Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fire

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.

Things are not what they seem

Things Are Not What They Seem

T’Mooste forgot where he was for those first moments when he awoke. The confusion did not last long, but it was still irritating because it meant that age was starting to set in again. He did not have time for a rebuild or a visit to a reconstitution chamber, although he did not believe in the reconstitution chambers anyway. So, he would have to be irritated every time he awoke until this mission was over.

 

He hated these long-term undercover missions. They almost always involved either acting as if he was someone else or laying in the dirt and mud forever. Sometimes he was even awarded with a mission that had him doing both. Just once he would like to be himself chasing down smugglers in one of those new high-speed ships. But no, he spent his time in the dirt. The problem was that he had a 100% success rate and his tracks never led back to his employer.

 

This mission was particularly annoying because he did not know the target. How was he supposed to do a quality analysis of the situation without a full data set on the target? This was the most ridiculous mission yet. Here he was in some backwater system on a primitive planet with no backup and a job as a fisherman. Disgusting!

 

He could think of no reason that a value target would ever come to this planet, let alone go near this port. Still, the company’s intelligence was almost always perfectly accurate. Most of the problems came with the information that they left out – like the name of the target.

 

Fifty-seven local cycles later, he saw the ship come in. It was a sleek ship like none he had seen before. There was no defining shape as it seemed to morph as it came down. The color was silver with gold stripes on what was now the bottom. The final shape as it landed was a square box with four feet on the bottom. 

 

He now understood the comments in his directions about the transport vehicle and why they made no sense. Still, he did not know the target and now needed to see who came out because his only notes on the target was to take out the female who emerges. He was curious as to what would happen if more than one female came out.

 

He maneuvered into a new position and adjusted his scope. The Celetron launcher was an extremely efficient weapon and would destroy one person and one person only. The projectile followed the scope’s focus and crosshairs to the person indicated and formed a field around their body’s natural electromagnetic field. The projectile then released a Fortuse burst that basically vaporized the person or entity within the field.

 

The first person out of the ship was a man who stopped immediately on the first step of the ship. The man looked up and scanned with his eyes until he was looking straight into the scope. Then he reached back and pulled the door shut. He just stared and waited.

 

T’Mooste shivered up his spine as the realization came to him who his target was and who was looking at him. He immediately but the gun down, unloaded the weapon, got up on his knees, and put his hands over his head.

 

The man was standing over him in moments. He was asked one question, “Who sent you?” T’Mooste said, “I am dead anyway – it was the Assassin’s Guild and they received the request from the King. I was not told who the target was. I am sure I was not told because that is against our oath. We, or rather I, do not kill Kuli.” The man nodded and proceeded to destroy the weapons. He then walked away.

 

T’Mooste was shocked that he was still alive and then he realized that they didn’t need to kill him. The Guild would have to kill him now to keep this quiet. For the first time in his life he truly knew what it meant to be on the other side of the gun. He was about to leave when she walked up.

 

The target was standing in front of him and he knew her. He knew why they wanted her dead and why they did not tell him who it was. He knelt back down and bowed his head. She touched his forehead and he felt fire burn through his brain and down into his body and he was sure it was time to die. He had heard about their powers and the only two things he could think about were how sorry he was that he took this job and the hope his death would be quick.

 

After a short time, she let go and he bowed even more. “Get up” she said. He stood and at his full height he still needed to look up to see her. She was one of the most beautiful women he ever seen. She smiled and his confusion deepened.

 

She spoke. “Are you willing to take an assignment from us? Before you answer listen to the parameters. It will be your job to shadow someone and make sure that they are not assassinated. You will be given all the resources you need and will answer only to our Director of Asset Security. You will be alone almost always. You will have an implanted T’Ersirt chip to track your movements. You will receive barely enough money to live on but will have the full retirement benefits that the Kuli organization provides. In addition, your family, including your wife and four children (yes I know that and more) will be moved to a secure planet with full Murhan citizenship. “

 

He said, “Yes. I would be honored to work for the Kuli. How can you trust me?” She laughed lightly and said, “You just received a level 4 mind probe and I now know more about you than you remember yourself. Everything was downloaded to the ship’s computer and someone will go through it in great detail as I only review certain things rapidly, but I am confident that I can trust you. Please come with us if you agree.” He got up and followed her to a Kuli security ship that had just landed. She gave the commands to take him to training, move his family, and more. Then she smiled at him again and walked back and entered her ship.

 

On board, she turned to her Soretto and noted, “He will make an excellent guardian for The Watcher until he is fully trained.” Her Soretto started the preparations for departing as she thought back over the day. J’Rontia knew that the best decision she had ever made was her selection of a Soretto. She smiled and shared her thoughts and feelings with him as they took off.

 

 

 

The leader of the Assassin’s Guild received the encrypted message from Kuli headquarters and hesitated to open it. He had been confident in his selection of this assassin as the perfect person for the job, but things go wrong. He read the message.  “The assassin responded as you predicted. You selected the correct candidate. We will remember your loyalty to the Kuli.” A sigh of relief flowed over him and he relaxed back into his chair.

 

Behind him she coughed. He almost jumped out of his chair. He hated it when she did that and no matter how many security devices he put in place she still could appear without warning. She spoke “I will never forget this either. Anytime that your family is in danger, you may call me and I will return the favor.” He went to speak but she faded away right in front of his eyes. As usual, he was not sure she had ever been there. He looked to one of his monitors and saw that his accounts had increased by the amount they calculated T’Mooste was worth.

 

 

The King was mad as he read the reports. Her Soretto was very good at his job and never let her come out first. He also found ways to protect her from everything they had thrown at her. This was costing him a lot of money. He was about to scream when his advisor entered the room.

 

The advisor was smiling and said, “This plan was a success.” The King was confused and could barely contain himself while waiting for an answer. The advisor spoke, “I now have evidence that the Kuli are in communication with the Assassin’s Guild. We will be able to use this to bring more systems to our cause and build more hate against the Kuli.” A slow evil smile spread across his face as he spoke and the King felt fear creep into his heart. The advisor went on, “Now we can start to bring some real pressure to bear and the war will spread even faster!” He, once again, smiled that evil again and slowly left the room.

 

The King was silent for a while and then remembered his father’s dying words. His father had whispered, “I am no longer in control – save us.” He now realized how wrong his interpretation had been and a huge depression settled over him as he realized that things are not what they seem, even in his own castle.

 

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.

Welcome back Commander

Welcome Back Commander

He had power now and would be able to restart critical systems, and hopefully have enough power to find out what this ship was doing here and now. Oh, he knew it was a seed ship; after all, he helped build the ships from the remnants of the fleet.

 

After the death of J’Rontia, he was the senior Kuli and sent this ship on its way. In addition, he selected the crews and worked to divide up the resources. He recognized this ship as New Beginning 8, the one he sent to the galaxy in section 8 beyond the Cosmic Tear in a direct line along the Star Channel. He smiled as he remembered how it ended up that Galaxy 8 was in Section 8 and so he named that ship New Beginning 8. Although that was not the official name, everyone used it. No one really liked how the numbering went but it did prevent at least one war.

 

It seems that the various people were rather attached to their own names for the galaxies and areas of space around Tyria. This led the standards committee to use numbers for everything. We now have twelve Sections of space that start in the center of the Tyrian galaxy and move out in three dimensions as a ball might be divided into twelve equal sections with the ball having an infinite size. The galaxies were numbered based on how close they were to Tyria. Galaxy 8 was the 8th closest. Naturally, everyone used their own names for the galaxies, except in formal communications.

 

It turned out that Galaxy 8 was located in Section 8. Therefore, he felt he needed to name the seed ship going there New Beginning 8 and the names for the rest of the ships fell in line. Interestingly, the crew enjoyed the word play and rarely used the official name of the ship.

 

His thoughts returned to his current situation. He was floating in the space between the galaxies in the years before the galactic war started – in the times when everyone talked peace. He had been without power and getting ready for the end when he saw the derelict ship. Tomli’s visions had helped him in many unusual ways and he knew that his life now had a scope beyond any he ever imagined. Without the most recent vision he would not have scanned the surrounding space and would have floated right past the damaged ship.

 

The engine he borrowed from the wreck he considered a gift from J’Rontia to go along with all of her other gifts to him. It was a good thing that he saved J’Rontia and her Soretto. After all, not only did they select him to be a Kuli, they did quite a bit of his training, and, most importantly, they saved his life in Thorlinthia and that allowed him to save them in this time and place. Wow. What a complicated web had been woven.

 

The seed ship must have been at or near the end of its journey because it was almost totally empty. It appeared that almost all of the supplies and people were gone. Still, he could not know if all were gone until he was able to enter the main control room. So far, he had to do all of his work from the secondary bridge with limited power using an emergency bypass. He had finished installing the engine and he hoped it would interface properly and he would have some power to restart the command computer and possibly repair parts of the ship.

 

The newer engine would never have fit in a normal ship; however, this was not a normal ship. Designed from the pieces of multiple warships, some of the engines just hung from struts outside the main frame of the ship and others were fully built in. This made for a very unattractive ship but one where all he had to do, in this case, was modify one set of mounts and he was able to use a different engine.

 

As he thought about things he realized how ironic his thought was that “all he had to do was modify one set of mounts.” He was only one man and he had little in the way of equipment. It had taken a long time to create a mount that would hold up to the forces the engine would generate. Fortunately, the captain’s shuttle had over half its fuel and he was able to use it almost as a crane – it is not as pretty now as it had been.

 

The engine would not allow for any type of hype or warp travel as it was too small and could not be mounted correctly for that function. Still, it would provide power for the ship’s systems and give him some travel ability. He started the engine and was thrilled when it did not rip off of its mounts.

 

The regular lights started to come on as the power levels moved up and the ship came to life somewhat. He moved to a section control panel and examined the ship’s systems. The control panel used a 3D visual of the ship with zoom and color coded system identification. The system came with various fonts depending on the status of the system. It was easy to see the areas of the ship that were damaged and he quickly realized that some extreme stresses had acted upon the ship.

 

He found one set of crew quarters that was all blue and he zoomed in for details. This location had no system problems and would serve much better as his home than the secondary control room that he was using now. He zoomed back out to review the rest of the ship.

 

He shut off the systems in most of the ship either due to high numbers of errors in that area or because he didn’t believe he would need that part of the ship and wished to save energy. He identified three areas to visit. The first was an internal engine and compartment area that had almost no errors and showed a high fuel reserve – he might be able to repair that engine and achieve the ability to jump.

 

The second location was the kitchen near the main control room. It had no errors in its systems and that could mean some decent meals instead of the rations he found in the secondary control room. Finally, he wanted to examine the control room, especially the stasis chambers to see if he could learn what happened to the ship and crew.

 

He slept whenever he was tired and ate rations while he worked on the engine. He knew that the ship was very limited in its maneuverability and speed with the engine from J’Rontia’s ship and felt his top priority needed to be more power so that he could control the ship better and possibly perform a jump.

 

The work was not easy and at the end of each day he had a mess. The white slime did not come off of his hands easily nor did the green sticky oil stains wash out of his clothes the first time. He never rebuilt the navigation section of a Wroster engine before and hoped he never had to again. He took off three layers of protection compartments around the engine, each filled with something disgusting, before he could even work on the broken parts. Then the components did not match the manuals nor were the spare parts located in the front of the supply room. Instead they were in the back, behind hundreds of boxes he had to move, and then at the bottom of the pile.

 

When he finished putting it all back together he noticed the Torsion Brace and realized that he was going to have to take it all apart again and put the brace where it belonged. The second time he had it all together he placed his hand on the control plate and asked the engine to start. He was nervous and this reminded him of when his teacher asked him to show the class his floating Snark project. When he opened the case with his Snark he was deathly afraid it would sink.

 

When he said “start,” nothing happened and his hopes crashed. He started to walk away when he remembered that this was built by Murhans. He placed his hand back on the control plate and said the same thing in Standard Murhan. This time the panel lit up and the safety plates dropped into position. He heard the whine of the twiners and the rush of air from the blowers. Then a whoosh and red lights turned on all over the control panel.

 

He frowned and considered the display. There was a pattern with the red lights and he zoomed in on the indicators. He moved around to the back of the engine compartment and found a bent panel. He removed the panel and found a broken spring on the Gromttel actuator. He replaced the spring and walked to the control panel.

 

He placed his hand on the panel again and spoke the word. The panel lit up and the safety plates dropped into position. He heard the whine of the twiners and the rush of the air from the blowers. Then all sounds stopped and the panel turned all green. He smiled and stopped holding his breath.

 

He turned to the nearby 3D control panel for the ship and examined the power levels. He held his breath again as the power level started to climb. When the level indicator passed out of the danger zone he started to breath. When the level indicator moved past the warning zone he was thrilled. When the level indicator reached the ready zone he felt relief and realized how worried he had been that he would be stuck here forever. The level indicator did not make it to the jump ready zone, but it came close. The controls were set for a fully loaded ship and with it almost empty he may have enough power output. He would have some calculations for the main computer if he was able to enter the control room.

 

All of this success left him really hungry and hoped the kitchen he found had decent food. He found a refresher and spoiled himself with three refreshes. The clothes in the cabinet were standard crew clothes and he wrapped his Tramall over them. Feeling more like himself than he had in a long time, he went to the kitchen he had found.

 

The kitchen had seating for ten at one large table with simple metal chairs. The far wall was covered with system monitors that lit up as he came into the room.

The monitors covered all of the critical systems on the ship and he was able to double check the results from his previous checks with one quick glance.

 

The wall of the room to his left was full of doors with labels for types of food and drink concentrates. Each door contained a monitor for the food levels in that compartment. Almost all the doors had food but the levels were below ten percent in most cases, except for the door for Szatree which was at ninty percent due to the fact that no one likes it. Szatree was always included on long distance journeys due to its nutritional value; however, it is not pleasant to eat.

 

The wall to the right was covered with monitors that showed scenes from Tyria, mostly from the Galactic Wing. The pictures brought back memories he had suppressed, some for thousands of years, and he had to pause for a while to compose himself. Memories of his war years, his time as The Watcher alone, and then the times as The Watcher with his wife and son staggered him and he had to sit down.

 

After a few moments, he turned to view the wall on the side he entered. There were ten infusers for adding liquid back into the food. These were evenly spaced on the wall with counter space around them so meals could be prepared. He checked the monitors on the units and found two that still held liquid for infusing. Excellent.

 

The plate he prepared had seventeen different foods on it and he was determined to waste nothing. One of his selections was so spicy that his tongue burned through two additional selections. The meal was delicious and he could not move out of his chair when he finally finished.

 

While he recovered from his meal, he considered what he would find in the main control room. He was sure that with what J’Rontia gave him he could enter but he was not at all confident in what he would find in the room. How did so much damage occur, where was the crew, and, even more importantly, how did the ship end up so far in the past?

 

He decided to sleep and eat again before going into the main control room.

 

The door’s power levels were back to normal and all the door functions were intact. He placed his hand on the pad and the security controls initialized. The system recognized him from his previous role in charge of the fleet at the time of the seed ship deployment. After posting his information, the ship asked him for the current passwords. He used the codes he remembered but they would not work.

 

He then took the device from J’Rontia and placed it on the panel. The door responded instantly and asked him to input a new password as the previous one had expired. He complied and the system reset.

 

The door opened and as he stepped into the room the lights and equipment all turned on. The system said, “Welcome back Commander. It has been a long time and it is hoped that your journey here will prove rewarding. What are your commands?”

 

News

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.

Learning

“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?”

Qzcivden

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?”

Tomli died afraid of peace

Tomli Died Afraid of Peace

“Tomli died afraid of peace” the article said. The description of his life was mostly positive with a sneer at his final years when he warned against forcing all systems to join the Republic. The author made fun of his insistence on letting the King’s system live in peace. He ended the article noting that Tomli had not been the same since his age sickness and maybe it was more serious than people were admitting. The author did point out many of the wonderful things he did while he was a Kuli and some of the work he did as a Supreme Guardian; however, it was clear that the author saw no need to keep relics of war and conflict, such as Supreme Guardian’s around now that almost every system had joined the Republic. The article spoke a common belief that number of systems not in the Republic was so small that the Republic had nothing to fear.

The article did note that the two Kuli Guardians left, J’Rontia and her Soretto, were more than enough for the minor criminal actions still needing attended to. Forgotten were the Westrong Conflict, the Seargon Split, the Morggain Separation, and more. The past thousand years were full of wars. Still, with a galaxy the size of Tyria, it is true that most systems had not seen war in thousands of years. So, it was appropriate that Tomli died approximately when war died in Tyria.

Thousands of years later, Tomli stood on a hill overlooking the spaceport on M’Yestria. He had a small sad smile on his face that echoed the weariness in his heart. He had just reread the article about his death again. Every morning, he would journey up this hill, take out his reader, and peruse the article one more time as he monitored the work in the spaceport. He would then move to the control center where he would examine the Star Channel, the Hrubbitor, deep space, and more.

The spaceport M’Yestria did not exist on any navigational charts in the entire Tyrian system. No one could see the system without advanced optics and then they would not care. Thousands of years ago this arm of the galaxy was mapped by one of the Linthian scouts during the years when Linthia ruled the galaxy with technologies that made them seem as gods. This system was so far away from the rest of the galaxy that no one was interested in it except a small group of Linthian scientists who found a rare chemical and an unusual life form on one of the planets.

The life form did not have DNA or a similar structure nor did it reproduce in any way they could figure out. Only one existed and, based on the structure it lived on, it was billions of years old. The only food it seemed to eat was this unusual chemical. So, it was presented to the council that this system be kept out of the mapping so that this group could study the chemical and the life form with the hopes of finding immortality.

The actual secret was not what was hoped for. The chemical allowed the life form to stop its metabolism on any given system without necrosis while it built a new system. Then it would switch to the new system and consume the old allowing apoptosis to take place on a system level rather than a cellular level. Basically, the creature just rebuilt itself regularly and so did not have to die as a whole because it controlled death with its systems. Still, the Linthians used this information to adjust their DNA to greatly increase their lifespan.

 Supreme Guardians, with the addition of their mental control over their body functions, learned how to use the chemical to end their lives without actual death. They could infuse their cells with the chemical and then have the systems appear to die with the result being that the body could be tested as dead for days, and then, based on a programmed chemical release, they would restart the systems in their bodies with no damage at all. The hope was that they could use this in combat and someone with serious damage to their body could shut things down with this chemical and then restart after repairs had been made in a medical facility, perhaps days later. That hope did not materialize as the chemical only grew in one location in the system and was never able to be grown anywhere else.

Years later, with its secrets revealed, the use for the system disappeared and, due to its remote location, it was never added to the navigation charts. For thousands of years, it was only visited by Supreme Guardians for their final retreats during which they would review the deep space logs for anomalies that never appeared or to collect the unusual and slow growing chemical for use in those extremely rare times when death was needed.

It was on his final retreat that Tomli had his vision about building this spaceport and what it would be used for. As the last Supreme Guardian, he alone knew the secret of the chemical and decided to rebuild his body one more time, after his death, so that he could complete the work needed to see his vision become reality.

Looking down on the spaceport he felt the cold winds of the winter season chill his exposed flesh. A shiver drifted up his spine as he shook the cobwebs of memory out of his brain to concentrate on the scene in front of him. Thirteen of the largest cargo ships ever were assembled on the hardened surface of the port as they prepared for takeoff. In the hangers, twenty nine ships were in various stages of construction ranging from the bare frames to final touches. The workers milled around in the distance like tiny bugs swarming at a picnic lunch.

The thirteen sat fully loaded with supplies and the largest fuel tanks ever built ready to make another long journey into the dark of space. They only waited for the next group of passengers to arrive and he never knew when they would show up.

Tomli started walking down the long hill to the control center when the alarms went off on the spaceport. He started running. His long strides ate up the distance at a pace only top Kuli could match as he moved toward the control center. The sky brighten as hundreds of flashes appeared over the brown building in the back of the complex. Another group was arriving.

Tomli threw open the door to the first chamber and felt the rush of air that accompanied the exchange of hype areas. The room was marked off in squares with piles of rocks in the middle that glowed eerily as the roof disappeared in chunks with each flash of light. The flashes of light were marked by the disappearance of part of a pile of rocks and the appearance of one or more people. The people were all in a state of shock as they looked around at the chaos in the chamber. Within seconds, all of the areas had some or all of their rock piles removed and people standing in their places. Once the final area was used, a gas exhausted from the floor and everyone feel to the ground. He smiled – another successful transfer.

 

It was night time on the planet W’Rosetry. In the wake of the fierce battle, J’Rontia wanted to walk among the dead to remind her of why they fought so hard. They had won again, but they also watched helplessly as the deceiver’s forces destroyed the planet rather than let the resources fall to the Republic. They had turned the tide of the war and she knew they would win, but at what price. She wanted to give up and after thousands of years of war she just could not go on. Her Soretto felt her thoughts and she could feel his agreement that their time was up. They would have to let others finish the fight.

Her Soretto walked besides her on the way back to the ship and she watched, surprised, as a smile crept across his face. She was curious, what would make him happy about all of this destruction. He sensed her thoughts and pointed at the apartments in front of them. “Look in the windows” he said. She did but was confused at first. Then she understood. She turned to her Soretto and gave him a huge hug as they blended their minds with the revelation. Never again would they have any doubts. No matter how desperate, they would fight to the end. When they entered the command ship of the fleet she gave the order to send a pulse message.

 

Two days later, Tomli stood on the hill watching the thirteen ships lift off from the spaceport full of people and start their journey into the dark of space. His friends all thought him dead. His two best students ever were battling an evil without enough help or time. His beautiful Tyria was dying slowing. And yet, he smiled. In his hands was a pulse message – “We Will Never Give Up.”

The ships moved away from the galaxy core and headed into deep space. Then they jumped, leaving behind a small bright light in his eyes for a short while and then nothing but dark. He knew that he would die on this mission and that this was the closest he would ever be to Tyria, and still he smiled. It was ironic that in the article they said “Tomli died afraid of peace.”

 

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.”