most of the Councilors preferred to quarter above the surface, but Feriadd felt that this location better suited his job. He wanted to remind himself at all times that he was not in the position he was in by anyone’s will but that of the Ginnung themselves. He wanted to remember that they all had family, friends, and loved ones here in hiding and out on other worlds that they all wanted to keep safe.

Feriadd’s office was carved out of what was called a retree, a tree which had grown to full size again inside the city. Of course, that meant that he was inside a tree inside another tree inside the sea, which he rather enjoyed saying. Today, however, was not a day for jokes such as that. In fact, it wasn’t a day for jokes at all. Intelligence had just come in of the escape of prisoner 83109 from his newest containment facility, and Gril’Die was proposing they use that as an opportunity to communicate with him.

“Think about it, Feriadd,” Gril’Die implored, leaning in toward Feriadd’s desk. “When they catch him again, they’re guaranteed to move him to the Nivlahim facility. This could be our only chance to talk to him and get him to join our side.”

“You say that, but how do we know we can even get him to talk to us if we find him? What’s going to keep him from killing whomever we send after him? The man’s a mass murderer at this point. He hasn’t learned anything about emotional suppression in prison. If anything, he’s even more dangerous every day he spends locked up. Now, he’s gotten both powerful and aggressive enough that they need to move him to Nivlahim!  Do you know what the Nivlahim facility does to its inmates, Mi’Olnr?”

Feriadd brought forward a number of legitimate concerns. For one thing, anyone they sent after him would have to be able to match him in a fight, which would be almost impossible. For another thing, that same person somehow able to match a Sheii’Cronell in a fight would have to be able to track him down in the first place. Lastly, it required a great show of aggression to be sent to Nivlahim.

The Nivlahim facility was the prison designed only for the most hardened of criminals who couldn’t be contained or controlled anywhere else. Currently, the Nivlahim facility had one prisoner. The prisoner already there was named Geri’Aldr Barednt, and he had killed over two thousand people with his bare hands before getting caught and doing the same thing in prison.

Nivlahim was Thorlinthia’s coldest planet, locked in a permanent winter, its summers still filled with snow even when the planet was nearest the equivalent of Antarctica on the equator, such were the lengths between Linthia, the system’s artificial dwarf star, and Nivlahim. Most of its surface was completely covered in ice even in the summer. As a water planet, this meant that Nivlahim’s oceans were sub-freezing temperature at all times, held in liquid form by the pressure of the ice pressing back down on the water.

The Nivlahim was known never to have had an escape, but that didn’t mean the prison was inescapable. If anyone could figure it out, it would be a Sheii’Cronell. However, prisoners didn’t have much time to think in the Nivlahim facility. They were kept alive via feeding tubes and breathers, all the while keeping the prisoner tethered on a very long chain attached to the bottom of the ocean. This kept their bodies from experiencing time while doing nothing but think in their freezing, naked little bodies.

“Look, I realize the plan isn’t fantastic. Still, it’s the only chance we’ve got, and I don’t want to blow it. If we can find him, there’s a likely chance it will be the only time we have with him between our finding him and the prison system finding him.” Gril’Die almost struck the High Councilor’s desk, stopping just shy with his hand not even a finger’s width above the wood of the tasks.

Feriadd eyed the counter consciously as he contemplated the strength and discipline that came with a strike that powerful packed into such a small packet as Gril’Die’s fist. “What we need, Mi’Olnr,” said Feriadd, “is someone who can actually hold their own against a Sheii’Cronell. That’s priority number one.”

“Well, it looks like we’ll actually need a tracker, too, since we don’t know where he is or where he’ll be when we actually manage to send our guy out.” Gril’Die snapped his fingers, frustrated. “If only we had one of those.”

“Yes, that would be excellent,” Feriadd said, “but the problem is that no one can hold their own against this man. He’s a Sheii’Cronell.” They both crossed their arms in an effort to think a bit harder on any possible operations candidates.

“Well,” a familiar female voice called out gently from the shadows, “it looks like you two are in need of me again.” The Matriarch stepped from the shadowy corner of the room. Her black uniform was again fully decorated in the traditional ribbons and medals of the Armada. The belt wrapped loosely around her hips held various devices that she used in operations, and every holster in her uniform was filled. Her hips swayed, creating a clacking sound as she moved toward the desk. “I can’t send one of my girls after him because he’d tear them apart, but I can deal with an undisciplined Sheii’Cronell who hasn’t had any formal training. I’ll do it.”

At first, there were the usual few moments of shock as everyone got over the fact that she was in the room. After that, Feriadd stood and shook her hand. “I’d love to have your help, Matriarch.” They nodded, and the Matriarch sat down to discuss what would be done afterward with the two.