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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:45 am 
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Chapter 25. Flight (3170) Lower Atmosphere: Leesti.

Orburn wasn't used to flying shuttle ships. Dropping one into an atmosphere and landing was one thing. Tearing one away from a planetary gravity well, with the distinct possibility of two other drop ships in pursuit was quite another. He had managed to gain manual control with little trouble. Galcop were cheap these days. Why bother with a pilot when they could get an auto-pilot to do the job?

The controls complained as the ship slowly rouse. Atmospheres, he looked down at his left hand. She was pulsing a deep emerald green. "so near and yet so far eh?" This sort of thing used to be so much easier with her. She was more like a co-pilot than a ship. They would float down like an ember together and rise up again like the devil himself. This was hard and mechanical, the controls tore at him, resisted in every way possible. She tried to help, diminished though she was; controlling the pitch and yaw as best she could. The proximity radar pinged into life. Yup here they came. They may be a little slow on the uptake, but give them an objective and they focused.

"Can I help?" Izmee landed in the co-pilot seat. Her street cloths objecting forcefully to the Lavian caricow skin seat. "what the fac!" Orburn needed her help, the other 2 transports were gaining fast, probably higher speck. Cree was smart enough not to risk a top flight transport as a first contact ship. Send in a clunker, just in case. If he was to stand a chance of getting out of this system he would need to deal with them. Which meant trivial problems suddenly became very important. "It's Caricow, small arms resistant, it absorbs and evaporates moisture very efficiently, the perfect material for army types to rest their asses on for twelve hours straight. But it really doesn't work well with rubber, I'm sorry to say." Five K, the transports were getting closer. Ismee raised her eyebrows "then what would you suggest I do? It's like rubbing Velcro" Four K and counting. "remove the skirt or live with it, whatever you do I need you to hold this stick steady whilst I deal with these two blips here." He motioned to the red markers lazily closing on the radar. "ok, give me a second, it's a good thing my underwear isn't rubber or we'd be screwed, ok so just hold it steady?" But Orburn was already out of his seat and heading for the cargo bay.

Orburn took 2 respirators off the cargo bay wall, after checking she was secured in her seat he gave one to Velva an put one on himself. He lifted the mouth piece "We're got two transports behind us, I've got to deal with them. Keep under these flack jackets and you'll be fine." Velva looked scared, hell he was scared. Avoiding 3 governments for almost twenty years required a lot of sneaking around. This stunt was not only very loud but also broke pretty much every rule that had kept him safe. He turned towards the stern of the transport, locked on a safety line and opened the rear cargobay doors.

The de-pressurisation caused the controls to buck and jump. "It's alright Iz, give it a firm hand, she wants to crash you but your in control, not her. Tell her were you want to go, ride the air and lead her there." It was like dad was sitting in the co-pilot seat, as if it was yesterday. Izmee fired a short burn and flew into the curve. Nose up a little, watch the stall. Level out, watch for gusts. Push it up a little more use the velocity to reinforce the climb, get into that sweet wispy air space. Density is the killer. Fortunately they kept the basic control lay outs fairly standard, fly one fly them all. Easy, peasy. She wondered what the hell that old spacer was doing back there, considering what he managed to do back in the alley, maybe she didn't really want to know.

The wind tore about the cargo bay. The transport corrected and continued to fly. No shout from the front, no panicked pitch or radical course change. Merely smooth calm correction. Orburn smiled, a flesh worker who could fly like a pro. Rare indeed. Low power laser fire streamed from the ships behind them. Transports were not meant for aerial combat. These were "broom" lasers. Designed to sweep a drop point clear of personnel. A such they had limited range and limited effect on armour. Still, with a lucky shot they could easily blind, or kill. A direct hit on one of the 4 thrust cores could conceivably disable it. That's the thing about luck, all you have to do is keep on rolling the dice. Sparks flashed off the cargo bay door frame as if in reply. They had to be stopped and quickly. Low power those lasers might be but if those ships got above or in front of them they could happily sit there and slowly chewing them apart. Question was how to do it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:06 pm 
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Damn it, Clym! I had intended to wait and read these all in a lump, but I simply cannot resist reading them weekly now.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 10:18 am 
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The noble joys of a regular schedule sir. Humanity loves patterns, now I singularly failed to keep my audio works regular and my audience suffered for it. This is not a mistake I intend to make again. Every Friday on the dot sir. The proper fun is yet to come, I'm up to about 35ish chapters cast in stone next 10 chapters are looking a bit changeable at the moment but there is a lot to think about, consistency of writing is key.

I'm glad your enjoying it..... a 3 drop ship sky chase cliff hanger in the present and a "Dark Wheel" conspiracy in the past. The next chapter (back to the past) I guarantee is going to blow things wide open......

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:08 am 
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Chapter 26. Education (2718) General Garrett, Galcop Military Frigate: Location Classified.

The General Garrett was quiet at night. Mirias didn't sleep much, he didn't need too. He could enter a meditative state that would drop him almost instantaneously into deep sleep. Two hours usually sufficed. Failing that his brain could shut down by sections negating the need for sleep entirely. This was marginally more stressful, but sometimes necessary.

General Turner had seemed almost pleased when Mirias had gotten back. No doubt he had been given a full report. Em had been right, he had forgotten how strange humans were; so in love with their own flaws they were almost desperate to see them reflected in others. He wasn't used to acting human, but scientifically it was difficult to argue with the results.

He would sprinkle a couple of errors into his work. Easy to detect so he could be 'pulled up' on them. When told to shape up and do better he would concede gracefully. They would be sung to sleep with a lullaby of superficial failure. He would hide and play at being a little more flawed.

It would give them something to do, distract them from his further research. He had hacked some of the "Dark Wheel" files already. Humans seldom used meaningless passwords. They used memes, phonics, play on words, birthdays, dates and pop culture references; patterns that were easy to remember. Like a lame man they used crutches to keep on walking. Preferring not to fix the problem of less than perfect recall, but mask it instead with tricks.

As Em had said, Galcop had taken the data from the StarChaser and expanded upon it. They'd soon discovered it was not as easy as just firing pre-programmed probes at the point where the StarChaser disappeared and hoping. Many variables had to be constrained and controlled to produce a successful crono-shift as they had called it. Mass, velocity, pitch, yaw, orientation to the time eddy, spin direction and speed of the sub-tube of witchspace, proximity to other objects within the tunnel. All had an effect and altered the effects of the others. The variables were dizzying.

The project had come close to folding on several occasions, someone always stepped into the breach and pushed research a little further. The last time this happened was about 60 years ago. Dr Charles Harrington came up with the idea of the Dark Wheel. Build from specially processed Duralium. This free floating frame acted like a guide, restricting and containing some of the more troublesome variables of the crono-shift. Within forty years they were reliably making craters on moons up to 2.5 million years in the past.

Scientifically it would have been a dream come true. Pop a probe around a system for a million years and pick it up the day after you sent it. The data would be pure gold, but the science was taking a back seat here. Galcop and the military were running this show. To them the Wheel was still dead tec. The chronological accuracy was sketchy to say the least and without a way of using the Wheel as a weapon, it could at best be used to create ancient, expensive, historically anomalous space junk. It was clear that having spent the best part of two hundred years throwing billions of credits and several systems G.P.P.'s into a big hole in space-time; Galcop wanted to start seeing a return on their investment. They had the gun, all they needed now was someone immoral enough to supply some bullets that flew straight and worked.

Mirias's hands danced over the keyboard.

<Spider activated>> Stealth_Search --logon 'Dr Charles Harrington' --all_variables --if + >PIPE> Password_hack Dr Charles Harrington --media --historic_archive >PIPE> force_logon --quiet

Enough hearsay from time travellers or hinted whispers bouncing round the edges of the conspiracy. He wanted cast iron evidence; He wanted schematics. He wanted the Wheel. There was a fear growing in the back of his mind. That the more successful this project was, the less likely most of those involved (and practically all of those who weren't) would survive it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 6:37 pm 
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Chapter 27. Swept Away (3170) Lower Atmosphere: Leesti.

The ship shook violently as a broom laser burst tore the housing off the rear port engine. Izmee watched it's power output drop by 30%. The more hits like that they took the tighter the maths got. Important maths, like 'thrust required to reach orbit' and 'velocity required to remain airborne'. Not that she was actually sure where the hell they were supposed to be flying to. It was difficult enough keeping the ship in the air, she was rusty. Admittedly it was like riding a bike, you never really forgot. That said, after a good few years out of the saddle most people wouldn't expect their re-introduction to cycling to involve two bully boys on faster bikes with laser cannons attached to them. Homicidal learning curve. Fly or die. Still, better than being beaten to death by that mad fac Joh-joh.

Joh-joh didn't care for his employees just as long as they made him money. She had been careful not to tell him that her father had taught her to fly. In his mind this would have been a complication. He would have had to waste more time than he would have liked, making sure she didn't have the opportunity to escape. This would have eaten into his preening and money making time. He would have found that unacceptable and he would have killed her for it. The transports were getting more accurate with their scatter fire, Izmee tried some light zigzagging but it was like trying to fly a brick like a fighter jet. Whatever the old man was trying to do he had better hurry up.

The sonic skittered gently down the cargo ramp and out the back of the craft. Orburn cursed, he had unholstered the same second that the laser snagged the engine, then momentum did the rest. The transports were really close now, fortunately their lasers were overheating, he had maybe a minute or two before they cooled enough to gut the interior of the ship? <tap,tap,tap,tap, ,tap, , tap,knock,tap,tap, ,tap,knock,knock,tap> It was her, she was using dit-dar. "H-e-l-".... he looked down "What's your plan?" His hand tapped the side of the cargo bay furiously. "N-e-e-d c-o-n-t-r-o-l? If it gets us out of this cluster fac, babe you can have me dancing the horn pipe in a tutu for all I care. O.K. How?" <tap,knock,tap, ,tap, ,tap,knock,tap,tap, ,tap,knock, ,knock,tap,tap,knock> "oh sure that's easy for you to say." <knock,tap, ,knock,knock,knock, tap,knock,knock> "ok, ok it's not like we have anything to loose." Orburn closed his eyes and let go.

Fear, cut through Velva's normal mental haze of forgetfulness. This was like one of the dreams she had, or maybe she thought she used to have; full of bright colours and screams. The old man was acting oddly. It had started just after the ship was hit. He was talking to his left hand, then he slumped like a rag doll. When he moved again Velva almost felt her heart freeze. He no longer moved like an old man or a human. Each change in position was calculated, minimal and efficient. He moved fluidly across the cargo bay, sure footed, despite the turbulence. It was like he was glued to the ship and it to him.

His hand moved up to the comms console, it was then she noticed that it was a blackened green and almost reptilian in appearance, clawed and covered in plates. It tapped purposefully at the wall mounted display. As the rest of the old man removed two cargo hand mags from the wall and a metallic rope from across his shoulder. They looked for all the world like Siamese twins working on different projects. Together but unsettlingly, not. Reclaiming his errant hand for a second, he adjusted the setting on mags and fixed one to each end of the metal rope.

Grabbing the makeshift device by the mags and making a final adjustment to them using his reptilian hand, he looked at comms console; which was flashing up wind speeds, velocities and directions at an astounding rate then, pausing for a second to observe the 2 transports bearing down on him, threw the contraption out of the cargo bay door. Seconds later all hell broke loose.

As soon as they left his hand the electro-magnets in the cargo mags activated repulsing each other, this unfurled the device. It flew through the air like a bolas, slamming into the middle right wing of one of the transports. The mags span on the rope then clamped onto the metal with a resounding CLUNK. Then, having detected the lock they passed a small hot wired charge to the rope like cutting arc that had been used to bind them together. Within seconds it was hotter than a furnace and it pushed through the wing like a thousand degree knife through butter. The transport immediately keeled over in a shower of angry sparks and molten metal, catching it's good wing on their other pursuer causing it significant damage. They both fell away, spiralling down like dying fireflies leaving Zorr, Izmee and Velva utterly alone in the nights sky.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:36 pm 
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Have I missed a week? Oh bugger. I have been busy. I'm currently preparing for a lecture (and one or two other things besides) and it's been taking time away from my writing.

Anyway....

Chapter 28. NightWatch (2718) General J. Turners quarters: General Garrett.

The voice was fuzzy and indistinct "I have to speak to them" Shulth was cold and calm. The vid-link was stuttery at best, General Turner knew it annoyed him so he let the problem persist.

"What is it now doctor?" It was a off hand deflection, Turner knew it wouldn't work. Again a crude tool designed to infuriate. The hazy shape didn't flinch. "I want to see the president, joint chiefs, you and the all the project heads of this little crono-conspiricy of yours."

Turner sat up "chrono what? Shulth?" The shape continued. "Your going to fail General, I know about the Dark Wheel and it's not going to work. You've forgotten, you've ALL forgotten a key principle of causality. Your all too busy looking down the barrel of the gun to see what's going on behind it."

Turners eyes narrowed. "I don't know what your talking about Shulth, it's 3 am in the morning and if you think for one second that 20 of the most important people in this or any sector, are going to sit in a room with you after your 'execution'. Then you've finally gone off the deep end. Good night." Turner cut the stream. the bedside com link sat there with the usual application icons.

Suddenly, the screen died completely only to be replaced, seconds later by a emerald flashing prompt. Turner frowned as text began running across the screen in lurid green capitals;

<SORRY, I'VE HACKED YOUR COMMS LINK, YOU WEREN'T LISTENING AND IT'S VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO.>

<AREN'T YOU JUST A BIT CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT I'VE FOUND?>

He picked up the comm and threw it across the room. Being a military design it took the impact against the far bulk head in its stride, suffering a few minor scratches, then fell face down, on the utilitarian carpeting with a satisfying thump. Turners head swam. Was there nothing that little freak couldn't find out? He stopped himself. Nothing could be done now, no use crying over split milk, regroup, rearm and go in fresh in the morning. Turner turned over "I should have shot you the second you came out of the shuttle." He closed his eyes determined to get back to sleep.

In the corner of the room, the hacked comms unit, it's light stifled by the carpeting, talked to itself;

<THERE'S NO NEED TO BE RUDE. YOUR RIGHT, WE CAN DISCUSS THIS AT A MORE CONVENIENT HOUR. I FORGET YOU PEOPLE NEED SLEEP. SORRY.>

The unit shut itself down and in a gentle, programmed way, euthanised all trace of it's strict security protocols ever being compromised.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:44 am 
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Chapter 29. Twice shy (3170) Aboard The Twice Shy. In transit.

Izmee opened her eyes. The room was small, cool but not unpleasantly so, most importantly it was clean. She took a second to stare at the bottom of the top bunk. It had been three weeks since they had escaped. She remembered seeing the two angry red blips fall off the map, putting the shuttle on auto-straight-n-level and heading back into the cargo bay. She found Urburn propped up against the closed cargo bay doors sparked out and Velva hysterical standing over him with the ships emergency fire axe.

Yeah, she had considered taking Velvas, some what short sighted advice and jettisoning him, especially when she saw his hand. She wasn't sure how she'd managed to miss something so obvious in the cockpit. But, the fact remained that they were in a stolen ship flying some where over Leesti with practically an entire stations worth of military people trying to find and kill them. Maybe they should listen to Mr Zorr's plan before blowing him out the nearest doorway.

So, when he came round. He talked and they listened, firstly to the plan to get them off planet: Zorr had brought down 2 ships when he landed on Leesti. The first was a cobra mark 3 mining and salvage vessel. That was his 'noisy' ship. The one that had been logged at the station, the one with the paper trail a mile wide that any idiot could track. The other ship had been placed in low orbit then mag tethered to the cobra for final approach and planet fall. Together they pinged like one ship. That one, "The Twice Shy" had been dropped near the open ocean near (but not too close) to the space port and submerged.

The Twice Shy was not your average ship. It was a rare Man'O'war. They were built or more accurately grown, by the Aquarian Shipbuilding Corporation in galaxy 3 (when it was still accessible). Aqualina was a water planet, as such their ships were as at home in deep water as they were in deep space. Due to the varying tolerances needed for a craft to survive these two contrasting environments, they were by their very nature exceptionally tough and durable ships.

So that's where they headed. Taking the shuttle out to sea, rendezvousing with The Twice Shy, staying just long enough to jump into the floating ship before sending the transport off in a zigzag pattern on auto pilot until it eventually ran out of fuel. Once aboard, they submerged and made for open water. Then the waiting game began. There was a heavy meteor storm due in about 2 weeks providing they could avoid getting smashed to smitheries by a space rock chances were they could slip away undetected.

Izmee had to admit it made a lot more sense than whacking Orburn over the head and shoving him out the cargo door. The food was good and their host was kind and courteous. Izmee realistically, fully expected the subject of "payment" to come up but it never did. The deal seemed simple, one trip to one planet and from there they could go where ever they liked. Not that they had anywhere to go to but the mere thought of putting a light year or two between themselves and Joh-joh seemed like a good enough deal.

Fortunately, Leesti was a super continent so they were half way round the planet by the time the meteor storm hit. Once in space, they took their time getting to their destination avoiding the stations and sun skimming for fuel. Izmee spent her time refreshing her piloting skills and talking with Orburn. He was full of stories of how the universe used to be in the heyday of Galcop. When the co-operative was just that. Stories of insectoid invasions, luckless felines, odd ships and robber barons. People with strange and wonderful names like Mossfoot, Hesperus, Blaze O Glory, Rebecca Western and Shulth. A lost time, a golden age of high adventure. Then there were the songs, the space shanties, drinking songs, stolen music and altered lyrics. Orburn especially loved the songs sung around the space bars, late at night when the howls to fallen comrades and lost wingmen had finished echoing through the thrice breathed air. But like the fall from day to evening the stories and songs inevitably took on a darker hue. The murder of billions of sentient creatures, the fall of ancient and intricate civilisations as they frose in now strangely hostile worlds that had been gardens of eden only months before.

Only zoothrope worlds suffered in this way, never human colonies. Then there were the plagues that decimated Zoothropes but left humans untouched. Within a decade the few that remained lived beggars lives, homeless and dispossessed, sick and weary. An easy target for authorities and mobs alike. Galcop was dying, but those in charge saw beyond it's end. They were looking to an Imperial and Federal future. A future that had no place for zoothropes and it would appear that the universe agreed.

Fortunately Zorr's switch back route enabled them to enjoy a relatively peacful journey. Hopping first to Diso, Reorte, Begeabi, Anlama, Tiinleba, Rebia, Orgetibe, Ara and finally Orburns final destination: Teorge.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:01 am 
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Chapter 30. Questions & Answers (2718) Galcorp Presidential Offices: Seccom of Cerinzala.

Professor Lisa Harrington stared furiously into the digitally projected eyes of a cold blooded killer. The fact that he was alive in the first place was something of a shock. She, like millions of others had watched the broadcast of his execution and recoiled in horror as the resulting disaster played out. That aside. It was difficult for her to quantify which fact repulsed her more; that she actually had to talk to him, or that he was doing a fairly adequate job of demolishing her argument.

Everything she had worked for, everything her family had sacrificed hung in the balance and she was running out of answers. Expectant eyes dotted around the table practically burned through her, hoping? No, willing her to put this replicated freak back in his place with a flourish. But she couldn't, he may just have a point.

She braced herself for another barrage. "Do you know what success means in this instance Professor? So far you've been making results that are relatively non-interactive. You can hit a moon. You don't know exactly where the crater will be, so you don't look for it before hand. The ambiguity hides the potential paradox. You fire the bullet and low and behold you find the wreckage. Because now, you ARE looking. The devil is in the detail. Technically that crater was always there. As was the wreckage. Would you have fired the projectile if you had found the remnants of it before had? This is the problem of effect as a precursor of cause. In order to enact an effect earlier, a cause has to be generated later. It is only due to luck that you hadn't properly surveyed your targets before hand. The closer you look at it, the more dangerous it becomes. We're not talking about wreckage on moons here, we're talking seeding civilizations. That makes the effect a little more noticeable and interactive than a dent on a rock and more damaging to the status quo as a result."

This was the crux of Shulths argument, the effects of effect before cause. Fortunately for Lisa, the incumbent president of galcop was an idiot; "Can you run that past us again Dr Shulth this time dialling down the science speak for us lesser mortals."

Shulth tongued his teeth thoughtfully, the phrase that sprang to mind could not be allowed to leave the confines of his head. "It would be a pleasure Mr President. What would you consider a successful outcome for this project?"

"Clever, obedient critters on every planet?" James retorted dryly. "Quite right general. Thank you. So, nothing there currently and we want to retroactively fill the universe (or at least our part of the universe) with 'critters' with opposable thumbs. So that, is success. We set out to alter causality. We place a result, in this instance 'critters'. before a cause, the cause being; building the critters, placing them into the big fat time gun and firing them at a planet. So now that result 'ie the critters' can potentially alter reality enough by their very presence to drastically effect the cause that created them. You haven't created a time machine, you've created a paradox engine."

The president looked like he was trying to get it but having distinct difficulty. "So by making this thing and firing it we risk breaking it?"

"no, no you don't" interjected Lisa "The machine itself is situated in witch space it has to be in order to work. As a separate sub-dimension of space-time, we have no reason to believe that it or anything in witchspace will be adversely effected by alterations to the time line"

Shulth was unwavering. "True, anything in witchspace is theoretically safe. Up until it gets into witchspace and all bets are off when an incompatible object leaves. We risk at the very least wiping the wheel from history. Making it a witchspace relic of a reality that it, itself destroyed."

Lisa smiled "Does that really matter if it's successful?"

Again the reply was stone cold. "There are other risks you know, potentially it's a one way trip for anyone operating it, anyone on the outside could be brushed out of existence each and every time it's fired, then there's crono-amnesia, the problem of monitoring newly spawned realities from within witchspace, etc etc etc."

Lisa waved her hand dismissively "This is just scaremongering Shulth" the demon cracked a smile "call me Mirias". She ignored him "We only really have to worry about the time between the discovery of witch space and the present. I would suggest certain precautions. Everyone who is critical to the project is given a choice; in or out. With a full explanation of the possible risks of either. Self destructing reality probes would need to be constructed from resources within witchspace. Externally manufactured probes could be susceptible to damage when re-entering an altered reality. The core crew of the dark wheel would be expected to remain with the project until the very end."

The general frowned "so we'd be making a prison then?"

"Probably." Shulth replied. "A prison of the unknown certainly. You are free to go but as I said before, you will be incompatible with the reality you find yourself re-entering. Question is what will happen? This is more a topic for theoretical science than cast iron fact. First person out of witchspace proves the theory. By then it's too late of course. Although altering reality, condemning incalculable trillions to non existence; it is a crime that erases itself, which is handy when it comes to apportioning blame."

The room collectively frowned this time. Lisa knew what he was doing, gently steering the conversation around to cost. This was the inescapable horror of the Dark Wheel. They would be in effect killing practically everyone in Galcop a thousand times over and only those trapped in witchspace would ever know.

She took her time to respond, these sorts of moments shouldn't be rushed. Home truths especially. "Even if we do succeed and changes to reality are negligible, the wheel erodes it's own relative importance with every success it achieves. We seed frogmen on lave. If we succeed then to everyone outside witchspace now, and throughout history, there have always been frogmen on Lave. The need to fire frogmen at Lave becomes superfluous, they're already there. The effect has circumvented the need for a cause. But the cause is still required to initiate the effect. The machine is safe as long as it stays outside time. But the need for it's creation slowly dwindles in the overlayed realities it produces."

But Shulth wasn't finished, he wanted to make sure how much blood would be on everyone's hands; "Your holding a gun to the head of the eight galaxies as you know them. That if fired, will kill or alter everyone you ever loved, know, knew, respected, saw in the street, heard about in passing in the vidfac and billions more besides. Thing is, you won't just be firing once. You'll be emptying the clip and reloading it hundreds of times. With each round a new world will replace the corpse you've just created, then you'll press your gun to it's head and kill that one too. This will happen again and again and again and again. Until you have a reality you like, but can potentially never enjoy. This deed will make anyone left hiding in witchspace complicit in a crime that will make my transgressions seem trivial by comparison and only they will know. This is going to take a special breed of person to accomplish. A kind of person that I seriously doubt any of you have the capacity to become."

This was it. You could have heard a pin drop. Do or die. She could almost feel her parents in the room, their words. Their implacable logic, reason and compassion, flowed through her.

"The choice is simple ladies and gentlemen, we stand on a knife edge as a species, and we will fall. Billions of people are going to die whatever we do. We can fall forward and let the Empire and the Federation annihilate each other as they fight over the burning wreckage of the far colonies. Or we can fall backward, stopping a war but sacrificing reality and potentially all the people that call it home. If we begin, we must see it through. The Dark Wheel once fired must continue firing until its job is done. Truth is we may not be able to save Galcop. It might be swept away with the waves of change that will flow across this small part of the universe. We're going to change a lot of things, some for the better, some regrettably, for the worse and no one who is left will remember our crime or our sacrifice. Question is, do we try."

Silence ruled the room as the implications of the choice facing the 16 people residing there finally sank in.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:41 pm 
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Chapter 31. Return to service (3170) Galcorp Behemoth Capital Ship "Pride of Orrere", Medical bay 13: Riiser system.

"Wake up". Major Richard Cree felt himself spin through the air for the thousandth time. His ears ringing, his body bleeding and shattered slammed down onto the cold, hard, filthy concrete of district 7. His newly broken bones jarring agonizingly together as they failed to absorb the impact. His ribs cracked musically as they destroyed themselves protecting his internal organs.

His breath came in fits and starts as his body tried disparately to compensate for his collapsed lung. The lack of oxygen was making him dizzy, every move was agony every thought had to push it's way through the fog of hypoxia. He willed himself to move but nothing happened. Starved of oxygen and badly damaged, his limbs refused to budge. He was trapped in the broken shell of himself as he slowly drifted into unconsciousness. Blackness crept in from the edges, twirling towards the middle of his sight, meeting in a perfect crescendo of formless, shapeless dark.

"Wake up, Major." Richard opened an eye. There were blurred shapes and bright lights. "I think he's coming round sir". "I can see that, inform the ambassadors." His vision was beginning to clear, as was his ability to move "Where am I?" He mumbled groggily. The tone of the figure in front of him became clipped and curt. "Where doesn't matter, what does matter is stopping your little screw up on Leesti from becoming an even bigger intergalactic incident than it already is. I should be thanking you I suppose. Your failure to capture Zorr and facilitating his escape with the only known Shulth left in galaxy one, has caused a considerable amount of panic. The president himself has spent the past few days in diplomatic talks with the Federation and the Imperium. This may very well be the straw that breaks the camels back, Cree. Given the seriousness of the situation reserve funds have been released to the Special Directive to, and I quote the President directly 'Get this situation back under control by any means necessary'".

Cree sat up painfully. "He booby trapped the street sir, he had a sonic." The director of operations of the Galcop Special Directive; Admiral Hugo Brass was unmoved "Yes, which he used very effectively turning one of my most highly decorated and dedicated majors into a street smeer. Arguably, a situation that would have not occurred, if the men he was commanding could have told the difference between a terrorist, a pimp and a sandbag. It's taken a week to patch you up, your held together with more titanium reinforcing and microservo bracing than the Lave first landing colony shelter. You should be fully functional, there will be pain and you've looked better. But you'll do. I expect you in my office ready for debriefing by eleven hundred hours." Cree winced as he tried to sit up straight "sir, yes sir."

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Chapter 32. Flawed questioning (3170) Aboard The Twice Shy. Teorge system.

"Well?" The hand tapped eloquently over the keys.

<answer> I'm not telling you. They were both put there for a reason. Left in life cages by Galcop for a very specific purpose. The Shulth, to tempt you out of hiding, the other to gain autonomy over the resources that she owned. Not all the things that Galcop does are done to serve a higher purpose. Sometimes greed is enough of a motive. But rest assured one of them is the Shulth.

"Then why won't you tell me?" More tapping.

<answer> Because you are messy inside. I have seen you. You will rely on the one more than the other because of a name. Because of what she was, not what she is now. They are both badly damaged and need to be repaired.

"Hang on a second."

<answer> You will project expectation, you will hope and you will doom us all by doing so.

Orburn sat back in his chair. "I think preferred you when you were just a ship."

<Suggestion> Have another drink. We are alive, we are safe (for now). We are successfully masked from Teorge prime by it's second gas giant. Diagnostic tests complete. DNA memory 100% checked. Errors patched, no loss of data. Schematics check 75% complete. Who is who doesn't matter right now.

Zorr uncorked the vintage Leesti evil-juice. Poured a mariners measure and scooped it up with his manus hand. She fired an micro-current into his upper arm causing it to lightly spasm. A touch of the juice spilled onto her form and was absorbed. Zorr smiled, "skol, mi'lady" and with that he downed the glass.

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Chapter 33. The Wheel (2719) Officers observation deck: General Garrett. Witchspace.

"No." Mirias raised an eyebrow "Really? One hundred and thirty to two hundred years. I've added to your life span since I first met you. Your paunch is gone, your grey too. I watched you beating military physical education instructors in hand to hand combat who are conservatively half your age. A fact which made you very happy indeed. You are stronger and faster than any other naturally born human on this ship and personally you smell a lot better now too. I fixed your ears and nose which were getting age long and I've repaired decades of internal damage, liver, kidneys, colon, heart, lungs and brain. The cadets notice you now, they used to just fear you. I've seen you pass up the advances of women young enough to be your grand daughter. Purely because your an old thing in a new young body and it doesn't feel 'right' to you."

James glanced at him but said nothing. "I am an old thing in a young body too James. I can be brash, dismissive and detached at times. You have to remember that I was made to be superior and no amount of harping on about the indomitable strength of the flawed natural human spirit is going to change that." "We still caught you." James said. "A costly acquisition as I seem to remember. Anyway you don't need to be better, just have more. Quantity can overwhelm quality quite easily. That is what we're doing now isn't it? Making more? Worlds more to be precise."

Turner looked out of the window. The arc of witchspace spun around them. The majority of the personnel were leaving. The Wheel was not difficult to fire, it didn't need a large crew. Shulth would refine and complete his work from the safety of witchspace. The others who were staying were in this for the long haul too. Only people who had felt driven to save Galcop had been let into the secret. From now on the wheel would be supplied remotely until it was fired. The aim was to make it totally self sustaining within the year.

James caught his ghostly reflection staring at him from the dark. He was indeed young and strong again, but his mind though sharp and quick, hid an indelible age and this place, it's purpose; made him feel considerably older still. "Yes, but at what cost? I don't even know why I'm still here."

"That at least is simple. Your here because you want to live. Your president chose to take his chances out there. Understandable, the tapestry of chance that made him president will start to unravel the second we fire. Someone or something will probably take his place, maybe a human, or a cat? Or a dog? I don't know. Those who choose to stay here are to become a myth. Months or years from now, we will be called upon. it's only a matter of time. We are the final desperate line in the sand. Sobering. In short your world has stopped making sense. That, is why your here."

A dark shadow loomed across the window. "You seem to be coping rather well considering doctor."

"I will admit it is difficult to sacrifice everything when you know, no one will remember. But my self worth is bound within my flesh. Not warn on my shoulder, my chest, reliant on votes or enshrined within a document. What ever happens I will always be me and that is a small comfort. I was made like this, James. I was made to destroy a world; so it could be reforged. I didn't have a choice but I did accepted my role. So I am responsible I suppose." Maybe a change of subject would lighten the mood; "I'm not going to do anything stupid, you know. So, are you going to let me talk to her?"

James watched the imposing taurus shaped megalith turn menacingly in front of the window. It hung in witchspace suspended above all of them like a sword of Damocles; an unparalleled engine of destruction. Leeching power directly from the void. The quiet at the end of discussion, the dark sun that would burn away all history, memory, perspective and reason. The Dark Wheel. "yes," he said "I suppose that is the least I can do".

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Chapter 34. Negotiation (3170) Galcorp Behemoth Capital Ship "Pride of Orrere", Conference room 1. Riiser system.

Brass strode purposefully into the meeting room. It was large and well furnished. A place where treaties where hammered out, trade agreements and surrender terms were signed. Strange that it would now be used to oversee murder. Murder, Brass was always amused by the perspective required to call anything murder. It required a certain binary view of the world. Things died when you put your foot down on an apparently empty piece of earth, when you breath, when your body defends itself from attack or mutation. He preferred to think of such things as necessary and unnecessary. This is why he was so good at his job and why he could still sleep at night, he did that which needed to be done, for the greater good, for the future.

The room contained two others. The first was dressed in flowing robes and an ostentatious sprinkling of gold and jewels. He was well built and young in appearance, hailing from a system that prized it's Spartan warriors. Obviously a rising star willing to take on the more ruthless necessities required to keep the Empire in hand. "Imperial Councillor Tirian, I trust you are well? And Lady Senator. Thank you both for attending." Tirian smiled, it was proper that he be addressed first. The order of address was incredibly important, it denoted status. First questions are petitioned to the wise by those in need of council.

A culturally specific titbit that was completely lost on the rooms other occupant; Federation Senator Anita Meneeder. She was shorter, thinner and older. She was dressed conservatively. Her laser cut hexstripe business suit fitted her precisely. She didn't exude the physical power Tirian did, but she did project an efficient, intimidating malevolence. Brass enjoyed these now more frequent meetings. It was an education, observing how three different systems of government approached the same problem; Security.

"I would be better, if I were better attended. I find the Far Colonies to be badly stocked. These days." Brass inhaled calmly, every other word that came out of the Imperial Councillors mouth was designed to be a taciturn insult. They gauged the strength of opponents by seeing how easily they could be provoked. "Ah yes, slaves. Even the young ones. Easy to find but a bit illegal to move them around. Unfortunately." Meneeder registered the subtle jibe but didn't react. They both knew that the Imperium had certain traditions and social practices regarding slaves that they both found morally obnoxious.

The subtlety of the comment, accompanied by his lack of reaction to it. Graphically illustrated Tirians ignorance, but it didn't slow him down; "Well, if this level ineptitude. Which has been most apparent of late keeps up. I doubt there will be a problem to solve."

That one, Brass couldn't ignore. "There was an altercation on Leesti and a number of our life cage assets were compromised." Tirian smelt blood. "Galcop incompetence. You said, that you could be trusted. You said, that you would handle the situation. The Imperium, against it's better judgement, trusted you and you failed us and the Federation. I assume you will be resigning and your bumbling servant, what? Cree? Will be executed?" Senator Meneeder was enigmatically silent, she knew this was going some where, Brass would never knowingly fall on his sword.

"Why would we need to execute him when the Empire seems only too eager to do it themselves?" Brass tapped a dark section of the meeting desk in front of him. It sprung into life; a video feed in lurid three dimensional colour rolled across the desk like a wave. It was looped security camera footage from Leesti.

Zorr raised the sonic and fired. Again and again. The scene froze, the image zoomed and depixellated. "If it looks like a sonic, sounds like a sonic and fires like a sonic. We have to at least entertain the possibility that it is one, who is the only maker of Mark 4 sonic pistols, in the universe? Tirian?" The Councillor took a step back and sat down. "What are you implying?". "Tirian, I don't need to imply, infer or insult. I let the evidence do the talking for me." Brass's hand ran across the console like a pianist. "This is the sec-camera footage from Zorrs ship. The one we impounded on Leesti. Much of the memory was erased but he did leave us a few scraps."

Tirians face paled, as he watched his agent murder the crew then confront and loose his life to Orburn Zorr. Brass rolled it back and looped it again. Zorr mocked Tirian from the table; "yes, yes I suppose you are professional, but possibly a little too cock sure of yourself?" Before Tirian could say a word in his defence, he was bombarded by Heedens mug shots and flimsy cover story. Facial recognition software put him arriving from Imperial space barely two years before. Then the words 'PERSON OF INTEREST" flashed up in lurid font. "If it acts like an assassin, sounds like an assassin and looks like an assassin. We have to at least entertain the possibility......"

<clap, clap, clap>

The languid applause came from the senator. "Well, it would appear that, true to form the Imperium couldn't keep it's nose out of other peoples business." Brass's hands danced over the monitor again. The image returned to Leesti. Cree was standing facing the alley as his troops fanned out around him; "Hello Orburn, been well?" "so so, Imperial assassins, federation diplomats they all want the same thing, they just phrase it differently. You?"

Brass looked up questioningly at Meneeder. Who's expression had gone ice cold in an instant. Brass signed, "We asked the pair of you, for your trust and as it would appear, it was not forthcoming. So here we are. I understand why. Galcop seems weak and you wanted, no needed to exert control for the sake of your own security. Some say a war, The War is coming. Truth is we are already at war. The quiet clandestine war we have always waged. Our purpose is to stop things escalating and we are failing in that duty. All of us."

Meneeder eyes narrowed "What are you suggesting?" Brass shut down the console. "I don't need to tell you that Galcop is a shadow of it's former self, looking to the future and in the interests of a clear conscience for those left. Certain actions have been undertaken that you both know about but are not technically responsible for." "You mean dealing with the man-imal filth?" Tirian interjected. "Blunt as ever but you are correct, this is not the only thing we have done to prepare the way and ease Galcops passing. Certain weapons, artefacts, facilities, factions, societies and individuals must be put beyond use.

"Zorr" Meneeder contemplated. "Indeed, it seems to me that we have been falling over each other romancing a very dangerous gentleman. In the hope of gaining some spurious advantage over the others by courting his aid. The chaos that has ensued, has allowed him to follow his own agenda. One which, I'm fairly sure the fullness of time would give us all a cause to regret."

Tirian stood up "Your suggesting a truce?" "I'm suggesting we take five seconds to stop screwing each other over so we can get the job done. Look this is really very simple; Galcop is dying. Now it can die badly or it can die well. If a little care is taken now, then the end will not be messy, protracted or pointlessly violent."

The Senator and Councillor looked at each other then back to Brass as he brought up a star map "Senator Anita, Councillor Tirian, We have a meeting to attend. It's high time we revisited, at least in spirit anyway. The source."

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Chapter 35. Second thoughts (3170) Aboard The Twice Shy. Surface of Teorge.

The decent was the easy part, Teorge although blockaded for hundreds of years by Galcop was not particularly well defended. It didn't need to be. The clone inhabitants for the most part had little wish to leave. There were few space worthy, heavy lifting engines planet side. Anyway, leaving the planet was actively discouraged. A station was kept in orbit but that was standard Galcop policy. It was seldom visited and easily avoided. No, the problem with Teorge begins when you land and it ends when you leave or you die.

"Get me another brace! they're breaking in!" Ismee ran across the engine room of the Twice Shy. Orburn and Velva were flat against the airlock door. Traditionally it should have opened outwards but whatever was trying to get in didn't seem to care. Ismee ran back with a hand arc and a steel bar from the scraps bin "I thought you had an invite?!" Zorr grabbed the welder and the rebar. "Well yes, I did but whatever THAT is obviously didn't get the message. Eyes away or you'll get arc burn!" Ismee turned away and put one hand over Velvas too just in case.

<SLAM!>

The ship shook as something heavy and apparently quite perturbed charged the door. It gave another inch inwards and fingers, at least double the size of Izmees ground their way through the opening feeling for leverage. Izmee stared at them as they clamped onto the rented door edge. "Urburn! They're going to get in here!" She exclaimed in a sing song voice.

Zorr was welding as fast as he could but as soon as that slab of a hand found purchase it was all over. The door was simply pulled away. There in the door way stood an ogre of a man, a beast, a Goda clone.

Orburn raised the arc at it but he was quickly slapped aside. Velva ran back and stood defensively in front of Izmee as the creature stooped and entered through the breeched doorway, two more followed quickly behind it. Once in, it advanced on Velva at breakneck speed, clamping its hand on her shoulder so firmly it drew blood. She yelped in pain as with a mere flick of its wrist she was hurled into the arms of one of the other Goda behind it. Almost instantly she was carried kicking and screaming outside.

"V!" Ismee shouted as the Goda descended on her like a falling brick wall, pinning her to the bulkhead with it's forearm. It's eyes were just centimetres from hers. Then it opened it's mouth revealing several rows of shark like teeth. Izmee was transfixed in terror as it's expression changed from pure hatred through discomfort, to confusion, then horror. The Goda staggered back cradling it's right hand. Izmee looked down at it. It was an angry grey and bubbling. As she watched, the vibrant ashen raced up the veins of its arm, which dutifully fell limp by it's side. Seconds later the creature spasmed and fell back. As if someone had simply reached in and switched it off. There it lay; gently dissolving, as it was slowly eaten from the inside out by the nameless silvery liquid.

Izmee looked around. The other Goda was on it's knees perpendicular to Zorr. He was slowly getting to his feet, the old man seemed shaken but uninjured. "what happened?" Ismee asked desperately. Zorr shook his head "I don't know. One minute I'm about to get pasted across the engine room by happy boy here. Next he's eating humble pie at my feet. Where's Velva?" Ismee's eyes suddenly widened. "Oh fac! Velva!" She jumped over the gently steaming pile of Goda and made for the door. No more had come in and it seemed strangely, quite quiet outside.

It took her eyes a few seconds to adjust to the daylight. The scene that met her was difficult to comprehend. Velva stood just outside the ship grasping her shoulder and breathing heavily. Around her lay the smoking remains of a score of Goda clones beyond that, another forty at least sat motionless genuflecting in perfect symmetry. It was as if the dark lady Factoria herself had descended to greet the chosen. They were all mumbling in unison, the soft susurration of which washed over her like monks praying.

Velva looked back at her, her face a mask of confusion. Ismee sensed Zorrs presence behind her. "What are they doing?" She whispered. "My guess? Worshipping their superior, as they were bred to." Orburn said matter of factly. "listen." With one voice the Goda repeating the same word again and again. "GAU".

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 4:36 pm 
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Chapter 36. All Good Things (2727) The Octagon. Galcop central office. Lave.

The President of Galcop, Benjamin Illis, the most powerful man in this sector of space, shook himself out his day dream and crashed back into reality. He wanted, no, needed to savor every minute detail inherent in his surroundings, one last time. He sat in the newly completed Lave Octagon, his office, the heart of Galcop, secure in one of the core old worlds. Each corner of this room represented one of the systems he, as head of the collective had control over. He pushed his expensive shoes into the deep rich carpet and sat back in the old earth oak chair. On the table in front of him was a half bottle of 250 year old Lavinian "settlers" whisky. Bought as an investment, it's the kind of thing you never, ever, opened. Picking up a hollow diamond singing glass, of which only 3 existed in the entire universe, he downed its contents to the clear, perfect tone of a heavenly, middle "C". Like the whisky, it was priceless.

Few people had the power, money or influence to make this moment happen, but he did. That was the point, to end on an indelibly unique memory. To make the last, the rarest of moments. His gaze moved to the walls, to the past few presidents of Galcop and before that, the illustrious leaders of the far colonies. Their names, hammered into his mind at school, a sacred line of ideal, responsibility and governance. They looked at him with hatred and accusation. They whispered with their eyes; "Will you unmake us too? Undo all that we have done? All that we were? Tears fogged his vision, as the antique grand father clock in the eighth corner, a gift from that Galaxy, ticked away the last minute of this desperate reality. At midnight the Dark Wheel would fire, at midnight, things would change.

The news feeds flashed, demanding his attention. The past weeks events rolled across the hologramic screens at fever pitch. There was only one story that mattered. The story; Images of hundreds of Imperial ships, tearing through Galcop space, his space. They had established a beach head on the upper quadrant of galaxy 1. Creating a cordon around Cemave, they were now using the system to jump into galaxy 2. Flooding it with a massive Imperial presence. He hoped his sparse forces could hold the line at Lsusle, but any day now the federation would be forced to respond. Maybe in Galaxy 3 to cut off an upward Imperial advance. Maybe some where else entirely. The feeding frenzy had begun. Galcops forces were engaging the Imperium but everyone knew that the second the Federation became involved, the collective would fold like a pack of cards.

There were simply too many possible fronts, too few ships and people. Whiskey fueled fury burned through his mind, dispelling the sorrow in an instant. THEY had forced him to do this, their greed was to blame! The singing glass skittered across his desk, chipping on the desk lamp, forever ruining it's perfect tone. In the last of the eight corners, the ornate time piece and the reality it was indelibly attached to methodically ran out of time.

The president took a long burning draft, straight from the bottle, then held it in salute. "To a new past, and the future." Seconds remained. As the bottle kissed his lips one last time.

<tick> (five)
<tock> (four)
<tick> (three)
<tock> (two)
<tick> (one)
<tock>.......

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Chapter 37. Prelude to the First Overlay (2727) Dark wheel control deck: General Garrett. Witchspace.

"No one?" Shulth stood on the control deck but none of the other fifteen people standing and sitting in his presence could meet his gaze. General Turner looked down dejectedly. He had read the narrow cast, as had they all;

<IMPERIAL INVASION HAS BEGUN. FLEET REINFORCING LSUSLE TO PREVENT G2 BREAKOUT. DEFENSIVE LINE IS NOT EXPECTED TO HOLD. FEDERATION RESPONSE IS NOW INEVITABLE. GALCOP CAN NO LONGER GARANTEE THE WHEELS SAFETY. PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER 'IXION' IS IN EFFECT AS OF 00:00. GALCOP EXPECTS EVERY MAN AND WOMAN TO DO THEIR DUTY. MAY FACTORIA HAVE MERCY ON US ALL.>

Shulth suppressed a smile. He was Gau, possibly soon to be the only Gau left in the existence they were on the cusp of creating. He was made for this. A peerless destroyer. Without pity, guilt or remorse he would burn away the flawed world before him. He searched the faces present, looking for one spark of resolve, a single iota of courage to do that which needed to be done. Professor Harrington wiped a tear and looked at him, she seemed hollow, consumed by the thought of what they were all about to loose. But she did look. It was a start, it was enough. Shulth turned.

"There will never be another incision that will cut as deeply as this one. We will morn this reality most keenly, because it is the one we know. But it is sick and it is dying and we cannot save it. Every second, more and more people suffer and die as the eight galaxies slowly tear themselves apart. If we falter in our duty; what do you think will happen? When the Imperium or the Federation find this place? It may surprise some of you to know, that I do not particularly like suffering. So I will take the responsibility of ending it. But I will not tolerate being hated, by any of you for doing so. We have too much to do. So we will all agree, to let this reality end for the greater good."

The room murmured uncomfortably. "General Turner?" The old man in a young mans skin slowly stood wearily to attention. He unholstered his side arm. "We have a stark choice. If you agree, our world ends. If you disagree you will be guilty of high treason, you will be executed and our world ends anyway. I wish to live and try to save 'a' Galcop. So I agree; If you wish to disagree, please raise your hand. Now...."

The second coms tech raised his hand. Without missing a beat James Turner levelled his gun and shot him in the forehead. The tech fell to the floor like a broken puppet. Alison; primary communications, screamed, knelt and cradled his lifeless form in her arms as Turner advanced, gun at his side. He addressed her directly. "Do we have a problem, here officer?" Her eyes tore at him, only to be met by a look as hard as granite. She slowly shook her head.

Shulth breathed in through his teeth. This was a very uncomfortable moment, but one that passed without further incident. "Ok then, first target Onrira. Full spread, amphibian payload." With the now unanimous support from the control room. On the stroke of midnight. Shulth armed and fired the Dark Wheel.

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