Catch a fistful of sky

Old Friends, New Places Pt 2 | June 22, 2010

Emily was correct. The sleek black ship with silver piping along the wings and dorsal fin made one pass over the modular buildings that made up their camp shortly before dinner was ready. It wagged its wings once and then came down for a landing in the cleared field that passed for a vehicle pool.

“That’s a rather nice ship,” Leah noted, as her and Emily hiked over to where the ship was. “Did you get word of a larger vessel coming past the planet? That ship right there is rather small for a slide generator.”

Emily shrugged. The ramp was coming down, she noticed, and three humans were stepping off. “It was probably dropped out near the edge of the solar system and simply relay skipped here,” she said as she looked over the three humans in the setting sunlight. There were two women and one man.

The Engineer was obvious. Her tool belt was strapped tight around her hips, with everything from a laser slide to a terra hammer attached securely. An infini-tool glove was around her right hand, wired into her neural net ready to become whatever she might require, while her left arm boasted a projection computer. A monocular examiner was pushed to one side of her head, Emily noted. She wasn’t so far gone that she had forgotten basic courtesy, as others in her craft tended to after an extended period of time. Her chest badge was a sextant surrounded by three stars, indicating mastery in her field. The halo on top was curious, but not out of place considering the recent war – it showed that she was a veteran.

The pilot wore a loose set of coveralls that matched the cut of Emily’s and Leah’s uniforms, with several notable exceptions. The collar and cuffs could be sealed at a moment’s notice in case of a sudden exposure to vacumn. Her shoulder patch was the crossed telescope and quill, with the mason’s compass behind both – the seal of Science Division. On the belt around her waist was a light pistol that looked to be ballistic.  Her black hair was tied back to stay out of her face. It wasn’t much of a problem, as her eyes had been sealed. Mirrored implants over each eye showed Emily and Leah in distort, and gave the pilot a slightly alien appearance.  And above her heart she displayed the winged star of a journeyman pilot, also haloed to indicate that she was a veteran.

The man was tall and broad, and looked around with an easy confidence. His eyes swept over Leah and Emily, and then back to the camp. He wore dark colors in his utility uniform, and his top was cut with short sleeves. It seemed to shine in the dim light, with led Leah to believe it was some sort of mesh, and ridges along his thighs and sides made her think of armor implants. Of the three, he hefted a medium sized carry all, and was armed with a large pistol at his side. More curiously, a sword’s hilt peaked over one shoulder. It was not out of place to see a melee weapon on the modern battlefield, not with the advent of shields, but not one you saw security personel carry around. Leah would guess that he was prior military, even though he wore no rank or badge.

As the two sides took each other in, Emily cleared her throat and gave a welcoming smile. “Welcome to Cassius IV, its not much but its interesting. We’re glad to have you here, and hope your stay is a pleasant one. I’m Archivist O’Leary, co head of the Garden Project,” she said.

Leah took up the speech. “And I’m Technologist Raedar, the other head of Garden. We’re very pleased to have official Imperial support, but its a bit sudden, so we ask for your understanding if things seem a little bit out of place,” said Leah.

The Engineer nodded, returned the smiles, and walked down the ramp, followed by the other two. “We’re glad to be here. I’m Chief Reclaimist Leitch, here on behalf of Science Division. We’re very interested in what you’ve been working with, and I have to say, your reports are top notch from what I’ve seen,” she said. Up close, Leitch seemed tough and wiry, a woman who was ready to get her hands dirty in pursuit of her craft. “I’ll be looking everything over, seeing what’s what, but if your reports are anything to go by, I assume that we already know what we’re looking at, and what we need to do. A Garden ship is a rare find,” she finished.

“Indeed it is,” said Emily, nodding. “Already we’ve found it to be a storehouse of Naith culture and more. There’s some very curious things I’ve never seen before, and some that are troubling.” Alex raised an eyebrow, and Leah continued.

“Their science, specifically,” she said. “Looks like they were experimenting on prisoners of war, and their own people.”

“Should be surprising, but its not,” said Alex. “I assume you know about their entire series of law?”

Leah gave a twist of the lips, Emily only seemed bemused. “Of course,” answered Emily, “Land law and space law, and then peace law and war law and finally desperation law. It fits them, of course,” said Emily.

Alex nodded, and then gave a light laugh. “Excuse me, I’ve forgotten to introduce the other members of my team. This is Aviatrix Tseng, who I must say is an absolute genius at the controls – we had a nasty bout with some solar winds when we were relaying here,” she said. The smaller woman smiled, and gave a wave. You had to stare, but the gears in her hand were just barely visible under the skin.

“Ladies, its a pleasure,” she said. “I’m a mechanic as well, so if you have any nagging mechanical issues, I’ve been instructed to give a hand as well.” Alex nodded, and then waved a hand at the man, and seemed poised to speak for him before he stepped up.

“Hello,” he said, not quite cutting off Alex. For her part, she seemed somewhat surprised, but then gave a half smile as if pleased. “I’m Agent Close, with S3,” he said, displaying the shield, stars, and swords crest of the Special Security Service. Emily tilted her head, and there was a faint whirring from behind her eyes. She had never seen an S3 badge before, and recorded it on her neural web to look at in the future. Leah gave a concerned look at the mention of S3.

“Is it really that bad out here that S3 needed to send someone? Not that I have anything to hide…” she trailed off.

“Well if you did, we’d already know, and we didn’t care enough to do anything about it,” he said with a wink. The group shared a light laugh, and then he continued. “Its an interesting time for the Empire. The Peacers are still aching from the aftermath of Scylla, but thanks to Young’s Folly, they weren’t crushed and brought to heel. We’ve had reports of Leitani raiders in the nearby systems, so, better safe than sorry, yes?” asked Tyler. Leah nodded, still polite, but dismayed. He spoke like a True Believer from the Inner Worlds or a Sanctum World, which was always a bit grinding to someone apolitical like her.

“Well,” said Alex, “we heard you were having dinner at this time, so we decided to bring a few additions to the meal.” She nodded at Tyler, who opened up his carry all to reveal fresh bread and meats, both vacumn sealed, and several kilos of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a canister of what seemed to be real coffee, next to a large thermos that was perspiring and marked “MILK”. Both the women caught themselves swallowing as their mouths filled with saliva.

“Well, let’s not keep our guests waiting,” said Emily, shaking her head and smiling wider now. Even Leah had warmed to the guests, and both ladies led the way towards the camp.

~

Over Cassius IV, a ship dropped out of reality slide, and circled the planet once. It was a sleek ship, armed and large enough to be classified as a corvette. It was roughly cigar shaped that flattened out near the end, but with plenty of hard edges and a bridge that formed a beak like ‘head’ at the other end. The ship’s electronic warfare suite jammed the two rather basic satellites that were monitoring terraforming conditions as well as a early warning system for raiders. A bay opened along one side of the ship, and a smaller ship disgorged from the docking bay. It was shaped like a crescent, with a triangular hold in the center that met where the two tips of the crescent touched. It flared its thrusters once, and slid into the atmosphere of the planet with no warning of its presence.

~

The dinner was going well. The heads of the project were eating with Alex, Carmen, and Tyler, while the rest of the staff took their meals as usual in the mess. It was a good meal, with the conversation easy and light, with interesting ancedotes from each person in turn. All three were veterans, and while that was usually the par in the militaristic Terran Empire after their war, it was interesting for Leah and Emily to get a taste of what they had missed, just barely. Both were, as required, active Reservists, and did their required time every 365 days.

Alex’s story was an entertaining story about being mistaken for a common engineer after gaining her commission and being ordered to dig latrines, and the choas that resulted (“Amazing how little heat it takes to activate therma det on a toilet seat”), which got swept under the rug when her Sergeant Major found out what she had been ordered to do.  Carmen told a story of her days when she piloted a Cutthroat interceptor and lost her arm outside of the Shoulder of Orion (“I made ace and squadron leader that day, so it was worth it.”) Tyler’s story was of his MP days, when he had just become a detective and was investigating trade in alien narcotics that had made it on the station Iolus, even if it seemed to gloss over certain parts.

Leah and Emily’s stories may have been less to do with the war, but had their excitement all the same. All were on the edge of their seat when Emily told of being stranded on a marine world that turned out to be a Rulonian burial world, and observing their funeral rites, only to find out that they were allied Rulonians. While they weren’t pleased, they were polite enough to take her off the planet and not try to Harmonize her. Leah had a story of her apprenticeship, working with a genius who was drunk more than half the time, and having to keep the life support going on a tramp frigate with little more than her wits, some archaic tools, and the drunken advice of her senior tech that had everyone in stitches.

Right after the last story, Alex cleared her throat.

“Should we start on that coffee?” she asked, and everyone nodded in the affirmative. As the coffee was passed around and everyone began to settle into content thoughts, the lights flickered once, then twice, and then went out. The air conditioning units died, and suddenly everything was shrouded in the red glow of emergency lighting. Leah and Emily shared a frown, and shook their heads.

“I’m sorry,” said Emily, “but our power maintenance has been on the fritz recently. If your offer of help was a sincere one, it would be much appreciated. Not that Leah isn’t up to handling it, its just that there’s so much work on that ship-”

“Nonsense,” cut in Leah, “I don’t have an excuse, except that I’m working with what Titan Scholastica gives us, and I still should be able to do enough to keep power ready,” she said, standing. “I’ll go take a look at it now, won’t take long.” Carmen also stood.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to go with you,” she said, looking at Alex, and then Leah. “It sounds like you may have homebrewed some items, and I’d like to see what schematics you’ve worked up.”

Leah paused for a moment, and then nodded in the affirmative. “It’ll be good to have another mechanical mind along,” she said, and the two women departed the building and walked out into the cool night. The breeze smelled like nutmeg, and the twin moons gave everything a violet glow. Leah wondered at the silence, and thought she would check in on the rest of the crew on her way back. Their mess was silent, and completely dark, with not even emergency lighting.

Leah wondered at this, until she was jerked suddenly into a space between buildings. Her cry of surprised was cut short by Carmen’s hand over her mouth and a quick shake of the head. With her free hand she pointed at two figures coming out of the crew quarters, wielding wicked looking curved knives. Taller than a human, but stouter, the two Naith commandos were obviously responsible for the silence of the crew. Carmen’s face worked rapidly, and she spoke under her voice to someone, before drawing her pistol in one fluid motion and firing off several times. The two naith suddenly seized up and dropped to the ground squirming wildly and going still.

Carmen kept her flechette pistol at the ready and nodded at Leah, leaning in to whisper in her ear. “Be as quiet as you can. Those were Naith Defenders, and they’re going to be on us in a moment, but we don’t need to pinpoint our exact location. Alex is informed of the situation, we’re going to get with her and then get out,” she told her matter of factly. The two women hustled for their building, when a sudden scream came from it followed by several gunshots. A garbled scream was followed by a huge concave dent appearing in the side of the building. Carmen cursed and ran in, looking around wildly. Three dead Defenders were piled near the kitchen, while a fourth was crumpled near the large dent in the wall. Tyler had drawn his pistol and apparently telescoped it into a carbine, while Emily had gotten a light pistol from somewhere and was standing in a shaky but acceptable regulation firing stance next to him. Alex’s terra hammer was thrumming gently and she seemed mildly annoyed, not like a rear echelon lieutenant who dealt with war in an abstract sort of way. That would explain the dent in the wall, but not how their three “regular” guests were killing the cream of the Naith armed forces like it was so much tying your shoes.

“What the fuck is going on?!” hissed Leah as she looked at the chaos. Alex turned to look at her, and Leah noticed that her monocule was down and working wildly.

“Seems like the Peacers know we’re here now,” Alex stated, while Tyler went over to the crushed Naith and grabbed his head. Emily turned to watch, her archivist side curious about him possibly counting coup by taking a trophy from the dead soldier’s body.

“Well no shit, but why here? Why now?” asked Leah as Carmen went to cover the rear entrance. Tyler looked up and over to Leah.

“Did you grab a small orb, about the size of a baseball or an orange, and take it back here with you?” he asked. Emily and Leah stared at him hard.

“How did you know that?” asked Emily tightly.

“Don’t worry about that,” Alex snapped, and then glared at the two women. “Did you find it then?”  After a moment, both the women gave a slow nod. Alex grunted, while Tyler pulled out two auto injectors from his carryall. “We’re going to need that,” she said. “Where did you leave it?”

Leah and Emily looked at each other, and Emily shook her head. “We’re not saying anything until you tell us what is going on, and why Peacer commandos show up when you do,” she said.

Alex snarled, which put both the women on edge. “Civilians,” she said like a normal person might curse, and then pressed a button on her arm. The image that projected made both women feel their guts clamp. It was the moon in its crescent phase, stylized as a bow with three arrows across it and the motto “Silence is golden.”

The symbol of an operative of the League of Silence, the Empire’s intelligence arm. “And with that, you both are deputized under Order 98 of Terran Security Regulations, to serve until released by me or a superior in my chain of command, upon pain of fine, imprisonment, or execution, depending on my whim and the severity of your crimes,” she finished. Tyler slid the auto injectors across the table to them.

“Take these. There is a Rulonian here, and unless you want to be domesticated, you’ll need these,” he finished.

“What are they?” asked Leah, rolling up her arm as she did so though.

“Rulonian antibodies, basically,” supplied Carmen. “They trick the Rulonian pheromones into believing you’ve already been Harmonized, but only for the next two weeks.” Neither woman could inject fast enough, and gave a little gasp at the surprising sexual rush that accompanied the injection, Leah standing on her tip toes and Emily staggering against the table.

“Puts some space between your legs,” noted Alex, and then waved. “We’ve talked to much, where is that orb?” She talked as she began to move, cocking her head at something and then shaking her head.

“In my quarters,” replied Leah in a shaky voice, and gathering herself and trying to ignore her skin’s sudden sensitivity turning the feel of cloth against it into a caress.

“How did you…How did you know there was a Rulonian?” asked Emily, having to repeat herself twice as she walked along, trying to sound accusatory but only coming off distracted.

Tyler shrugged, and Alex turned back to look at the women. “The less you know, the easier your debrief will be, unless you feel like traveling with us for longer than it takes to get off this planet,” she said with a smile. It was not a pleasant smile.

The group of five traveled into the night, stopping in the shadow of one building. Carmen pulled off from where she was pulling flank security and walked next to Alex.

“I’m going to go get the ship ready so we can get out of here as soon as possible,” she told Alex, who only nodded. Carmen slid gloves out from the inside of her sleeves, and pulled a hood over her face from the back of her utilities. And then she vanished. Emily and Leah goggled at the sight until Tyler chivved them along with the butt of his carbine. “Move move,” he said softly. They walked, and Emily whispered over her shoulder at him.

“And what’s your deal?” she asked.

“Death,” he said. She asked no more questions.

They arrived at Leah’s residence just as a squad was leaving. The Naith were accompanied by a sight rarely seen on any planet – Leitani warriors. The spindly, arachnid like aliens were in heavily armoured gravity suits, keeping them from being crushed from simply being on a planet. The Leitani had been on ships for generations, and had willingly given up planets for the ability to master space and take over multiple asteroids and moons. They walked on stilts that projected from their backs, with four more bristling with an array of melee and projectile weaponry.

The final member made the group draw back into the shadows in surprise and controlled panic. A Rulonian stepped out of the housing, several hundred kilos designed for war and killing. Heavily scaled in shades of green and white, the muscular humanoid lizard barked an order. Its rai’lith gunblade glittered in the moonlight, and off the armor it wore along its torso, arms, thighs, and head. He barked an order, and the troops marched out en file to Emily’s quarters, on the other side of the camp.

Emily’s mnemonic cameras silently recorded the platoon of Peacers, and she gave thanks to the One Truth that she had been honest enough to purchase the stealth optics. The group filed into the trailer, which had been destroyed in the wake of their search. Leah shook her head, digusted at the rampant destruction, but stood on a pile of ruined furniture to pull aside a ceiling tile. She reached into a piece of ducting and withdrew a satchel, nodding at Alex. Alex returned the nod, and the group headed back out into the night.

Just as Alex heard the ship’s engines beginning to take off, there was the glow of a plasma charge exploding against the building to her right. Stupid, she thought as she saw the Peacers rushing towards her – the Leitani were moving at a nightmarish clip – they had obviously seeded the trailer with motion detectors. Reaching for her belt, she found a series of disks and threw them in front of her while Tyler’s carbine fired rounds that were deflected by the shielding of their enemies. “Run!” Alex screamed, driving her terra hammer down to create a focused shockwave that would slow down the enemy. Tyler gave Emily and Leah a shove, grabbing Alex and dragging her along.

“I need a minute,” Tyler told Alex as they ran. To the two civilians, it seemed like he was becoming a different person now as opposed to the “Slightly stiff but I loosen up when I know you” functionary they had been introduced to. The ship screamed overhead and a long rescue line fell from it. “You’re going to have to hold them while I get dressed,” he told Alex, “Can you do it?” A sudden outburst from behind them caused the other two to look, and see a number of Naith and Leitani flailing on the ground, but starting to get back up.

Alex looked at him, and then nodded, while Emily burst out. “What the FUCK are you talking about, getting dressed? We’re getting on that ship!” she said, and as she reached for the mag line, he brutally knocked her in the stomach and grabbed it.

“No, not yet,” he said calmly, and then he was ripped from the ground and into the ship. Alex turned and threw down two stakes from her belt, that sprung into kinetic barriers that she leaned against. Tyler had dropped his carbine, and she took it from the ground, replacing the magazine with one of her own.

“We’re going to need to hold here,” she said. “In the small of my back, Leah, there’s a dart pistol – use it when they get close. Brace behind that barrier over there.” Her computer sprung to life, a program activating, and suddenly they were covered in a green shielding.

“You weren’t just an engineer lieutenant, were you?” murmured Leah as she grabbed for the pistol, giving Alex a black look and helping her friend. Alex snorted.

“What did I tell you about knowing things? No, I was…I AM Sapper-Major Alex Leitch. And your friend will be alright, he was being gentle,” she said.

Emily was just getting her wind back as she took her position. “Gentle,” she sneered and then huffed. “What secrets do the rest of you have?” she asked out of spite mingled with curiosity.

Alex didn’t respond. “Wait until I paint a target, and then fire,” she said. The Naith spread out and then dropped into the prone or kneeling positions, while the Leitani went to flank, two on each side. The Rulon strode up the middle, and then spoke. “The deaths of the Naith were nothing,” he boomed, planting his gunspear in the ground. “Your capture is inevitable. Surrender and hand over the sphere and I promise a gentle Taking with all the benefits of brood mate status. Fight, and intelligent women such as yourselves will dread the eroding of willpower and mental capacity that comes with being Domesticated,” he promised.

Alex’s response was to fire off a round that glowed blue in the dark. It bounced off his shield but her program displayed a mostly depleted pie chart. Her second round was right behind her first, but the Rulon was too fast, dodging aside and returning fire with a his firearm. Her green shield held firm, and the rest of the Naith opened up.

Emily looked out of the corner of her eye, and turned to fire at a Leitani that had flanked them. Sliding along the ground and pulling itself with its mechanical legs, it had avoided Alex’s sensors and sprung up close enough to fire off a paralyzing dart at all three of the women. Emily grabbed Leah and the darts whisked past them, but Alex was hit full on and twitched uncontrollably as the Leitani closed on them. Two more popped up and sprayed sticky webbing over Emily and Leah, trapping them while a contact poison leached through their skin. The first Leitani began to cocoon Alex, with the other two following suit as the rest of the Peacer platoon closed in on them.

The Rulon stalked up, smelling like lavender, Alex noted in some drugged part of her mind. She saw a blackness sweep through the stars silently, and then turned to regard the Rulon who towered over her.

“….say something before your mind is ground away?” he demanded.

She pointed up at a green light trailing through the atmosphere.

“A falling star, what about it?” the alien demanded.

She turned to regard the horror stricken faces of the other two girls. “Make a wish,” she said. There was a low roar coming from above, and then the world exploded.

Tyler had crashed into the group of Peace Federation soldiers like a thunderbolt from the sky. He had taken a moment to don the stylized armour, and was unrecognizable to the two scientists. It was black and dull, with heavy pauldrons that had anti gravity projectors flaring out behind him, giving the impression of wings. His helmet came to a swept back peak, but with a flat, blank face that was unsettling to stare at too long. He danced over the ground, his sword glowing a bright red, with moving teeth along the edge of the blade, an open eye on either side moving wildly about taking in everything. The only insignia on him was a fossilized allaraptor head over his heart. It was a warning and a badge of honor.

Emily recognized what she was seeing first as he sliced through the two Leitani holding her and Leah and then ripped off the armor covering the chitonous skin of the Leitani. Their screams were high and piercing as they were crushed by the sudden gravity “By all the stars, he’s a FOSsil,” she said, terrified and excited and trying to shove down the rage that was building in her from him channeling all his hate and disgust and sadness into his dreamblade.

Several of the Naith had recovered, and turned to fire on the two civilians. Tyler turned and threw a hand out, tightening his fingers into a claw and focusing hard enough to make his arm shake. The needle ammo hung in the air, inches away from the two women and glowing red, before hurtling back into the bodies of those that had fired. Tyler turned, and charged the last of the Naith, using his shield as a kinetic wall to crush them into the earth, leaving broken and bleeding bodies behind that twitched weakly. The last two Leitani turned to flee with Alex en tow. One had a dreamblade suddenly protruding from it, which gave a wailing scream before wet chewing sounds came from the weapon. Clay leapt towards the other as he stampeded over the dying Naith, roaring as he attacked with bare hands. His foe had its arms ripped off, Alex pulled free, and its head smashed in a matter of seconds as the FOSsil did what he had been born for.

The last remaining hurdle, the Rulon, finally shook off the stunning effects of Clay’s airborne attack and gave a roar. He charged the seemingly unarmed soldier, who turned and flexed his chest out at it. An apparition of a lashing and aggravated allaraptor skeleton filled the space between the two, which stopped the Rulon at a dead halt mere meters from its opponent. The Rulon’s tail was straight out, and its teeth bared in a grimace of hatred. Leah could feel the rage and frustration projected at the hovering FOSsil.

“You know the Pact as well as I do, Rulon,” said Tyler, his voice heavily mechanized. “Will you dishonor clan and people by being the one to break it?” he asked, seemingly unphased by an aggravated and murderous Rulonian warrior.

“I know of traitors and the tricks of softskins who could NEVER possess a rai’lith, no matter what that trae’sha weapon can become!” the Rulon declared, but made no step towards the FOSsil.

“Even so, your people swore an oath. Kipling defeated your God-King in Courts Martial in front of ALL,” Tyler said, booming the last word. “Is Rulonian honor finally tainted by association by laying with the Matriarchs and the Spiders, as the Bastard Prince predicted?”

There was a moment of silence, and the Rulonian stood straight. “Go then, Dragoon. Take your women and go. The Naith sphere is not the problem of the Rulonians, not worth breaking our honor over,” he said. Tyler nodded, reaching his hand out for his dreamblade. The weapon quivered in the body of the Leitani warrior, and then flew through the air to his hand.  Scooping low, he shouldered Alex and came over to cut free Leah and and Emily, who both stood absolutely still as he worked with a knife, and then would not look at him. Carmen landed the ship nearby, and the two women ran for it, while Tyler walked with Alex cradeled in his arms.

“Dragoon,” said the Rulonian. Tyler turned.

“You are the Weeper, are you not?” the alien asked.

“I have been told your people call me that,” he replied.

“It will be a sad day when we kill the last of you. Who then will be around to challenge us?” the Rulon asked.

Clay made to reply, and then shook his head. What good would it do, he thought, to get into a pissing contest? Instead he took his friend on board the ship without a reply to the question..

The edge’s of the Rulonian’s mouth twitched upward as the FOSsil boarded. “It will be a day of sorrows, but thankfully I do not see it happening anytime soon,” murmured the Rulon before turning away.

 In the light of the ship, the blood of the aliens was very visible on his armor. Leah gave a gasp as she saw that Emily was correct, the allaraptor badge known and feared across the galaxy, and ran out of the cargo hold. Emily looked at him one last time, recording, until he stopped and stared at her. When she left she moved like you would when you saw a bear and didn’t want to startle it into killing you. Tyler turned when she had gone, reaching for the first aid kit, and then finding the stimulant he wanted before injecting Alex. She came around as he cut through her bonds.

“What happened,” she asked, slurring her words a bit.

“All are dead, except for the Rulonian. No need to genocide the race this time,” Tyler said.

She nodded, and then stood up. “You’re going to need to stay away from those two,” she said.

“I know,” he said, taking off his helmet. She leaned over, and touched him with a bare hand, gasping at the sudden rush of hatred and lust that flooded her mind as she placed her forehead against his, tears forming as she managed to plant a kiss on his forehead.

“Thank you, by the way. I’m so sorry what they did to you to make you like that, but thank you,” said Alex, retreating from him. Tyler shrugged and went away into his quarters away from her.

Alex stood on shaky legs, and then shook off the last of the paralyzing agent. She walked into the lounge, and was immediately confronted.

“Were you planning on telling us that we were around a psychotic rapist who also reads minds?!” snarled Leah, still somewhat under the influence of the Leitani webbing.

Alex sat down, exhausted all over again suddenly. “That’s propaganda. His mind works differently than ours, but he was raised to be a living psychic weapon. All the FOSsils were,” she said. “The ones that snapped were broken to begin with, and the claims were exaggerated for political purposes.”

“Where is his allaraptor? I thought all the FOSsils had been bonded with allaraptors?” Emily asked. Her knees were tucked up to her chin, and but her eyes were hungry. She had never known anyone who had seen a FOSsil, let alone talked with one or seen one in action. Having seen one in battle, she knew, even with her limited knowledge of warfare, that the price was worth the result.

“Please, please please, if you value your lives, don’t mention that,” said Alex. “Tyler was in Scylla system, and that’s where he lost Alama in the last series of battles.”

“Scylla,” Emily said the word like a caress. She thought back on the history she had learned as her lifeblood. “How do you know a veteran of Scylla? They lie about not being there”. Five years later and no one outside the military really knew what had happened, where a Main Battle Fleet with allied elements broke the thrust of the Peace Federation’s armada. Where the skies rained blood and so many ships were shattered that there were fields of debris for kilometers. Scylla, the crucible of an empire and the coup de grace to a federation.

Emily nodded after Alex kept on staring at her, waiting for an agreement. Alex then turned to Leah. “And you don’t bother him either, both of you. He’s staying in quarters until we land,” she said. “That much about FOSsils needing time to adjust to new people, that much is true,” she said.

After a moment of silence, Leah spoke up. “All this, all this for a sphere?” Leah asked, pulling it from her satchel.

“Yes,” Alex said. “And I’d do it again.”

“Why is it so important?” asked Emily, still curled up.

And so Alex told them.

END

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Paratrooper. Correctional Officer. Federal Agent. Hello world, these are my thoughts and this is my story.

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