×

Please use Chrome or Firefox for better user experience!
Mythology
Fantasy
GENESIS
No tags yet.
Tags
*
Collaborators
• G: General Audiences
• PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
• PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
• R: Restricted
PG-13
RATED
0 Likes
0 Bookmarks
Popularity

GENESIS
0 Bookmarks
#2
Book 2
Mar 12, 2018
0
24

“Whatever happens here do nothing.” Katya said to the four Polrobs circling above her in a wide radius.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgKL7KFB0LN

She strolled down the path, enjoying the fresh early morning breeze. She wore her short leather skirt and top and decided that this was to be the only attire she would ever wear. |She ordered twenty sets. She rubbed the bark of a tree and thought back to the last time she had rested her weary head against it. The old Japanese had pushed her particularly hard that week. She had been sweaty, tired and close to tears. Glancing up, she stared at a thick branch. “What would the height be from the ground to that branch?” she asked her bodyguards.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdpeIHvCkjW

FOUR METERS ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-ONE CENTIMETERS SIRE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPAHAHrgjs1

A CITIZEN APPROACHES SIRE. AN OLD MAN.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6k9W0RG8kI

ONE GRAHAM IKOBAYACHI. HE HAS A DAUGHTER, ONE MIRRIAM IKOBAYACHI.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcx7rgPXS9h

BOTH ARE UNDER SUSPICION OF TRADING IN THE BLACK MARKET BUT HAVE NEVER BEEN CAUGHT.  TWICE BEFORE THERE WERE INDICATIONS THAT GRAHAM IKOBAYACHI MAY HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN CERTAIN UNDERHAND DEALINGS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOZRvAyXQRq

She turned to the Polrob, “Listen well. I don’t care what you have on this man or his daughter, you will leave them alone. Unless a capital crime has been committed they are off limits.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRYK1ULTATd

She waited by the tree and stared up at the  branch that had cost her a lot of skin and the odd finger nail. She smiled at memories and thoughts of the time she had succeeded in beating the  thing. It was a fluke, but the overwhelming joy and satisfaction she felt then, returned and enveloped her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNHoEdYcaP3

“You were always a hard one to teach, daughter.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBG2lIW7Bx1

She turned and smiled at the old Japanese. “Master.” She stepped forward, knelt on one knee and bowed her head.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOQ7zhGAwct

“Rise child. I am your master no more for the student has surpassed him.” He fell to his knees, but she stopped him. “Never bow to me, master. Never show deference.” She held him up and hugged his frail body. “I could never have succeeded were it not for you, Master.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWZbkEojQz8

“I merely showed you the path. You walked it.” Pride shone in his eyes. “I must admit, you took your sweet time learning to overcome that particular obstacle.” He nodded at the large tree behind her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUaPWwyTDaq

“Only because you exaggerated the height of that branch,” she laughed. The joy of being home surged through her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEZhMyyt84G

“Exaggerated. I beg to differ.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡC0FNlkcFaM

“You said the branch was not high, that a person with my training could reach it. That branch is over four meters high. No wonder I struggled.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡO5WD2tcV7m

“So simple a thing.” He shook his head. “And it still took you two weeks to …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡr6YoK0SWVZ

“One week master. One week,” she laughed gaily.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjhLFUkz5nD

“Come. Let us go home,” he said. “Your sister will be unhappy if you did not say hello. As far as I can remember, it was two weeks. Come, we can argue about it later over warm Saki.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡl5jBuNectw

“Mrs. Walters, good to see you. Please, take a seat. What would you like to drink?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuELOggBut5

Billy left the room at once.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFxfrmvHYZa

“I do hope you have what Im looking for?” the young woman asked.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3ZK3BonA7U

“I actually have two children that fit your category, Mrs Walters,” said the matron, her hulking, corpulent body quivered as she sat down. “Both highly intelligent and about old enough to leave us.” She smiled at the young woman. “By law you know, all children over 18 years of age must venture out into the world and make something of themselves,” she sighed. “We try to help with education and training but it is most difficult when the government cuts our grants. We have to rely on donations most of the time to get by. Then, of course, along comes someone like yourself who offers permanent positions to our children and it is most gratifying.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSSCMWjYei1

“One can only hope that the new Emperor deems it appropriate to help us.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgVx0Z9omKw

“Im sure the new Emperor has plans for your establishment.”  Jezebel Walters nodded her thanks as she accepted the glass of water from Billy. “I take it for granted that both have completed I.Q. testing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhDpUqmdoBw

The matron nodded. “Yes. Here they are.” She removed three cheap brown files from a drawer and placed on a pair of reading spectacles. She opened the top one. “Jason Mc Alistair. Tested four times in six years. An I.Q. score of 127. It says he will do excellent in the engineering industry.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpqtYuST3YM

“The matron passed the file across the table. After a few minutes of browsing the young woman nodded. “He will do. And the next one?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCfIafHkE45

“With this one we have a small problem,” she laughed softly, almost disparagingly. “Jack Princeton. I.Q. tested five times in seven years. I.Q. score 139. Brilliant if I may say so but generally lazy and prone to causing problems with the other children. Says he should be sent for further specialized training. With our funding at a bare minimum what can we do?” she handed the file over.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡblIBf9Ytyz

The young woman studied the file with interest. “Good. It seems I can relieve you of both young men, Matron.” She watched as the large woman beamed her happiness. The mounds of fat jiggled and her jowls slopped from side to side. “But first I need to have a few minutes alone with both of them to make sure that they are suitable.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZXZtWulPyk

“Im sure that would be fine,” she said. “Billy, please show Ms Walters to the wing office.”  She turned to the young woman, “would you like to see them together?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCazklP2Fu6

“At the same time would be fine, thank you. Will five thousand be fine?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKGsthHCfba

“Perfectly fine, Ms Walters. You are most generous. It will go a long way in covering our expenses.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPa8OD5jZVR

“Will be ready when you return.” The matron tapped a third file on her desk.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0NUthbaTrm

The wing office was much smaller. Walters was still gazing at a framed painting of a pastoral scene when there was a soft knock on the door.  Billy entered, ushering two young teenagers in before him.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡguKjnCH7xK

“Thank you, Billy,” she said. “This will not take long.” She tapped her right ear and said one word. “Guardian?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkyye1PqcJS

SIRE. TWO DEVICES IN BOTH OFFICES. ALL HAVE BEEN DISRUPTED TEMPORARILLY. YOU MAY CONVERSE FREELY.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyN850efiDq

“Thank you.” She turned to the two who were taken aback by an older woman who was talking to thin air. “High there Froggy. Stalk… I hear you two have been giving the Pig some gray hairs. Haven’t you learnt anything?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwUUhdiUUpr

Froggy or Jason Mc Alistair. 17 years old, short curly black hair, sporting buck teeth and a mouth that reminded one of a bullfrog. He had mournful blue eyes, was well built and always hungry and would be a large man when his frame caught up to the latest growth spurt.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFKZdZ03qcM

Stalk, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. Beanstalk tall and just as skinny. Ash blond, lanky hair continuously brushed from his smoldering black eyes. He learnt quickly to hide his intelligence but could never quite get out of the habit of scorning a helping hand as he believed it came with ulterior motives. They glanced at each other and then back at her as she removed her blond wig to let her short dark hair spill out.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiLArQAG6Tj

“Katya? What? How?” Stalk glanced at the door and noticed the silent man standing guard.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwperHrJBm9

“Is it really you, Katya? You sure have gotten older,” said Froggy.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ22T1fT2ijf

“It’s me and the two of you have grown up too, it seems.” She hugged them quickly. “We don’t have much time.” She tugged on her blonde wig and set it straight.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5B0F3RgJX9

“Listen carefully,” she whispered. “It’s payback time. Remember how we used to promise to come back and kick butt?” she stared at them with grim eyes. “Well, Im back and it’s about to happen.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2uzgVgIFR5

“It is?” they both chorused in hushed excited tones.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOU7HWnAYGU

“Yeah. I need you guys to do something. Get all the kids off to the playing fields. Every one of them. You have about twenty minutes. Im sorry that’s all I am able to give you. If we take longer somebody’s bound to notice what’s going on outside and send word. Now get out there and look unhappy or something. You are, after all, supposedly being taken away from here on  short notice.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdLveqy6Gh3

“We know, Froggy.” She indicated the silent man at the door. “That’s Perris. Sneak him into the dorm where they are and then get the others out of the way.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqXsxFoVgnB

“Sire.” He nodded his head slightly as he removed his clothing. Both boys stared in wonder as the man stripped and seemed to disappear before their eyes.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0lRyLt2sOb

“Hey. He’s wearing one of those combat chameleon suites.” Stalk said. He turned from the man who was busy enclosing his head and face. “You’re not shitting us are you?” he asked Katya.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0e8tMOSH4f

“You have about 15 minutes Stalk. Get out of here. All of you.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjeQGUGu8DZ

“Ok. Ok. Were gone. Where …?” he turned to find Perris. “Damn but hes good. I want one of them suites.” The boys trooped out looking suitably unhappy and morose about leaving the orphanage sooner than expected.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFDkxb50dyO

“Yes. Im sure my family would be most pleased with them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaPF1vzI0Il

“Your donation? As soon as my bodyguard returns from his ablutions. He carries my credits and what-not,” said Katya sweetly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKOxNmACJv9

Katya turned to Billy who hovered about the door . “Would you be so sweet as to tell him to hurry? I sent him to the boy’s restroom. The one down the hall and up the first landing. The one with the cracked door that can never seem to get repaired because there is never enough money,” she said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaGYPHuoqv6

“Now the…,” she turned to the Matron who clasped a hand to her large bosom.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMutLNoWdkl

“What did you  say to Billy? Where did you send your man?” the Matron’s eyes grew wide.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJp6dbUC77W

“The bathroom. The one down the hall? With the cracked door? Come now, Matron, surely you haven’t forgotten already? I mean it’s only been over six years since I left and again, surely you haven’t developed amnesia in such a short time?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsj0B2S7kmn

“Who are you?” the matron squirmed on her chair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9ZMDB1PIEs

“Don’t you recognize me matron? Probably not. Maybe this will help.” She removed her wig.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkoRqB3kdar

“Oh, don’t bother matron. Billy won’t be able to hear you as Im sure he is slightly tied up at the moment,” Katya said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKgoxUZzJHe

The Matron struggled to her feet as a disembodied voice said, “It is done Your Highness. We can proceed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡb1C3sd7Mri

“What do you mean it’s done? Who said that? Your Highness? Your Highness? Just what is going on here? What have you done to Billy? BILLY.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdBVYLbLOyT

A face suddenly appeared floating in midair and the matron screeched. She took in the short sword that seemed to slide out of nowhere and to pass towards Katya. The matron passed out and slumped to the floor. Chair and table shuddered and scraped across the carpet.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡE0kh4MubzV

Katya pressed a finger to her ear. “Guardian, go.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtMwpLiAx69

In a split second the huge window behind the matron’s desk shattered into a million shards as four Polrobs simultaneously crashed through. Polrobs crashed through windows and closed doors. Commandoes entered from the roof and broken windows.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrjtCVkHwLv

The matron groaned as she came out of her funk.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8giEF4XgC3

“Get up, or die where you are.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡq4nTGieoPZ

“Perris…,” Katya pointed at the fat woman.  Perris helped the matron her into a chair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgr4z6KE30g

“Do you know who I am, Matron?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7qkvk1OypD

“Katya. Katya Berotivich. Oh, my word, you are the new Emperor,” she gasped.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyjhYJ66LRq

“Your death, Matron, is a formality,” she twisted the short sword to catch the light from the overhead lamps. “For your crimes throughout the years, for the pain and sorrow you caused. For the hurt and damaged lives that lie squarely on your shoulders, I sentence you to …” she paused and looked at Perris. “Im still new at this, what would you suggest?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡz7RDHYnl2o

Bowing his head, he said, “I have read all there is about this place Your Highness. I have read about what happens to the children here. The disappearances. The punishment should fit the crime. A list should be drawn up of all the crimes this monster performed or allowed and returned in favor.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBaPWF9XuIn

“Now thát, Perris, is something I would never have thought up.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8hGqfqwmbn

The matron fell out of her chair and hit the floor hard. Katya addressed the Polrobs circling above. “See that the sentence is carried out.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMKuDobCLxE

“And make that the standing sentence to all those found guilty here and at the other orphanages. Then have the bodies strung up naked outside all the towns or cities where these deeds occurred. I want all those involved,  even if they only knew about it but never did anything to stop it. The guilty must suffer the same fate, male, female, young or old.” She breathed harshly, and sweat poured down her face as her thoughts went back to the atrocities performed on her. “Perris, I thank you and your men for all you have done today. Today you have honored all children. Be proud of an accomplishment well done. I will not forget this.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡp786xow3KH

“Sire,” he bowed his head. “It is our duty. We serve Sire for I believe we are all created equal in the eyes of God. It is what we make of our lives that define us. I have one request, Sire if I may?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqwsVaQ7NCE

“Should you have any more of this type of work in the near future, please notify me. We will be honored to stand by your side.” He blushed and lowered his eyes as a peal of laughter erupted from Katya.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOlTXrqlXu6

“Forgive me Perris,  I am not laughing at your words, you honor yourself and your men. No. Its… it’s …oh, never mind.” She laughed softly, nudging her chin at something behind him. Turning about he saw a large mirror and in the mirror he saw that the Matron had fainted.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFVD8ROZZBC

“There is something else I require from you Perris. That combat suit, can it be adapted to fit Polrobs?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡD3prkcj68e

They came in their tens of hundreds. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡo7tOyO0SV9

Two mother ships disgorged their young in a constant stream that broke up into groups of 100 strong. Destroyers circled the mother ships and sniffed about like hunting dogs protected by their own torpedo boats. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtBm6B9ApW4

A second group of destroyers passed and headed for the killing grounds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPlbjaK7aC2

The mother ship’s young, all 4000 of them, surrounded the destroyers. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkKQqrpq9cG

Death approached the Galactic Empire on wings of grayvite.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRGheMTonjk

Claxons resounded throughout the aircraft carrier Prolit.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡClLsMcScm5

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡanxQ1ZHpzJ

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqc4bFRnx4K

ALL PERSONEL ARE TO REPORT TO THEIR POSTS. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCWXn7pVbfR

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzpe6gg6XFG

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡH6SMixDG5H

ALL PERSONEL TO THEIR POSTS. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqIEn6LN2X2

Fighter crews ran pell-mell to their stations while dragging on flight suits or over-alls. Some hopped about trying to get boots on. Some tripped over bootlaces or discovered that the wrong boot was on the wrong foot but ignored it and stumbled on. The sirens forced them to move faster. Gun crews fared no better. Each knew what to do, where to be.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuzF8XMTKOR

Two more aircraft carriers, the Perimeter and the Empire, ten thousand  kilometers apart, were under duplicate conditions.  They disgorged their Bulldog fighter craft simultaneously.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMHoeP1WdMD

Five hundred heavily laden fighter craft per aircraft carrier sped towards the enemy from three diverse angles.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhd0swaUoX3

25 Bulldogs broke away from the pack.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡl6jJl9Limx

Hundreds of fighters jockeyed for position.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ41uH34gQyA

Training, training and more training had perfected this horseshoe attack formation. Both ‘tips’ of the horseshoe were almost two thousand kilometers apart.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsTHMC2Vnki

The twin-seater Bulldogs flew on.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVfWGc3Xi4E

“Thank you, Mr. Quiney. What do we have?” Admiral Isak Blair asked. 42 years old and with a slight stoop to his shoulders, he was the youngest admiral ever in the Empire’s navy. The youngest and the grayest. Almost overnight, his dark brown hair had turned gray.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3h20Xe3Vx8

The timing could be traced back to the moment that Emperor Katya Berotivich kicked out his old and pompous predecessor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzTifJ9ZEhz

Admiral Isak Blair, wracked with fear and self-doubt, took three days to come to the decision that the Empire’s safety rested on his shoulders. Billions of lives depended on every decision he made. It took three days of self-searching and coming to terms with his own weaknesses and fears. He had to trust the faith his Emperor had in him and had to trust in himself.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7ZCtprsRcO

Three days, three days is all it took for his hair to change color. Stress had etched lines on his forehead and around his mouth. His shoulders, on the other hand, had always been slightly stooped.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDf5Gf2VjXs

It was his eyes, ice blue and hypnotic. They caught and held any they happened to rest on. The eyes reflected extreme capability and intelligence.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsxlKN4TMJb

“Up screens,” said Captain Quiney.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlRaYlzqNrD

“Up screens, sir.” The answer came from one of the four Battle plotters centre of the Bridge. In the centre of the rectangular plotting table, length-wise across and three inches thick, a colorless, almost invisible comp screen rose to the ceiling. To the left of the screen, hundreds of red blinking blips converged towards a slower moving and ever widening green blinking horseshoe shape of lights.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡB4SHL8KGrH

“Enemy placement in the Panache quadrant as usual, Admiral. Red blips for enemy and green for our own. Initial maneuvering completed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8UftE2yyOi

“Excuse me, Mr. Quiney. Proceed, Number Two,” he said, turning to the senior Battle Plotter who handed him a slip of paper.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcU05CLdmrF

“Aggregate total 2000 plus. There are indications of larger craft,” the senior Battle plotter stopped as his attention was caught by one of his juniors who indicated something to him on the plotting table. He hesitated a few seconds. “Sir, it seems we have two mother ships.” He looked at the plotting comp screen and pointed at two small square blocks flashing red on the far left. “Ship complements 2000 apiece, and they have only sent out half. There are larger craft, a total of,” he checked his hand held comp, “seventeen. Tonnage indicates destroyers. We can expect six to eight torpedo boats per destroyer.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4Azj4elDMa

“Thank you, Number Two. ETA?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVwk5qtAU2T

“Four minutes, twelve seconds and counting, sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPfOPkqByM3

“Computer, notify all flight leaders to cancel Operation Horn-Lock and to commence with Operation Spear.” His voice was calm on the outside but inside, his heart beat like a trip hammer. Two mother ships? Two?copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdQDNaH1wlO

Pointers, hundreds of them, suddenly appeared from the green blips that moved faster, much faster. Each blinking pointer was a single torpedo triggered from every Bulldog. The centre of the horseshoe moved faster and other green blips fell in behind.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYTICHTjJpF

“ETA. ONE MINUTE AND COUNTING ADMIRAL,” said the senior Battle Plotter, excitement coursing through his voice. The Admiral stared at the Battle Comp with bated breath.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡx5WS6iDAfi

“Thank you, Number Two. Computer, open the Battle-net channel. One way please. Let’s hear what the pilots are saying.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ76MUL71Q2H

Flight pack leaders occupied the bridge, haranguing their chargers into position to keep the maneuver tight.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCyPyrVQ4w6

“…to Swift pack. Ok, people. You heard the man,” said Captain Billy O Ryan. “Fall in line and move your arses. Keep your distance, maintain focus. Co-pilots engage Battle computers and remember your training. Wing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiwjTXWbiTd

“Here, Skipper.” Something sounding like a yawn came over the ether.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2vMR3dNUhj

“Stay glued to me Wing, and try not to fall asleep.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0DYdMxb28Z

“Who me, Skipper? Never. This is where I want to be.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkqwEkuAwMt

Wingman Lieutenant Paul Singh was the best Bulldog trainee Pilot Captain Billy O Ryan had seen in a long time. Perpetually complaining of fatigue and listlessness after a thorough medical examination detected nothing abnormal, Lieutenant Singh was a devil behind a Bulldog’s controls. A lone wolf, he had a flair for getting into the thick of things with a ‘never-mind-me-Im--passing-through’ attitude. It would, O Ryan knew, get him killed if his excess spirits weren’t tempered, and tempered pretty damned quick. “Ok, people. Here we go. Choose your targets and fire torpedoes. Make the bastards pay!”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJOZvG2JtW0

Operation Horn-Lock was to be an enfolding maneuver that would have kept the enemy to its center while in the first stages of the battle. Thereafter it could be picked off piecemeal. This did not work as the Annulars not only brought two mother ships, but also only sent out half their compliments.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlORSsbm3I9

Although Operation Horn-Lock failed in its initial stages, it did succeed in its second objective to have the Annular more widely spread out. Operation Spear, on the other hand, would cleave through their centre after three thousand torpedoes had punched gaps in their ranks.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwrXvXEyH7v

They did, only not as many as was hoped for.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHUslGDMYZf

Hundreds of Annular strike craft disappeared silently and spectacularly as torpedoes locked on to their targets and destroyed them. As the first targets vaporized, the horde of enemy fighters started with evasive maneuvers, that for some were far too late as one, then a second and a third torpedo locked on. Emergency evasive maneuvers had fighters ducking and diving to escape and for some it was disastrous as they smashed into other fighters or torpedoes not meant for them.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡol4gewrAza

For a few moments, the killing field was total carnage.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJ6CHCzlaht

Five destroyers erupted into white hot plasma within seconds of each other, before they could get their force shields up, leaving their surviving torpedo boats momentarily in disarray. Maybe the Annulars always knew that the Empire’s attack craft came in one huge wave. Maybe all their plans were developed for that maneuver. Maybe they were caught off guard and unprepared for the torpedoes and then the spear thrust down their centre as more of their number vaporized in ever increasing numbers.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGYo9k4M72M

Laser beams from the Bulldogs cut them down and when they turned to retaliate, the Annular discovered that the ‘spear thrust’ was also a ploy for right behind the attacking human craft were…copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnr8rHmX9Xx

“It seems this may work,” the Admiral said softly to himself. On the outside, it seemed as if he was relaxed as his body rocked slightly backwards and forwards on his heels. On the inside, he was as rigid as tempered grayvite steel. With eyes closed, he listened to shouts of fear and anger from the Battle-net. The screams of passion and voiced despair at the destruction and killing of friends. The short clipped guttural instructions of flight leaders to their teams. A picture of the battlefield with its twists and turns had formed in his mind.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡe7LDg6H3dK

“Mr Quiney,  a double broad side of EBs* if you please. 5 seconds apart. Setting zero-one in series Perimeter, Prolit then Empire.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQBcZ2UlZ3j

The sounds of warfare emanating from the speakers muted automatically.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxn0ajpqPaR

“Aye, sir.” The captain tapped out a sequence on his wrist control pad.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCpZo2fuKjI

“Guns?” came a soft questioning voice from the wrist control pad.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡv9jH8lBulF

“Standby guns, instructions following. Computer, transmit instructions Perimeter and Empire. Double Broadside EBs in series with Prolit. Setting zero-one, five seconds apart. Delay for mark.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNS3O3meucp

Perimeters first salvo of 24 Energy-Buster missile torpedoes erupted from their launch tubes, reaching Mach 10 in twenty four seconds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7ujajnxxSJ

Five seconds after the first launch, the second 24 missile torpedoes followed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWeyMzLEasg

Five seconds after, Prolit sent its first salvo. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4So8BekGF1

The most important reason for a Bulldog co-pilot was to take some of the pressure off the Pilot. The pilot flew his craft and manned the weapons while trying like hell to notice all incoming missiles and lasers while the co-pilot was lumped with everything else. Everything else included monitoring electrics from the ionized drive to all systems and back-routing the electrics from damaged pathways.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡejVM5vxJF0

The battle comp A.I. helped, but its main reason for being was plotting attack and defense and notifying the pilot accordingly. Placing the co-pilot’s helm over your head had you plugged into the Battle comp.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0KSpTuDdbj

The co-pilot saw and ‘felt’ every shiver and groan of stress, every laser burst that penetrated the ship’s hull and felt the explosive release of lasers and twin EBs. The co-pilot was the only human to feel the deathly cold emptiness of space and survive it. The co-pilot was there to help keep the ship operating at peak capacity and to minimize damage. Ingeniously complex circuitry ran throughout the ship, layer upon layer of micro-thin conduits of micro channeling circuits, of chips, gyros, levers, and conductors. The co-pilot’s reason for existence was to keep him/herself, the pilot and the ship alive. It was their job to notice and she did.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡej6KK4zzyV

“Got em, Mike. Swift leader to Swift pack. Here come the ECHO BRAVOS. Break. Break. Break.” He grunted and jerked the Bulldog into a back roll as sizzling violet beams sliced passed his undercarriage.      copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8371t0v6eH

“Swift leader to Swift pack. Break. Break. Break.” from all over the killing field the order to break hostilities went out over the Battle net.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqt0xdKBNja

Bulldogs pulled up short from their attack runs and dogfights and fled the immediate vicinity of the oncoming conflagration. The Annular were again caught flat footed as their human targets suddenly became as predictable as they should have been since the beginning and as historically they had always been. The Empire had always come in a cloud of fighter craft and fled as one.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIzXXLxirFl

The Annular were still consolidating their strength when the EBs registered on their own battle screens. Their costly mistake was deadly as the friend/foe transponders of the Energy Buster missile/torpedo notified the A.I. as to the closest enemys position. The A.I. locked onto its target and delivered its relatively small 160Kg load in a blinding destructive flash.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡONpVOTVkZa

Silent destruction rained down on the Annular from every direction. Enemy pilots that were able to maneuver their fighters out of the of the oncoming EBs path survived as their crafts sensor arrays confused the EBs targeting systems and of those,  even less survived and most were damaged by near misses. They limped back as best they could to their mother ships.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1qD1XQLyD5

The Bridge of the Prolit erupted into applause and cheering. The same happened in the two other aircraft carriers.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYGGoCuhyOh

Admiral Isak Blair, hands behind his back, nodded at the applause but kept an eye on the plotting comp screen. The two mother ships had not budged. “I have a feeling, Mr Quiney that we are not out of the woods yet,” he said calmly. “Have half of the squads return for rearmament of EBs. Notify all carriers to have multiple ordnance *ready, level setting, medium zero-one. Maximum to zero 5. Once again double broadside on my mark.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIQIlRFcCeP

The Captain glanced at the plotting comp while relaying the orders. Half of the Bulldog fighters broke away and returned to their carriers. “Why are they still there? They never wait around.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIXcnExNR9G

SENDING…ACKNOWLEDGED PERIMETER…PROLIT…EMPIRE …DELAYING the ship’s computer acknowledged.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡK8nqxZVPyK

“I believe, Mr. Quiney, they are waiting for our next move. Hopefully they will not become too impatient.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7gAPCsvO5J

On the plotting comp could be seen some Bulldogs returning from being refitted with the small EB torpedoes. “Send half of the next fighters back for re-armament as soon as possible Mr. Quiney. I have a feeling time is going to be of the essence, and we do not want to be caught short handed. Round two is going to commence shortly.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡENHQaloYdy

“Yes, Number Two” the senior Battle Plotter handed him a slip of paper.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfV0XLbia9w

The Admiral took a quick glance at it and passed it on to Captain Quiney. So many deaths. So many wasted lives.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqjRgZSJ8nZ

On the slip of paper, marked in pencil stood the following tally:copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlDUmAGxTQH

3 fighter craft damaged (repairable)copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBM2w8DdGw4

97 pilots wounded = 31 minor – 66 serious.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnVDSOBcAco

On the large plotting comp screen hundreds of Annular craft, their lights blinking red.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAu0TETbGvC

“Number Two, give me the stats on the second Annular wave asap.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUjzisdPe53

“Sir. Still computing, sir. Coming up now…5 Destroyers with their complement of Torpedo boats per 800…1200…2752…That’s it…2752 Annular attack craft plus 5 destroyers, sir.” Glancing up, the man caught the nod from the Admiral whos eyes were glued to the plotting comp. “We have a situation sir, indications are that the mother ships are retreating.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡw2DJC6LOLo

“And so they are Number Two. So they are.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcPB5THDQZQ

The barrage of EB’s, Triplets* and Demolisher Torpedoes* followed by Layers* swept passed the Empire attack craft on their way to the Annular. This time, the enemy was prepared as evasive action saw torpedo after torpedo fly by their targets, their internal A.I. s searching aimlessly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjTaScC62Qc

It was the EBs that scored the most hits being small and compact, they moved at astronomical speed. The EBs and the Layers shot out their auto-spider-mines in a wide swath before the enemy, were taking their toll. Undersized and solid, the silent, deadly and invisible killers wreaked havoc within the enemy ranks. Enemy destroyers and their torpedo boat compliments, this time with their force shields up, were simply overwhelmed as the Spider mines broke down the shields so that Triplets, Demolishers and EBs could get closer and destroy them.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5meJ6QPSFB

Hundreds of torpedoes were destroyed  before reaching their targets while hundreds more flew aimlessly seeking and sniffing for the enemy that had long since left the specific area, self-destructing after a certain time. The breakthrough came when the Empires Bulldogs let lose their own compliments of EBs to add to the conflagration. Dogfights ensued and so, for the first time in history, it was now the enemies turn to be pursued and harassed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgRqRXkyAbx

Another wave of layered Spider mines completed the job.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrurBnEdtH4

The White House, Cape Town. South Africacopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDio4TLJ7fq

“Houston? We have a problem.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbVeCQL9B7y

Sayed looked up as Blondie walked into his office. “Just the man Im looking for,” he signed a document with a flourish, and dumped it into the ‘OUT’ tray. “What’s this about Houston’s problems?” He sat back in the comfortable chair and stretched out his legs.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ25ekuKAdPr

“A joke Say. And a corny one at that. Still, we do have a problem,” he said, pulling a chair closer.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7tKvyDhhKx

“Problems? You want problems? Let me show you problems, Blondie.” Sayed stretched across the large desk and plucked a thick pile of forms from the over-stuffed ‘IN’ tray. “Listen to this will you; ‘Permission requested to purchase 40 thousand toothbrushes from Colgate. It then goes on to give a tally of how many soft, hard and extra hard brushes are required. Oh, and they want 40 thousand toothpaste tubes of all makes and sizes. Forty thousand? I ask you with tears in my eyes, where the fuck did this dumb shit come up with that total? Forty thousand fucking toothbrushes when we are sending half a fucking million men and woman to kick some Galactic Empire butt.” Sayed threw the papers into the bin beside his desk. “Heres another; ten thousand kits of – wait for it,” he glared Blondie, “Combrosias Nail Polish Remover with one set of false nails.” The forms followed its predecessor to the bin. “I frankly believe somebody out there is trying to make a quick buck.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIWtWyjHHUP

Blondie smiled grimly, “Well, at least you have your fingers in the pie Say. You wanted everything to go through your office. The idea was to cut out the possibility of too many loose tongues.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgXVuhpeSC4

“But this?” Sayed threw the ‘In’ tray with its contents across the room. “Im not going to accept rubbish like this.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkKy4g6Hxns

“Then get a couple of guys and have them sign the relevant secrecy documents and have them sort out all the chaff, then give all those chancers a hefty fine. Have the F.B.I. backtrack all the documentation to their sources and fine every person involved.” He thought for a while. “The fact that a lot of these purchases may be ‘in-house” needs to be determined and hefty fines issued for dereliction of duty or plain laziness.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ46ox3XRKEM

“Well, that was easy,” said a chuffed president. “Problems sorted. Now, let us see what we can do with this Houston guy’s problem. Who is this Houston by the way?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAUJvp1UETx

“Forget Houston Say, it was a lame joke. The problem is rather more serious than a few tubes of toothpaste.” He tapped the bridge of his nose with his middle finger. “We have a teenager in the interrogation room.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJehhiyn05K

“The interrogation room? A teenager? Why does this sound like it’s got absolutely nothing to do with Sayed of the United Confederate of Nations?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtaRSIUPzEu

“Because Sayed of the United Confederate of Nations is not thinking.  Because if he was thinking, he would realize that his top advisor would not bother him with such a problem if it were not serious. Because Sayed would …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmfp5KO6Fs0

“Let me see if I can get this across in as few words as possible.” Blondie said, thumbing his tired eyes. “He came to us requesting to see you personally and by us I mean the Secret Service. He mentioned something about a ‘war’ and they promptly took him in for questioning. Him and his mother and sister.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡA0jrT1lIB0

“War … ? Mother and shit, Blondie. What’s this about?” The President sat forward in his chair and glared at the ‘IN’ tray that lay some meters away. Application forms, invoices and other unknown as yet documentation lay strewn across the plush carpet.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcXfB30paFS

“The bugger and his sister are Satanists. He says the devil sent him to help you wage War on the Galactic Empire.” A weight had been lifted from his shoulders.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJjsZVv0lFF

“What?” Sayed leaped out of his chair in a flash. “Who blabbed? Find the fucker and cut his fucking tongue out. Who the fuck is responsible, Blondie? I don’t have time for some nutcase and his sister.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdQyggVMdk8

“Mike, dammit.” Blondie slammed a fist on the table. “Will you shut up and listen?” Sayed blinked in surprise. “He knows, Mike. The little bugger knows. Get it through your thick skull. He knows things nobody should know. Like we are planning a war. Like you only sent five probes out to look for the Phoenix Planetariums. There’s more Mike, much more.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHS3cKrBCaI

“How, for fuck sakes? Who told him?” Sayed shouted.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7T2zTX4TiK

“That’s the point Mike. He says Satan told him. He says the devil speaks to him.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzwA7NR2A4n

“Can we get rid of him? You know, bribe him? Im thinking mind-altering drugs or torture. Deep holes somewhere in Kimberly?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡILgMY0dzDn

“I give up.” Blondie threw his hands in the air. “This is no time for jokes Mike. This could sink us”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhKhjjaho3A

“Do you see me laughing Blondie? Satan you say?” he did not wait for an answer. “What else does this prick know?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8C6JJUAMuE

Above them, silent and forgotten, hovered the Galactic Empire’s messenger.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9cqpZoqcY3

“He knows you plan to go with the War fleet. Only you and I know this Mike and I for one told nobody. And he knows about your horse.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzgNQA71Rv4

Sayed stopped his pacing and stared at his friend. “ Raven? Are you sure we can’t drop the lot of them off in some deep well or something? No? Then what does the fucker want Mike?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsEHznrtXdY

“He says the devil has been helping our scientists here and there but because everything has to be tested over and over and then corroborated and correlated and then retested this prick says the devil is getting impatient and wants to speed things up.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCnb2Mardmp

“Crap. Now I’ve heard it all.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgWG4NgcO8H

“There’s another wrinkle Mike, he’s Ming Toas son.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTAlA9J1DGf

“Ming Toa? That fucking Chinese liberal?” he exploded.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBjCMmpXNCj

After a while, Sayed calmed down. “This situation is becoming a bloody nightmare.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdTgTY3aaSi

“And then some,” Blondie said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRLTdm3WoGD

“So what’s the story here?” Blondie asked the two Secret Service members who kept watch over the three occupants through the large one-way mirror. Sitting side on to the mirror with their mother on the opposite side of the table, the two kids ignored her as much as possible.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmkbCe9Fojy

Both pairs of eyes flicked towards the flying disk that darted in behind them, hovered off to one side, and stopped before the mirror. The top half of its greyish body swiveled backwards and forwards as it sent different wavelengths through the mirror.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0HCXXHgDJn

Removing her headphones, the female operative began describing what she knew. “Mrs. Toa is roasting them over the coals sir. Says she is disappointed they are Satanists and wants to know whether they tortured and killed animals. This has been going on since they arrived. The kids are doing what kids do best, they aren’t saying a word.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡV5I6IWgolA

Blondie leaned forward and flipped a switch against the wall.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡW2MfDbVgyZ

A teary female voice filtered through the speakers. “… am I to tell your father? Huh? Just what am I to tell your father? This could destroy his political career. If any of this should ever come out, that you have being torturing cats and dogs… oh my goodness.” Mrs. Toa stopped as the enormity of the situation sunk in.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAyHdvFUMjE

She was not a beautiful woman but she still managed to turn heads with her exotic Chinese/American features. The pair of slightly uplifted dark-brown eyes matched long brown hair that fell to the middle of her back. A short stubby nose and pert mouth offset by a body going to fat.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9eKSlsPBQa

“Mother pleeeaase get over it.” The young girl said, giving her morose looking brother a quick, sidelong glance. “There has never been anything like that. No sacrifices or animals, although I must admit there has been some really great sex.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcMdY2QaY7I

“Sex? Sex! What sex? Incest? Oh my God!” The sound was cut off abruptly as Sayed flipped the switch.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYIgGVMmQyF

“This is getting us nowhere,” he said, opening the door and stepping into the interrogation room.  Mrs. Toa, caught mid-sentence, swallowed whatever she was going to say. The Polrob zipped through the doorway and took up station to one side.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvITfBeIqQy

More sedately, Blondie stepped in and closed the door .copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡB2lO1oFbnN

“Cool,” Timothy Toa said as he watched the Polrob with huge eyes. “Is that a Polrob?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUlva2rXoiw

“Yes it is,” said Blondie, cutting him short. “We are not here young man, to chat about our visitor.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3NeW3PbLg1

“Oh, but we are,” Timothy said, eyeing out the silent disk.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkR4FG54mgr

“We are here to determine, young Timothy,  how you are able to have state information bouncing about in that head of yours?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9aNFlP7jep

He pulled out a vacant chair beside the children’s mother. Mrs. Toa, who had covered her tear stained face with both hands, nodded. “What Blondie, my colleague meant to say young man, is how do you come by the information you and your sister have?” Diplomacy dripped like honey from his voice.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPhd3egTp19

“Tell him Timothy,” his sister said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrm1v1HA63R

“Loki?” the President asked with a frown. Blondie threw a raised eyebrow at the mirror. The two operatives would be getting onto that piece of information.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqxHDAVUukW

“Yes, sir. The devil, sir. He is my master,” he said proudly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡELiFhknSqr

Timothy nodded his head excitedly, “Oh, he likes to be called Satan and Lucifer too, but he now wants to be called Loki.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXYpEC0AwvU

“Then Loki it is. So tell me Timothy, this voice in your head, it tells you things?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡt9GLPY5cQw

“No, it’s not like that, sir. There is no voice in my head. I’ve read about nutcases like that. This is different. He tells me things. I can see him.” Timothy bent forward across the table and whispered loudly. “He’s big.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDAvimQQxno

“Oh Lord.” Mrs Toa exclaimed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqknQYZQywm

“So you say you can see him? Describe him to me?” Sayed sat back against the uncomfortable metal backrest.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtZwaLl8QyY

“Massive,” the boy indicated with arms held wide apart. “His head goes through the ceiling,” he looked upwards as if describing what he could see. “He has no shirt on and has a lot of muscles. I want muscles like that when Im grown up. He’s wearing light brown trousers that come to his knees.” He grinned at Sayed. “Looks funny but I don’t think he’ll be happy should I tell him that.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmczRuWIkt5

“Don’t worry too much about his trousers. He has his own reasons for wearing them like that.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJUp6Ko6BXD

“He has funny long hair. Almost like gold. It’s long and comes to his shoulders. He also has a beard. A sharp one. It comes to a point,” he indicated with splayed fingers near his chin. As his hand dropped away, his fingers closed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYqCuBnPJeo

“Like a goat’s beard.” His sister chipped in. “And his eyes are yellow. Tell him Timothy.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIBAhs5daqH

Timothy turned to his sister with a disgusted look. “That’s what Im doing, Moa.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡg9CFgm3mY0

“So tell me about the things the devil, I mean Loki, told you Timothy.” Sayed quickly came between them. A family spat right now would do irreparable damage.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0WrCq20gMf

“He says you like playing golf.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEuQfMjlZuL

“He said that did he?” Sayed smiled at the boy.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHKVjqcGuzF

“Yeah. And he says you’re not good at it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvzBWc2ZdjL

“Timothy.” his mother said whilst digging through her handbag for tissues.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsYgjd2Dz27

“What? It’s what Loki said. He said if Sayed followed through with his swing more often he would have better results.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkJSg3jsKN2

The President laughed softly. “It’s fine, Mrs. Toa. I’ve been wondering about  that problem as it is.” Turning to the boy, he said, “Carry on Timothy. What else did Loki have to say?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpiB1fN3e0m

“Well, he said that he knows you are only going to the Galactic Empire because then you will be known as Sayed-with-the-most-balls.” He looked quickly at his mother. “Loki said that mom, honest. He also said that you will have statues made in your honor and you would be rev… rev…”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0tkgNyiq7l

“Revered, I think is the word you are looking for.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxs4qI8JbSw

“Yes, sir. That’s it.” The boy smiled and nodded.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdhPPi5CmkD

The smile on the President’s face was strained. “Now, how has Loki been helping our scientists? This is good news but…” he stopped and stared at Timothy who was gawking in wonder at something off to one side. Everybody turned to see what he was looking at but whatever it was, they could not see it.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJk73AUCTkJ

“Wow! Did you see that?” he asked excitedly, nearly leaping off his chair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeScjiVs26k

“What was that, son,” the hair on the back of the President’s neck stood on end.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzkCo9VuMhO

“Loki shrunk.  He’s not so big anymore. He…” the boy nodding his head. “Yes master,” he said and looked at Sayed. “Loki says that he has been trying to help you by giving advice to certain people but that they don’t want to listen and when they do there is too much time spent on going off in the wrong directions.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡp08x4JrGDL

“Yes, well, he is the devil after all and come to think of it, why would he help us in the first place?” Sayed refused steadfastly to look in the direction the boy was staring.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqSECbXyDZE

The boy was quiet and seemed to listen for a while. “My master says that usually he does not interfere with humans as we tend to enter hell on our own accord. Did I say that right?” he gazed towards the open space between Sayed and his mother. He nodded and continued. “My master says that he has noticed a shortage of souls for a long time. This is so cool man – there is a shortage of souls and he wants to find them. That’s why he will help us. Only if we will let him.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYyZAX8wrVN

“Son. There is so much wrong with what you said that I don’t know where to start.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgkOoST8jzM

“Im telling you it’s the truth, he’s standing there behind you.” He pointed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ50EJDQGbuG

Mrs. Toa jerked about in her chair, a hand clasped to her breast in fright. “There is nothing there Timmy,” she squeaked. “Now look, don’t you think you have bothered Sayed enough? He is Sayed, Timmy, leader of the world. What must he think of us?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQseP3cYzET

Timothy Toas attention was elsewhere and he did not hear a word his mother said. “Ill tell him.” He nodded. “My master says that you can go faster than the speed of light.” He frowned, “Just how fast is the speed of light?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnUebj64rqE

President Ahmed Daniel Sayed sat glued to his chair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdvFSfiIWtd

He had been  about to call this whole episode a waste of his time when the kid dropped the bomb that made his heart skip a beat. He had to physically make an effort to get his lungs working again. “Son,” Sayed said gravely, his face pale. Voice strained. “How do you know that we are experimenting with faster than light travel? Who told you? This is a state secret and you realize …” a hand clamped down on his shoulder.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCkFR9J48iI

“Just a second Mr. President,” Blondie smiled at the boy and his family. “Please carry on Timothy. You gave us a scare, as this information is top secret. Please, carry on.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1GCgSVmXnN

Timothy got over his fright and swallowed the lump in his throat. It suddenly dawned on him that he may be in serious trouble. He looked at the visible, solid looking Loki with his arms crossed and glaring at Sayed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCBihtyzcu3

“Tell that fool to bite his tongue,” Loki said, “or I will increase the severity of the cancer he has in his pancreas. As it is, he has only ten years to live. Ask him if he would like to have the honor of meeting me sooner than determined?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡp7o5ZxO3G7

“Sir, my master says you have cancer in your pan …pancris or something and …” his eyes flicked away and back to Sayed. “Sorry … pancreas? He says that you have ten years to live and if you do not listen he will make it worse.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMHNoYGkkDH

His mother gasped in horror and tried to shrink into her chair while his silent sister stared wide-eyed at her brother and then at Sayed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7fiqxMZ7Yt

Blondie’s hand tightened like a vice on Sayed’s shoulder, stopping him from bearing upright in shocked anger. “There is no need for your master to get angry Timothy. Please understand that this is all new to us, especially because you are a child, excuse me, a young adult. Please proceed. We are listening.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaoBztB6hFM

The boy smiled timidly, aware that a line had been crossed. His heart beat heavily in his chest, a hollow feeling had suddenly opened up in his stomach and he needed to pee. All of a sudden, this did not look like the game it should have been. “Loki says that you barely have the use of faster than light engines. That’s why you could not find the Planetariums. He says he will show you how to go faster.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡorucQsSaNv

The boy hesitated before speaking. “I don’t know how to say those words Master. Please, Im trying to. Yes, Master. Im sorry, Master. My master says that at the speed of light, the nearest stars could be reached in decades. He will show you how to make an engine that will take you into another dimension. Instead of taking decades or hundreds of years to reach anywhere, you will be able to do it in only one or two years depending on the distance.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPAjr9M2g4H

“And what does your Master call this engine, Timothy?” asked Blondie. His grip on the Sayed’s shoulder had slackened, but it tightened slightly as he waited for the answer.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3t9yFZ1x9O

“My master says you call it a Hyper-drive.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ32KOc77asx

“I could kill that piece of shit,” President Sayed seethed. “The effrontery.” He stretched forward in his chair to punch a button on his desk pad.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZ0NKP0RXbj

“Sir.” A female voice replied.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuhBBHkST6q

“Get me a doctor Joan, on the double.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbA1VdalPli

“Right now Joan! Tell him to bring his portable goodies with him. And bring me the file on that liberal prick Toa.” He released the button and it cut off his secretary’s astonished reply. “And?” he looked across the desk at his friend.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfASRczc5tj

Blondie said softly, “I think we are about to become Satanists.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvETxA7IVW3

“You realize that should word of this get out, we will be hounded out of office and flayed alive?” Sayed said. Stretching forward he pressed the intercom button again.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeyoxXtGnpM

“Get me Marcom. Tell him I want the interrogation vids right now.” Again, he cut the reply short. “Just how the hell a kid, a fucking kid mind you, how the hell…” His voice petered out and he shook his head numbly. He looked up at the Polrob across the room. “What have you got to say my silent friend.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1bzVIa2q5Z

SIRE. THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF ANY INVISIBLE ENTITY. INDICATIONS OF RESPERATION, BODY LANGUAGE, VERBAL COMMUNICATION AND HEART RATE INDICATE THAT THE YOUNG CITIZEN TIMOTHY TOA, BELIEVED WHAT HE WAS SAYING. I HAVE ACCESSED CITIZEN MING TOAS FILE AND ALL INFORMATION ON HIS FAMILY FROM SCHOOL RECORDS TO KNOWN FRIENDS AND ENEMIES.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡujxSRvlxSK

“You have?” Sayed said. “Now that’s interesting.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkSpIKVibEY

THERE IS NO INDICATION THAT CITIZEN FAMILY TOA, HAVE ANY AFFILIATIONS WITH ANY RADICAL GROUPS EITHER OF THE LEFT OR RIGHT WING. BOTH CITIZEN CHILDREN ARE CLASSIFIED AS AVERAGE FROM THEIR LATEST I.Q. AND B.Q. TESTING. THUS, ALL INDICATIONS ARE THAT CITIZEN TIMOTHY TOA COULD NOT HAVE DEVISED THIS WHOLE INCIDENT BY HIMSELF.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6G9GBSQEjW

HIS SISTER, CITIZEN RAVI TOA, HAS NO KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT HER BROTHER KNOWS. INDICATIONS ARE THAT SHE IS JEALOUS OF HIM. THERE ARE INDICATIONS OF SACRIFICE THOUGH I COULD NOT READ YOUNG CITIZEN RAVI TOA IN ALL ASPECTS AS THIS UNIT WAS STILL BEHIND THE ONE-WAY MIRROR AT THAT TIME.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡENgcF8H1GA

LASTLY, THE KNOWLEDGE THAT CITIZEN TIMOTHY TOA PRESENTED TO YOU WAS NOT HIS. ALL INDICATIONS ARE THAT HE WAS BEING USED AS A CONDUIT TO RELAY SAID KNOWLEDGE TO YOU SIRE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡL0sbJc62nK

The President sat as if made of stone, his mind totally blank at the prospect that he had  been in the presence of Lucifer.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0uraa321Im

“So let me get this straight,” Blondie turned towards the Polrob. “Are you saying that everything in that room was above board? That it was real?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYm9fyPnfQ3

“I was afraid you were going to say that because I have come to that same conclusion.” He turned to Sayed. “Say? The shit is about to hit the fan. Get everybody that saw the Toa family into the interrogation room ASAP. If anybody  hints that Satan paid us a visit …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEQm50x93yR

PLEASE STAND BY…NOTIFICATIONS SENT…ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS… RECEIVED. ALL SECURITY SERVICE PERSONEL NOTIFIED AND ARE EN ROUTE TO THE WAITING ROOM. SCIENTIFIC PERSONEL WILL TAKE A WHILE LONGER AS THE TOA FAMILY WILL HAVE TO BE PLACED UNDER QUARANTINE FOR THE DURATION.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpxdyMMo91e

“Damned efficient what?” Sayed said with a smirk. “Imagine. A visitor from our enemy shows up and throws dust into our eyes. Just wish the rest of this place would learn the trait.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcRQh9D4DxU

“What?” both men looked up at the Polrob as the secretary knocked and walked in carrying a two-inch thick file. The doctor was in tow, wheeling a thinly padded half-meter wide bed on wheels into the large office.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqEbgVkU0Ys

“Out. Out! Leave the file and get out!” shouted Sayed as he stared at the Polrob. “And you.” he pointed at the surprised doctor. Do not think of going too far. Wait outside and Joan,” he lowered his voice slightly. “… No interruptions until Im done.” When the door closed, he said, “Give it to me.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVuEGnWsMnh

“Not yet,” said Blondie. “This is going to take time, lets get everything else out of the way first. There are quite a few people waiting for us in the next room.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLGwgbjytv0

“Damnit all,” said Sayed, getting up from his chair. “Nearly forgot that part.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNVEYcAj7Bh

They left the Oval office and walked silently towards the interrogation room. The place was packed with security personnel and scientists. “Ok people,” Sayed said as they entered the room. “We have a situation here. Not a word of the Toa family’s presence here today gets out. One word and you are all shipped out to Antarctica. I hear there are some places in Russia this time of the year where a snowman would not like to live. You lot,” he pointed at a scientist. “Have the Toa family sign the relevant documentation to keep their mouths shut. I do not want them telling daddy anything, never mind their friends. I wish we could keep the Toa family locked up tight but this thing is bigger than we are. It is much bigger than anything this administration has ever handled before since the devil knows when. Get as much info as possible from that snot nosed kid as you can, have mommy go home alone, she can tell that liberal prick his kids are visiting friends or something. I want both kids kept here, that will assure her silence. By the way, are you getting anything worthwhile from the kid?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzwMdc9aEWx

“Mr. President, sir.” The man frowned. “I don’t know how this is possible but it’s as if the whole blueprint is in his mind. It’s taking time.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWHesYpMwTi

“Good.” Sayed said. “Get it all. Every ounce of it.” He turned to the silent crowd. “We are making history people, that’s why I want a clamp on it all. Not a peep.” He turned to the Polrob. “Make it happen, ship the first one who blabs out to the middle of Afghanistan or something.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxHecFqMYxo

SIRE. AS YOU COMMAND, SO SHALL IT BE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡg6U2k7buM7

“That’s it people, and get rid of mommy. The sooner the better.  She will probably want to come back in the morning.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2IPgaNGXkA

“It has already been handled sir,” said one of the secret service personnel.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfRht3WTQUr

Relaxing back in his chair, he looked at the Polrob, “Let’s have it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxpLmGV9mTt

SIRE. LOKI ALLUDES TO NORSE MYTHOLOGY.   THIS IS THE MYTH OF THE VALKYRIE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡW8kdBoavf4

Sayed sighed, “I take it that somewhere in all this Loki will pop up?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoaGJoh8yNn

HE IS ONE OF THE AESIR GODS DEPICTED IN BOTH EARTH AND THE EMPIRE’S MYTHS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDKSTfwmEqf

“A god? A god?” he stood up and glared at the Polrob. “This is reality my friend. We do not have time to listen to childish tales.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqoFB7rtNmH

SIRE. THE FACT IS THAT THE DESCRIPTION CITIZEN TIMOTHY GAVE OF THE ONE HE CALLED LOKI, CORRESPONDS TO THE DESCRIPTION OF THIS GOD IN BOTH EARTH AND EMPIRE MYTHS. ALSO THERE IS ON RECORD THAT EARTH’S SPACE FLEET CAUGHT ON VID A FEMALE RIDING A WINGED HORSE COMMONLY KNOWN AS A PEGASUS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlLS1uhjCP6

“Wait.” Sayed sat with his hands in his hair. He wished it were long enough so that he could pull each hair out one by one. “You say the fleet has caught a female on vid riding a winged horse? In space? Were they smoking their collective socks?” he said in disgust. “It seems to me somebody needs to get his ass fired.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0sQSm6oJKP

SIRE. ACCORDING TO THE MYTH, THE PEGASUS IS THE PREFERRED MODE OF TRANSPORT FOR THE VALKYRIE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZadEMl5g8s

“Ah crap.” He sat back and observed his silent advisor. “And you? Why so quiet? Does this sound as if it makes sense?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXtdQvI7PkX

“I do believe we should hear him out, Say. What have we to lose?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWkqMcMTAvE

“Brilliant. Now both of you are ganging up on me.” He pointed a stern finger at the Polrob. “The short version please.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡquPD9BZfR8

SIRE. FROM A.D. 800 TO AROUND YOUR 11TH CENTURY, SEAFARING WARRIORS FROM SCANDINAVIA LEFT TO SEEK THEIR FORTUNE. KNOWN AS THE VIKING, THEY RAIDED MANY COASTAL SETTLEMENTS FROM THE BRITISH ISLES TO RUSSIA, ICELAND, GREENLAND AND NEWFOUNDLAND. VIKINGS WERE A MIX OF NATIONS FROM WHAT IS KNOWN AS DENMARK, NORWAY AND SWEDEN. THERE WERE QUITE A FEW MORE BUT WHAT MADE THEM EXCEPTIONAL WAS THAT THEY ALL CAME FROM A FAR-OFF AND DISTANT LAND. THEY WERE NOT CHRISTIAN AND BROUGHT THEIR OWN BELIEFS AND CULTURE WITH THEM.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHPCVG8DNXX

For some hours, the Polrob regaled them with a tale of murder and rape, of pillaged monasteries, raised villages and death dealing hordes. Entranced by the tale, time passed by unnoticed and unheeded and when the end came they sat and reflected a few minutes more.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLTibGvXz6t

“That was the best damned story I’ve ever heard,” said Blondie stretching the kinks out of his back.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡewX3a6F9lx

“Agreed. So tell me, what are the possibilities that these Aesir gods are actually alive and kicking?” asked Sayed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡi3nUY32BR0

Blondie said, “What makes me nervous is that should they be real, then this Loki character is interfering where he and all the other gods were ordered not to. He is stepping over the line and nothing good can come of it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzCTSNznK9t

“If it is true Blondie. If it is true.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdoZbr9i7jE

“Lets get that Vid from the Fleet and have a look at it.” Blondie turned to the Polrob, “Send word to them that we want a look at it ASAP.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEBH1wG5ziW

The President’s intercom buzzed. “Yes Joan?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAlBAx3JPa3

“Mr. President? I have Fleet Admiral Juan Ponce de Leon on the Vid. He says he needs to have a word with you immediately.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtPFbRbSWLb

“Patch him through, Joan. Thank you.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTk3sNNOQVW

Against the far wall, a huge vid screen activated automatically and a bald headed, white suited no-nonsense looking man stared at Sayed through steel grey eyes. “Mr. President. Advisor Salvatore,” the Fleet Admiral began without hesitation. “I have received from your office a strange request from a strange entity called LAW001/SAIPR. The information requested is highly sensitive and classified as top secret. The question is, Mr. President, did this request come directly from you? For if not …” he stared woodenly out of the screen. The time lapse, over almost one million kilometers, was minimal.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3whE6OIQES

“It did Juan, so breathe easy there old friend.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡU8IzjzKcwv

The fleet admiral breathed a huge sigh of relief. “I was under the impression that some damned terrorist group got hold of your call sign.” He moved his head closer to the inbuilt camera of his own Vid. “And who is this LAW001/SAIPR?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnpQrSEfGua

“That’s our new friend Juan. Surely, you must have seen pictures of it by now? The whole damned world has found a new craze. Can you believe that some idiot has gone and made an infernal fuzzy imitation of it for kids.” He grunted his disgust. “Juan, meet yours and my new best friend.” He beckoned the Polrob to move within view of the camera.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDyGUdNJVEn

“Impressive. You say that there is a fuzzy teddy-bear toy lookalike down under?  Could be I may get one for my son. Think he will like it?” he asked, smirking.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOyvw7P6S1D

“Bugger that pal,” Sayed laughed. “Tell me about a winged horse you people found out there in the vacuum of space. A vacuum mind you, where nothing can live.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡop2fQUT5Bo

“Mr. President, what’s made this so important? This incident took place on November 23, almost eighteen months ago?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgeXX9aKS6p

“Because we believe that it has something to do with a situation we have here. A serious situation.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgUXLr5ByYC

“I’d rather  show you. By the way, you have copies and transcripts of all we have. I sent everything via diplomatic post soon after this situation occurred.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbm2eCS9vYK

“You did?” Sayed said, surprised. “Was it flagged?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUeZRb92W18

“No, it wasn’t flagged. I did not want to wave a red flag about for the wrong person to see. Especially with this, one can’t be too careful.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡli3i3voF3m

“Im surrounded by incompetent people,” Sayed threw up his hands.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡieJksldBRb

“Nope.” Blondie cut in. “I kinda remember the time period,” he said thoughtfully, squinting at the Polrob. “Round about when our friend here pitched.” He tapped the table thinking. “You told me to put it in the safe for later consideration. With our friend here popping out of nowhere and the fleet buildup, it slipped my mind.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmLqmDBvFyx

“Ok. Ok. Fess up, Juan. All of it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOTPRcTnAyq

Juan nodded. “We have about two minutes worth of recordings and it does not make sense whichever way I look at it. There is no sound mind you. We were a tad busy right about then to worry about a small thing like sound.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXQFGa82oKT

The picture blanked out and suddenly turned black.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡz6F0tiCYYa

Space. In all its glory.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvM4lEge1RM

Black with millions of pin pricks of light. Above and to the left of the Vid screen ran a series of numbers counting off digits. The camera panned to the left and the pinpricks of light whizzed across the screen. As the camera stopped, so too did the pinpricks of light. They grew larger as it zoomed in on one specific spot.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrOD7vNfxbZ

“Fuck. This is making me sick.” Groaned Sayed as the camera stopped.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqL66Lzonym

And there it was in all its glory.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡy48CpNSDOK

White with caramel markings over chest and rump. Its wingspan was enormous; approximately six times its body length. Starting from  below its withers they tapered sharply outwards from its body in a wide lazy ‘S’ shape, each wing was in perfect symmetry as they ended almost abruptly except for what looked suspiciously like a single wide feather sticking out almost two feet from each wing tip.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡD1OJ7AjwXS

A female, dressed in chainmail and leather guards, sat comfortably on the Pegasus’s back. She wore on her head, a metal looking helm like a Spartan foot soldier. Long black hair flowed from beneath the helm and waved  about as if by a small breeze of air. Leather guards protected her thighs and shins while open Roman sandals covered her feet.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSwW18lO1YD

In her left hand she carried a round shield with a bolt of lightning engraved on it, and in her right hand, she carried a long and sharp spear. The spearhead repeatedly drew the two men’s attention as the rider pointed it threateningly towards them. The spear’s tip crackled in a blinding white light. The knowledge that the camera was mounted within one of the navy’s war ships, sent a chill down the President’s spine.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLoTjshniUY

They watched dry mouthed as the rider lifted the spear point away from its target and … disappeared.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlxZ9h7JADH

“I would have thought the buildup would lead to some sort of fireworks.” Sayed said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZ99StB9QT4

Juan’s stern face appeared. “I have studied this clip over and over with my Number One and we have come to some conclusions. Firstly, whatever this person was wearing, be it clothing or that weapon she pointed at the Pyrenees, it was strong enough to register on our scanners and for the gunners to get a target-lock on. Two… her chainmail, shield and helmet would not have registered such a strong target to get a lock-on over a distance of four hundred thousand kilometers. That left her spear-like weapon and where point number three comes in I want you to think about it for a second or two gentlemen. Would you point a bow and arrow at a tank? The answer is an unconditional no. Unless you are cornered and feel the need to strike with anything at hand, and this creature was not cornered. This was a warning. Simple and to the point. But a warning of what? Not to proceed further? To turn back? Both or neither one? On the other hand, what if that bow and arrow was not what it seemed to be? What if that spear was not a spear but some sort of lance that could shoot out a laser beam? A laser that could possibly penetrate or destroy a war ship? You saw the energy radiate from around the spears point? Well gentleman, that energy buildup was monitored by our sensors, it’s what attracted us in the first place. That  buildup went off the charts and it tells me that, whatever its origin, that spear or lance is not what it seems.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPfBOpSW9tz

“Right then,” Blondie sat forward and leaned his elbows on his desk. “The fact that you are both not entertaining the idea of calling the loony-bin down on us, tells me that you believe this to be true and factual.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRW65mDr70P

The President said, “I agree, against all that I hold dear. I agree. Too many things are going down right now that doesn’t make sense. I heard somebody say once that if you eliminate all the crap and hearsay, what you’re left with is the truth no matter how illogical. You implied something about having more?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRZZ0SsB2jv

“Yes. If you thought some female riding a winged horse in space was weird, then this will rock your marbles. I want you to think back. Can you remember anything about a destroyer called the Crystaal?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ68KIX9AUj4

“Nope.” Both men shook their heads. “Since when do we have a destroyer called the Crystaal?” asked Blondie with an uplifted eyebrow. “I thought I knew all the names of our ships.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡta0zfndGue

“Actually you are both right and wrong. We do not have a destroyer called the Crystaal but,” he stared at them silently for a few seconds. “We did have one and we lost it close on three thousand years ago, a destroyer called the Crystaal, disappeared with all hands.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwlewm6YX9i

The Admiral nodded . “In a manner of speaking. A few days before we encountered this Pegasus, we were ensconced in a series of war games when our scanners picked up a faint signal from the dark side of the moon. Faint but worth investigation. On our approach, the ship fled before us. Needless to say, the war games disintegrated as all available vessels gave chase. On checking our data base, we found that we were chasing the Crystaal. A three thousand year old destroyer that should have been turned into dust by now and not leading millions of tons of war ships on a merry chase all over the universe. Take a guess where we lost the thing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCMQDm60ANv

It took a few seconds for the two men to grasp his meaning.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOjR2Pd9Obi

“That’s right gentlemen. The same place our fair maiden sat thumbing her spear at us.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6EyxSwWf4f

The Admiral, stoking a huge Beechum pipe, looked askance at the two men. “It’s all there in the Diplo bag. Photographs, recordings, witness statements you name it. I would suggest that you get some people onto this sooner than ASAP. I have to go gentlemen,” the Admiral said as a melodic chime sounded from the Vid screens speakers. “It seems the three battle ships I’ve been waiting for have arrived. However,” he pointed the pipe at them. “There is one point I have to make; these incidents are happening in space but are close to home. My way of thinking is that where there is smoke there is a big fire smoldering somewhere.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRO0JRQW1F8

“What do we look for? This will not be your average request.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjMMSkEohUt

“No idea Blondie. Probably something in the line of unauthorized entry into government buildings and .institutions. Anything out of the ordinary, or highly unorthodox. I do not believe these … things have heard of keys or pin numbers.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwRazFwYySY

“Before you go Juan,” Sayed said. “What’s your situation like out there?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfKNgtE7qFN

“My situation Mr. President? Let me see; other than four hundred thousand pairs of pink bootlaces, eighty thousand sewing kits and ten parachutes, oh and one or two other items that are raising the male contingent libido, all’s well. A few delays because of service delivery problems but nothing serious yet.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyZzkSUZgbU

“Nothing much,” the Admiral placed his white cap on his head and repositioned it to his liking. “Can’t  very well use a  parachute in space now can we? So I sold them off to some sky diving enthusiasts we have here and dumped the money back into the kitty.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡff42wyGDYm

“Thank you Juan,” Sayed looked up. “Appreciate your time and patience. Send whatever rubbish you have back to the suppliers. Im having that small problem sorted out, quickly.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrxm0ReVRv6

“Well that was enlightening,” Blondie said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVDb0FHymlx

“Too enlightening if you ask me,” the President stabbed at the intercom.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJM45NWkINP

“Joan. Get me the F.B.I. the C.I.A. the KGB. In fact get me the whole  alphabet. Every country, every nation. I want heads of every secret service department at the Pentagon in five days. That includes any authoritative figure, professor, scholar and what have you on Norse mythology.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZNNbOtSmPe

“Norse mythology.  No quacks mind you. Only accredited persons. Get them security clearances, accommodation, food . You know the deal. Everybody to be at the Pentagon in five days. No excuses. Top secret authorization.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUy1YDOUYxI

As he took a breath, it gave his Secretary a chance to get a few words in. “The doctor is still here, sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNnhS2n8PrZ

“Good. Have him wait, Im nearly done here.” He turned to his friend. “Blondie, get a hold of the Minister of Defense, General Crewe. Bring him up to date and have him kick those white coated idiots in the butt for me. I want daily reports of their activities. Have him pamper the kids and dump the mom if and when possible …but I guess that parts out of the question. Tell him to do what is necessary. I don’t want daddy knocking on my door and causing an international incident,” he groaned. “The bastard will probably storm in here declaring war on all UFOs”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0qNOCBhvY6

Blondie nodded. “And you …,” the silent Polrob descended towards the president’s desk.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJSEKQizLh6

“Collect and correlate all information relating to our discussions here today and whatever else you can dig up. The condensed version if you please and have it all ready in five days. If they thought you were the news of the century, this is going to blow them out of the water.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6m2TaEvsat

“You are here my fellow Aesir,” Odin said as he gazed at each of the gathered High Kings. “Because once again my faith and trust has been misplaced.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUhMgurt1Fs

“And  the truth and nothing but the truth.”  The only woman amongst them said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡP0VHPaybzu

Odin turned to her. “Do not let me regret another, woman. Having you removed from our presence would be much simpler and effortless.” He glared at Queen Freya who uncharacteristically was chewing on a thumbnail. The only indication of the turmoil she felt inside her breast.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUAxZEtgmUY

Odin turned once again to the seated ‘Higher Aesir’ “Loki as we have all come to know, has escaped his imprisonment and …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfPf16KsAM7

“We should have killed the bastard.” Thor grumbled, as he tapped Mjollnir’s* plain leather wrapped handle.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2B7XiW8Q8I

“Unfortunately,” Odin sighed. “The Norn’s* decreed otherwise. We … I, could not  well go against their commands. Now, the Trickster has begun to medal in the affairs of Midgard and is assisting the humans in some endeavor or other.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡl2jS2Xlikg

“What.?” Vali shouted as he leaped from his throne in anger. He flicked his untied, shoulder length black hair every so often behind the ears. “How is this possible? We have carefully deleted any knowledge of us from the minds of the human’s eons ago. That is … if the time difference you explained last week to us is still relevant?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhz5wAch3M3

“Then how? And what about the immutable decree that none could approach the humans unless they are worshipped?” an idea penetrated his mind, “Was there a loop hole?” he stared at Odin with an uplifted eyebrow. All the High Kings stared inquiringly at their King. This was something none of them had thought to question.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCaqW2sToLd

“None that I could determine and  the vexing part in all this,” said Odin. “For centuries we each used the humans to fight our wars. None of us, myself included, could break this edict. Loki on the other hand did not partake of these wars as he preferred to work behind the scenes.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡE2NKznWQqI

“Could it be that he has somehow discovered a way to by-pass this decree?” asked Vali.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUBwzUjx9dl

“Clearly he has,” Queen Freya said. “The way I see it gentlemen, is not how he did it but how are we  going to stop him?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwQvXMyqGWb

“Freya is correct and let’s not take this lightly.” Odin said, “For the Trickster is planning for the first time ever to be involved in human affairs and to bring about chaos. Chaos I must add, that will inadvertently bring about Ragnarök.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUBeHlN4hEv

“Kill him and be done with it.” rumbled Thor. “I will do it and hang the Norns and their wishes.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZz7w81PFa3

“May I say something?” Queen Freya asked, standing up from the throne that was hastily brought and inserted amongst the others before the assembly began. “Simply put, I agree with Thor. Should Loki die, all our problems would disappear as mist before the sun. But, I have a suggestion. As we all know, there is a new prophesy and unfortunately, it is not complete. It is a most uncommon prophesy and does not make much sense but is tantamount to suicide should we ignore it. It goes like this:copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1HTxFG55m2

In the days of time and beyond time, copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhgDvYYi2fX

Midgard shall declare war on Middle Earth beyond timecopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyfwGLEIAkT

And the metal Einherjar shall bring death to them both and then be one with the one.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDlBxTgeYlB

The new god shall be witness to all and Ragnarök shall be,copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1DSF8QDqTT

The gods listened to her as she recited the prophesy.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡw8ApNJfra9

“My suggestion is this; do nothing.” she held up her hands quickly as some got to their feet in anger. “Listen first to my words High Kings, then decide, for a mistake here will cause our demise.” They grumbled between each other but made themselves comfortable on their thrones.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkyBtsKn1BS

“Thank you. As we know, the Last prophesy of the Beginning of Ages has stated many times of this so called time beyond time. We did not know what it meant. But now it seems we have an answer. Peace, High Kings. All will become visible.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVl0aGHiiCp

They sat down as she continued, once more voicing their opinions loudly. “It seems the humans have trekked across the stars, the  cosmos, and populated one or more planets. This in itself is completely unprecedented and something we should have foreseen or at least known about before it happened. But, like the prophesy says; we slumbered in our halls with wine and song. Now it is too late to do anything about it. There are indications from spies placed close to Midgard’s governing body, that these same humans have lost contact with those that left to repopulate the stars and wish to find them. This, is where the Trickster comes into the picture by the way. He is also anxious to find them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡg9yRymANNK

“For what reason?” Odin asked, his one eye glaring at her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡW8iyBLiYNT

“That, my King, is still to be determined and maybe between us we can come up with an answer. What we do know is that he has somehow made his presence known to a human child and through this child, is attempting to advise this so called governing body on  how to find the lost humans. I can only surmise that he is attempting to seek out these humans and in some way meddle in their affairs without our knowledge and in this way create strife and conflict between them and Midgard.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRIfRSVzbeb

“That is not much of a problem Freya. The Einherjar will simply land up in …” Thor rumbled but stopped as a thought hit him between the eyes. “…they won’t. That’s it. We ourselves do not know where they are so cannot send the Valkyrie to collect the Einherjar. The devious, deceitful, underhanded, conniving …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBul9lTvWHi

“He will collect and use the Einherjar against us,” Freya nodded her agreement. “And in such a way hasten Ragnarök.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGEqYc2Kv1x

“He must be stopped immediately.” Odin ordered, getting to his feet.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoSfEK8zjjO

“No my King,” Freya said, stepping to the middle of the floor. “That will cause untold harm. Remember we of the Aesir may not intercede.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvVjQ4EJAAr

“Do you expect us to do nothing.? Where is your balls woman? This Loki is going to be stopped, this I command.” Lightning rumbled in the heavens as Gungnir* changed shape to become a blinding lightning bolt in his hand. Odin was fully armoured now and magic blazed and crackled about him.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSh5jghm0Mn

“My King, wait.” she noticed all the High Kings on their feet clutching their weapons. Weapons of untold magnitude for destruction.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxbgNP0Vpjf

“I think, Odin, you should listen to her,” said a voice all heard. A voice that although softly spoken, cut across all the shouting and bluster. It was the only voice ever to guarantee the silence of any Aesir, Vanir, Elf or Giant. Queen Freya gasped as she turned around to stare at the Norns.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdPawFfbpPM

Three old women stood clutching bundles full of silvery life-strands* in one hand as the other carefully nudged a fine silver scissors between the strands and snipped a single one here, two there, another one …copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQI3V2kdok0

Beside the women stood a small child of approximately 7 years of age who stared all about him with wondrous eyes as he took in all the sights and sounds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMRb2F13Arn

The speaker of the Norn’s turned to the boy, “Go play out there in the field, Harash. I will call you when it is time to go.” Without a word the small boy dashed off and it wasn’t long before all could hear his gay shrieks and laughter.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQEc1bRgnh6

Silence had descended as a shroud amongst the Aesir. None said a word although all watched as silvery threads appeared as if by magic above the heads of the Norn to be collected and included with those already being held fast. A scissors snipped here, another there.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡa8Oe3RyhgS

“New life,” said the speaker who plucked a thread out of the air and placed it carefully with the others she held. She then searched between the billions of threads and withdrew one. “A young one,” she held it up for all to see. “Still with its life ahead of it. A life still to be lived.” She brought the scissors closer and snipped it.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡh2Kt5pv80W

Out on the plain, the sudden silence brought the Aesir to stare at the forlorn body of the small boy as he lay where he fell when death claimed its prize. They turned to her as one, fear mirroring their faces as all three women held up almost unseen silvery threads of life. They let go of the threads which floated before them. “Have we made our point or should we …” they each brought a delicate scissors towards the threads.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvQBISNA9aR

“Stay thou hand Mother,” Odin cried. “We have no need for more death.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfkZ4y3V6kb

“True, Odin my child. For Death is coming of its own accord. I have spoken to him and he is  now preparing for the influx  surely about to happen.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZCeJ6k9Bs9

“We are only trying to find a way to stop it, Mother.” Thor’s voice grumbled from behind her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyY09GSWg16

“Even more true my son. But what is, is. What must be must be. The old must ever make way for the new and neither you nor I can stop it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8hr7l0bh7w

“But we have to try Mother,” Queen Freya said. “We have to try something. No one wants to die.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡt78HQf1ZRu

“Die you shall my child. Eventually we all must die. Even me and my sisters. All must die so that we can allow the younger to learn by our mistakes and good fortune. Your death Freya, and many here, have been foretold since time began. Death is permanent child. Life is a fleeting existence, something to be enjoyed while it is there and then to regret when it has passed us by. Most of you are in the twilight of your lives. Do not allow regret to be all powerful when death comes knocking. You will regret going after Loki. For not only will you best him but allow the path to be open for the metal Einherjar who know of your existence and will attempt to destroy you and all your creations once you have shown them the precise location of Bifrost. They wait for one small mistake. A small mistake from you that will have them invading Asgard and destroying all within. Do not mistake them for humans my children, for they are not. They are only part human. The other part, the most important part, has died. They are soulless. Lifeless.” She was now looking at Odin. “Do not be impetuous my son, seek knowledge for therein lies your strength. I have spoken to Death, the Fates and Time himself. They all agree, change is coming. The only advice I can give you, my children, is to prepare. Prepare for war. Prepare for Ragnarök.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8pt9ya2uq3

“Why?” the cry came from Freya. “Why must it be so?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBzl3HH4SYb

The speaker turned once more to her with a look of sadness, “Because it is an immutable fact my daughter. Because since the day of creation, everything advances. Everything grows old and dies. Everything has to make way for the new.” The speaker pointed a finger at her, “Even you, my daughter, must eventually make way for those who are to come after you are gone.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡorix99Mb9E

“Oh Mother,” she cried, “We, I, do not want to die.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFi39rBjt6K

“I know my child. Neither do I, but now the one who is to take my place is being born. I too, do not want to die. There is one possibility though,” she said into the fearful silence as she held up a single forefinger. “Just one. Remove the prophesy. Remove it and all may change.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxIjSL0APSy

“What does that mean mother?” asked Thor with a deep frown. “How do we remove prophesy especially when it has been so much a part of our lives?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1h0kPauClD

“I do not know Thor, but what I do know is that time stands still for none. Our time is almost up. It’s what we are going to do with the last moments that will eventually count. Make the most of yours. Make the most of yours my children,” she said, looking at each and every one of them, then  all three Norn’s faded away into nothing, leaving the Higher Aesir staring in fear at each other.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡg1VjamVtQ1

“Most enlightening,” said Odin thoughtfully. “So what should we do, other than standing around doing nothing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdnJxgvxQlq

“Follow the humans.” Freya said after a while, a voice that turned hard and dangerous. “Follow Loki. Find these other humans. Find the metal Einherjar and then destroy them all. Once and forever even should it hasten Ragnarök!”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpnIpHxzc9V

Odin stared at each of them. No words were spoken but at each nod of acceptance, he turned to the next. “Then so be it. I would advise you all to make your plans. Notify all that preparations for Ragnarök is on a permanent footing. All must be ready at a moment’s notice for I believe we only have a few hours left. Heimdall, you and Freya stay behind. This meeting is adjourned.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPpWLI67EAY

The three stayed behind as the Higher Aesir left. Thoughts milled about as they stared at the small body of the boy called Harash. “Who do you think he was?” asked Odin.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFOlplCUTsg

“I do not know Father but I do know he is one of the lucky ones.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkSD2ilzRxJ

“And how is that my son.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNn8J8RQgvq

Heimdall said wearily, “He is dead Father, and we still have to die.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡebfAABcvvF

“I see.” Odin turned to Freya beside him. “You are a daughter of my own heart. Never let any deny it.  Prepare my daughter. Prepare so that we may not be caught off guard. Prepare and destroy all who oppose us. I want you to take a few million of your Einherjar and have them cross the cosmos in search of these, these metal Einherjar. Find them and destroy them. I too will send out my own to search for this so-called god Vigrior, whatever and whoever it may be. We have only a short time, hours, perhaps or  minutes. Go my daughter. Make haste.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLPypSQKsIi

Queen Freya stared at Odin and stepped forward. She took him in her arms and hugged the one eyed god. “You ask that the Einherjar commit suicide Father, but none the less, they will jump at the chance. I will look for you on the battlefield, Father.” She swallowed hard as she hugged Heimdall. “Take care brother.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbvFkeNb54H

“And you sister, I will watch for you as well.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwiSLStn5YS

Father and son watched silently as Freya walked away, her magical fish-scaled armour starting to glow as her anger mounted.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLKIj9A9U2R

“I would not like to be the one to come up against her,” said Odin with a smile.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcenRyBFJHJ

“That would be tantamount to a death wish Father.” Heimdall agreed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrd2kZUNm0M

“And so it comes down to you my son.” Odin nodded as he turned and looked at him. “Only your eyes and ears will give us sufficient time.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeMxX5HxfBA

“I always believed it would be us against them. Never once did I actually ask myself who ‘them’ would be. We have a short time my Father. For I hear the enemy preparing. I hear the blades of grass being trampled by their feet. We have a short time Father. But not too long.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7NOuFm6k6N

“And what of this prophesy thing? How do we remove it?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3y15S00Gm1

“Could she have meant that we should change it?” Heimdall asked.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsBN0yTH69i

Odin snorted in disgust, “Then what the hell is prophesy good for if it can be changed whenever it suites us?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGg5vLKSR5Y

“Aah… Now there father, is the question.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡF9xGfpGg53

“Yes?” The Cyborg commander looked up from where it was fiddling with an augmentation of its right arm.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8qYNww0vMk

“We have information received from our scout units near the Rainbow Bridge,” its advisor said. “There is also more on Old Earth. It has been uploaded for your perusal.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEkl3YRdnff

The commander turned from his advisor, lifted its right arm and pointed it down the passage. A soft ‘click’, a silent blur of something small moving with astronomical speed. “Good.” It turned its Grayvite skull towards the advisor, eye orbs glowing red in the gloom of the shadowed workshop. “Then let us proceed and find out what there is to know.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRBXuvlnPqw

Behind them, the workshop rocked and vibrated with a resounding explosion.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfyXdmtJnZw

Commander; at 6497=03sec precisely, a count of six million Einherjar and one million Valkyrie appeared from all directions from this unit and dispersed into space. It was noted that the Einherjar dispersal covered every direction in an ever widening circle that expanded at an ever increasing rate. Clearly the Einherjar and the Valkyrie are seeking something.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsmtpzPTicS

It must be noted that at no time was the precise location of the Rainbow Bridge determined.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPUwGXewS9J

This unit remained and still remains unobserved.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1lNNun4Yjb

The Commander pressed a button on its console and the next report came up;copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYekvViJrbT

Commander; at 6317=09sec,  a count of 1, 300,702  Einherjar and 14, 624 Valkyrie passed within the vicinity of this unit in an ever widening circle. The reason for this is unknown.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDIyXdtgXVr

Unit reports that it has been discovered by the Valkyrie and termination of this unit is thankfully a matter of seconds. This unit …copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡR6E64EPqJy

The advisor scratched its Grayvite skull in an unexpectedly human fashion. “That is the surprising part of this entire situation Commander, only eleven outposts have been discovered  by the Valkyrie. None have survived. As you will see, some sent messages while others have failed to report in. The m.i.a’s*, we surmise, are also destroyed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZ0FxYT1fRW

“I agree that this is considerably fewer than we expected. Send word that none are to retaliate. Information as to the speed, quadrants reached, and overall dispositions of these abominations are of paramount importance. The further they travel, the less likely they are in discovering anything. It is the Einherjar where the problem lies. The Valkyrie can be destroyed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHI2mO71EyK

The Earth armada was joined from the outer planets with three more battleships, nine destroyers with full complement, seventeen mine sweepers and  at 3136=57sec precisely, what is termed a ‘Goliath’ battle cruiser. From Earth itself, at 2992=15sec, one battle cruiser and two hospital ships were launched. Military maneuvers have commenced all over the planet in unpopulated areas. Preparations for military invasion of the Empire is well underway.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnbU3ITXJ8O

This unit reports that Valkyrie to the total of five, are keeping watch. None have interfered or approached Earth or unfortunately, this unit.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFPwIbkPcYn

“There is another item of importance, Commander.” The advisor said as the Commander scrolled through the reports. “As you know, re-animation of destroyed units can only occur four times and then we lose close to 23% due to self-termination. At the fifth we lose close to 97%.  Few have reached the sixth and none the seventh.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZ4zU7iO52W

“We have one unit that has been re-animated nine times.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡD8VGPtW1yC

“Nine? Who is this unit?” the Commander asked. “Why have I only now been notified?” its red glowing orbs stared intently at the advisor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqyH0sOihUl

“Two reasons Commander. We do not keep a tally on the re-animations. It is extremely difficult to know what Cy fit into what Borg. Especially when they are retrieved by the Sweepers* after any combat situation as it is always an untidy mess. We terminate any Cy on re-animation when it is discovered to be suicidal. We do miss the odd one or two but they are quickly discovered soon after and then terminated and another Cy inserted into the Borg. The second reason is that this Cy has never once left base but always joins the ‘Queue’”.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdN30duYYK9

“The ‘queue’? who is this Cy?” it asked again, this time with considerable more interest.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIoiD47609E

“Emperor Cerebos?” The Commander abruptly stood up. “My. My. Royalty at last. And where did you find his corpse?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdaRha4L93v

“The Sweepers, Commander. They were prowling deep space and came upon his coffin. For some reason beyond us, the corpse was frozen solid.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjLTCpYJvYT

“Clever.  Clever.” The Commander mumbled, tapping thoughtfully on the metal table. “It seems to me advisor, that you have been remiss in your duties. This affaire should have been brought to my attention simply because the Cy had reached the fourth re-animation.” It stared silently at the advisor. “Could it be that that you hoped for a termination order from me, advisor? A termination order that would have you leave this existence?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaCtnW336V0

The Cyborg advisor lowered its head. “It is as you say Commander. You have terminated Cy’s for less. Please. I have been animated five times already. I have paid my dues to the human race. My time is up Commander. I wish to depart this existence.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ99b0qm5cv8

“As do we all Advisor. As do we all. But not yet.” The Commander lifted a skeletal Grayvite arm and placed his hand on the advisor’s shoulder. “I need you my brother. Only you have the wherewithal and stamina to help me see this through. You, me, all of us were created for one purpose only. A short time more, is all I ask for. A year or two, possibly three and then you can self-terminate. I will do the termination should you request it. Stay with me brother, a short time longer. That is all I ask.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHPUBrjzbPx

The advisor lifted its head, “So be it, Stephan. So be it.” It turned and walked to the exit then turned back. “I have often thought about our parents. Do you think they are amongst us?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ40ayo6Brcx

“In that direction Carl, lies madness. Do not think such things.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrmGDm7Zsju

“It is too late Stephan. Far too late.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡB1kvCLPcWF

“Come brother,” the Commander said, “there is work to do. I wish to see our Creator as I have a few questions I long to have answered.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡK1GUA40bvd

The two Cyborg brothers walked side by side down the wide and empty metal corridor. They soon came upon a silent queue of waiting Cyborgs. None spoke, none stopped checking their weapons. Weapons that ranged from simple bow and arrows to grenades and lasers. Weapons that were stripped and oiled and then replaced only for the action to be repeated, over and over. Quite a few had swords or simple throwing knives and so it was that the advisor stopped at one specific Cyborg. “This is Emperor Cerebos, Commander.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIXzpAWxzpR

The three Cyborgs stared at each other for a time. “You honour us, Emperor.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ40SowvalH7

“The honour, Commander, is all mine. For I knew that the sweepers would find my coffin and bring me back here.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1s9HmJLnUh

“Well. Knew would be too strong a word, Commander. Hoped for, on the other hand, seems fitting. I hoped and prepared my coffin for that reason. Space is a large place to be in would you not say? And a rotten, decomposed brain is  difficult to work with I should think.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡruwkT2Q3oy

“I see. My Advisor has notified me that you have been re-animated nine times. Why? Why would you wish to come back? What makes you come back?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbq0k8n3UKY

“Is it not obvious?” the late Emperor asked. Indicating the long silent queue, he said, “Just like these poor fellows, I wish to find a weakness. Any weakness in the enemy.” The late Emperor turned away and stared ahead towards a far doorway sealed by a glowing neon blue light.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡblBrwEhDfH

Powerful electric currents crackled continuously within the light, promising a painful and sudden death to any that ventured too close. As it was, a Sweeper was already in the process of clearing away two lifeless Cyborgs. The Sweeper dumped them unceremoniously onto a cart and waited silently for more. Just then, the blue neon light winked and the sweeper stepped through the doorway. He reappeared moments later carrying another lifeless corps. A Cyborg stepped forward and the neon coloured seal sprang into existence.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaHcG15JS98

“It has not tried to escape?” the Commander asked his advisor. “That seal is open for quite some time. More than enough time for it to …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqlyrFHOJBz

“No. It does not get tired and is destroying us at an alarming rate. Why should it escape when its enemy comes to it? It does not have to seek us out.” Another almost human like shrug. “I believe it is toying with us and enjoying itself.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHMUidqXv4c

“Have we determined what era it comes from?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡceToUVuENE

“Definitely Viking, Commander,” said the late Emperor. “Definitely Viking.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNeZlGE3vnE

“And how many times do you believe you will be able to be re-animated Emperor Cerebos? You cannot go for much longer. Even now you have reached far and above the normal tally, and the Cy brain, especially yours, must deteriorate. There is only so much we can do.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ44qYnEpk9t

“As long as it takes Commander. It’s only a question of time. Time and patience. The Einherjar is like a ghost. Semitransparent and completely and utterly dangerous. But it has a weakness.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxmHqKCmeh9

The late Emperor said, “Like any apparition or wraith, one can pass through it quite easily without any noticeable reaction. It’s kind of difficult though …” a muffled explosion sent vibrations all along the metal corridor and they watched silently as the Sweeper brought out the junked Cyborg. Another stepped forward immediately and the seal winked silently.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7DYyCmd1Hm

“I was explaining Commander, that I have determined that the Einherjar definitely has a weakness,” the long-sword the late Emperor effortlessly carried, swept up and the point stopped inches from the Commanders head. “It must become tangible to kill.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbBazsBEZ4d

“That’s it? Are you sure?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTbRSKueXwW

“I have died eight times already Commander, how exact would you wish me to be? The only problem is that it takes but a second or two for the Einherjar’s sword to pass through its enemy and kill it. It is those seconds that one must use, for then it is in our realm. Our ‘space’ so to say. It can be killed. That is the time to strike. The important factor is to judge when to strike because your strike will also be your last. I have tried and come to the conclusion that it would be better to approach this creature with at least three or possibly four opponents. For this reason I have asked the advisor to allow two or three others to enter the cage with me.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡj1a2ePw3Re

“Another oversight, advisor?” the Commander asked. “I do hope there are no others that you have forgotten to mention? I hope you are correct Emperor Cerebos, for I am tired of this Einherjar using up our resources. Resources that could be implemented elsewhere.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡa2PlBiWfh0

“There is one smaller problem though,” the late Emperor said. “The problem of life. Should I die, whether I succeed or not. I wish to stay dead this time.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtbcl3WQiTm

“Your wish is granted Emperor Cerebos. To change the subject, I have one or more questions I would like answered.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡedopgCeMG6

“Oh you do Emperor. Only you have them. You created us after all. How did you discover the Valkyrie. How did you know that Earth would seek out the Empire? And lastly, why this method of retaliation? Could you not have found a better, more feasible way?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9tAlPEiFWc

“All  important questions my friend. Questions you will find answered in a secret file in your information banks under ‘Children’s Rhymes and Tales.’ An innocuous enough heading but a file that requires my name to open it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2bqqAG3PsK

“I do believe I have seen it Emperor, and as you say, innocuous indeed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVtB3jNNrWN

“And now Commander, if you will excuse me, I would like to prepare for my demise.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQ5hrr66JM3

“So be it Emperor. Though know that we of the Cyborg have no love for you. You have placed us in a hell of your own making and although most knew not your name, all have cursed you from the first moments of awakening.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWPemgP2kEv

“I know Commander.” The late Emperor said softly. “I took the path of the lesser evil. It was either have the Empire destroyed by Earth or total annihilation of the universe by the Valkyrie. My hobby of folklore and an inordinate fund of liquid cash and time, lots of free time I may add, had me discover the truth. A truth that was so astounding at the time, that we infiltrated Earth and stole artifacts of immense importance to my investigations. Artifacts that after further analysis, only confirmed my fears. Was I to leave it all to be destroyed? I could not notify the Empire. It would have self-destructed in the panic. Another means had to be found.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4AYFDhtrJp

“In one sense you failed Emperor Cerebos. You failed to ask our permission for this non-existent existence. For that reason, you will be cursed into eternity and beyond.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfzvw1WD7Gq

“As you said previously, Commander,” the late Emperor stepped towards the neon blue sealed doorway. “So be it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaCfpZwe1QT

“A brave man would you not say, Carl?” the Commander asked his brother as they walked away from the long ‘queue’. “Ingenious and brave.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxVtwA7O4yx

They sat in a sparsely furnished waiting room. Two chairs and a desk off to one side in front of an open window. No carpets. No pictures. No potted plants unless one considered the short leather skirted female warrior with a naked and  shiny sword resting in the crook of her left arm.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡG5UN5fW2cc

“What do you think boss, we in for the chop or something?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGBDWftcpyu

Captain Billy O’ Ryan. Large. Brawny and completely at ease, stopped cleaning his thumbnail with the business end of a combat knife and glanced at Mike. “Or something. Just play it cool and we’ll have that drink you owe me afterwards.” His chair creaked as he shifted his large frame.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpwjlXESvNt

“You may go in now.” Tobor said. She moved a few feet from the door. There had been no noticeable communication between her and the occupants in the office and Lieutenant Michelle Hendricks looked inquisitively at the woman’s ears but did not notice any listening device. “A warning,” the woman said softly. “Your life at this moment is counted in seconds. Under no circumstances approach the Emperor with ulterior motives. They will be your last.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCuzwhELdHY

“Is that supposed to be a threat?” Mike asked stopping in front of Tobor and glared at her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpnz3kOwwe4

“A warning only Lieutenant. A fair warning. There are no others,” she said softly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0DAkZxYR3M

“Enough Mike. Let’s get this over with,” Billy said as the door opened wide from the inside.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkFgUbxyXLg

“Please, sit down people,” Emperor Katya Berotivich said as they entered the office which was  as sparsely furnished as the waiting room. Two empty chairs awaited the pilots before her large desk. On each side of her stood a warrior woman in short leather skirt and halter with the inevitable naked sword in the crook of the left arm. Dressed similarly as the two warrior women, her eyes were hard and forbidding.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWbDveXkKuy

Katya watched as their eyes darted about the office.  Mike looked up and noticed the four Polrobs floating silently in each corner of the ceiling. She had no idea what to expect.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPvcqPcXN31

“I have asked the two of you to this meeting as the time has come for us to discuss some serious issues. I take for granted that you are sticking to the story of this so called Vigrior and the events after your crash landing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzoGPiRnRP8

They both nodded their agreement. “Then please, both of you stand up and move away from your chairs.” Frowning in consternation, they looked doubtfully at each other and moved behind their chairs.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7LjLhxICic

Two silent but deadly laser beams from the two furthest corners of the ceiling struck them in the centre of their foreheads and exited diagonally from the side of their heads. The two Pilots were dead before their bodies hit the floor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡb7HnxwzvkD

BOTH CITIZENS HAVE EXPIRED SIRE.  ALL VITAL SIGNS HAVE STOPPED IN BOTH CITIZENS. MONITORING…copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwU2dJk57cU

The two female warriors stepped up to the bodies and rolled them onto their backs. Tobor McIntosh, War Princeps of the clan Centurion, looked back at her Emperor. “This is too much of a risk Sire.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfjFz4X7Nzq

EKG INDICATES BRAIN ACTIVITY SIRE. MONITORING…HEART BEAT IN BOTH CITIZENS HAS COMMENCED. VITAL SIGNS ERRATIC. KIDNEYS, SPLEEN…ONE…SIRE THIS…ONE  … IS MOST UNUSUAL…THIS DEFIES…LOGIC. HEART RATE STEADYING. HEART RATE NORMAL AS PER PREVIOUSLY LOGGED. BRAIN INJURIES FROM BOTH CITIZENS ARE MINIMAL AND HEALING. EKG AND BRAIN STEM MONITORING INDICATE THAT BOTH CITIZENS ARE IN A COMA.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0KyI86eICz

“Sire?” The War Princeps asked urgently, her eyes wide. Two sword points rested lightly against the pilots throats.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡm9tomdJrkV

“I know. I know Tobor.” Katya answered. She too stared wide eyed at the pilots. “I have this huge feeling that… if they die, we all die. Damn it all. I have this strong sense of doom. I don’t understand it. It’s like a physical…. I don’t know” She held her hands over her face and mumbled to herself.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlAf19kYh7y

INDICATIONS ARE THAT BOTH CITIZENS ARE SLEEPING SIRE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡH8jfQsm5aY

RAPIDLY SHIFTING EYE MOVEMENTS INDICATE REM SLEEP. SIRE…THESE TWO CITIZENS WILL AWAKEN SHORTLY. TIME SINCE DEATH TO AWAKENING ONE MINUTE TWENTY-THREE-SECONDS AND COUNTING.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEx77VtkFUF

“Sire?” the two swords had not moved and both warrior women stared questioningly at their Lord and Master.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBffQhpbgGj

“Stop.” Katya got to her feet as she came to a decision. “We will see what happens next and judge from there. Be ready.” She glanced at both women who nodded imperceptibly but kept their sword points where they were.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOor8EhA0mK

MARK. ONE MINUTE FORTY-NINE SECONDS. BOTH CITIZENS HAVE AWAKENED. ALL BODILY FUNCTIONS ARE NORMAL AS PREVIOUSLY LOGGED ON THEIR ENTRY TO THIS OFFICE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡY1i58dytTt

“Hi there, sunshine.” Tobor said to Billy as he stared uncomprehendingly at her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9uIok0Nwgu

“Let them up Tobor.” Katya instructed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡP5TgdxyNyU

“Slowly people. As if your life depended on it, which it does by the way. Slowly.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡywVQC44byX

Both warriors stepped back  as Billy and Mike rose unsteadily to their feet. Billy glanced at his partner but noticed nothing untoward except for a single line of blood drying on her forehead. He felt his face and immediately felt something sticky. “What …?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEHrn6MnTiD

“Be seated,” said Tobor, her sword aimed at his heart.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡo7IhoVPWJn

“Before we proceed. How do you feel?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRhTM7vRbGq

“A headache but other than that, fine,” Mike said helplessly. “What happened Sire, if I may ask? Why were we lying on the floor?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9l8BIen58G

“You died,” Katya said. “You felt nothing, you say?” She glared at Billy. “I have no time to ask your pardon or forgiveness for what transpired here people. To be frank, I had to know, it’s as simple as that. Now I do and it’s a scary thing watching two people die and within minutes, come back to life none the worse for it. I have half a mind to kill you again and have you dismembered and chopped up into itty-bitty pieces and then dumped into the nearest incinerator.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJwOsNcoC87

“We died?” Mike said, turning to face her partner. “Billy?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZZoTMwpEI6

“Steady, Mike. Let’s hear this through before we ask questions?” He gripped her arm  to give her strength.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5Rrds9rQfz

“Wise words, Captain,” Katya said. “Both of you are an enigma. I have no idea what to do with you. Do I let you go or do I cut your heads off?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxZ5lrTxPwG

“You want to kill us?” Mike asked in horrified surprise. “Why? What have we done?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWdqnqTxSKN

“Relax, Mike,” Billy said. “Remember what Vigrior said? He said we cannot die and this bitch  proved him right.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrhMxCeqa3X

“Bitch?” Mike looked at him aghast.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQ0txlT1cJ9

“Like she said Mike, she killed us. The fucking bitch killed us without batting an eye,” He said angrily. He turned back to Katya. “You have lost my respect and my trust for you. We resign with immediate effect.” He got to his feet and stopped suddenly when the cold blade of a sword pressed against the back of his neck.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLFmc3N5BFP

“Hold.” Katya said to Tobor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2KuviQpj29

She stared unblinkingly at Mike. “Sit. Down. Captain. Now stay.” She stared at him for a few seconds. “Do you believe I care what you think of me, Captain? Do you believe I care what the Empire thinks of me? Do you for one minute believe I will have sleepless nights worrying over trivialities when I have enemies by the dozen who want to destroy our way of life?” Her dark eyes blazed as she stood up, her body rigid with anger.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsOPP0TD6vi

“What you think or believe means nothing to me. I will destroy you and all like you in the blink of an eye if I knew that it would spare the Empire. Your anger. Your hate. Is nothing compared to what is coming Captain. Get that straight in your head. We are doomed. Sold out by traitors and idiots that believe Old Earth will be lenient and that their politics will be better for us in the long run.” She paced along the uncarpeted floor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWUp363Mx8G

Billy O’ Ryan saw an agitated young woman in the grasp of something most fearful. It was difficult for him to follow her movements for the sword blade still pressed forcefully against his neck.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1arvGJm62o

“Then we have the Annular who  don’t let up with their attacks,” she continued.  Its making a hash of our plans for the coming invasion.” She turned sharply and stared at them both. “And believe me when I tell you this. Old Earth is NOT going to be lenient.” She breathed deeply and tried to compose herself.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfvd5leYYkt

“Withdraw,” she said to Tobor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡggoGjvJ62R

“We have another player Captain. Who he or they are we have no idea, unless one believes in the gods. I do not know who they are or what they want from us. Are they somehow in cahoots with Old Earth or the Annulars or both? Have they been keeping us weak so that Old Earth can walk all over us without a sweat?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡk4vx9QL8O6

She slammed a small fist onto the desk. “And where do the two of you stand? And let us not forget some  planet with a funny name.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡC5m0LGwuNy

She stared deeply into his eyes. “And. You. Think. I. Care. What. You. Believe?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmABoOa6M6V

She turned and sat down. “Don’t flatter yourself. You aren’t that important, Captain. Not in the scheme of things and not to me. I am keeping you alive to find out how I can use this ‘undying’ ability the two of you have? Can I use it? Where can I place you that you can do the most good without scaring the be-jeeses out of the Empire? Can you be trusted? Will you attempt to overtake the Empire or worse still, be a god? Are you the viper in the nest Captain? Must I terminate you?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMqZiY98KiX

She watched him digest all that she said. She watched as the cogs meshed in his brain.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQU3dVOUrjI

“I have no answers for you. Do what you want. Nothing I say or do will make any difference.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZGiB47MbTS

“You are correct Captain and because of that answer, you and Lieutenant Michelle Hendricks live.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7Gj6Yig72y

“A whim Tobor. A whim and a feeling. It is difficult to explain, but …” she stared at each of the pilots in turn. “Should you prove me wrong, I will have the whole damned Empire grind you and your blood relatives into the ground for all time. I will seek out any and every male, woman and child with your DNA and terminate them. You get my drift.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKPV2q0acc4

“You have me over a barrel. We will do as you command…Sire.” The last word came out with difficulty.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5jKopJHGQJ

“I’m so glad we have come to an agreement, aren’t you?” Katya said sarcastically, relaxing slightly. “Now then. I have a mission for the two of you. It’s the only thing we can think of that will get you out of my hair and although it’s a long shot, you may be able to help turn a bad situation into something more or less workable. Time is of the essence.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeVDH3K5ZMV

“Let me get this straight,” Mike said as she stared incredulously at the Emperor. “First you have us killed … without our permission. And now you want to send us on a mission without a by-your-leave? Oh. I  wanted to make sure you’re telling the truth. No harm done. You are still alive are you not? No excuses. No apology. What would you have done if we had died?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfwLbzccKpo

“Exactly Lieutenant. I am your Emperor by right of arms. Your life is mine to take or leave. You believe I am harsh and forbidding? Well let me prove you wrong. Guardian, kill him.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOuHyT7hAN8

His head jerked back. His huge body crumpled to the floor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLl1wxBJJl8

“No.” Mike screamed and fell to the floor cradling Billy’s head in her arms. The entry and exit wounds were cauterized with the result that there was minimal blood loss.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ79DPIwW07K

“Do not make the mistake of underestimating me again Lieutenant. For I am neither harsh nor forbidding. On the other hand, I am a formidably cruel master and I will do whatever it takes to achieve my goals. Do you understand, Lieutenant?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8sMbqwi9lo

THIRTY-FOUR SECONDS SIRE AND COUNTING.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGCfsOGY7Pk

“I do believe this is something I will never be able to get used to. Fascinating.” Katya said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwtrh95zprB

Billy opened his eyes and stared questioningly at Mike. “Tell me she didn’t do it again?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwmnLObsNih

“Oh, Billy. I’m so sorry.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8OKz5TEFj6

“It’s okay, Mike.” He grunted as she helped him into the chair. “I believe you have proven your point madam,” he spat at Katya. “Is torture included in your arsenal as well?” he asked as Mike wiped blood from his forehead.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgl2287MoRs

“That and more Captain. Now, can we get back to the serious issue at hand? I’m sending the two of you on a mission that could turn the tide in our favour should you succeed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9nOx9DIBq1

“To put it bluntly madam,” he said dangerously. “You have a remarkably interesting way of asking.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTzQD8WxNBQ

A squadron of twenty-five brand new, and extremely advanced Bulldog fighters, were parked side by side in the battleship New Age’s deployment bay. Their fighter crews discussing the mission objectives and arguing good-naturedly over trivialities. They had all been handpicked. Volunteers all. The best of the best. From all walks of life. A farmers son. A thief. A cat burglar. A high ranking government official’s daughter. All exceptional. They outflew and outfought like no other. Their crafts an extension of their limbs.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0rrcomws3f

The tension in the air was palpable. The same tension of excitement combined with fear  before engaging the enemy. A fluttering of the stomach. Heightened eyesight and smell. Testosterone. A simple clicking of the tongue would lead to a brawl. Some sat and stared silently at the New Age’s bulkheads. Some slept. Some prayed for the first time in their lives.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoc7IaxbLFh

A warbling siren cut through all the soft chatter and startled every person throughout the New Age into sudden, mind numbing attention.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNQfoQS8O1F

DECELERATION WILL BE COMPLETE IN FIFTEEN MINUTES.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxcbMB2FJQH

ALL FLIGHT AND GUN CREWS ARE TO REPORT TO THEIR STATIONS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpdJw2Y1eJY

CAPTAIN O’ RYAN TO THE BRIDGE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSba4YL6DuW

CAPTAIN O’ RYAN TO THE BRIDGE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkUa4qc2rrM

“It’s that time again when we all have to justify our salary. Get those ‘dogs’ warmed up and be ready,” Billy said.  “I want you all prepared for immediate enemy action and I repeat what I said previously: Do not return fire unless you have no other choice. Takeover Lieutenant,” he said to Mike, “I’ll be back shortly.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpUvKQn8qVM

“You heard the man you mothers, why the heck are you standing about dawdling like a bunch of girly flies around a heap of excrement?” she shouted. “Move it!”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoNYySWjYzO

She darted down the deployment bay towards her own fighter craft.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVUI5Y9i1AJ

Minutes later, all twenty-five fighters swarmed about their mother ship like angry hornets looking for a fight.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡN0EjKvGSVC

“This is it people,” Billy said into his microphone. “I want as much chatter as possible. Talk your heads off and hope the enemy hears you. Flight Leaders, take your units and move to your quadrants. Once there, give us fireworks. Remember, no retaliation. Their scouts must report back to their masters and if we kill them off, you and I will have to spend that much longer here. We want to talk a peace deal, not have our own little war on the side.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFjqDSizbg9

The Bulldogs split up into units of five and scattered.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0c3Jh2SA4t

Not long after, silent explosions occurred thousands of kilometers away as each fighter let off a salvo of multiple ordinance.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjRtYadtR5p

“Billy?” Mike said. She switched her microphone to silent mode. He didn’t hear her so she extended a hand and tapped his shoulder.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtKIToBcXNs

“How come you didn’t say anything about the two Polrobs? Wouldn’t it be better to have told everybody about them?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTQ9mPjAibF

“Mike, a secret weapon is not a secret when everybody knows about it. The fact that the things are invisible and close by would make all of these guys jumpy knowing that every word and action will be recorded. It would interfere with every judgment call made. I need these guys to be on their toes and not looking over their shoulders before making a decision. In any case, a secret Polrob or two in your back pocket is worth any spy in the cupboard.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIFqrzP2LMP

“True. But it’s scary knowing the bastards are out there and not being able to see them. And another thing, they are made of grayvite steel right? So why doesn’t the Battle computer pick them up? Do you think they have found a new way of designing the buggers?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeTCT4aQiAn

“Maybe. The invisibility thing may be easier to explain. I asked a buddy in the marines and he said the scuttle-butt doing the rounds is that the government – that means the bitch by the way – is experimenting with Chameleon Cloth. Says they have made quite a few combat suites out of it and the stuff reflects light to such a degree that the one wearing it is literally invisible.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzueIR32rme

“Must be a bitch to make if you can’t see what you’re working on.” Mike quipped and laughed softly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ74Tyvsnxd9

“Yeah. There’s that. Never thought to ask. Maybe it has something to do with the light spectrum? You know, like infra-red or whatever?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmr3Zl8abqL

“I just had a thought. Imagine planning a robbery and here’s this invisible Polrob recording all your plans and nailing you when you believe you have gotten away. Seems a crappy deal to me,” she laughed out loud. “I wouldn’t put it passed the Emperor to think of something like that.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡy0fNJ6QLxd

Billy was in deep thought as silent explosions occurred at set intervals. To be in the near vicinity of any of those conflagrations would mean certain death. “Have you ever heard of a Polrob venturing into space, Mike? ‘Cos I haven’t and I have a sneaky feeling this mission is not what it seems. Oh, yes, we will try to convince the Annular to make peace for the duration but, and this is a big but by the way, the bitch has an ulterior motive for sending these things along. First, let us say they somehow manage to slip aboard one of their ships or follow them to their base? Can you imagine what her next move will be?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0FhTdNmAkz

“Sneaky.  Two flies with one stone if you ask me. Should we fail, then those Polrobs have to…”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKH1OHmWRym

Their private conversation was overridden by an all channel broadcast. “Contact in quadrant Delta. I repeat. Quadrant Delta. Two craft of the Annular fighter class have been picked up by our scanners and are approaching at speed. I believe we can halt the fireworks for now. Captain O’ Ryan? This is your call.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡC6mRU5YKRw

“Standby all units. Stand down with the fireworks. All Bulldogs stay in position. Keep a watch on your sectors and…”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXRbfLp27Zn

“Contact. Contact. Sector Bravo. Two Annular fighters converging on this sector.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHK4IyM5uDD

“Ok, boys and girls,” Billy said harshly cutting through the frantic calls of alarm. “This is it. It seems the enemy does not do things in half measures. Get out of there before you are isolated. Converge on the New Age and do not let anything through. Replenish arms. I repeat. Replenish arms. Unit Alpha, you four follow me. We have contact. Two enemy craft converging on this position. I want radio silence as of now people. Let’s see if we can talk our way out of killing each…” He stopped talking as his eyes took in what registered on the Battle computer.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCn3ODOdFWd

“It’s been a gas Billy,” Mike whispered as death approached in the thousands. Behind the enemy scout craft flew hundreds upon thousands of Annular fighters.  She blinked in dismay as her own battle screen registered the approaching red enemy dots. Even her Battle computer stuttered as it tried to lock on every approaching fighter.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3DX7lvTr0x

They came from all directions.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5RNP5Vup1U

“No firing. For fuck sakes. Do not fire!”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAEhEsUtGAp

The Annulars encircled the Empires ships.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTD2QLomFPm

All it required was one fool to try and make a break for it. Everything depended on the next few seconds. Seconds that stretched into sweaty, fearful minutes. Silence dominated the airwaves as every Bulldog pilot realized that death was only moments away.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdUd0KjVeIX

Stomach muscles clenched in expectation.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPDARulgR15

“I have a question.” The sudden metallic voice that came over every ships radio caused one and all to jump in fright and alarm. “…question is, if I may be so blunt,  how long are you soft skinned humans expecting to remain uncommunicative?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡde0rfKLaZt

It took a few seconds for the surprise and tingling fear to fade under the surface and when it did, Billy licked his dry lips and unclenched his fist from around his craft’s flight-stick. “Uh…who am I speaking to?” he asked roughly keying his mike, trying to moisten his tongue.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ88MJzKNUay

“Ah, someone in charge at last. Let us  say that I am called Commander, shall we.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡR0crSHN8yO

Sarcasm dripped from every word.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeM3ediZYtY

“Leader? Annulars? I get your meaning of the first, human, but Annular? What pray tell, is an Annular?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHsaTT2AGb8

Pray tell? Billy mouthed with an uplifted eyebrow. His fear dissipating. “It is the name we have called you for thousands of years.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvpUyE8RD7k

“The significance of that word does seem to describe certain aspects that I am familiar with, especially since our craft are circular in shape.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBAVIPgoOpZ

“If you say so. Look Commander, I have come here on behest of the Emperor of the Galactic Empire. Could we meet privately? Say in your…”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡY7s80lbB2m

“…Privately? You have not introduced yourself human and you want a private consultation? What is more private then space?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKyMF7qOY3W

“Please excuse my blunder, Commander. I am nervous and I seemed to have forgotten the niceties of etiquette. I am Captain Bill O’ Ryan, sent by her majesty the Emperor of Overlord to discuss a peace settlement between us. Would this not be best face to face, sir?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjFwenlvM9V

“You are forgiven your blunder Captain O’ Ryan, and to put you at ease, you seriously do have reason to be nervous. I'm big you are small. I’m many and you, human, are few. So why should I waste my time negotiating a peace agreement when I could simply erase you from this existence? And no, we shall not be having this chat face to face.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡM72eg3ArED

Billy held his head in his hands and tried to fight the anger welling up inside him. “We humans, as you put it Commander, are willing to offer you whatever you want, within reason of course.” He stared out at the silent enemy craft and wondered which one of them the Commander was in.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOpbB4i1Th5

“My. My. You are serious. Let me see now. Credits? We do not require such mundane means of  payment.  What about jewels or gold or land ? I am terribly sorry Captain Bill O’ Ryan, for you have nothing we require. Except…” the voice stopped and an expectant hush fell over both the Annular and the listening humans. “…Except death of course.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPAKlP8GlUQ

Billy’s breath hitched in his throat. “Death?” he said helplessly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgGYiVemvF0

“Now that, is something we can negotiate.” copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8uqk5vD7oU

“Are you nuts?  Sorry,  please excuse my outburst Commander, but  what game are you playing sir? I am trying to save lives and you…you…” He had no words to describe the pent up feelings in his chest.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcdvWzk4gFZ

“My. My. Have you forgotten to be nervous Captain? I'm still many and you are still few . And while we are on the subject, whose lives do you want to save, Captain? I’m asking because I was attempting to discuss the terms of the peace negotiations. Because my terms are quite the opposite of yours and I’m not sure we are on the same page.” copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6WG4fBjB6Z

“I frankly have no idea of what you just said. We want peace, Commander. Between us. We have a more pressing situation than the continuous fun and games you seem so fond of. Give us ten years of peace, sir. That is all we ask and then I’m sure we can start killing each other all over again.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCft2zzxdGW

“Interesting, I’m sure. So tell me Captain. Just why do you so desperately require this so called peace between us?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7SaDPJXTZD

“Because Old Earth is coming.” Billy said furiously.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡT6AzbPaurh

“And who may they be?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡt3xX67wEkc

“We originated from Old Earth a few thousand years ago, Commander.” Billy explained. “And one thing led to another and now they are coming here and as far as my knowledge goes, they have declared war. That’s it in a nutshell, Commander. I’m a fighter pilot sir. I leave the politicking to others.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAs4L5Tu2Nu

“Interesting. You cannot survive our small forays into your so-called “Airspace” and now you have both us – Annulars – you say? And your big brother giving you headaches. My. My. This of course begs the logical question do you not think?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGGBggM6qhx

“Oh, brother,” he said. “Okay, I will play along with you Commander. You have me. Just what logical question am I missing here?” Billy’s huge frame was slumped back into his ejection seat. He had given up trying to work out the rules of the game ages ago.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIKBfIImemG

“Wait. What did you say?” Billy jerked upright in his seat as a bombshell went off in his head.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHXTjea5kBn

“You could ask us for help. I hope this is not going to become a habit, Captain? I do so dislike repeating myself.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSj8tzQcV4y

“Are you saying that you would help us against Old Earth? Why that’s…that’s…” Excitement coursed through his body like electricity.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCvwL1eZqsf

“Do not get ahead of yourself Captain. Remember that you have not asked for our help yet.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡD9dxtrHzLi

A hand shoved hard against Billy’s shoulder and he nodded silently to Mike. “Oh, hell! Commander, will you and your forces help us, the Galactic Empire, against Old Earth?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWEC48bUk6Z

“Why, Captain. This is so unexpected. Let me think.” A heart beat later. “Yes. We will help you Captain.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSJvpuwDtW5

“This is all so strange to me Commander. I’m not sure I understand what your motives are but I realize that there will be provisions to this help you so generously will provide us?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJAfW7JnOi9

“Tell me, Captain,  are you humans any good in a fight? Not a skirmish like in the past when we sent our troops to bloody your nose. I’m talking about a rough-and-tumble-free-for-all-fight where it comes down to the survival of the fittest. In other words, Captain, are you humans exceptional? Because it is not only Old Earth that has a score to pick with you. It seems those of the Valkyrie are also intent on dishing out punishment.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6eOIiWUdg0

“Look pal,” his anger came rushing through at last. “We bloodied your nose these last few years and you know it. So don’t come here with your high and mighty bullshit. I have taken about enough of this crap from the bitch and I’m not about to swallow any more. Not from you and not from her. So get over yourself.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡd9KJyffcIc

“Anger. Such a useful tool. Surprisingly Captain, you humans stood up for yourselves. Too little too late but there you go. One cannot have an omelet without breaking a few eggs, now can one? There is one condition to this help we so generously offer, but it does not concern you.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡisMypThNIz

“Excuse me? We come to you to offer a peace accord that suddenly turns into an allied agreement subject to one provision and you say that provision has nothing to do with me? Are you totally out of your damned mind?” for the first time in Billy’s life, he seriously wanted to kill somebody.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWPOLx7HrlY

“Quite so, I’m afraid. It was nice having this chat Captain, we must do it again sometime. But now I have things to do, places to go. And another thing, please notify your nasty little friends that should they be anywhere other than at your side after this meeting, I will personally rip their wormy insides out and incorporate them into domestic dishwashers. Good day to you Captain.” copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsz8diHsyUb

She sat with her legs folded comfortably beneath her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡi4aWCWZ40P

Though the term ‘sat’ was not entirely correct for there was no chair to sit on nor ground for the chair to rest on. For days, or was it weeks or months? She had stared at the distant stars. Some stars – she guessed they were closer – were brighter and larger while others mere pinpricks. She had never realized before that beyond the enclosure of sky and clouds there existed so much darkness while yet so much colour.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdDCc5aJEqI

Stars, singular and others, hundreds and thousands of others clustered into circular colourful groupings while beyond them,  more groupings and  more after that. She learnt to travel by  thought. She learnt to stop on a dime and to use her long sword the way Tobor had taught her. She travelled vast distances in mere moments but was too afraid to venture too far from the position that Vigrior had designated for her. Should she have had more time, she would have travelled to the nearest star to see what it was and why it did not ‘twinkle’ as it did on Overlord. So far, the infinite vastness of space had produced more questions than answers.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzEa30PP4W9

She sat with her legs comfortably folded beneath her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2fddcQ9cU9

Her long sword lay across her lap. She was at peace with herself and her surroundings. She looked down at her large hands. Large, uncomplicated hands. Hands normally suited for men so large were they. She wiggled her fingers and brought them to her mouth, blew on them. Felt nothing.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ18NElTP5yf

She held her breath and hours later came to the conclusion that breathing was not going to be an issue.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ900ndcdno8

Was there air in space? copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxqgl5CeUHN

She could remember the sharp knife entering her body.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡY63er8QG2y

The pain. The release of death.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtc3ofxucPB

Was it death? Did she die? If so, what was she now? A ghost? A wraith? A phantom? One or the other, or none at all?copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8RQ5Tsg7iP

She was instructed to kill but how could she if she was dead already? Her thumb brushed lightly over the sharp edge of the long sword to suddenly press down hard. She looked at the cut on her thumb and watched with astonishment as the cut healed without so much of a twinge of pain. Bringing her thumb closer, she looked for any sign of bleeding.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKhVOvnWm3Z

Time passed and she meditated.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1MdRR6k8dD

Time passed and she practiced her swordsmanship.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYYUTMqhJNk

She had known from the beginning that she was not any good with the sword. She thought longingly of Katya and Tobor. She thought often of the friends she had made along the way and wondered frequently whether Katya had become Emperor. Her blade came to rest as she caught a glimpse of a small meteor shower some ways off. Another thing with being convincingly declared dead, her eyesight had improved tremendously. She stood and stared at the meteor shower, lost in thought.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJIRVHNmedZ

At any other time, it would have been the death of her …copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAfLN6DUrL8

“Aye. Ye be a sight for sore eyes lass, although what ye be staring at in this darkness is beyond my ken.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5J6ZDTqUCd

Surprise and shock travelled up from her stomach.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCrnofu19WN

Slowly her head turned to survey the area behind her with trepidation. She brought her Long sword up and rested the blade in the crook of her left arm for not five feet away stood what looked like a bear with a human face and body. On closer examination, and with wide fearful eyes, she realized that the figure was human and wore thick fur coverings from neck to toe. On his head, a fur hood that closed his ears against the elements.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡi1xo1bir6U

“Aye. Correct I was. Thou art truly a comely lass,” the bear of a man said through a tangled beard. His sword she noticed, hung by his side. A strung bow held lightly in his left hand. She glanced down at the unfamiliar looking sword thrust through a leather belt tied around his hips.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFmhBtyeob6

“Reminds me of the time I crept up on this lass hiding in the bushes.” He laughed softly at a fond memory. “Hiding she was. We raised this village to the ground. Ravished and killed all who came before us. Man, women and snot nosed child. We plundered and pillaged all along the Steppes and all feared us.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxOxVdNpfXm

“Interesting, I’m sure,” Adelia said. Not moving an inch. “So what happened to this woman you caught?” Her heart beat so  loudly in her ears that she thought he may hear it too.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2fnAEoLWQS

“She stood like you did lass. Attention to the fore and nary a mind for what may come aft. The past is long gone now lass. Long gone.” His penetrating gaze moved passed her. “And what, pray tell, caught your attention these last few minutes before I interrupted?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRve86IHl6S

“I thought I saw some sort of movement in that direction.” She nodded with her chin in the direction where the meteor shower had been.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrEHZzUMZaK

“You did?” Excitement coursed through his voice as he stepped closer. “The Valkyrie should be along shor …” his words came to an abrupt end as the long sword’s blade sliced his head neatly from his thick neck.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡld0JNE7zBY

Adelia swore she saw a surprised look in the man’s eyes as his head toppled to one side. It rolled and tumbled away in the weightlessness of their surroundings. A cascading fountain of multicolored lights suddenly erupted from the headless man and then vanished.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrttGBAojVv

“And what question might that be?” A female voice said from close behind her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡS4bTOZxWy9

Adelia swiveled on her left foot while extending her sword arm.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡU0CnGeX4xT

The force behind the wild swing took the Valkyrie under her breast plate, the long sword lodged against her spine. Surprise and elation coursed through Adelia as she jerked her sword free from the stunned and dying woman sliding off a winged creature.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAJgJDBtrKc

Adelia swung again, her sword passing cleanly through the creature’s large neck. She stood, breathing hard, watching in awe as blood spurted from both to become globules that floated off in every direction. She quickly dodged some that came her way.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqDhBw5A419

Stepping around the twitching, headless monster as its huge wings flapped desultory causing its body to move in unpredictable directions.  She sidled over to the dying woman and watched dispassionately as she bled to death.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdW9QjQ4hVC

“The question was whether the dead could kill? It seems they can,” she saidcopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbvmrfZ2IrN

“Impressive. Even if I have to say so myself.” Sayed said as they stared with fascination out of the flagship’s Bridge.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡM2E8tT8wBz

Billions of tons of war ships jockeyed for position.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjwqKITH0XI

Cruisers vied with battleships in their numbers as far as the eye could see, dwarfing the smaller frigates and destroyers while hundreds of gnat sized Corvettes patrolled the perimeters. They twisted and turned and slipped between their oversized brethren, sniffing and seeking out anything that could give  a hint of danger.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjaXyx28LcY

“It took a while,” Blondie said, but we got there.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTZ1y7urg03

“Damned right. So tell me Juan, how long before weighing anchor and to get our butts out of here?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPkzg4iaLi7

“In about a week, Daniel.” Fleet Admiral Juan de Leon said as he keyed a switch on the consul before him. “Right. Number One? Give us a taste of your secret weapon.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuCirbQujCG

“Aye-Aye sir.” Came the reply from the ship’s speakers. “Three…Two…One…we have full systems operational. Power being diverted…Shields up. I repeat. Shields up and holding. Cloaking countdown has commenced.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiwFj4NNv4O

Power throughout the ship suddenly dipped and dimmed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzT999drkZK

“What the hell?” The President cried as he stared out at the sight before him. Even Blondie took a few moments to get over the shock as ship after ship suddenly seemed to vanish before their eyes. Where moments before Warship upon Warship seemed to crowd upon each other, now there were none except for the Corvettes that still seemed to dance to a tune of their own.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsunLVyBqRe

“I thought you would like a demonstration of our secret weapon,” the admiral grinned at his two stupefied visitors. Foul smelling smoke from his huge Beechen pipe wafted through the air.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7aKNtOAhkE

“Loki?” Blondie asked as he stared in wonder.  “Hang on a minute. Something’s happening.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6qdQdGFOY0

“Automated power diversion in three…two…one. Power divert cancelled. All systems operational. I repeat,” the voice from the speakers said. “Shields down. Cloaking terminated.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡs4U1jXJMsM

“Cloaking shields? Loki?” Sayed gaped in wonder as the warships suddenly reappeared and the ships lighting returned.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfHhckx4vpn

“Loki.” Affirmed the Admiral. “Only lasts for thirty-two seconds, but it’s a safe bet that when the time comes, quite few lives will be saved because of that invention.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyvOMl1s1Pr

“Why does it only last for a few seconds?” asked Blondie.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1ivVjPT3Bl

“Electricity. Simple as that. Power. It uses a prodigious amount of the stuff and can only be used in emergencies. It runs the backup batteries dry in seconds. I’m told that by the time we return, the boffins who know more about this stuff than we do, will have made some impressive advancements in this direction and we will have to replace obsolete cloaking equipment on every ship.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPR373nE8T3

“So why then did those …” Blondie pointed at a fast moving gnat sized ship that had come into the view screen and  as suddenly disappeared around the curved hull of a huge warship. “I’m trying to… Corvette I think?” He glanced at the Admiral for confirmation who acquiesced. “Why were they not cloaked?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwsykeUlHVa

“A matter of space, Blondie.” The admiral puffed on his foul smelling pipe. “The Corvette displaces five hundred and fifty tons and is too small to have a cloaking device. The thing displaces close to a hundred tons of dead weight. The other option was to make the Corvette larger but then other, more practical problems arose so we decided against it. They are our sniffer dogs. Fast on the rebound and deadly as a viper. Brimming with fire power and have absolutely no space in them to fit a fly.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8XsETMtMP5

“Another reason for keeping them the way they are Blondie. Small. Compact and extremely fast, they can slip through spaces no normal sized ship can. Given enough time and luck, Corvettes could take out a million-ton warship. Give me fifty Corvettes to guard a warship Daniel, and I can guarantee you nothing will get through.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvDU4X8YiQU

“Nice to know Juan, as I’m sure you realise that I’m quite fond of my lilly-white arse and do not intend to have it blown off or shot to pieces.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtYRWCLI6xy

“Quite so, Daniel. Now, to business.” The Fleet Admiral changed tact. “Just what the hell is this that I am hearing about a horse on one of my ships?” He glared at Sayed through a cloud of smoke. “A ship mind you, that I did not commission to have built In the first place.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbEe7P16ose

“Just a fancy, Juan. When we hit groundside, I’m going to ride Midnight straight down their throats,” Sayed said with an evil smile.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPYRK2PT07J

“You realise that’s the craziest thing I have ever heard you say? And I have heard you say some whacky things these past few months.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVBINxlyfr5

“Oh? Like what for instance?” Sayed bristled.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNCK1KA3QYv

“Let me see now.” The Admiral glanced up at the bulkhead and wiped his bald pate. “Like placing that Chinese liberal prick - as you are so fond of calling him – as presidential elect once we, or should I say you, leave earth. Could you not have picked somebody else for the love of god?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5OuWywLrwT

“Hey. Hang on now buster. That was a purely political maneuver from my side. The bugger found out I was uh…” Sayed glanced at Blondie for help. His advisor raised a mocking eyebrow and sauntered off to watch something that caught his attention.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡarvSe2dNiF

“Well, bless my soul, Mr. President Sir.” Juan laughed. “Do tell. This I have to hear.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡS5hD71ebSc

It took nine days to be exact.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXBvfeDhsOa

Nine days in which to have the last of Earth’s naval command outfitted and declared ready for war.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFv7FG2enJf

A war that seriously depleted Earth’s population  recuperating from the last Planetarium to have left for the stars.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBjrhovcwNU

Aboard the Flagship Pyrenees, three men stood staring out at the endless vastness of the universe.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWLvr0K5icU

Three men who were going to bring justice to the natives. A justice that would have far and reaching consequences to all involved, for death followed swiftly on the winged Pegasus, tracking them, shadowing their every move no matter how fast they travelled. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsRqAx7CMvl

Commander; at 9931=43sec precisely, the Earth fleet proceeded to leave this quadrant on a heading of K#9012//637613-(1275) via a slingshot trajectory. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRb7wEwBC7b

It was noted that a force comprising of an unknown total of Valkyrie inclusive of Einherjar followed in close pursuit. As of timed message, a compromised total count was reached of 102 000 Valkyrie and 20 000 000 Einherjar. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoCIWDGuoLk

Earth fleet capability of unknown origin clashing with known technological advancements; 97.573% of Earth fleet vanished for precisely 32 sec 4186msec and 17545micro secs. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFTTMqyj1aq

Invasion force displacement was still present indicating some sort of invisibility force field or cloaking shield. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdz2VvGCZ5n

Earth Invasion force comprising of the following units; Battleships of various tonnage and armament; 106. Corvettes of 550 tons, total; 776. Armament;12 x 15mm ‘White Hot’ laser; Interceptors x2 fore and aft. Patrol boats of the Seiko class: 523 with tonnage of 1305 tons. Armament; 1 x Howick 80mm dual purpose rail gun.2 x EKH 20mm autoloader cannons. 2 x 32 cell Mk4 surface to surface and air to ground missile tubes. Mine laying and detection capability. Cruisers of various tonnage and armament;176. Destroyers…copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkr6XDfucTw

“Where is the miscreant?” Odin said as he strolled through Asgard’s streets for what he believed, would be the last time in his life.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZVk6TYlnaf

“He is being brought to your hall under guard father, but I fear it is far too late.” Queen Freya said as she fell into step beside him. “He came willingly enough it seems. The bastard only killed a few thousand of my Einherjar.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡT5OjU99iN1

“A few thousand?” Odin looked askance at her. “He must be slipping.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPS7W07yOK9

“We have a more pressing problem, one of the Valkyrie have not reported back?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIK42RY1dlb

“She is dead.” the finality in her voice brought Odin to an abrupt halt. “The stead?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKk6Rh7ZPWJ

“Could she be captured do you think?” he asked but then dismissed the idea with a shake of his head. “Have you any idea which section she was investigating?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡU1CbiaoITT

“None, father. Once again we are left in the dark it seems,” she said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWDd3uubtk7

“Send word daughter, none to travel alone. One Valkyrie is near to impossible to overcome unless trickery of some sort is used. It will be that much more difficult where two or three are involved. Have her family been notified?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdiLHms2oaB

“Aye, Father. I notified them myself.” She looked off into the blue sky. “She was my first cousin father. Sadim Razzilie. She was better than most, and I cannot believe she would be easily bested.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡM4DogVzEEs

“Aye, daughter. Our revenge will be that much sweeter. Come. Let us get this over with. Payment methinks, should start as of now.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxB5LFAgQ3A

Silently they strolled in the direction of Odin’s hall.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXgTIXgb0Em

Often lingering over something that caught their attention. More often than not, trying to delay what had to be done while all about them, preparations for war continued.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCqrfPHbpmQ

“You are a disgrace to the Aesir. To the trust we placed in you. You above all other Jötnar found favour in our eyes and were elevated into our domain. You and only you.”  Odin breathed hard, squeezing his temples as a headache pounded away in his head. A headache he could have removed by a thought had he wanted to. He did not. “What do you have to say for yourself?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwUSpDQFORk

“Nothing much, except that I have been waiting my whole life to punish you and your so called Aesir. This is it. Ragnarök is finally coming and although you have me, the humans will complete the rest.” Loki said as he glared at Odin.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡatLCJAkU0G

Being in chains and held down on his knees by the Queens Own, left him little space to be comfortable. Odin sat on his golden winged throne and glared down at the Jötnar giant. He had magically removed Loki’s powers and all the giant had left was his own enormous strength.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLRBcPhjndg

Strength held in check by the two swords pressed against the sides of his neck. Behind him stood another Queens Own with a sword blade pressed against his spine while four others trained lethal and taut bows at him.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYKaRaNHQCy

“With your own words, you condemn yourself Loki.” A sadness descending upon him. “What have we done to you that your hate is so strong? Why would you do such an abomination? Do you not realize that we will all perish because of what you have done?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaN1WpLxJFx

Loki laughed menacingly. “You who have oppressed us Jötnar throughout the ages and you ask me why? The answer, Odin, lies before you.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqqo1DejWBw

Odin turned to Freya. “Get me Thor and Heimdall, daughter. I require their advice.” He watched as she left the hall and caught the snide grin on Loki’s face. “You believe this is a matter to smile about Loki?” he asked. Tapping a forefinger against his throne’s armrest. “Let me abuse that idea my Jötnar giant. For you are being judged. The crime is genocide. The punishment is death.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdAgorqc9gO

“Genocide?” Loki burst out with the vehemence of long pent up rage. “Genocide? I call it retribution. Retribution for years of war and oppression against my kind. Retribution for countless years of being tied up underneath against a sheer cliff face where a snake’s corrosive poison ate through flesh and bone. For the pain and suffering. So what do I care what happens to you? So long as each and every one of you perish.” He struggled mightily against the chains as three immovable swords cut deep wounds in his neck and back.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHrCJn2uUMa

Odin shook his head sadly. “Once again, Loki, you did not think things through. We always overlooked your pranks and trickery, when they caused us much harm. Some got you into trouble, but this? This is no practical joke Loki, for you have inadvertently destroyed your own kind. Not only will the Aesir perish, but every Jötnar too.” Odin slumped back into his throne and stared sadly at the giant he had adopted as a young boy.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrcBQee4xbG

The only giant able to cross the Rainbow Bridge with impunity.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4phlNJMZS3

“Your threats are wind Odin,” Loki said. Rivulets of blood caused down his back and sides. “For years you and your people have tried to destroy us. For years we have fought back. Try as you might, Odin, you could not overcome the Jötnar Empire.” He laughed at the thought. “We too have magic, Odin. Magic harnessed over the ages. Magic we will use against your armies of Valkyrie. Have you forgotten the prophesies, father? You and I will die on the battlefield. You and I and every Valkyrie, every Einherjar, every man woman and child. And in the end, only the Jötnar will survive.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOzuqjSsNNe

“What metal Einherjar?” Loki stopped his futile struggling and glared up at his adopted father.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRip8DcRpcJ

“The ones that have been dogging our heels for the last few days and  now have discovered the whereabouts of the Rainbow Bridge and are preparing to attack us in force.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡs0jXqCQTpD

“Is this a joke?” Loki asked, frowning. This was the first he had heard of any Metal Einherjar. “You lie. There are no other Einherjar. This is a trick!”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7nSzWXfL8s

“The metal Einherjar, Loki my son, have no souls. They are part human but mostly machine. Where they come from we do not know, except that they have one agenda; our total destruction. They will show us no remorse. They will destroy everything and everybody. Do you think they will stop at the Aesir? Do you believe that their blood lust will be appeased?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLZLa7onZOz

“I have no idea of what you are saying. This is all a jest.” Loki shook his head in denial. “This is to get back at me for the things I have done in the past.” He looked up at Odin and saw that which he thought he would never witness.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJhz2f0E5T4

“It is true?” he whispered, shocked. “Where? How?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiVG36OstNg

“My son, you have not only destroyed us as was your intent, but you have also destroyed every Vanir*, every elf, dwarf, human and most of all, you have destroyed what you term the Jötnar Empire. Your hate has destroyed everything we had hoped to preserve.” Odin continued. “In this you have succeeded. None will record your deeds. None will record your triumphs and failures. None will record your crime for there will be no survivors. You have sealed our fate with admirable perfection my son. Now it is only to decide your fate. A fate that this time will be permanent.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2wyCzNCeSw

“No.” Loki struggled with his bonds. “This cannot be. Release me and I will stand by your side and defeat this Einherjar. I beg you father, release me and we will fight them together.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiByLc8aLYl

“It is much too late for that Loki.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsgg8kmXMQK

Thor burst into the throne room and approached the throne. “We have been discovered Father. The metal Einherjar have spied out the approach to the Rainbow Bridge. Heimdall has destroyed three of their scouts who approached too close.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3ShCvQp84i

“Release me father. Release me. I beg of you.” Loki implored as thunder and lightning rumbled throughout the throne room. It crackled and jumped about from ceiling to floor. Lightning ran along the walls to dissipate against Odin’s golden throne. Where once stood a man wearing a Roman toga, now stood a god clothed for battle. A battle he knew could only be won by the slimmest of margins. With Gungnir in hand, Odin stepped down from his throne and walked across the shiny floor towards Loki.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEnUc96ljRj

“Could you not have  been happy Loki? Could you not have accepted things as they were? For so long my son, we tried to make peace with your kind. For years we had tried to accept the Jötnar as they were. You, my son were going to be the first of many that we were going to allow into Asgard. You were going to be the test. A test we all hoped would succeed. A test that would have ended the continuous war between us. A test which you failed.” Odin rested a hand softly on Loki’s head for a time as he bowed his own in regret.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFkAVsUipH8

“Please father. I will make up for everything. This I swear. A chance. Just one chance is all I ask,” he whispered urgently.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaL1snwjMEo

“The time for second chances is gone my son.” Odin stepped past and continued towards the throne room’s doorway as the sound of Heimdall’s immensely large Gjallar-horn* sounded throughout all the Aesir worlds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5jMZvV6QfX

Odin stumbled at the sound of the horn, tears of remorse coursed down his cheeks as he turned back and gazed regretfully at the struggling Loki. He looked at the expectant Queens Own and nodded silently, “Have done with it.” he turned away and gripped Thor’s wrist. “Marshal your forces my son. For we face a battle like none before.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhl8iOvO7it

As they left the throne room behind, a Jötnar giant lay bleeding the last of his life’s blood out on the floor.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrjmJ4cuKkE

He died moments later and unbeknown to any, changed the course of every prophesy made regarding the future.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7C0gUOLJV3

Commander; at 0229=53sec precisely, one individual known as Loki was seen to be brought into close proximity of this unit. Three Valkyrie guard him, and they are escorting him towards the approximate gateway of the Rainbow Bridge. After careful tracking and observation it has been determined that the precise location of the Rainbow Bridge has been determined and mapped for your perusal. See attachment. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLJMcIv1Zrj

It must be noted that this unit did notice the being called Heimdall allowing access to the above mentioned individuals and although said being quartered his immediate surroundings, this unit was not detected. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoO27zuVvqt

The opening and closing of the Rainbow Bridge occurred within 0.002137th of a micro second and is recorded as such on the attachments sent with this message.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡN18GC4u2L2

This unit remained and still remains unobserved.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡowLbJuGKt7

“That’s it.” shouted the Annular Commander as he swiftly interfaced with the computer before him.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoO0wvDB0Fm

His surroundings suddenly vanished as his essence slipped along the multiplicity of the matrix pathways to the mother ship waiting for him kilometers away.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ24TOfCiVmL

“Standby. All Cyborgs. Standby.” He calmly sent the call out, although  in his metal heart, he felt elation bubbling to the fore. “First fleet standby. Mobilization in 30 minutes. Second fleet, standby. Mobilization. ETD* Two hours and to proceed to Quadrant: 15#9 Rainbow Bridge. Engagements predicted – Valkyrie and Einherjar. Engage when necessary but otherwise await further instructions. Third fleet standby. Mobilization. ETD Two hours and to proceed to Quadrant; 183#261 Overlord. Engagements predicted - Valkyrie and Earth. Engage when necessary. Protect Galactic Empire from invasion forces at all costs. Further instructions en route. Cyborgs standby. Cyborgs standby. The time has arrived for us to complete our missions. Missions that we were created for. Our time of death, destruction and our ultimate revenge is at hand. At long last, we will slumber in peace.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3pD0vCw4xx

The stage was set. The chessboard laid out with its pieces jockeying for place.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4Wm5sRI4So

War on a level never before witnessed, was fast approaching.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqUsjJHV1Di

The first casualties of Ragnarök were three Annular scout ships who joyously volunteered for a suicide mission.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyvM0OvIKxm

The Annular required only one more piece of information;  how long would it take for the Rainbow Bridge to lower its protection fields  and destroy an enemy approaching from three differing angles and at varying speeds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2k3KKLXNYf

The god Heimdall conveniently answered that question with a swift and deadly grace that left the echoes of silent destruction to blind eager staring eyes.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpKBWR2WRc1

“First fleet standby. Second fleet; on arrival, guard Rainbow Bridge gateway. Divide and conquer. Teams of two with one as decoy. Destroy any who wish to pass through or offer resistance. On my instructions retreat as planned maintaining decoy teams. We want them in the open where they are weaker. Standby for further instructions.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJKwwLk2u5z

First fleet; Engage on my instruction.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQ8TUSEFQrE

Mother ships, first phase of support fire on my orders. Second phase commences as soon as Einherjar attack. You have received your instructions. Vengeance has arrived.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6RoHNgKK7X

Fifteen Mother ships disgorged their young as one.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3GProCI8nQ

Annular fighters grouped together in their hundreds and attacked an unseen foe. A foe mighty in stature and heart that stood his ground and blew on his horn to notify the Aesir worlds that Ragnarök had commenced.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ58HNq5h2uf

A foe whose only mistake was to retaliate where non-aggression would have left the Annular kicking its heels in frustration as the Rainbow Bridge remained closed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKt4BmNkScU

This was not to be, for the direct assault was tantamount to waving a red flag before an angry bull.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRgAGHYjp7G

Heimdall released the protection of the Rainbow Bridge as magical lightning enveloped his long sword and like an angry Viper, it lashed out to destroy any Annular fighter ships that got too close. Silent multi-colored conflagrations rained down like hellfire on the heads of the defending multitude. The Rainbow Bridge was being crossed in-mass.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgdOX1e2ihx

Elves, Dwarfs, Valkyrie and Vanir died in their numbers.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡy21CDnqXgD

Shafts of blue light flashed upwards from the Elves and Dwarfs as they released one arrow after another at the attacking enemy. Arrows that did little more than blind eyesight. Vision became impaired and mistakes compounded. Fighter ships flew blindly across the attacking fields of their brethren and suffered the consequences or flew into the ground and disintegrated in plumes of fire, smoke and debris.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡR7TsOBr71y

Shrapnel from the exploding craft cut swath after swath through the ranks of the defenders. Laser beams scythed Valkyrie and Pegasus alike from the air in such abundance that droplets of blood and bodies fell like rain on those below, crushing some and maiming others that were too slow in avoiding them. The Annular mother ships added to the inferno and pumped round after round of explosive solid shot 100 meters into the air that exploded and rained shrapnel in all directions. Shrapnel that cared little for friend or foe. Shrapnel that was indiscriminate in its destruction.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOhMCfNRi69

For the Valkyrie, this sudden and total destruction came as an unwanted surprise. Never before had they fought a foe that cared little or nothing for themselves. Never before had they met a foe whose plan of attack was  just that; attack.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPEbRhOfHLw

No subtlety. No right or wrong. No finesse. No tact. The defense crumbled as fighter ship after fighter ship swarmed through the open gates of the Rainbow Bridge.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1vqdmI1CpN

Alone on his mount, Heimdall directed his long sword and blew ship after ship from the skies. He was tiring from blood loss and fatigue as his sword drew energy from his being to clove through two attacker’s hell bent on slamming their machines into him.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8LrMZxeP5N

The two fighters exploded as one, raining fire and destruction on those still able to care. A large piece of ruptured gray looking steel hull slammed into Heimdall’s steed, slicing off its two front legs below the knees as if they were butter.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGbbP4ccK5S

Horse and rider plummeted to the blood swept ground. Only one stood up again.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡx7nYkKGmn6

Valkyrie flew like they had never before. Outmatched for speed, they relied on their steeds ability to cross dimensions and reappear behind the attacking fighter to throw their spears or shoot with bow and arrow. Both weapons, although archaic in fashion, had untold power. Power that disrupted the  molecules of whatever they chanced to hit. fighter ships blew up at the merest touch of these weapons and at times took one or more unlucky Valkyrie with them. For those on the ground, death came from all directions at once. The earth was churned up by laser and exploding fighters to mix with the dead and the screaming living.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡavRBhR9vHe

Fighter after fighter screamed across the once beautiful meadows bringing death and destruction in copious, unstoppable amounts.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiMUGKerrBO

A single staggering figure, like a light beacon on a wave-washed outcropping at sea, stood amidst the broken, dismembered and bloody corpses of friends and family. Rivulets of red, congealing blood flowed unchecked and unheeded while at his feet lay his sorely wounded Pegasus steed, neighing unheard its pain and shock as it tried unsuccessfully to stand up.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxLkonBgw7X

Through the violent melee of shouted instructions, curses and explosions, a voice that was clear and calm. “Brother. I am arrived,”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLrlbWyGEYW

“And I my son,” Odin said with an outstretched hand that rested firmly on Heimdall’s shoulder. Refreshing, healing strength flowed through that hand to heal ruptured armour and flesh and to replenish life giving blood.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrhJmXuBpVc

“What kept you?” Heimdall asked, his exhausted body straightened. His armour once more glowed brightly with magic and strength. With an offhand gesture, Odin swatted an attacking fighter out of the sky. It lost control as an invisible force smashed through the gray steel hull as if it were a mere irritation.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdsXyRk97Rh

“A small matter of justice long overdue,” Queen Freya said with a shrug as she stared heartbroken at the dying and dismembered about her. Elves with their once beautiful blond hair and fair features stared open eyed in death at the horror about them. Dwarfs with their stocky, almost ugly frames and hard, course features.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4CIpOFYukW

Valkyrie. Vanir. All laying amidst the bloating soft-hearted Pegasus with their broken wings, shredded and lacerated bodies. She stepped to one side and touched Heimdall’s steed Gulltoppr on its thrashing forehead. Immediately it slumped back against the gore spattered earth and with a huge ‘whuff’, and died.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrMda8bEJAz

“I thank you, sister,” Heimdall said hoarsely. “For I could not.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVO2TmTdw14

Freya’s chainmail armour suddenly burst into life as anger mounted in her breast. “The Einherjar are here father.” She pointed with her glowing sword. Behind the continuously attacking enemy fighters, rank upon rank of Einherjar marched at the double through the sky as they seemingly disregarded gravity. They came like an unstoppable wave and swamped the suddenly retreating fighters. Freya elevated into the air, threw back her head and screamed. “Revenge. I will have revenge for this day.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡO6Hwwvcu0w

She took a vengeful swipe at an escaping fighter and watched with satisfaction as it disintegrated in midair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqriECqQgaq

“Trying to get the Jötnar to help defend us,” Odin said, watching proudly, fascinated at the glowing ball of pure light that had become his daughter. She was everywhere at once. Striking this fighter out of the sky. Assisting Einherjar there to overcome an obstinate, more devious one there.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhXTZuquGUv

“Father.” Heimdall pointed with his sword. “What?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡclWvZyWPP6

“Death my son, and more death.” They watched as fifteen large ships approached. A field of light surrounded each ship. Fighters swarmed about them like angry hornets around a disturbed nest. The Einherjar attacked in their hundreds, thousands, millions. But still the inconceivably large ships approached untouched. Unstoppable, they approached and Einherjar burst into sparkling light as they died one after the other. The light encircling each ship protected them but did not stop the ship’s rapid firing laser cannons that ripped Einherjar apart as soon as they attacked.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgFcwxc8jph

One Mother ship taking damage as the Einherjar, assisted by the glowing sun that was Freya, disrupted the force field around it. The ship was inundated with Einherjar defenders and listing off to one side.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7Hf0GJrbpl

Small explosions here and there ruptured her grayvite steel hulls. The miniature sun darted towards the next ship and within seconds, it too lost its force field. She went from ship to ship and in her fury, destroyed all she came upon. It was while she was venting her anger that the remaining six mother ships suddenly broke up of their own accord.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGCGD8Gc4v1

Freya, hesitating in surprise and breathing harshly through a dry mouth, watched as a ship tore itself in two and then in two again. She glared about her in anger as ship after ship copied the other and large chunks fell away. She approached one huge piece of gray looking metal inquisitively to suddenly realise that it was contorting and twisting this way and that as if it were alive.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbMGoieArx0

As she watched, suspicion became conviction as the chunk of metal suddenly became roughly oval in shape and divided slightly into two equal pieces. In the interior of the divide she saw gears mesh and lock  as the two outer hulls sprouted long and sharp looking blades.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIFHYGnH7y7

Seconds later the outer hulls began spinning at high speed and she  managed, in her astonishment, to clip the huge ball of death with the edge of her sword as it darted away. It was enough. Her sword cleaved through the gray coloured steel and damaged something on the inside.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsfK8SSO4Xk

The gray, spinning oval of death, changed direction and with sparkling flames, zig-zagged across the sky and imploded in the distance.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ687Nxp18Qz

She quickly glanced about her and saw more oval shapes churning up the ground where they hit. Deep runnels of seething earth fountained up behind each one showing the paths they travelled. Pathways littered with crushed bodies and stinking offal. The ovals were extremely quick and responsive to movement and plowed through the defenders as they tried to escape.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8zePxUdf1L

She saw Odin walking calmly up to one that seemed to spin violently in one place. He looked at it from all directions until he seemed satisfied, stretched out a hand, and suddenly it was gone. Where once spun an enormous oval of death, now there was nothing. The sudden sound of a large detonation startled her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmt07CTZrXX

Thor held out his hand as a gleaming Mjollnir* suddenly appeared in his grip. He threw the glowing hammer again and seconds later another spinning Oval disintegrated with a loud explosion. Now it was a matter of time as the surprised Valkyrie rallied and threw spears and shot arrows at the gray balls to destroy each and every one.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡM46TRDiSL9

The sudden quiet caught all by surprise as the survivors stared at the carnage about them. A sudden ragged cheer went up only to be cut short as first one, then another pointed up at the sky. Einherjar were silently vaporized in sparkling shrouds of colourful death as thousands upon thousands of enemy fighters caught them off guard.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsUIGJgBWvC

“Enough.” shouted Odin as he called forth his magic and rose mightily into the air towards one fighter ship that approached.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIS6JZJCZaA

It did not attempt to alter its course or fire on him as he approached it. In his anger, he threw a lightning bolt at the ship and watched as it exploded with a loud thunder clap. He looked behind the explosion and saw another approaching in the same manner and frowned. This was not what he expected.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWWE2PwG8ps

“Desist godling.” A loud voice echoed through the sky. “Desist or you will be destroyed. Each and every one of you.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhRm0y5g92L

“You would threaten me.” Odin shouted as lightning crackled and thunder clouds grew dark and menacing.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMKETtDC6CN

“I would, godling for you are defeated at this moment,” the metallic voice said. “You  do not know it yet.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGzKlBARiIg

“Hah! Here is my answer.” He waved a hand and the ship imploded.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKZ76ZGbgQd

Another ship broke away from the fighting Einherjar. “And here is mine,” said the same loud metallic voice from the approaching fighter. “Seek out Yggdrasil* godling, and see if I lie.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1CYFwrj9xV

“How do you know of the World Tree?” Odin asked. Fear bloomed in his stomach.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXevHz6hqpZ

“How did I know of YOU, should be the correct question? Be of haste godling, for your creation is dying  as we speak.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡG9ZOfZuqfk

Odin turned and looked at his sons, “Heimdall. Thor. Seek out Yggdrasil and see what this is about.” He turned back to the single ship before him. “You would destroy all of creation? How? Why?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEhXCWt4gDB

“I would godling. For no other reason than revenge.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcAPHhoOzOd

Odin stared at the fighting going on some distance away; the Einherjar and Valkyrie stood their ground and took the enemy craft to task. Explosions dotted the sky, as dogfight after dogfight came to a violent end. “What have we ever done to you that you seek revenge on us? We have lived our lives far from any and not interfered.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzvmyjBxN2N

“Oh, but you have godling. Due to your interference, we were created by one of your so called creations. Death as you see before you has no meaning to us. Can you prevail against those who welcome it with open arms? Seek it out with abandon? How many of the Aesir do you have to throw away? Thousands? Millions? We have destroyed in  minutes, one million seventy six thousand four hundred and fifty one. Make that fifty two no … fifty three…fifty four, of your defending Einherjar. The total is changing by the second. Do you wish to know how many Aesir we have destroyed? Sixteen thousand …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7G45j0ynhc

“Enough, alien.” Odin shouted. “These are my friends you so casually speak of. You believe you can vanquish the Aesir so easily? Then you have another thing coming.” A quick glimpse of a group of Einherjar were destroyed in a show of scintillating, dazzling light.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZtMPa4eYE3

“Godling. Look into the distance. Not with your eyes but with what you term your magic. Look and know that what you see is of no import for now Yggdrasil is dying.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbdyxMR9jFb

Odin cast his eyes outward and with the aid of his magic, saw the might of the enemy arrayed against him. Thousands upon thousands of alien craft waiting to unleash death upon the Aesir and waiting for the orders. “That is not enough alien. That is but a drop in the ocean. In the end …” he stopped and looked back at the alien craft.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7NSbSccrzt

“Yggdrasil,” the voice said softly. “Do not believe for one moment godling that this war has not been planned to the smallest detail. The choice is yours.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDzWqo6uD48

“Father.” a voice behind Odin.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGgmeN86XsM

He turned and saw Heimdall and Thor approaching with haste. “It speaks the truth. Yggdrasil is dying. The Norns are doing what they can to stave off the inevitable but they say it is only a matter of time. Creation is being destroyed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8zz1KrdWSN

“A simple matter of poison.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡA5NWkB4ryx

“Every ship that has been destroyed is designed and built with a certain metal. Grayvite. And Grayvite is inimically poisonous to Yggdrasil, the world tree. Every piece of Grayvite, no matter how small. ”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLdD8AzV20k

“You will destroy us all alien. For revenge?” Odin asked as Thor joined a dogfight to destroy two fighters chasing a tired and exhausted Valkyrie.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡABqnxLZCcy

“That is only one outcome godling. There is another.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9qggdZ7sXV

“Withdraw. You have eight Aesir worlds in which to interfere. The humans and their worlds are off limits. No more interference. No more collecting Einherjar. Your creation has outgrown you. Withdraw and Yggdrasil will be healed and the poisons removed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7mpxKWiKyv

“What guarantee do we have?” the fiery Thor asked as he swung his hammer back and forth looking for another target. He took aim and another alien craft exploded in a ball of flame and shrapnel.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiIWyY9y5Bv

“We wish for a policy of none interference young godling,” the voice said unperturbed. “And enforcing this is of no consequence. Every piece of grayvite to touch the soil of Asgard poisons the World tree that much more. You of the Aesir have been an easy study godling. You have been lax in your power. Sloppy and careless. I do not taunt you but tell you as it is. Withdraw and the war ends.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1bdao4TbRG

“Do you have any idea as to how vengeful the Aesir can be, alien? Do you realise  what you have awakened? Do not think for one minute that you are safe, for we will hunt you down for all eternity and cast your black souls into hell.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZY3ovNkOyT

“It is of no concern to us godling, for how can you kill the undead? I warn you, be quick with your decision for soon we will release the hound Fenrir.*”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkQBgpAqYG2

“Fenrir?” more surprise. “What has he to do with you?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtHdHSBMLMD

“This war godling, as I said before, has been planned, for as the World tree dies, we will initiate Ragnarök. The real Ragnarök. Not this little spat you see about you. Why… Even Loki will be there.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsLBv97juWR

Odin laughed sarcastically, “he is dead Alien. Dead. The first to die in this war of yours.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnhIZy7AY5g

“I beg to differ godling. It was not our war although you made it so with your interference. Loki is one of us now. An undead and one filled with hate and immense power. Should we unleash that power godling? Should we start Ragnarök? My time is up. Make your decision.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0zYdgQP2CB

“So be it.” Odin said, he looked towards the death and destruction wrought throughout Asgard then turned back to face the fighter, “For now alien, you have won.” An unheard signal passed throughout the attacking survivors of the Alien First Fleet and they immediately stopped and withdrew. “At every turn you seemed to have outwitted us.” Odin continued, “Your deviousness and guile have been your own undoing for when next you see us, we will strip you bare and lay your guts out for Fenrir to eat. You will never die, for your soul will be forever in the palm of my hand. I, Odin swear this.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡG4nizwqT0m

“So be it,” the voice said, “Remove also those you have sent after the humans. Otherwise, they will perish.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKoEsoczYaF

“That we cannot do alien, for  I do not know the route they travel.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeaedov3dxF

“But I do godling. And  at this moment, their deaths draw nigh.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPeKcwkJWdJ

“Tell me,” Thor cried. “And I will recall them immediately.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjX8Xpw9Zuk

“The universe young godling has expanded and outgrown you. Your complacency has no bounds.” The contemptuous voice rang in their ears. “I will not. In time, you will discover the whereabouts of the other humans. But not yet. They are still too young for the likes of you and under our protection. You will, I predict, in the end, ignore my warnings and send scouts to seek the humans out. Those scouts will die. Never-the-less, an attempt must be made to stop your Valkyrie for now.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFJuUXTp06X

“How then?” Thor Frowned in equal contempt.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGWbq8IKREY

“A word. Or object. Anything that I can present before them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBYVJVlg5lL

Odin thought for a few seconds then turned to Thor. “My son, a demonstration of our power is called for. Do not destroy it but place your mark for all to see.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡp0vUVsNksU

“A welcome pleasure father,” Thor said as his war hammer spun in his hand.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡh8QszZakQP

He released it and it flew in a blur of light to smash into the fuselage of the fighter. Grayvite steel plating buckled and warped as if made from some flimsy material. The glowing hammer reappeared in a grinning Thor’s hand. Where it had hit the fighter, an unforgettable image of itself was imbedded into what was proclaimed to be an almost indestructible metal.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡisNdbJzsOV

“All who see that will know that you speak the truth Alien. ”Odin said. “For none who know Thor would believe that your craft could escape his wrath unless he had wanted it so. But  to make sure…” In Odin’s right hand a glimmering lightning bolt radiated and as he threw it, it left an after image in everyone’s eyes. The bolt struck the fighter and it suddenly glowed with iridescent shards of light that faded slowly. For all to see, beside the hammer impression, the sign of a lightning bolt glowed brightly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdeWI8RaWbD

“Clever,” A metallic voice said from another fighter as it peeled off from the waiting alien force. It stopped beside the damaged and silent ‘icon of peace’.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQsMHVlG6Fx

“I am tired of your words alien.” Odin said. “The World tree.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWYZKcbuLDj

“It is done godling. The poison is removed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGRxCAGuKCF

“We too have magic, young godling, it is called nanotechnology. Yggdrasil lives.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡo8aoSmzm7d

A tractor beam shot from deep space to envelope the dead fighter. Slowly at first and then with ever increasing speed it was withdrawn from the gathered gods.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGO4drETVpv

“It is not over between us, alien.” Odin warned. “To assume that we are forgiving will be a mistake.” He said to a silent and retreating fighter. For a while longer they stared at the departing forces, and then turned silently away to pick up the pieces of a short-lived war that had been wrought on Asgard, the home of the gods.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBNZJY9Ou1Z

“We must clean up this mess, daughter. We must get the Jötnar into the fold.” He stared at the departing alien forces as anger coursed through his body. Clothed in full armour, Odin rippled with magical power. “We will call a council of war and learn by our mistakes. The alien was correct in one thing, we have become complacent. No more. For we will take this war to them. We will learn from them all there is to know. Their strengths and weaknesses. We will plan far ahead and when the short lived have forgotten and this war becomes a myth with which to scare their children, we will have vengeance.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡA3aFhCjaxJ

“Well,” smirked Freya. “That shouldn’t take too long then will it? I would think not more than a few days or so.” Already she was planning her strategies. Strategies that required more information unseen by the retreating alien forces.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡG9xFTwPH1Q

Several dozen Valkyrie on their Pegasus steeds followed them and gathered that information. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHIgPz4QNre

Silently and invisibly, or so they believed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ92hjHzV1Kt

“Remember. The world has changed and is changing continuously.” The Sensei told the group of one hundred female warriors. “The enemy is fast approaching and seeks to utterly destroy our way of life and it is you, only you that have the knowledge and strength of arms to sway his intent. We were created for one reason only; to protect the Emperor. Though I tell you that an Emperor is nothing if her Empire burns to the ground about her. You will protect not only the Emperor but her Empire. Every man, woman and child falls under your protection. Honor must always dictate your thoughts and actions for without honour you are as nothing. It is because of our  way of life that we have been given this high accord. It is because of who and what we are that we have been honoured above all to be the first and the last recourse the Emperor will turn to for help, for her  safety.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡP4B7ojGklq

One hundred female warriors stood at attention on an open meadow where the grass had been churned up for the last year into a fine irritating dust. Over thirty thousand women had volunteered and more were doing so every day from every clan imaginable. They came in singles or pairs and  groups of ten or more. They came from every corner of the planet Hades. Some were as young as twelve or thirteen while others were deep in their thirties. They came for the prize of clan pride or standing, for the respect and accolades they would earn amongst their kindred. They came for the honour of protecting for the first time ever, a female Emperor. A young woman who had outfought and outthought many a better opponent to grab the prize, the ultimate prize of becoming the first female Emperor in the existence of the Galactic Empire.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡN6RqpYWeUa

Out of the many thousands that came that first year and the years after, a total of five thousand succeeded in the rigorous training. Training that had many would-be warriors dejectedly leave for home to try again the following year. Clan Centurion, the first War clan to be initiated in over a thousand years of Hades history of turmoil and strife, had succeeded well above expectation to such a degree that two more War clans, the clan Delta, who had almost reached its five thousand quota and clan Williams, a clan that had reached its first one hundred Warrior status, came into being.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4H5CLQKSrG

This was the first time in planet Hades’ history that clans trained for war against human opponents, for in the beginning, Hades was at war with itself. As a young planet, still in its terra-forming stages, it had taken hundreds of years to reach a stage where humans could tentatively get a foothold on it and a thousand years and more would pass before they did not have to war continuously with an ever-changing and violent nature gone mad. The years had passed and the clans fought nature and its fauna and flora in equal amounts. From storms ranging from sleet to snow to gusting winds of hundreds of kilometers per hour to hot, broiling days that had the humidity raise to such a degree that the air became liquid and uncomfortable to breathe.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡshK4o9n5tI

To make matters worse, insects, plant life and animals transformed and adapted and re-transformed from generation to generation as their DNA altered. Species died out as their young clawed their way out of wombs or were sterile. Teeth developed where once there had been roots. Roots where once there had been lichen.  Nature in upheaval. The smallest pond held horrors unimaginable.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvhPnHemEsh

This was a planet not yet ripe for human population.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOwYU8KKTCb

For reasons unknown and only to themselves, the first of thousands upon thousands of settlers volunteered and set foot into hell’s kitchen and never looked back, for Hades had become for whatever reason, their last refuge from the Empire’s own stifling laws and decay.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfse5QVjcAL

To survive they banded together to form clans with strict laws of effect, for survival depended on learning about their environment and its temperament. A temperament that changed its character from one moment to the next for what could be eaten today with relative enjoyment would take great pleasure in eating them six or seven months down the line.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtoisirc3lP

Retain what worked and discard that which did not, became the rule of thumb.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeUUIf3zJAw

The consequences for failure, no matter how small, almost always ended in death. None walked alone. None ate anything unless it had been tested and examined thoroughly. None took anything for granted for here, assumption ended in death.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGQYUVPQf1q

Time passed and the small became huge as it competed with its brethren for open space and sunlight. Every change was recorded and memorized. Information passed from word of mouth and faithfully passed on again. Information, learning and understanding and above all, acceptance of their lot as a quick and easy meal for creatures great and small, had the settlers quickly discard the old ways of life as a good way of getting oneself killed and sucked dry or possibly flayed alive by skin eating moths.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1vPjY7Laa6

The settlers adapted or died. Hades was not for the weak or timid for one fought it day in and day out and either succeeded and received great honour or died and became a lesson for others. Nothing on Hades was taken for granted even from the mistaken soft rustling of the wind through the leaves of a tree hundreds of meters high, one could become a tasty morsel as millions of flesh eating aphids descended in a swarm to envelope the unlucky.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0p0V7gYHZz

A world none but a few cared to come to.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQByGUwNFHY

A world none wished to leave. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLHoMCw2Bd1

As the weaker sex, women were overly protected as sooner than expected, word reached the Empire and the flood of settlers became a trickle and then stopped. There were fewer women than men willing to come to this new planet on the outskirts of the Empire but  this changed as the years went by for more men than woman ended up as quick and acceptable meals.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡarHADhVEIv

Men were willing to risk hair and hide instead of using brains and common sense.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡIz6gf1N3Hu

Women became the foundation upon which the Haddenites, as they called themselves, clung to. New laws came into being. They were tried and tested and either discarded or incorporated into a universal collection of rules imposed by the Authority of the ruling Princeps. A woman, carefully chosen because of her knowledge of the dangers and pitfalls of their planet. She was chosen for her strength of arms, by each and every clan,  to rule over Hades much like an Emperor would, but without the destruction, for life here, was a precious thing.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1scqfPXhqb

A Princeps who made mistakes, did not last long. A Princeps who showed weakness or hesitated, was soon removed, usually with a sword to the neck.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjBC1cgj7V1

Life was too valued for the leader to abuse. A Princeps only stepped down on three occasions; old age, or if she capitulated and resigned her post, usually with a suicide not long in the offing for her honour would also be destroyed totally. The third, when challenged and losing where head and body parted from each other. Needless to say, old age was something few Princeps aspired to.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDDAKTPLGTt

Every Princeps tried for one or more daughters who were taught from a young age, the rules of the game. For every Princeps hoped to maintain at least a rudimentary hold on the addictive power she had once fully controlled. The daughter would compete against one or more applicants with the knowledge that one mistake was forever something to be regretted.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbVVnlbcitD

Politics on Hades played no part in the selection of a Princeps. It was a case of not who you knew, but what you knew. Information, learning and understanding what was learnt and being able to put that to use in a meaningful and acceptable manner was everything, for it brought  accolades and honour which strengthened one’s position to such a degree that small, inconsequential and trivial mistakes could be overlooked – as long as nobody died.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtMf6Orm7zh

Losing a limb for whatever reason was always regarded as the individuals own fault or that of chance. Dying due to following a Princeps’ instructions brought forth an immediate court of law with a guilty verdict that would have one’s head removed. Every Princeps always studied her surroundings and gathered information like a sponge and took great care to have the right advisors, for they too, having given the Princeps the wrong advice, would die - before she did.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8dVJXOzJvs

And so, three War clans had been created to withstand the might of the attacking forces that soon would launch their attacks on the Emperor herself. How large that force would be could only be guessed at although all knew it would be a formidable one.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUwAaCoCZvc

War clan Centurion was already in position to protect the Emperor. There had been much complaining in the halls of society that one could not move two feet without stumbling across a warrior woman ever ready to cut a throat. They were always watchful, evaluating with judgmental eyes. They were in every department, seen entering or leaving shops, on every street or corner. They had free-of-way and never paid for any sort of transport. They helped those in need. Always seemed to arrive at a situation  after or before a Polrob*. They enforced the law to such a degree that for the first time in history, the criminal element packed their bags and left for better, easier and much safer pickings elsewhere.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhEpcon1Y7w

Crime statistics, like murder, drugs, fraud or housebreak and theft, dropped astronomically as civilians or loved-ones once again walked the streets hand in hand at night without fear of being accosted and robbed. The law had been upped by a notch too many for the criminally minded who felt fearfully around their sweaty collars.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqkdOthyNyA

This was to be the legacy of all warrior women to the Empire; peace and prosperity or crime and death.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAt7aEKygJ4

War Clan Delta, just short of its five thousand quota, had already been dispatched to Overlord due to the possibility of imminent war. They had, on landing at a Spaceport on the outskirts of the city, broken up into groups of ten and patrolled the countryside. They dug fortifications with Overlord’s marines, who ogled out the lithe and supple warriors but kept their hands to themselves. They helped cache weapons, food and water in certain demarcated zones. They learnt to handle laser pistols and to strip landmines and became proficient in hand to hand combat.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡs1JSe8gf6o

They became in essence, the Military policeman’s police.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMxI0lchUZQ

War Clan William on the other hand, was only one year old.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvzkCKYmie6

It consisted of only one hundred qualified and extremely proficient warriors. They stood silently in a dusty meadow and listened to their Sensei as with a firm and steady voice, she dropped a bomb on their heads.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnH87AmfQCl

“You who have become the Emperor’s first and last recourse of protection, have but one goal.” Continued the wizened and shriveled looking old woman. She stood on a large tree stump to gain some height, and watched her latest responsibility take in everything she said. “That goal is to protect. Protect each other, protect any person of the Empire and most of all; protect the Emperor. The Emperor who has chosen you for a singular and most important duty. That duty is to be the first out of all the War clans to make contact with the enemy.” She stopped and watched as the ripple effect of her words coursed through the stunned group of warriors.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeoSXpe9G99

Slowly the Sensei held up a hand for silence. “There is more but I would rather leave that to the one best served to provide you with that information.” Without preamble, she turned and pointed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxEIRgsPDL4

“Warriors. Your Emperor.” she pointed over their heads and as one they turned about and stared in surprise as the Emperor strode towards them.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJ9LSgmevcQ

Katya Berotivich smiled as she walked between them towards the Sensei.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRrfKpEZzl8

“I thank you, Sensei,” she said. “You have shown much honor to yourself, your War clan and to me. For that reason I have asked another Sensei if he would be kind enough to provide extra skills and knowledge to your next group of warriors. He professes an interest Sensei, especially since seeing a demonstration of your ability to teach the War Princeps Tobor McIntosh.” She bent forward slightly and whispered, “He wants to learn certain positions and movements, a kata he says that has been lost for ages.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡITMrK3TAGF

A smug smile  crossed the Sensei’s face.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFqOqi5NxB0

“He saw them from the demonstration the War Princeps did and became excited indeed. Will you Sensei, take on an old and cantankerous fool of a man and exchange knowledge?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡossEdRjcqF

The old warrior Sensei  straightened and beamed her delight. “I will do this for you, my Lady. For this upstart of a man who professes to be a Sensei? Time alone will tell.” She nodded in thought, “So be it Sire. I look forward to this meeting with interest.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡl9y8AjctUS

“Thank you Sensei.” She bowed low. “And now …” she turned to the silent warriors behind her and frowned when she saw that they had all been kneeling silently, blades glinting as their sword tips were forced into the soft ground by both hands that were placed ceremoniously over the pommel.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9zjY0C3N9E

“Rise, warriors.” She said. Each got to their feet and slid their swords back into their sheaths. “I have chosen you for your training is still fresh in body and mind. You have overcome every adversity your Sensei placed before you. Out of the thousands that came, only you few have had the will and inner strength to succeed. You have shown me and the clan from whence you came, much honour, and I thank each and every one of you for your dedication and commitment to me and the Empire.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNy7fck6vxx

“War is fast approaching and according to our strategists, Old Earth will attempt and probably succeed, in making landfall on Overlord before or during the first engagements in space. As Hades is on the outskirts of the Empire, one can only hope that they mistake this planet for Overlord.” She gave a small spiteful laugh and grinned as she saw the warriors before her grinning as well.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡaTGJ1g2dKW

“I require a small force,” Katya said climbing onto the tree stump. “A small group to do reconnaissance and bring back information on strengths, weaknesses and placement of whatever troops and vehicles the enemy may have. This information will be compiled and added to the information we receive from our spy satellites and navy scouts and will help in determining our response. With your knowledge of Hades and its hazards, its deceptiveness and snares, you will be able to, I believe, have a better chance of circumventing many of the enemies strategies. But …” she looked sternly at the warriors. “Do not become overconfident. Consider the enemy as  another Hades. One that surely will have other means of detection which can only be guessed at for they will have weapons of untold power and strength.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6UvqSv2Vjc

“Do not group together. LISTEN to your platoon leaders. Follow instructions and think for yourself. There will come a time when you are alone or cut off from the rest. Lay low and conserve your strength. Become one with the land around you. If you are able to, make your way back to your units, if not, go to ground and as quickly as possible, remove yourself from the immediate vicinity of the enemy for Overlord will retaliate with or without knowing of your presence amongst them.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡA6LHlX2stA

“There is one other reason for choosing you above all others and that reason is your group, being small, has become a close-knit family and family always take care of each other. Once we have as much information as possible, Overlord will strike and strike hard. It is then that you will be unleashed to wreak havoc on those that have survived. In this, you will be aided by two secret weapons.” She watched them closely as she pointed upwards to the sky.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0EtHnvYqIJ

Where once there had been a more or less normal cloudy sky, it now held Polrobs in their thousands that hovered and dipped slightly in the considerable breeze. All looked alike. Their gray undercarriages glinted and gleamed in the afternoon sunlight that shone through the clouds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡv2OgKaeMDI

“The only way to beat a superior unknown force,” Katya continued. “Is to come up with one’s own little surprises don’t you think?” Relieved smiles and laughter echoed her words. “There is one other I would like you to see. You will instruct this group, in the ways of Hades and its pitfalls and they in turn will help provide you with other, more relevant knowledge that could be of great benefit to you when approaching the enemy encampment. Behind you,” she pointed again.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmDmQlKljb4

“Another weapon that will have the enemy tear its hair out in despair.” Tobor turned about and at first saw nothing but an open meadow until suddenly something flickered and wavered in the air near the ground and a man appeared holding a weapon. Clothed from head to toe in a one piece gray suite, the man stretched up and removed the hood from his head. He nodded to them,  enjoying the moment of awe and wonder his appearance had solicited. He  lifted one hand and all about him as if by magic, more and more soldiers appeared wearing identical gray clothing. The warriors realized that they were outnumbered by grinning soldiers.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2yUFrabQtD

“Meet your counterparts. The cream of my elite forces on Overlord. They have not chosen a name or how should I put it, a clan name. They have decided that you should have that honour.” warrior after warrior turned back to her but kept a wary eye on the men behind.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzYFofpyucc

“First comes the knowledge that you both must impart and learn. Ladies and gentlemen we are at war. Our tacticians have indicated that landfall will be within one to two months Overlord time. You have three weeks to gain as much understanding and expertise of each other’s chosen field and then we leave for Overlord. Time is of the essence. Due to unforeseen circumstances, three weeks is all you have.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡczQzpbkKuv

She stepped off the stump and  took the Sensei gently by the elbow and led her away towards an old Japanese man whom she called Father.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPw3JcvTnmm

The first drop ships made landfall on a blistering hot afternoon.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQJzbqTNwMT

The forward teams of enemy fighters and scout ships entered Overlord’s atmosphere unmolested.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPRcHN4ZTh2

Field workers were the first to be taken as prisoners of war.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuZTCMuW3YE

“Are you willing to lay your life down for this decision Admiral Blair? Not only yours but all of ours?copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHPoh1ObOlX

“Sire.” He bent his head, self-doubt sent tentacles down his spine and into his thrumming heart. Shaking his head in frustration, he looked at the comp screen. “Sire. This is a trap. A  clever trap to draw us out into a killing field of their own making. Should we engage, and everything about it tells me that we must not, then we will be severely at a disadvantage.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHaPTSCYSwg

“Let me get this straight Admiral,” the Emperor said in an agitated voice. “You are telling me that I must not attack and that neither must you. To allow the enemy to get a foothold on our Capital planet and to allow them to dig in? Is this what you are advising me?” the anger in her eyes burned across the thousands of kilometers.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡU1fOD1iA5h

“Yes Sire. They have already done the unexpected by splitting their forces. Our people made the mistake of thinking that this war would be similar to that of the Annulars with their frontal attacks. I tried many times to convince YOU that-that attitude would be disastrous. These are, in the end, humans and, like us,  just as devious. We cannot, must not attack yet, Sire. A day. Three at most. Allow complacency to set in. Allow them to become impatient. They have travelled countless distances to arrive at this moment. There is only one thing they can think of right now and that is to bring the war to us as soon as possible. They will in the end Sire, spring their own trap and then …” His icy blue eyes begged her to understand.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfN6D47rfVM

“To my way of thinking Admiral,” the Emperor said, as she looked off-screen in deep thought. “Is that outer space is  that; space. Surely you can find them out there? One cannot hide a large enemy force where there is no hiding place? Where could they have gone?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdCX3wQFuJc

He smiled to himself as he heard her words. It seemed she had forgotten that her own navy including the might of the Annular, were at this moment in hiding, themselves. In hiding in an area where there was no place to hide at all. “We have tracked them since the first indications of their arrival Sire and with the Annulars help, we know for a fact that the two forces we know of, although large, are not all there are supposed to be. A third force has somehow eluded us.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKDd0rR2Kr8

“And the spy satellites? What of them?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1GV7j0eLfa

“Again Sire. The Satellites first registered minor movement and soon after failed to respond which to me, indicates that they were destroyed. If you would follow the picture on your screen …” he tapped on the screen before him and a diagram of Overlord appeared on both screens. “The green flashing lights are our spy satellites Sire. Now watch.” Seven lights turned red, one after the other.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡytNwwjncO6

“If I were a man prone to superstition Sire, I would have to admit to magic being the only way. But as I’m not, I’m leaning towards Old earth has found a means to avoid detection. Though, and this is my best bet, they have not completely got the hang of it yet as indicated by the satellites which picked up some sort of anomaly  before they stopped responding. We are evaluating the data right now Sire and hopefully will have the answers soon.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLXAG5UHkGW

“Yes Sire. Like us, they are in hiding beyond Overlord itself. And yet, we cannot attack because we have nothing to attack. We will be seen coming and will be destroyed without  catching a glimpse of the enemy. We may  fly right past them and not notice. We require more information. Attack now and we may not only lose men and fighters but also lose our main advantage; surprise.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡexZY9AaCd6

“I take it the moon’s satellites are also destroyed and included in this?” she asked but did not wait for an answer. “My scouts and Polrobs have been reporting a lot of movement down there Admiral. The enemy is making a move on Kargo City it seems. They will be knocking down buildings and killing my people in a  short time. Do I do nothing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwY47F92mtJ

“They want us to attack. We dare not. That second group Sire, ships of extremely heavy tonnage and…” he tapped on the screen again. The green and red blinking lights disappeared and two large cluster of red lights appeared a few thousand kilometers from each other. “This is the first enemy cluster” he pointed to a group of lights, “They are nosing about trying to draw us out but notice how close they stay to the second group Sire, which is positioned right above their ground forces. The first group is the muscle. The second, devoid of their human cargo has nonetheless, the ability to deliver serious fire power. Their fire power alone will destroy our forces in moments. This is going to be a space war Sire. Let us do what we are paid to do. Let us fight this war out there where we have the advantage. Then and only then, do we mop up the ground forces.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjYYJgKGSSQ

“Will die whether you respond or not,” he said harshly. “Sire, we have a small window of opportunity. A very small one. First we discover as much as possible about this invisibility trick and then …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnG4rOJAR64

“Invisibility?” she asked. “Admiral. Just a moment.” She said excitedly and disappeared from the comp screen as somebody came up behind him. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAp3y9jiQcb

“Excuse me Mr. Quiney. I’m  busy at the moment.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡM3sQugA57H

“Sir. Pardon me, sir. But the results. We have the results, sir. It’s the mass. We were looking in the wrong place.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9I6dhgwA7I

“Mass? What mass, Mr. Quiney.” The admiral frowned, trying to change from one subject to the other in his mind.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLNd4R1ttH9

“The third enemy force sir. Look.” He passed over a batch of printouts. “The enemy may be invisible sir. But they could not do anything about their mass. And according to these figures,” he pointed out to a table of random numbers on the sheet of paper.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡftcHkHYVM6

“Mr. Quiney, what am I looking at?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCWPI96ZGG6

“Here, sir.” The admiral’s number one pointed at a section of a graph that peeked upwards. “This shows the information received at 15H46. There were no sightings of the enemy. And here,” his finger moved to the end of the graph, “Is the time of destruction; 15H46, 5753. But if we go here,” he paged over, “16H04 and time of destruction; 16H04, 5236. And here …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡprUCwMEZfl

“I get the point, Mr. Quiney. So it took them  under a minute to destroy each satellite. The question is how the  satellites knew the enemy was there in the first place unless a large mass approached from off camera and disturbed highly sensitive apparatus.” His eyes followed the pointing finger. He turned the page and noticed that the figures matched the previous ones, he whistled softly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9vPmd93c4P

“They all match, sir. Every one of them. That’s a serious amount of fire power out there waiting for us to make a mistake.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjGM8pVepBU

“Thank you, Mr. Quiney.” The admiral said as he noticed a silent and  excited Emperor impatiently waiting for his attention. He smiled at her, “We have found them Sire. Sooner than expected it seems. The answer is that they may have found a way to become invisible but not how to hide themselves completely.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡv1mpETbiSr

“Shall we discuss  how we are going to attack all three forces at once, or do you still plan on waiting for three days while they kill my people before my very eyes?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡD2XsoaCrmG

Landfall - plus 18 hourscopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXHBk6fdix6

“So  where the hell are they?”  asked President Sayed of the United Confederate.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWgVjjJ6iMh

He turned to his friend, Fleet Admiral Juan Ponce de Leon. “This waiting is getting to me, Juan. I say we go in hard. Attack their Capital and be done with it.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTKYv55Lioj

Anger burned in the de Leon’s eyes as he looked up from the tablet in his hand. “Just like us Daniel, they are waiting for the first move. The one who moves first, is in all likelihood, the one who is going to lose. Hours. Days. Who knows? We wait. They are out there and all we have to do is find them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡp8uyQ86Io5

de Leon ignored Sayed as a Petty Officer came towards him, excitement pumping through every bone of his body. “Contact sir. Two of our scouts were destroyed … here.” he pointed at the flat screen of the hand held tablet.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2Ra1mg77zv

“Hmm. Section six in quadrant four. That’s what, two moons circling that poor excuse of a planet the size of tennis ball? Give me all the data you have on that planet and those moons. I do believe we have found our missing targets. Get me some scouts out there and have five destroyers and the Margrave standing by. Notify the scouts to send in a couple of UTD’s* first. If they are destroyed, get me Commander Ashram.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqYEVxu4Ddt

The Petty Officer returned two hours later, “Sir, we have Commander Ashram on screen sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9hzkjVAq39

The Admiral glared at his Petty Officer. “The UTD’s were destroyed?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWu7AqF5uij

“No sir. They are still fully operational sir. It’s the scouts. They were destroyed, sir.” The admiral’s mind went into overdrive. “What you are telling me Petty Officer, is that the enemy somehow knew that the UTD’s were drones? That they were unarmed and therefore not a danger? That they went for the scouts instead?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡX0vM4BgOku

“It looks that way, sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwtM5N61nw5

“Let me speak to Commander Ashram.” He grabbed the tablet and found the weather-beaten face of Commander Ashram displayed on its flat surface. “Commander? Find out  what in blazes is going on in Section six, quadrant four will you? Take five destroyers that are standing by for your orders. Four scouts have been reported as destroyed in that area but for some reason not one of the UTD’s have been touched. Unscrambled signals emitted from the UTD’s will not affect you. Do not destroy them. Should you make contact with superior enemy forces, hightail it out of there and report back as soon as possible.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwtAE40jauC

He had been beaten by snow storms in the Himalaya’s. Tanned by one desert after another. He had experienced exposure to sun, sea and biting cold, extreme heights to unplumbed depths, spelunked into caves and minor known grottoes,  and dived into the depths of almost every ocean. An adrenalin junky and speed freak, he was quite the hero and leading figure on many subjects ranging from Bungee jumping to the best way of starting an ant farm. He had become the navy’s most decorated and formidable senior officer it ever had.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡf6SPLWP56k

A question once asked by a reporter summed up his outlook to life and its dangers. “Mr. Kistnasamy, to what do you owe your success? You have made millions from discoveries like the Atlantis scroll you found off the Dead Sea, and according to our resources, spent millions on equipment that in the end you didn’t  utilize. How is it sir, that you are able to be so successful in all your adventures?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHAMkz12awy

“I didn’t force them to pay me all that money you know,” he had answered in a jocular fashion. “Seriously now. It is a simple fact of life my friend, that when something can go wrong, it has done so already. I plan for anything and everything and usually end up patting myself on the back for outthinking fate. Now there was this one time when …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5wAtiJFaSe

Commander Ashram Kistnasamy was prepared for anything…copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡz8lsX6oMcv

Fight or flee, he always went into a situation well prepared. Two thousand three hundred and six fighters prepared - thank you very  much and every single one of them top notch and chewing at the leash. A painstakingly careful man, but not averse to taking a few chances.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7T6TdGVfQr

Experience had taught him that to draw out the enemy one had to show him a target or two. With the Margrave tucked neatly between five hungry destroyers, it moved towards the targeted area some nine hundred and thirty-seven thousand kilometers away.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOVXopg84r1

“Get me some fighters out there Number One. Three squads should do it. Recon only and not more than five thousand kilometers ahead. Have the Kremlin and the San Antonio on their heels.” He glanced at the four tacticians sitting in their permanent huddle off to one side of the Bridge, “And get me an update on that planet.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡj09Et6LSTX

“Aye. Aye, sir.” His second in command acknowledged and giving orders over the ship’s intercom.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡn0RtU49Qk0

From the Bridge, the Commander watched as ninety of his fighter pilots and their craft maneuvered into position. A few seconds later he blinked as their afterburners kicked in leaving blue red images on his retina. He smiled grimly as the Kremlin and the San Antonio followed on their heels. It would take his fighters seven hours at their current velocity, to arrive at their destination, and with the main recon force only half an hour behind, Commander Ashram Kistnasamy felt in control of the situation.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡi8WgxlwFqX

A situation that unfortunately for him, changed drastically as five hours later, still hours from their destination, his well laid plans went down the tubes.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGJYPorWajQ

“Sir, reports of unidentified enemy engagement.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7HQYbL3lBo

“Unidentified Number One?” he turned and raised an eyebrow. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlUwha4DGJ3

“Sir, both the Kremlin and the San Antonio are under heavy fire. I don’t understand sir, there is no enemy.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDqNCgb3cmn

“Patch me through.” he grabbed the earpiece and put it in his right ear. “Captain Grover? A Sitrep* if you please.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2t5TsgFwBh

“Get me a  target. I want something to shoot at dammit. Find me something.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUXbrflvS1f

“Captain?” The commander stared through the large view port into the pitch blackness of space. Sudden large flare-ups of light in the distance faded away to be replaced by two smaller ones, then two more and then another. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWFFJiVVm8h

“Commander. We have…” a loud explosion reverberated in his ear.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJaLO4e5JLH

“Mayday. Mayday. All channels. We are abandoning ship. This is the Destroyer Kremlin. I repeat, the Destroyer Kremlin.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0GEb7UwDNy

A loud warbling siren came over the fearfully controlled voice. “Mayday. Mayday. Abandoning ship. Unidentified enemy have destroyed the San Antonio. Our position is …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTJeztwvpSD

“Scramble all fighters Number One and recall those squads. Get me somebody on the horn. I want to know what the hell we are dealing with here” he said calmly as he removed the earpiece.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHCOtrTHwCs

Strident alarms echoed throughout the battleship as over two thousand fighters scrambled. “Tacticians,” he turned to the four men urgently conversing around a tactical screen two meters wide by two meters high. Onscreen, a mass of small, ever changing green blips swarmed around a larger one. Reminiscent of the old sonar equipment invented in earth’s halcyon days, a dark green light pulsed from the centre outwards every three seconds. Where the enemy would have shown red, there was a distinct emptiness.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdC9SOhMlVz

“Situation report if you please.” They nodded to each other coming to some sort of agreement. “It seems, Commander, that we are in the most unenviable position of not having enough facts.” One said. The speaker was deep in his forties with short gray cropped hair that did nothing but enhance his receding hairline.  Intelligent blue eyes regarded the Commander.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUOj8nMETcx

“Sir. Report’s coming in,” his second in command tapped lightly on a tablet. With a cold and professional voice, he interrupted the tactician. “The San Antonio destroyed with all hands. The Kremlin has lost over eighty percent of her compliment and is breaking up. Further information pending. No sightings or descriptions of the enemy. Thirty-four fighters either destroyed or heavily damaged and are being escorted aboard ship. Preliminary debriefing in twenty minutes.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxT9lmAe47R

“Thank you, Number One. Proceed Mr. Clark. You were saying?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxluGdiXZES

“We need more information, Commander. What we do believe is that the enemy has lured us into a position whereby they can pick us off one at a time. First they ignore the UTD’s and take out the scouts. Now they ignored the fighters and went for the Kremlin and the San Antonio. This tells us that we are dealing with a decisive and intelligent mind. Take out the biggest threat and then decimate the leftovers one by one.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzyHSG5FlYR

“Agreed Mr. Clark. I only have one  large problem. Just where the blazes is the enemy in the first place. I have lost two  large and  capable destroyers and hundreds of lives within minutes of each other.” He glared at the four men.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSvL2R8D5cL

One stepped forward. “A possibility has occurred to us that seems farfetched, but nevertheless, we have an enemy tha…”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXJ6rqjKnjo

A loud explosion rocked the Margrave.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgSWXLD3qY1

Seconds later clamorous alarms whoop-whooped throughout the battleship and had everyone looking up with fear registering on their faces. If there was the one alarm that sent cold chills down spines and set knees trembling, that would be the alarm for a hull breach.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiRx3Uobyuo

Confirmation came seconds later. The ship’s computer proclaimed the bad news.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjr7pTxIDV1

MULTIPLE BREACHES FORE AND AFT.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1cUYaFBd5A

“Kill those  alarms,” roared the Commander. “I can’t hear myself think.” He nodded with satisfaction as they were abruptly silencedcopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1e79E0HmDD

“003CHARLIE?” Tactician member, Clark Brooks whispered aghast, his face gone a pasty white. “That’s two airlocks from the Bridge.” He turned to his three equally fearful comrades. “Where is 082YANKIE? Find the thing guys.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoFPjD0Yfd4

They scrambled to their seats and began tapping on tablet screens.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQssjfUGpyC

The results paralyzed them.  Engine room.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5ARcKvcrSQ

The commander ignored the man. “Report Number One. Did some stupid pilot fly into my ship? What have you …?” he stopped as he registered the blank face of his most trusted friend and Officer. “What?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5hvVA8Vyo8

“Sir…Sir...that was no accident, sir. All fighters accounted for. It’s a wasp’s nest out there and …” another explosion rocked the Bridge and the immediate whoop-whoop of a breach alarm sounded. It was killed almost instantly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDfB6yQ1fgz

BREACH. FORE. 002BRAVO. BREACH AND FIRE CREWS TO SECTION 002BRAVO.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSlaJyUfKm7

“What the hell?” the Commander shouted. “Shields up Number One. Full strength.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAro6mYfhxD

“All destroyers under attack, sir. Same situation.” Number One said in a slightly firmer, yet trembling voice. “Squadron fighters report no enemy or enemy fire.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqbT2hrSiH9

“Sir.” A tactician grabbed his attention. “We must retreat. Now, while we still have the chance.” A slight tremor vibrated through the ship’s deck plating.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSAu2k3WzOj

“Get us out of here Number One. ASAP.” His mind calculated events at high speed. “The bastards breached our shields somehow. Send out every type of scan we have, the enemy is bound to leave some sort of trace of itself. Anything. Anything and everything is to be reported to me at once.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHoK5v64KoC

“Aye. Aye. Sir.” The deck plates groaned as stress forces coursed through the ship’s hull. “And get me a bird’s eye view on the next breach. I want to see what we are dealing with. Shields down, they are of no use anyways.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoPNhR4JKnq

A  scared but determined Petty Officer handed him a portable tablet. “Visuals, sir. A possible breach in section 467MIKE. Just aft of the airlock.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTf1ohlreUf

The Commander stared fearfully at the display on the tablet as a small section of the ship’s hull glowed orange and then red with heat. “Have the pilot fire at that spot. Now, dammit! Fire!”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxBEiH9pLTN

He blinked when the sudden flare of a short burst of laser fire and the resultant flash of a small explosion burst across the screen. The tablet froze and he tossed it back to the Petty Officer. “Get me another one, on the double.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡohDbyufheD

The Petty Officer grabbed one lying at his workstation. He thumbed the screen and handed it back to the Commander.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡI7SJva4XoZ

“Get me Comms* with that pilot.” He dug in his breast pocket and pulled out the ear piece. The hotspot had cooled down and as he watched, it went from cherry red to orange to metal grey.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcWAQeiZE4T

“Captain Rogers reporting,” the voice said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡssb5DJzT1O

“Captain Rogers? Commander Kistnasamy. You did good Captain, now get your arses into gear and patrol the hulls of all the ships. Look out for hotspots and fire at them. The enemy has some sort of invisibility shield or cloaking device. Use light and sound scanners and video record all action. Get to it Captain. By the way, what does my battleship look like where your laser fire hit it?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwKWouszzpY

“Not too bad, sir. A little longer on the trigger and it may well have been another story.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyBU9s9rsNv

“Just you give that bit of information to the other pilots Captain. Try not to blow us up will you?” He removed the ear piece without waiting for the reply.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlfYxlBhVvi

He turned and smiled at his Number One. “True. But one we can expect from now on and have an answer to. Send word to the Pyrenees. Report enemy contact. The use of some sort of small and cloaked device that burns through the ship’s hull. The Kremlin and the San Antonio destroyed, including forty-three fighters either destroyed or severely damaged. Give them the low down on all we have of the buggers.” He frowned thoughtfully. And continued, “Am returning for survivors. Awaiting further instructions. And get me a sit-rep* from the destroyers.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXF9SOC2g4P

Landfall - plus 27 hourscopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsgVC9Keb0i

Overlord – the beginning of the endcopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1NJ6yGyUVU

“Sergeant Sir. I’m not feeling too well.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMs0F3MYcHi

“What do you mean you are not feeling too well you horrible little man? Move from that position and I will show you how unwell you can really look you funny-man you.” The Sergeant unsympathetically vowed his wrath at the soldier whose face twisted in pain.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsayoMH81S9

He snapped off a grass stem and chewing it only to spit it out and grimace in disgust. “Damned stuff tastes like crap.” He mumbled as a sound from behind had him glance back. He caught a glimpse of Lieutenant Volos, ass in the air and leopard crawling towards his position through the long grass. “At them in ten Jackson.” The lieutenant said by way of greeting. “Right and left flank has thirty tanks each with a few mobile flamethrowers thrown in for luck. Mortars and cannon in …” he glanced at his wristwatch, “Four and a few odd. Will stop in five and then it’s our lots turn.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjTW30uJypF

“Remind me  why we are attacking a city Lieutenant? This isn’t war and it’s going to be a massacre.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtb7tQbgPoY

The lieutenant said, “Doing as I’m told Sergeant. Just like you. But I have been notified that the scouts have seen an exodus of civilians. Seems that there are only a few stragglers still on the roads. Any more questions?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7R8GgVnoWg

“A whole dang lot of them Sir. One of them being where the enemy is, but I guess that question can wait.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡygaujbZ3Ko

“What the hell is it now Kowalski?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWmj53z1qYY

“Just to let you know Sarge, Bowie over here  crapped himself and it stinks kinda awful like. He actually crapped himself Sarge and I don’t think he looks great.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHweR1y30CN

“Fuck.” the man turned and glanced about. “Medic. Yeah you, you dumb shit. Get your ass over here and check up on Trooper Bowie there. If the fuck is shamming it I want to know ASAP.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpk0ZbHpdFF

“Sure thing Sarge.” The Medic answered crawling towards the indicated trooper  as the crashing sounds of Cannon sent high explosive projectiles overhead. Mortars thumped and sent their own projectiles straight up into the air to burst open at one hundred and thirty feet to swiftly drift towards the waiting and silent town not half a kilometer from the waiting ground troops. Shell after shell slammed into buildings, tarred roads and  a duck pond. Dust, raging fires and collapsing walls added to the melee. First hundreds then thousands of mortar rounds kept being sent overhead to burst open and drift towards the killing grounds. The first rounds of suspended death exploding, sending hundreds of miniature explosive ball bearings down on the unsuspecting enemy below. Then more and more exploded and a rain of death lashed the city in a rolling, creeping thunder of detonations. A pall of dust hung in the air above the city and the sound of falling masonry went unheard as homes, offices and buildings came crashing down. The spearhead attack on a major city of Overlord had begun. An attack that was calculated by the tacticians to bring out the enemy forces from wherever they were hiding.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFC2YH5xJwv

“Heads down you bloody idiots.” shouted the Sergeant over the reverberating Cannon shot. “Jumpers next.” The word was carried by Sergeants and their Corporals as all ducked and tried to dig their shallow trenches deeper while cursing the hard ground and a lack of covering.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡHd2W53u836

Jumpers. A metaphor if there ever was one. Take a  large Mortar tube, say with a radius of approximately 375mm and drop in another  large looking ball bearing that weighed next to nothing and had what looked like a skirt of charges attached around its circumference. Stand well back and press the remote. The name Jumper was derived from the fact that every time the ‘ball bearing’ hit the ground, it would simultaneously release one explosive canister and then bounce straight up into the air at ever decreasing heights. Five canisters, five bounces. Each canister could, and more often than not, level half a city block. The nightmare of bouncing death was bad enough, but determining  where the next hit would be was terrifying and unpredictable. In this way, many an attacking force was cut to shreds by its own weaponry as without warning, a jumper hitting the ground at an angle would bounce in their direction.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVtrWsDDSRj

“What the fuck?” the sergeant jerked about in surprise as he felt a hand plucking at his shoulder.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡywVAuDG2nc

“Sarge. Look.” The lieutenant said over the now loud and distinctive popping sound of the Mortars sending their cargoes into the destroyed city. He pointed off to one side.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡy4qA0vDvEH

“And  what am I supposed to be looking at Lieutenant?” He asked in irritation.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCza4wDH9vy

“A woman. A goddamned woman.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡt34pEz3kBq

“Where?” asked the sergeant with more interest this time as he watched the lieutenant fumble at his side to bring forth an old and much dinged binoculars that looked as if it belonged in a museum.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡx9vXJvsn16

“I knew it. A goddamned woman.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4DGeHcRpmn

“Let me have that.” The man cursed as he trained the glasses in the general direction. “Well what do you know? A real life beauty should you ask me. Just standing there and watching us. Hey lieutenant. I do believe she is carrying a … yup. A bow and a sword. Yup. And a quiver full of arrows on her back. Man. Would you look at those legs and that  skirt is as short as anything I have ever seen.” he passed the binoculars back to the Officer who grabbed it and confirmed the sergeants sighting.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXQr2f6Bjrc

“Now why do you think a next to naked looking woman would be standing in the open and staring at us?” asked the Lieutenant with a frown.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKYmfV6LntM

“Bugger that. If you would pardon the expression Sir.” The Sergeant said as he stared at the small figure in the distance. “The correct question should be whether there are any more of them?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuxpbM7oEwL

The Officer turned to the Sergeant and frowned  as the Comms* unit on their breast pockets buzzed softly. Instantly the woman was forgotten as they surged to their feet and exhorting the men about them. “On your feet soldier. Spread out and move out. Don’t bunch there you dumb fucks. Spread out. Move. Move you prick. You there, Corporal, get those men on their  feet and I want those portable flamethrowers as far from me as possible.” the Sergeant was everywhere. Exhorting and cursing his men who, bent almost double, stumbled over the uneven meadow as they streamed towards the smoking, blasted city. Hundreds of similar clad soldiers moved out from their positions under shouted instructions from their NCO’s. Small, after explosions could still be heard as roiling, billowing clouds of black smoke rose into the air from various locations that had taken direct hits.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2uCuwSA7b1

And behind them, left to their own recourse, a medic was struggling furiously to make their first casualty breathe by himself.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkVZHaUNVih

“Wait for them to enter the city. When they find nobody to shoot at, they will become complacent.” Katya said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9jgMNNEoVP

“As plans go Sire. This may not be such a bad one at that.” Grinned an invisible Special Forces Officer at her side. “I would say in the region of five hours tops. It will be night then and the enemy will have set pickets, patrols and be thinking of one thing only Sire; sleep. That is when we should strike”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpgLpXVkLRD

She glanced upwards but because the Polrob wore a specially designed plastic coated cloaking shield, it was invisible to the eye and metal detectors.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJY40KSOogJ

SIRE. THREE OF THIS UNIT’S FAMILY HAS PERISHED. ANOTHER IS GREATLY DAMAGED AND IS BEING ESCORTED PLANET SIDE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeGZZ6XVrJM

“Three?” she gasped in surprise. “How is that possible? Will the injured survive?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4MmvE3W90L

A LACK OF RESPECT SIRE, FOR THE ENEMY AND HIS DEDUCTIVE REASONING. A MISTAKE THAT WILL NOT EASILY BE REPEATED. SURVIVAL OF THE WOUNDED IS IN QUESTION SIRE. TIME WILL TELL.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUKJZKuSyT8

“I am sorry my friend. I feel for you and your people. Send my condolences, and notify all that from now on, any who would fight or perish in my name would be honoured amongst my people for their selfless bravery, and restitution to your whole nation will be done. I request the names and affiliates of those that have gone before us. Ask of me whatever you wish and it is yours. This I promise.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡi7Pi6Wf1nY

THE WURM AS A NATION THANK YOU SIRE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOrKaXpeTye

THE ENEMY IS A CLEVER ONE SIRE. WE WILL CHANGE STRATAGY EVERY FEW MINUTES. NEVER IN ONE PLACE FOR MORE THAN A FEW SECONDS. BEGINNING WITH AND ENDING WITH EVASIVE ACTIONS WHICH WOULD INCLUDE HEIGHT, SPEED AND FIRING-IN-MANAUVER. LOGIC SAYS THAT MANY MORE OF THE WURM AND ITS ALLIES WILL PERISH BEFORE THIS WAR IS OVER. THIS ACTION IS WELCOMED BY THE WURM FOR IT IS SUPPLYING US WITH KNOWLEDGE THAT WILL BE MUCH IN DEMAND IN THE FUTURE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuBTkT0g82D

“Are you and the warriors in position at the base camp and over the city?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7Q5S12hfWQ

“Then it is only for us to wait.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡED7xY0ye9A

Landfall – plus 29 hourscopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhbwBEwpRoy

His stomach churned. A headache pounded where once upon a time he prided himself in being one of the few lucky ones to never be afflicted with such a minor affair. Could this be what was termed a migraine? Without knowledge of such mundane affairs, it could be a toss-up. What he did know was that the pain was getting worse. Even his joints were painful. He moaned his distress as he tried to ease his hipbone into a more comfortable position on the hard ground. The insulated self-heating sleeping bag, professed to being the infantryman’s best friend being half a step behind his Lasgun, did not seem to be doing a good job of supplying body warmth as he was shivering his butt off. Cold sweat covered his entire body and was running in rivulets down his face. Could he have picked up some flu virus or something? Should he get a medic?copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJgVad4Dduk

Still wondering what he should do, Trooper first class, John (Johnny-boy to his friends) Carlton Young, slipped into a coma, defecated in his military trousers and died soon after.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9MwGnacM1B

Of the eight thousand troops encamped in the demolished city of Fordsburg, close to two hundred others of his brethren showed the same symptoms. Unlike him, a diehard to the last, many of them called for unsympathetic medics who believed that the troopers tried to shirk their responsibilities. It was only when one unfortunate soldier happened to die while trying to convince said medical practitioner, that the alarm was raised. Word spread. Rumors abounded. The bush telegraph was reinvented.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkpExTfHop6

The Empire had unleashed some sort of germ warfare against them. The food/water/air was poisoned. The only edible food was what could be found in shopping malls or stores. The kind still with wrappings on. (Company cooks had foraged and supplemented fresh greens and fruit to dwindling stocks of freeze dried and bland rations - there was a war going on after all and it took time to have food stocks delivered. Time that the infantryman was not prepared to wait for) The word spread, stay far away from running water – what there was of it, and drink only bottled water or  better yet, water supplied by their own military –  that is of course if the bastards had not taken a short cut and refilled their tankers from some close by stream or dam. Within minutes the word went out that any person with symptoms of pains or headaches should report to their NCO’s who took down particulars and sent them off to the medics who erected a hospital dome in a relatively undamaged park where the only casualty was a duck pond. By the sixth death, alarm bells their persistently clanging in the heads of surgeons who called in Evacs* to remove the afflicted to a quarantine ship for further scrutiny and investigation. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ28mXjA1WOw

“There is nothing wrong with this man.” The coroner said, removing skin-thin and blood covered gloves. Flicking a foot pedal with the tip of his shoe, he dropped the gloves into a bin marked for incineration.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhXiNEGYRs0

“Other than that Major, there is nothing wrong with this man.” The Coroner smiled grimly. “Appendicectomy as a child. Relatively fit. No malnourishment. Seems he had eaten not so long ago. Bit mushy though and requires more testing to see just what he ate. No puncture wounds and aside from a few abrasions on knees and elbows, there is nothing I can find that can determine cause of death. This fellow,” he clapped the corps lightly on the shoulder. “Is a prime suspect for the human race.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8KVvHe6JbU

“And neither am I, I’m afraid.” Quipped the Coroner. “This is definitely a curious situation.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgRwGYRZmTH

“Curious? Situation?” the Major stared with astonishment at the white cloaked man before him. “Just to remind you sir,  in case you have not noticed , but we are invading the so called Empire with close to half a million troops and I cannot have men dropping like flies for no other reason than curiosity or because they feel like it. Find something.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ81r4x8jDSu

“Oh. I will Major. If I may say so, my curiosity is piqued.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡx8YpHfWXvk

The Major stared at the coroner with disgust. “I do not believe I like you sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFMbcsa3sxW

“Not unusual. Now, do you mind? I have work to do.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9FYAKvJ38B

The Major turned on his heels and left the theater. He had a report to type out. A report that positively, with one hundred percent certainty, would have the top brass descending on his not so large shoulders  shortly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxGKw6rM3ph

Landfall - plus 32 hourscopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡh7XgHHMqKU

It is not the final frontier.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKDyITgpFHa

It has always been death.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoMN7Iw7bZt

Death. On a collision course, descending with ever increasing speed, an unstoppable and vast multitude of half human and half machines approached a scrambling, surprised armada who were prepared for war. Prepared and ready for anything.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDK6cs0tSGa

Weapons trained and firing. Lasers. Torpedoes. Photon cannons. All firing in one direction; towards the approaching enemy still thousands of kilometers away.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTumN1QdQdo

Battleships and their compliments. Destroyers. Cruisers and frigates. All jockeyed for space. Space that was now of urgent need. Space, legroom between each ship and the more of it the better. Fighters deployed to the flanks and waiting for the enemy to come into range.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡzfY45FistI

Excitement. Fear and rage. The body wanting to shut down due to panic. The sweat of fear and thumping hearts. Bulging, staring eyes and dry mouths. Loose bowels and the immediate urge to urinate; and still the enemy approached head on.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOLLVa1uAJW

Fleet Admiral Juan Ponce de Leon clenched the armrests of his comfortable command seat. Flare-ups of exploding enemy craft could be seen in the black emptiness of space, thousands of kilometers away. He glanced at the screen before him and swallowed the rising stomach acid. There were so many.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGCr2qsTEj6

“Number One.” He said hoarsely and swallowed again, his eyes never leaving the screen. “Notify all ships; fire at will.” He did not hear the acknowledgement as before his eyes, a destroyer erupted in a staggering flame of destruction. Its hull broke open as large cracks tinged with bright red and orange flames of internal explosions ran across its exterior. The engines vaporized man and metal. Large and small chunks of half molten metal hull instantly became speeding shrapnel that clove into defensive force fields and were in turn vaporized or deflected to go speeding off into space. The abrupt and unanticipated destruction of the destroyer left the Admiral speechless as he struggled to come to terms with the impossible.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3Sm1WsGeUa

“Sir. We have multiple attacks on the Gregorian, Chamberlain and the Stalin. Sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXJWIF7J9Ht

Admiral Isak Blair shook his head trying to dislodge the numbness that enveloped his brain, looked up at his Second in command. “Multiple attacks?” his quick glance at the screen before him confirmed what he already suspected. “Are there indications of those hotspots Commander Kistnasamy reported?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6n6xqw0jaj

“Negative sir. But enemy fire is coming from unknown sources amongst our own forces. They’re amongst us sir. And we can’t see them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpecMf8eWn9

“Get me two fighter squads circling those ships. Have them fire short bursts of lasers as close as possible to each ships force shields. In all directions. The bastards are up to their tricks again. Have them keep an eye out for hotspots and anything out of the ordinary.” He turned to his personal screen and froze in disbelief. Relatively small in size as such screens go. Nevertheless, a 20 inch credible definition flat screen goes a long way in bringing factual events to life. Arrayed bottom center of the screen were his forces of ten Battleships, forty-six destroyers, cruisers and frigates. Lesser units of missile and torpedo ships filled the gaps while minelayers and sweepers lined up the rear. The flanks held over ten thousand fighter craft respectively. To the forefront of the screen, friend or foe transponders had difficulty in depicting and separating the magnitude of approaching enemy forces. Great swaths of red blinking lights depicting enemy ships stopped blinking as they were destroyed, and yet, still more came. Targeting computers were being strained to their utmost speed and efficiency and yet, the enemy had not fired one shot in reprisal or defense as with grim, unrelenting numbers, they swarmed headlong into shrieking sudden death as one enemy ship after the other met up with mines, missiles, torpedo or laser fire. Death was abrupt and immediate. Death most often took handfuls of the approaching enemy fighters in one white hot inferno after the other. Several others were so damaged by their close proximity to hell that they floundered into the paths of those behind thereby creating their own minor nightmare of confusion and destruction.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6kS23y9MIR

Yet still they came on.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfOellFSmY3

“We cannot maintain this rate of fire for much longer sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFohRax0pto

“What?” the Admiral peered at his second in command. His vision blurred slightly from concentrating too hard on the screen before him. He had tried to think. To bring his thoughts in line. To somehow come up with a countermeasure to the approaching storm. copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyAIrCMZMyH

“Torpedo and missile ships are running out of ordnance and requesting replacement of munitions.” His second in command said in a high pitched voice that trembled in fear and agitation. “I have instructed them to commence with distribution and replacement.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDOwRaSx3ev

“Sir. Admiral sir.” his second in command urged desperately. “Your instructions, sir. We have only moments and are waiting for your instructions. What must we do sir?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ93ZSuBEuod

“Do?” the Admiral looked up and stared at the frozen President of the United Confederate of Nations who stood off to one side and silently stared out of the Bridge viewing port at the multi-coloured destruction heading inexorably towards them. “Do?” the Admiral repeated to himself unconsciously. “There are a few moves Number One, which can end a perfectly winnable game of chess. Due to whatever reason one can call a stalemate, a standoff or check,” he sighed heavily, “And this is neither. This is checkmate. We have been out played and out maneuvered by superior forces.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡc12ITcAqgO

“And the weapons sir?” not fully comprehending his superiors words. “We cannot maintain this rate of fire for much longer. The photon cannons are reaching excessively high temperatures. Two gunner placements have reported meltdowns of firing blocks. Laser cannon barrels are …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWmIRLtWGfr

“Have a look at this,” the Admiral indicated the flat screen and waited for the man to approach. “See this?” he pointed at the enemy swarming towards them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNn2weN0buf

“And you want me to stop firing at them so that you can do maintenance?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡs2gzfFzFE0

The man shuddered and his eyes looked up from the screen. “What do we do sir?” his plea a cry from the heart.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlsonYDbYOF

“Unless there is a miracle,” his eyes drifted once more to the screen then to the Bridges large viewing port as by now, the enemy had become visible. Moving the screen aside on its axis, he calmly stood up and walked towards his friend, Sayed of the United Confederate of Nations. He stopped suddenly and turned about; “Unless there is a miracle Number One, and I do not see one lying about, do you?” the silent shaking of a head was all the answer he received. “Well then,” he smiled calmly. “Prepare to meet your maker.” A nod of dismissal and a few slow steps brought him to stand beside Sayed. “Pleasure knowing you Daniel.” He said calmly and gripped the man’s shoulder with a firm hand.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdqgSxVOEiG

The Presidents eyes flicked towards him then back to the view port. “I could do with a cold beer right now.” He watched as one particular enemy fighter seemed to grow larger and larger in the view port.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeLJvkZaUEO

The “Sure, why not?” was cut midsentence as the mass of Annular at last opened up with a barrage of prolonged laser and torpedo fire.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡercujJq8oJ

Landfall – plus 32 hours and countingcopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7FcoZzDX7R

“Is it time?” she looked up into the darkened sky.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSeL4CLEfIM

NOT FOR A SHORT WHILE YET SIRE. REPORTING CORRELATION OF INCONSISTENCY AMONGST THE INVADING FORCES. ONE THOUSAND AND NINETY-TWO MEMBERS HAVE REPORTED SOME SORT OF ILLNESS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6q8qlZ30gO

UNCONFIRMED AS OF YET SIRE. SPECIAL FORCES HAS DETERMINED THAT IT IS BETTER TO WAIT FOR MORE INFORMATION BEFORE ATTAINING ONE OR MORE OF THE REMAINS FOR FURTHER LABORATORY ANALYSIS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡc6SXbuIPKq

She thought this through for a moment, “Agreed. Though I notice you said remains. Are they dying?” she asked truly alarmed now.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBQRKhdJkd0

“This could be an outbreak of some sort of … of trauma they developed after traveling such vast distances. Or maybe it’s an outbreak of some disease they brought with them. Have any similar reports been made throughout the Empire?” she worriedly got to her feet and dusted her skirt off.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbmo3jzy2pi

NONE SIRE. IT SEEMS THAT THIS MALADY IS RESTRICTED TO THE INVADERS AT THE MOMENT. ALL REPORTED CAPTURED ENEMY ARE IN RELATIVE GOOD HEALTH EXCEPT FOR THOSE WHO REFUSED TO ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS. THERE ARE THE TYPICAL RESULTANT BROKEN APPENDAGES OR INTERNAL INJURIES ATTAINED WHILE QUESTIONING, BUT NONE SHOW SYMPTOMS OF THE ILLNESS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡt19lMqyvKL

“I do not like this new illness. It scares me. We have not had any break out of illnesses for …When was the last time a disease of this magnitude was reported?’copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvT2Mr2PvzZ

NINE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN YEARS AGO SIRE. SEVEN CITIZENS PERISHED.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOLmcOGMnIc

“Nine hundred …? How many of the invaders have died so far?” She had not grasped the number previously mentioned.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGcdPxZg5v0

OUR TOTAL IS UNCONFIRMED SIRE, THOUGH WHAT IS, COMES TO A TOTAL OF ONE THOUSAND AND NINETY-TWO MEMBERS .copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡR1UTOlWDRv

“That many?” she gasped in surprise. “Well it sure cuts down on the overall count we have to kill.” She breathed deeply as fear got a foothold on her imagination. “No.” she shook her head determinedly. “Get me somebody suitable out here to attain one or more of the dead and if at all possible, a few sick prisoners. Have them start with investigations into this outbreak. Oh. And remind me about those prisoners when this war is over.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDFg0S5GEtp

“How long before we attack.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡf5BaZpvV3n

“Twenty minutes Sire,” a voice at her side made her jump as she peered into the darkness. “You are a  quiet man Colonel.” She said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡrH3HHVNoAg

“Are you positive Colonel that we cannot bring our big guns into play? Our armed forces are twiddling their thumbs and screaming to be involved. There is quite a lot of the enemy spread about my world and I frankly cannot keep our forces underground for much longer.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbTRM3QczMg

“As I live and breathe Sire.” He removed his head covering so she could see his face in the gloom. “I agree completely with Admiral Blair, the moment we show our tanks and mechanized units, they will be destroyed. We have to wait for him to give us the go ahead but I must add Sire, there is some good news. We are bringing some of our heavy guns forward in ones and twos. Nothing much  and at a snail's pace I agree, but should we speed things up now, the enemy would lay waste to all our forces. We have not prepared ourselves for a ground-to-space war. It’s either up there or down here where it gets dirty. In the future …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWdXZVFVI3v

“In the  near future Colonel,” she abruptly cut in. “I guarantee military installations with missiles and what have you. In space and on the ground!  I will not be caught out like this again. This war would be lost from day one were it not for the Polrobs and the Annular.” She watched as he replaced his hood and his head vanished. “We have much to be grateful for Sire. But now, a short distance from us, our own war is about to begin without us. Shall we?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZQWpftON4r

War Clan William, eager, fearfully chomping at the bit, moved out silently into the night. Hundreds of invisible Special Forces glided wordlessly, effortlessly amongst them. Above, unseen and just as silently, hundreds of Polrobs skimmed towards their unsuspecting targets.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyfkq2ngfX2

The first to die were the pickets. Meant to keep watch for any un-anticipated event, they nevertheless died in their numbers with un-anticipated regularity until an over-eager warrior woman made the mistake of setting off a perimeter alarm that had sirens blaring their harsh and strident noise for all to hear. The immediate detonation of a claymore mine put an abrupt end to her recriminations as flares shot up into the night sky and illuminated the immediate area with its otherworldly shimmering light.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvTftTb8OTb

The fight began. Short bursts of laser fire erupted from every direction. Bodies crumpled. Shouts, screams of wounded and dying. Stunned and disorientated soldiers erupting from their sleeping bags were laid waste from above  before they could get a finger onto a trigger. Half destroyed and gutted buildings were entered where long and  sharp swords cut the life from confused defenders screaming for help on comm sets suddenly awash with  more screams. Tanks jerked to life as crew members piled into them. Switches were flicked and sudden harsh light illuminated the immediate area around each tank that had the defenders as well as their attackers blinking as they hesitated.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkT2hiiK66P

Inside the tanks, the crew gaped in astonished awe at the half naked women that had attacked them. The glint of a sword. A rolling head and the killing commenced.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyF4S57glnd

“It’s a damned lot of women.” shouted the driver of a tank who gunned the tanks electric/H²O 350.5 liter engine.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoS7El0PuPJ

“What’s a damned lot of women?” asked the machine gunner as he checked the load on his weapon. “Rotary locked and loaded... Fuck!” for the first time he noticed that it was only the two of them in the tank. “Here. What happened to Michelson and Pieter’s?” he asked. Glaring down at the driver in his seat. The driver turned and looked up. “A bunch of fucking women wearing skirts attacked us with swords man. The whole fucking camp seems to be in the crapola. And don’t  ask about Michelson and Pieter’s ok. They were behind you. Right behind you.” he turned back to his visual plate and stared in wonder as he caught a glimpse of a pair of naked thighs as they clambered onto his tank. “Shit.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡG9CIrV1b27

“Seems we have somebody hitching a ride,” the gunner looked up. His eyes following the loud scuffing sounds of the woman . The tank was sealed shut and short of a direct hit by anything larger than a 235mm Howitzer shell, the hitchhiker was plumb outa luck. They did not call these tanks the Corrupters for nothing. “Crap with that. Give me some targets.” He jerked a lever and the turrets servo motors whining as its long 155mm barrel swung down from its vertical position. Placing his gunners helmet over his head, the internal situational screen lit up and in its green glow he saw the outlines of buildings and moving figures. The sharp, short bursts of laser fire caught his attention but he could not discern enemy from foe. For that he would have to wait.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0AM5tRdKdA

The driver having vacated his chair in a rush, darted over to the battle-ops-computer, flipped a switch and waited impatiently for the  thing to run through its prelim diagnostics. “Ok. Hang on. This is going to take some doing. Got one. Another. Fuck you. Got you. Here comes three.” He said breathlessly as he punched the keyboard. Three targeting crosses depicted themselves on the gunner’s situational screen and he immediately jerked the machine guns trigger three times. There was no time for satisfaction on a job well done as more and more thin white crosses appeared. Suddenly the tank rocked on its air cushions and the driver cum plotter was slung to one side. “What the hell was that?” He groaned as he wiped blood from his face. Struggling to get up from where he lay wedged between his seat and the tanks hull, he made it half way when the tank was rocked again. The sound that reverberated through the tank had him clench both hands awkwardly over his ears. It was as if somebody had taken a gigantic sledge hammer to the hull. “Get us out of here,” he screamed forgetting for a moment that he was the driver. Something butted his head from behind and he swatted at it only to have it butt his head again. Turning around, he did a double take as his eyes registered the gunners dangling blood drenched arm, his eyes followed it upwards to the slumped body entangled in the safety straps that neither of them had thought to use. With a mind gone numb, he stared at his seat and tried to think of what to do. That thought never had a chance of becoming a reality as his whole world abruptly became a nightmare of sound, flames and shrapnel.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡXBs5gO65iV

Silent, swiftly moving and invisible death descended on the out-world foe from all directions. Where the enemy regrouped, sudden death erupted in their midst. Where the enemy tried to reorganize their failing flanks, death from above blew holes through their ranks. The enemy had long minutes to realize that the foe they saw – women to the last one – were not the only attackers to fear. It was the invisible ones that brought implacable fear for how could one fight that which one could not see? The wounded, the dead, piled up. Some stood their ground and died heroically. Others called for their mothers or sweethearts or cursed while spraying laser fire in all directions only to join those that had fallen before. Here and there, a single soldier - after seeing many friends being dismembered by screaming half-clad she devils, or floating combat knives sink into pliant flesh – would shove his hands up in the air and stand trembling at the destruction wrought against him and his comrades. Here and there, a harsh commanding voice from above declared that they were encircled and that death would be the only outcome should they continue fighting. Usually a swift and accurate laser shot would convince those diehards hiding in basements or office buildings that life was preferable to sudden death. First one. Then another. Then in groups of two or three, they came out of hiding. Weapons discarded and hands held up high, they stepped forward and either glared their hate at their captors or hung their heads in shame as they were defeated.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPY5rHwnJIq

A machine gun nest hastily erected on the second floor apartment sent out its deathly message cutting down friend and foe alike. Warrior women and invisible Special Forces keeled over alongside their enemy as laser fire swept the area. Unseen by all, two Polrobs darted forward and unleashed their own brand of death and the whole building burst into flames and rubble as miniature Torpedoes designed for naval warfare punched through walls and exploded. When the dust cleared and settled, a large space where once a whole office block stood, now glared like a missing tooth.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQJ0DOuv1eJ

Polrobs darted about taking out defensive positions with accuracy. A bell tower used as a snipers post vanished in a pall of dust and debris.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCcl5hBToHc

A warrior woman stared uncomprehendingly at the small egg shaped object that rolled from a slack hand after she turned a corps over. The resultant explosion ripped both living and dead into shreds.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkwbpYTWlCF

Another warrior woman, enjoying herself tremendously and laying waste to her foe with sword and knife, turned to seek out more enemies and came face to face with a tank barreling out of control in her direction and died as it crushed her soft body against a building wall. The tank suddenly erupted and blew apart as a well-aimed miniature torpedo slammed into its open and forgotten hatch.     copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLtoM7dgCfv

Two hours later, after the mopping up had been done and the last foolish sniper had been eliminated, Emperor Katya Berotivich stood off to one side and stared at the gathered prisoners of war. “One hundred and seventy three? Is that all?” she asked in surprise.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlRIGW0iQoZ

“Out of eight hundred? Did we kill so many?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKAe8nlmDXB

THAT ASSUMPTION IS INCORRECT SIRE. THERE ARE ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN COMBATANTS IN THE MEDICAL TENTS UNDER QUARANTINE. TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR COMBATANTS WOUNDED AND TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN FATALITIES.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9jsRZpRifg

“In other words my friend, we caught them napping in more ways than one.” She turned to the unmasked and visible Special Forces Colonel that stood silently beside her. “Get me their superiors Colonel. I wish to converse with them immediately.” She gazed about and pointed at a huge tree that still stood  although its trunk had been split in two by an explosion. One section had come crashing down to destroy a park bench and lamp pole but nothing much else. The other half, raw, splintered and leaking sap would still provide some shade when the sun had reached its zenith. “Can somebody arrange seating and some sort of lighting for us?” she asked as she watched a duck in the semidarkness waddling towards a water filled bomb crater.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhjYMx6fFb4

“I will see to it Sire,” he said whispering into a miniature comm unit stuck into his uniform collar.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡqVFE42ZrGX

“I have a feeling that a show of force may be required. Can you …?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡX82CM7FMym

Minutes later, two soldiers with stars and Laurel wreaths on their breast pockets were led towards the waiting chairs where a Signals unit was jury rigging a string of globes attached to electrical cabling that led off a small distance to a field generator.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKAc06Uh1tP

“Sire?” the Colonel said as he stepped closer to her, his cloaking shield deactivated. “We seem to have fortune on our side.” He indicated towards the two men that stood undecided at the chairs. “The small chap is Major General Piet Labuschagne while the black gentleman is Lieutenant Colonel Zulu Mntuli.” He chuckled softly. “Quite a catch if I may say so. Our intelligence chappies will be itching to get hold of these two.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcjFG8hH3ap

“They can stand in line Colonel. Me first.” She turned and stepped towards the two Officers with the Colonel a few meters behind her. “Gentlemen?” she held out her hand and they automatically stepped forward and shook hers. The surprised and astonished looks on their faces notwithstanding, they introduced themselves. “My name is Katya Berotivich and this gentleman behind me is Colonel Hadim. Please. Be seated. We have much to discuss.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ97xcKkjp6S

“Please pardon me madam.” The General said, removing his cap. “But  who are you that an Officer in the armed forces would follow your orders?” He glanced at the silent soldier beside her for emphases. “I am only asking, madam. I am not too familiar with your culture.” He finished lamely.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLQtYRzS8Am

Katya grinned at him as she seated herself. An early morning breeze brought goose bumps to her exposed skin. “You can rightfully be excused sir. I am the Emperor.” She finished. Cocking her head to one side, she watched them intently for their reaction.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYNGDtOVaR5

“Emperor? You? But you’re a wisp of a girl. Why my daughter would be your age right now.” stated the General.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡA1d7dXsxmz

Katya held out a warning hand to Colonel Hadim as he stepped forward to admonish the prisoner. “At ease Colonel.” She glanced at him. “We can but only forgive these small misunderstandings.” She turned to the General. “Do not be mistaken sir. I am the Emperor. I govern all twenty-nine of the planets that make up the Galactic Empire. I govern by right of arms. My word is law.” She kept silent for a few seconds to allow her words to sink in. “You have entered my domain bent on conquest. Have captured, killed and tortured some of my people. I take umbrage General. I resent your being here. But … that to one side, you have brought with you an enemy that cannot be killed with weapons of destruction. You have brought with you an enemy that must be stopped and stopped right now before it infects my Empire.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡp8qT6hsZq3

“The malady  infecting my men? Is that what you are … we thought it was some sort of germ warfare.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlpQ13jQYuH

“We may be backward by your terms General. But we are not into genocide and never will be.” She answered. “I would like you to instruct your men to be compliant with my medical staff. This malady as you call it must be stopped before it goes further.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ45JhdXeFuB

Katya’s laughter echoed through the morning light. “In due course General. First things first. My people will provide the necessary. Liaise with Colonel Hadim here, and we will make your stay as comfortable as possible.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkbMadPu3OY

“You do realize madam that as prisoners of war, we are honor bound to try to escape?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLS4uahrpWW

“Escape General?” she laughed once more. “Where too?” she lifted a hand and pointed off into the morning gloom, “Out there? And then what? Try to make contact with your forces and take the sickness to them? Then again, they  may already be infected. Will that not be defeating the whole purpose of this meeting sir? You are all under quarantine sir. Even myself. None that are here will be allowed to wander off for any reason. Death will be the outcome of any endeavor of that nature I assure you.” She glanced upwards, “Guardian? Pass the word. None to leave. Get every exit and bolt hole covered. Neither prisoner nor any of our own will have permission to leave this city under any circumstances. Not while this malady is still with us.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0aRKPEBMVr

SIRE. INSTRUCTIONS SENT. MEASURES NOW BEING CARRIED OUT.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9fDVqQKUUz

The two Officers stared upwards in alarm and tried to see who she was talking to. Katya ignored their astonishment as an idea came to the fore. She bent down and picked up a small pebble the size of a pea. “Just to make sure you understand exactly what will happen General, should one of your people decide to wander off.” She gave him the small pebble, “Hold it between thumb and forefinger please. Now hold it away from your body. Yes. That is perfect. Guardian. Show our guests  how precise your aim is.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡTFsXaCeB1a

Before the General could think of jerking his hand away, a short burst of laser fire disintegrated the pebble. The man jerked his hand away with a yelp of surprise. Glanced at his slightly scorched fingers and stuck them in his mouth.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡx2loMb3oXZ

“That General was but a small example. Now see what you and your men have to contend with… Polrobs… Be visible.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡP6et1FjMzd

The wind was knocked out of the two Officers as countless Polrobs became visible above their heads. The morning sun’s rays glanced off carapaces that  drifted backwards and forwards in the slight breeze. Both men turned about and stared open mouthed at hundreds upon hundreds of flying miniature saucers. “We could have killed every one of you General, with  a simple order.” Katya said softly as the two men brought their attention back to her. “But out of deference to my own forces, I decided to offer you mercy. You are after all only following orders from those higher up the chain.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmsTOq3qEEs

“You could have saved many of your own forces lives Madam Emperor.” The up to now silent Lieutenant Colonel said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡPcubBhmFFj

“I could have sir,” Katya said with a grin, “But then I would have had some  angry soldiers who would never have forgiven me. But for now General,” she stood up and they followed hastily. “Our first of many discussions is over. I thank you for your time.” Without another word Colonel Hadim escorted the two Officers away and returned shortly after.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFvqUYszif8

“I believe they in turn believed everything Sire.” He said as he stood beside her and watched two ducks swimming in the shell crater.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwBBpp1sQG7

“They had no reason to doubt my words Colonel. Sometimes what one sees is not always what one should believe. Now to business. I have been notified that the enemy has attacked three more cities.  Ohara, Campdon and Midas. All with relative success. Loss of life has been minimal but the damage like here is phenomenal. What are we going to do about them?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiwkMHW44CJ

“That Sire, I believe is up to Admiral Blair. I believe he may be correct in the assumption that from here on out the enemy will have eyes on any movement to or from this city. We stay put. They cannot fire on us for fear of their own people. But that’s not to say they will not lay waste to any force moving towards those three other cities. As soon as word is received from him, we call up our own forces and attack those three cities and get them back into the fold. In fact, it is possible that their ground forces may regroup and attack us here to reclaim this city.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡoheObdhLvw

“Exactly my thoughts Colonel. Let’s take some precautions shall we?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡT17vrxxUne

Landfall – plus 32 hours and countingcopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhWdvKpJ2ae

Admiral Isak Blair stood on the Bridge of the Pyrenees and nodded to his Number One. “Notify all forces, converge on the enemy. All Bulldogs to wait further instructions.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlEi60Lykj6

The vast Empire fleet at last came out of hiding. They came from behind distant planets and moons. They lifted off from clusters of massive blocks of ice that circled one of the home planets. They came from all directions and converged on the enemy from a distant solar system. And amongst them, invisible to eye and electronic scanner, coated in thick, plastic enhanced chameleon cloth …, the Polrobs.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfA2t6NSPP2

“Thank you Mr. Quiney, although I’m positive they noticed us the moment we moved from hiding and now they are kicking themselves for not sending out probes sooner. Their mistake, our fortune. The fact that a third of their force has been utterly destroyed  may have something to do with it though. A shock like that to the system can be utterly disorienting to say the least. So. Now it’s our turn. Have all our forces link up Mr. Quiney. As of this moment we are at our weakest.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡT8kcekYNFh

“It will take at least an hour sir. Though those furthest away have been able to leapfrog from hiding place to hiding place. But the general consensus out there is an hour.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUUSWoZKgPz

Admiral Isak Blair stared at his Number One with a steely eye. “An hour? Not five? Has something occurred in the meantime Mr. Quiney that somehow passed me by? Something that nobody thought to notify me of? Because the last time I checked my salary slip, it said in bold black lettering that I was Admiral Isak Blair; Naval Commander of the Galactic Empire. I could be wrong though as my eyes definitely are not what they were.” He finished off with sarcasm dripping. “That was an idiotic, brash thing to do.” He hesitated. “Just who may I ask gave that instruction and how did they accomplish it without setting off the enemy alarms and come to think of it,” he turned to the Navigation and Plotters section of the Bridge. “Why did we not notice anything on our own screens?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjUXpf16jjT

“Uh. To be honest sir.” His number one hesitated. “The maneuver was accomplished some three hours ago although I only found out from Captain Bill O’ Ryan twenty minutes ago.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZd2jphEo5j

“Twenty minutes? Twenty minutes? And you only deign to noti … and  who the hell is this Captain Bill O’ Ryan that he … why does that name sound familiar Number One? I seem to recall something …” a finger clicked as it returned to him. “Ah yes. Our esteemed Annular negotiator none the less. Well you can notify Mr. O’ Ryan that he is up on orders as soon as this fiasco is over. I will have him against the  wall for this, negotiator or no negotiator. I will not have any person doing as they please in my Navy. And by the way, consider yourself on orders as well. Twenty minutes.” he turned away fuming.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGZdyWCxGSn

“A message from Captain Bill O’ Ryan sir.” He handed over a slip of paper with pencil scribbling’s on.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5fZjOVVmBN

After a few seconds of reading and rereading the message, Admiral Isak Blair looked up at his Second in Command. “And notify the Emperor that she too is on orders.” He said as he stumped away.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJRZ04Axiin

There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians in this goddamn navy. It was high time that some of them departed right smartly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQTcCxkNs6n

Two vast armadas approached each other tentatively. fighter jets and Bulldogs swarmed amongst their respective bigger brothers. Battle ships and Aircraft Carriers with their companioned and assorted war craft squared off and jockeyed for position. Once more death was but moments away as eager fingers hovered above firing buttons or triggers. Almost equal in numbers and fire power, the end result of this conflagration in waiting was going to be determined on skill and experience. Both sides were confident of the end results  although one had lost almost a third of its forces which included its Admiralty AND its Supreme Commander in one foul swoop. The strength, the will to carry out previous orders and the conviction that a wrong had to be righted was foremost in the driving force of Old Earths Navy. Come what may, they were going to teach this back stabbing rabble a lesson.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdxPcxTN4c6

“Sir. We have a communication from the enemy. It seems they would like to enter into deliberations with our Commanding Officer.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡs20EFxYs05

“Thank you Mr. Ferguson. Patch it through to my chair and bring up visuals.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQsgtULUhbI

“This is Acting Fleet Admiral Brookes. Who may I have the pleasure of speaking to?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgpf5CNZpRc

“Admiral Isak Blair sir.” A female Signals Officer said, “I’m patching you through now.” the picture changed and of a sudden, he was staring into a pair of hypnotic icy blue eyes. The blue, almost colorless eyes and the relative youth of the man were inconsistent with his grey hair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvkevYU3Wm3

“Fleet Admiral Brookes?” the face asked. “I am Admiral Isak Blair of Her Majesties Naval forces of the Galactic Empire. It is my most fervent wish to end these hostilities between us without the further loss of life.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2dwiGq4AHf

“Well,” Admiral Blair grinned suddenly, absurdly. “We could  turn around and go our separate ways. That would be the easiest and most convenient way.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgdxvJvpMsL

Admiral Brooks caught himself before he too smiled at the absurdness of the suggestion. This man, under different circumstances would be somebody he may get to like. “I’m sure it would be sir. But under what contractual agreements would this cease fire exist?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQuZmNFMRfu

“Ah. The crux of the matter. As you know sir. The original contract was made over four thousand years ago and it is highly improbable that we of the galactic Empire can pay a debt that originated before we were  born, never mind the interest incurred.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7ysM6x4sAL

“Be as it may Admiral Blair. The contract, although of lengthy duration, is still binding and to all intents and purposes valid.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFRYcmHILua

“That sir, is not under dispute here. What is though, is Earth for whatever reason, decided to instigate force of arms instead of entering into peaceful negotiations. Frankly sir, with all due respect, I myself and in fact, the whole Galactic Empire for that matter, had no inkling that we owed such a debt nor that Earth still existed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxkFwGsbtkr

“True. But for how long is the question.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4ep2rLJ9xd

“A threat? So early on the negotiations table? I am to put it plainly Admiral, quite disappointed to say the least.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡk4yZAesLHM

“No threat sir. Fact. I’m sure you have noticed that there is another player in this game? A player that cares nothing for money, power or whom it may destroy?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcFec6sj4LS

Admiral Brooks frowned, “And who may that be?” his attention was suddenly caught by an aide. “Please excuse me Admiral …” he read a slip of paper; HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND THE SECOND FLEET. SCOUT SHIPS REPORTS ARE NEGATIVE IN ALL QUADRANTS. ADVICE; THIS IS A TRAP TO LURE US INTO COMPLACENCY. RECOMMENDATION; RECOMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡDP63SyPBHm

His answer was short and concise; NEGATIVE. FIND THEM. Dismissing his aid with a hand gesture, he turned back to the screen before him. “Pardon me Admiral. Some things cannot wait. Where were we? Ah yes. The third player, not so?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡP2qn10CuMk

Admiral Blair waved the interruption away. “You brought with you sir, an affliction, a plague, one  as we speak, is decimating your ground forces. Our medical staff are as we speak, trying to fathom the nature of this misfortune but we require time.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgYZub6XubI

Suspicion crossed Admiral Brooks mind but he dismissed it as irrelevant. That second fleet made it irrelevant. Why try to stop a war with tales of plague when there was another large naval fleet ready to pounce on his forces? They would be out numbered  quickly and the tables turned. He decided to throw a stone  to muddy the waters. “All this talk of a plague Admiral, is humane of you, although to my mind and way of thinking it’s all immaterial. You are simply at a disadvantage and waiting for the rest of your forces to arrive so that you can commence with the destruction of Earths Navy. And I for one will not allow you that time.” Well, that turned out to be more than one stone, he thought.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmPytSq1H2J

“Logical assumption sir. Though should you look closer, you will determine the simple fact that I do not have to wait for, as you so eloquently put it, my second fleet. My second fleet has been amongst your forces all the while and is waiting for the go ahead. Secondly, your assumption sir is based on the fact that I only have two fleets where in fact I have three.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4RMufNvRhh

Stunned, Admiral Brooks  stared at the screen. “Impossible. We would have …” Admiral Blair interjected by holding up a hand and shaking his head.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbygb2riZWt

“That will take some time Admiral. A few hundred thousand clicks takes some time to cover. It is a vast distance and that without a proper designated destination.” He glared at the face on his screen. “Or will you conveniently supply that as well?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyXBksQ8XIq

“Certainly sir.” Admiral Blair smiled thinly. “That I will. Send out four unmanned craft to the four corners of the compass and program them to head out as the crow flies.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfTYw41Yn1U

“And in the mean time? While my probes are being sent on a wild goose chase? What will be happening here? I believe you are bluffing Admiral.” Suspicion that was minutes before irrelevant flamed to the forefront as his eyes narrowed in mistrust and skepticism.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQJe901kIQd

“Well.” Admiral Blair said, as he scratched an itch behind an ear. “While we have been deliberating here, some of your people have died while others have  become violently ill and should nothing be done and done soon, more and more people will be infected. Come now sir. This is no time for procrastination. It is a time for doing. Should you not wish to negotiate peaceful terms, we will be forced to negotiate with your successor. We wish only to help while on the other hand, we will destroy you should you not declare a peace between us. You have been dealt the cards sir. Now play them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡroa3JCTSAC

“The second invisible so-called fleet of yours Admiral.” He leaned forward in his seat, “Just where are they? In fact Admiral, these negotiations are terminated as of immediate effect.” Before he could terminate the connection, Admiral Isak Blair grinned wolfishly. “It behooves one at time not to call a bluff sir. But as you have, I wish you to take note, you and your successor, that none of my forces will fire a shot, although you will  soon, within moments, have a few alarms going off all over the …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡiPvhmAjkXk

Alarms clamored. MULTIPLE BREACHES FORE AND AFT. The ships computer proclaimed in its metallic voice. BREACH AND FIRE CREWS TO SECTIONS 011CHARLIE AND 080YANKIE.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeO4sX5uhNk

“I am  sorry sir.” Admiral Blair said softly as he stared at his counterpart.” You have left me no choice. You have  killed your people.” He terminated the contact and bent his head in despair. “Signals.” He said softly as he tapped his throat mike. “An open link to the enemy if you please.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡufJFisiclS

“Cut those  alarms,” Acting Admiral Brooke shouted as he turned towards his Signals Officer. “Send out …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOEIkW4VfpS

Alarms clamored once again. MULTIPLE BREACHES FORE AND AFT. The ships computer proclaimed once more.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVqNE557nis

BREACH AND FIRE CREWS TO SECTIONS 013CHARLIE AND 082ZULU.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfR7WweAfPv

“… of Her Majesties Naval forces of the Galactic Empire.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNKVAp1GwpY

BREACH AND FIRE CREWS TO SECTIONS 014BRAVO AND 083XRAY.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZF65Fy8KVq

“I beg of you. Please listen. We have forces amongst you that although you …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdbil7OzH4p

BREACH AND FIRE CREWS TO SECTIONS 013ALFA AND 089 WHISKY.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdRa8sz986z

“… cannot see them, are there none the less. They will destroy your ships with all crew on my instructions.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ75eebUMjEI

Time had suddenly run out for Acting Admiral Brookes as unseen Polrobs lasers penetrated the ship’s hull in strategic places. Emergency crews tried vainly to close one breach after the other. Where one breach was closed another three were made until as one, Polrobs fired a single unseen miniature torpedo through each. Slowly, imponderably, the battleship slewed to one side as its engines were targeted and destroyed. Explosions and their resultant after explosions rocked the inner recesses of the Battle ship. Emergency personnel were decimated. ship engines and their crew were slagged or they simply vanished in the white hot heat of intense explosions. Huge balls of roiling, billowing fire rushed down one passageway after another and left an aftermath of death and destruction in its wake.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKST2d1RNJV

“Please listen. We wish to end these hostilities with immediate effect. There has been too much loss of life.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡdWNn4gXeo3

Emergency life pods suddenly fled the dying ship. A ship that once had stood proud in its might and glory now leaked red and orange flames from its cracked and disintegrating hull.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNw92KkXwEB

“There will be no prisoners of war. There will be no more deaths. I beg you. Listen to my words. You are outnumbered and only death will be victorious here. We wish to negotiate, not have a war with own people. These will not be negotiations of surrender but of peace and prosperity between us. I request you to send out probes to see my other forces, forces that have encircled you. Forces that await my signal that will invariably destroy each and every one of you. For these reasons I give you two choices. Negotiate or die.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡfou9rIajvU

DOCTOR SICHEM AND PROFESSOR NANTAO OF EARTHS MEDICAL FORCES WISHES TO HAVE AN AUDIENCE. THEY ARE  AGITATED AND HAVE ENHANCED BREATHING AND HEART RATE. INDICATIONS OF TENSION AND EXCITEMENT ARE VISIBLE AND PRESENT.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡur8av1hi6H

With relief, she pushed away the recent batch of documents she was perusing and stretched her back. This was the only part of being Emperor that she hated; the paperwork. “Send them in then.” She glanced with disgust at her large desk that was piled haphazardly with files and paperwork. The  things seemed to accumulate  by looking at them. Maybe she should hire some help? Now that was a thought.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡA4mBT4JD5W

Seconds later, a warrior woman opened the door and bowed to her Emperor. “Sire. Doctor Sichem and Professor Nantao.” The two men stepped into her office and bowed solemnly. “Madam. Uh …Sire.” One of them said immediately. “We have good news.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxNgqJTjC7b

“Please gentlemen.” She stood up and stepped around her desk. “Please sit down. Thank you. Now sir, what good news are you talking about?” she asked as she took her chair.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0BC9M8a3rg

“Sire.” The man said again. Forgive me. I am Professor Nantao and my colleague is Doctor Sichem. We … we have found the cure. The cure to the plague.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡK1l7DebnRg

The Emperor was back on her feet instantly. “How? What is it and why has it only affected Earths personnel?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjp3AQMt9pA

“Overlord is still terraforming Sire. That’s the answer. The water, the food, in other words your fauna and flora are still in the process of change right down to the molecular level which is the simplest structural unit of an element or compound. The simple fact is that as soon as our people ingested anything from this world, the Nano technology which was developed right from the beginning, starts to change the DNA of the host. It invariably kills that host due to too much change at once. That Sire, is the most simplified way I can describe the battle going on in the affected human body.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkpcXyY5J2w

“Yes.” He nodded with a smile that  changed to a frown. “But the afflicted, and there are thousands now, will die.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmTSptIcXRB

“I’m not sure I understand sir.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyc1L9AKfkM

“The human body Sire, is to put it mildly, a machine. A  complex machine. Should one part be damaged it will affect the other. Oh. It can lose a leg or arm or eye with no discernable problems and adapt accordingly. The resultant psychological factors on the other hand, would on the other hand, be up for discussion. But start messing around with the DNA and you will have catastrophic results.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡMlzlHtxhz6

“So what do we do?” she asked. “We cannot have people dying like flies all over the place.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡKVZCltlyrd

Doctor Sichem leaned forward, “We have done a few tests Sire with some excellent results. We have re-programmed the Nano-mites to slow down all adaptation.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9ZpbKzMuP6

“That’s it? That’s all you have to do? Could you not stop it all together?” she was shocked.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡhCrQX8kuqU

“There are only two wrinkles Sire. Two large wrinkles I may add.” He said with a frown as he steepled his fingertips. “The Nano technology should have de-activated countless of years ago. Once terraforming was complete to such a degree that humans could survive on this planet, the Nano mites were programmed to de-activate. Now according to our tests which are inconclusive by the way, one of two things happened. One; they never deactivated or two, they did and somehow were reactivated and have now started, to put it plainly, begun changing our DNA. Changes which should they be halted, will kill the person because they cannot be reversed.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡBaQBNc49Kv

“Impossible sir. We do not as far as my knowledge goes; have the relevant technical knowhow to reactivate this …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡmUvM5fmRKb

She looked upwards. “Yes Guardian?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7R9XsXaw6U

WE WISH TO RECTIFY THAT RECORD SIRE. WE HAVE ALWAYS HAD THAT TECHNOLOGY. JUST NEVER IMPLIMENTED DUE TO IT NOT BEING REQUIRED. ACCORDING TO OUR RECORDS, THIS INCLUDES VISUAL AS WELL AS FINGER PRINTS, EYE SCANS AND DNA SCANS; NONE HAVE EVER REQUESTED THIS TECHNOLOGY WITHIN THE LAST THREE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN YEARS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2sOxfTNBLx

“Thank you Guardian. Well …” she said looking at the two men before her. “That’s put paid to that idea. Just what would the reasoning for reactivating these Nano mites be and who would do such a thing?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNJzA8rmGEB

“That Sire is part of the problem we have,” said Professor Sichem, “The second and most disturbing problem is that we cannot, must not, be allowed to go home.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡFMsOKVLUrS

She stared at them both, “Are you saying what I believe you are saying sir? That you are afraid of infecting your own people?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡOulC2AwPbh

They both nodded. “Our prelim investigations lean towards the time we reach home,  on the slower rate of transformation in our DNA,” Professor Nantao said, “We will be outcasts and viewed as a potential threat. One that possibly would have only one consequence.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡnZ0XA9oWP3

Katya Berotivich, Emperor of the Galactic Empire had an instant flash of inspiration. One that made her eyes gleam with excitement. “Guardian. Get me the Treasury. I want that stuck up Idiot of a man in my office on the double. And notify Admiral Blair and Acting Admiral Princeton to be in my office not later than one hour from now.” she sat back in her seat and grinned at herself. This may  be what they needed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡK84K5ETuAJ

“Gentlemen. Please converse amongst yourself. Refreshments will be on their way and extra chairs will be brought in. I require a short while to think things through.” she glanced upwards. “Privacy,” she instructed and sat quietly in her small cocoon and wondered whether she was going to do the right thing. She had to think things through first.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtANmTJhMc1

SIRE. THE ARRIVAL OF ALL THREE REQUESTED MEMBERS IS IMMENENT.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡRWaVHgABLa

“Good. Let them in. Do you realize Guardian,  what is about to fall into our laps?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡkkjzIt6HzJ

SIRE. YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS IS NOT DIFFICULT TO FOLLOW AND IN YOUR POSITION, WE WOULD POSSIBLY DO THE SAME. THERE IS ONE POINT OF NOTE; IS THIS NOT ALL DESIGNED TO HAPPEN BY THE ONE WHO REANIMATED THE NANO MITES?copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡb3kZpdJHZV

“You force me into an untenable position Sire. I must first notify my Navy of this and see what the general opinion will be before I can …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyvfS4YlbGV

Katya held up a hand to stop him, “Not so sir. Once you decide to stay, we will then notify your Navy as to  what they stand to lose should they go home. In any case, they will still be relatively young while those left behind on Earth will either be dead or firmly on their way to old age. The new generation that now exists or that will exist by the time you get home, will not understand or  attempt to understand your plight. Fear will ultimately rule. We can join forces sir, and become a Navy to be reckoned with. Your people will have the same rights as our own. With the same pay and privileges. They can  go on retirement or change jobs for all that it matters.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVSZfRptB6s

“We would have to iron out one or two factors Sire before any decision of such magnitude can be made,” he said weakly.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡwPjpI6YSu9

“And those being?” she asked as her heart thumped loudly in her chest.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡO2F4UK2gWI

“I do not know, Sire. But I take it for granted my naval personnel will ultimately think of something.” He said lamely.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡcRAb7sAA3G

Katya burst out laughing. “Well said sir. Well said. So. Other than some factor or two that may or may not come into play once everybody knows  what they are getting themselves into, I take it you will stay?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2AvmZetY7X

“I will Sire,” he nodded agreement.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8W0N0Vy2bu

“Perfect. You sir, will then hand over all personnel files and what have you to Admiral Blair who will do the necessary as he sees fit.” She turned to her Treasurer. “And you Mr. Harold Jones. Just how does our Treasury look? How are we doing in the money department?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡLnlmztP93S

“Uh … “caught off guard, the man sat up straight. “We are doing well Sire.” He said in an unconvincing manner.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡQ6tmtsBWrI

“Good. Admiral Blair will hand over certain documents notifying you as to our massive recruitment strategy. Problem being sir that we are behind in salary payments by a few years is my guess. Please make these funds available once you have done the relevant adding and subtracting so that I do not have any mutineers on my hands.” She stared in wonder as his face froze in shock. It changed colour so many times she almost believed he was having a stroke. “Sire.” he spluttered for a few seconds. “That would most certainly bankrupt the Empire.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡUzEVmFQVI1

“Well then sir. I’m sure you will volunteer your own measly pittance of a salary to the cause?” she asked sweetly. “You can of course include mine into the kitty. Oh. Sorry. I forgot I do not get one do I?” she fingered her ever present sword. Her caressing fingers drew his attention and he blanched. “Do not disappoint me sir. It would be  detrimental to your health. You are excused.” She waited for him to realize that he’s meeting with the Emperor had come to an abrupt end. The door of her office closed behind him so quickly she couldn’t hide her bitter smile. “Are your Tax collectors as despicable as that man Admiral?” she asked of Earths representative.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡptpLQYeF8i

“Some are worse madam,” he laughed,  he had enjoyed the show. “You have my admiration and respect Sire. You offer more than I would ever have been able to bargain for.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡxYo0lStWPU

“That is why I required you to firstly join us sir. It is a prerequisite of mine to have a platform to work with. Without that platform, I tend to make mistakes, and that brings me to my next subject. I require you, Admiral Princeton, to relinquish your post as Acting Admiral of our combined naval forces and to sign on as my Senior Military Advisor. This post will of course make you the second most powerful person in the Empire. What say you?” she was convinced he would argue that he was being demoted and his immediate answer left her openmouthed in surprise.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡEJtjFQZvMH

“Well … umm. That went quite smooth I must say.” She blushed and looked away. Suddenly lost for words.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡud2TenLIjA

“Oh. I wouldn’t be all that surprised Sire,” interjected Admiral Blair with a knowing look at his ex-counterpart. You do have the ability to inspire trust and affection.” He smiled at her.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡCYk6iZXhvJ

She quickly glanced at her new advisor and then back to him. “Admiral Blair.” She glared. “It seems sir; you do not have enough work to keep you busy. You are promoted to Fleet Admiral with immediate effect as your naval forces have  doubled in size and I’m sure you will have much to do. Why. I can  imagine all those Navy personnel waiting impatiently in the wings for their own promotions.” Getting to his feet with a grin, he bowed deeply to her and as he left her office, he laughed softly, but not softly enough and she colored once more. “That is an infuriating man,” she said to no one in particular. “Can you imagine, the bastard put me on a charge for interfering with naval operations? Me? His Emperor?”  She caught herself before she stamped her foot and had to breathe deeply a few times to calm herself. “So gentlemen.” She turned to the two medical professionals and changed tact suddenly. “If  that is all, I would like to discuss events with my advisor.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡZ2VaZSbU4R

“There is one more item that requires your attention madam,” the professor said as he slid a hand held tablet across the table with deliberate reluctance. “Please look at this.” He finished.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡYy41sjod1I

“And  what is this … this beast Professor?” she asked as she took the tablet and turned it this way and that to get a better idea of the picture it showed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡNEH7LZ7JhC

“Slide your finger across the tablet’s face Sire, from left to right. That’s it. What you are seeing madam, is a horse. A black horse. It once belonged to our President who uh … perished along with our Fleet Admiral a few uh … months back.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsgEoqDgByl

“So this is what a horse looks like? I always wondered. And it has wings too. How interesting.” She flipped through one picture after the other.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡsxUxymRXzS

“That’s just it Sire. That horse was born without wings.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡGnxnujnC2F

She  looked up and frowned as she remembered something someone had told her a  long time ago. Her frown deepened as she fought to remember. A finger tapping on the desk suddenly stilled as it returned. “Beware of the black horse.” It was the Metal Worker that had warned her about the creature so long ago. She glanced upwards at the circling Polrobs. “Find me that Metal worker. Now.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡeuVTSmx9Y5

SIRE. SEARCHING … SEARCHING … SEARCH …copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡurDoZcKQak

“And now? what is the matter?” she asked, startled at the pause. Something like this had never happened before.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJQHgecACOC

SIRE. THE METAL WORKER IS INVOLVED WITHIN A WURM MEGA-BOND. THIS IS SOMETHING UNHEARD OF IN OUR HISTORY. AN INTERRESTING SITUATION. WE WILL HAVE TO AWAIT THIS BONDS CLIMAX BEFORE WE CAN NOTIFY HIM OF YOUR INTENTIONS.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡh27dVZAs9y

“So be it.” She turned once more to the three men before her. “Just what is going on here gentlemen? Why does a … a horse suddenly have wings?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡyE0c2ZoNPy

“Sire,” her advisor looked up from the tablet. “I … we cannot explain this. The only thing I can say for a fact is that this creature looks one hundred percent like a Pegasus steed.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7ypPPE1qgP

High king Odin’s hall Lidskjalfcopyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡAASsKEgT0x

“Thor is well on his way to convincing the Jötnar it would be better to join forces with us than to have those Aliens first pick at their natural enemy. A case of my enemy’s enemy would have to be my enemy until his enemy is destroyed. Then I can go back to fighting my enemy.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡtQPMfzVjkt

Queen Freya smiled at him. “Slim to none, Father. Odin has promised them … in fact, he has given his word that things would return to normal once these aliens have been destroyed. Them and their human counterparts.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡbU5y2VXaFN

“And they have agreed?” he asked in astonishment. “I would not have believed they were so stupid.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ59DVVTuRcP

“Thor can be  convincing at times, Father. I believe they are now discussing concessions.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡlQKpn7fyLX

“Concessions? What concessions?” a deep frown settled on his brow. “What do the Jötnar know of concessions?”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡJWRPvUKs4q

“They have one or two ideas as to that.” She smiled. “The best one I could gleam from Thor’s few spare minutes where I was able to pull his attention away from the conclave was that they demanded the High King Heimdall should allow them to at least place both feet onto the Rainbow Bridge before he killed the perpetrator. There are others but I do not want you to die laughing.” She laughed,  enjoying the serious joke. “Thor is giving ground  and I believe the Jötnar believe they can actually win ground in their eternal struggle to destroy us.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡgazU5vNAm0

Odin shook his head and grunted. “If they weren’t so massively strong and bullishly lacking in intellectual acuity, this war between us would have ceased years ago. As it is, we need their strength. Their bodies can absorb punishment like sponge water. And our allies?” he asked.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡpHQa7ehmM3

“All the Aesir worlds are preparing for war father. High King Heimdall’s horn saw to that. Only Midgard has for obvious reasons been left out of the loop. That is one can of worms we do not I believe, want to open.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjv0bkv55Ya

“Truer words have never been spoken my daughter. There is  too much that can go wrong there.” He thought deeply for a while. “Once these Alien creatures have been dispatched, we can turn our attentions back to Midgard.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡvel58qAW1X

“We have one vexing problem father; that of the Aliens and their human allies. We cannot find them. All who seem to come close disappear. We have lost twenty-two Valkyrie and for some reason or other, their Pegasus steeds as well. In the beginning they would mostly return. Some with wounds, some  covered in blood.  Now none return. It is as if …”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWrFNBM1T9N

“As if the enemy either destroys them or has found a use for them.” Odin interjected.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡWtiXEDtKIr

“There is that.” Queen Freya said.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡVeGgjPHULJ

“How long will it take to muster our forces daughter? I wish to show these upstarts what a god is capable of doing once he is royally pissed off.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡSIaxvMjwFt

“Two. Three days at most father. On the other hand, it will be over two or three and a half thousand human years for them.”copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡjCWCzBf2mY

“A nice total that will surely have them forget about us and be ripe for destruction.” Odin said as he closed his one eye and planned the destruction of the Galactic Empire and those infuriating Aliens.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡuicazv0gqM

If he could only find them.copyright protection24ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0iuaPZW9vC