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Tomorrow’s History: Walk Through The Fire

By

Pete Bellisle

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Chapter One: 2407 AHD (Anno Hominidae Diaspora) He slams his fist down on the podium the sound reverberates throughout the silent audience. “These pirates will be stopped” he shouts with the energy that comes with having truth on his side. Upon reaching the climax of his speech he presses his closed fist into his chest over his heart and quickly jerks it way into a stiff armed salute of sorts, rather reminiscent, despite the slightly upturned palm, of a megalomaniacal little man, with dreams of greatness who has now been relegated to the annals of ancient history. Exhausted he throws himself into the awaiting chair directly to his left causing minor gasps from his audience; he puts on a gloomy face of passionate despair and looks out at the audience with pleasure as he measures their reactions. *** “PIRATES” rage. “Pirates” frustration “pirates” acceptance. “He’s calling us out, he’s calling us… he’s. The Bastard, he commissions us, he uses us and now he makes us into pariahs…” “Oooh, big word, you read the dictionary last night just to find that word and use it now?” taunts a divinely shaped Shyama with raven ringlets falling into her face, her long hair is partially pulled back into an uncaring knot which only adds to an indisputable air of sexuality, a pale face and sparkling blue eyes finish what a master painter only dreams. She is sitting reclined in a rather un-ladylike manner, cleaning the barrel of a very large gun, and antique slug shooter, which she handles with care.

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“Shut-up” he throws a re-hydrated tomato at her which she deftly ducks, and continues cleaning. “But really think about this Shyama we wear his uniforms; we tow his line, and we even enforce his stupid laws. We wiped out the I.W.-Traders travel between these planets is safe, we have protected their routes. We have sacrificed…” His voice trails off down a corridor, what had started as pacing in the mess, evolved into a roaming rant. She hears his booted feet hit the grated catwalk over the engine bay, and knows he is still talking, but no one will listen, the mechanics are working, sleeping or participating in other extra-curricular activities. Shyama stands and throws the oiled rag in her hand across the small room, and unsatisfied with the impact she follows the same trajectory with a nearby chair. Now satisfied she returns to her seat, puts her legs up on the table, scoops up the rag and continues to clean her hand cannon, as if nothing had happened. *** ~2377 AHD (Anno Hominidae Diaspora) “Sir, I don’t think I quite understand what you are proposing.” Porir, cautiously said, shuffling his feet on the marvelously polished floor. The light scratching sound of his feet echoed and rose up bouncing off of the hard polished stone that surrounded him in this room which made him feel very small and very uncomfortable. He paced around waiting for a re-confirmation; he then slumped into a riser chair, which instantly adjusted to his height and weight, keeping him slightly lower than the Judge. “Sure, you do, you heard me” over confident ass, Porir thought, the theme of the day, right, remember to listen. “I need you to gather every able bodied man, from every noble, and rich, or even moderately influential family and go out and make the universe

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safe.” He grinned, a wide toothy, and generally untrustworthy grin, something he would need to improve if he aspires to greater political appointments, at least any in the public eye. He is at first squirrelly in appearance, but, then you realize that his body is entirely too large for that comparison. Rodent-like would work, but with the bow legged, brute muscle structure of a bull dog. But they have genetic re-assignment surgery for that and he…damn, pay attention Porir. “… a ship, large enough, and more to come when your little society, or order or whatever we will call you grows. We need to improve communication between planet states, and safe travel, because with that comes trade and wealth. We need to tie together the pleasure planets and the working planets, the hospital stations, and even those warring Asian planets. That may have an added bonus later, military application and… Any way, the core planets have become over populated, because who really wants to become a settler if they are already successful at home, I have bribed all that I can, and re-appointed many others, but that will only go so far. But, if you form this military order, you make my, our presence known, it alleviates the population burden and it spreads our influence to other planet states. Plus it gives our elite a purpose.” “Can I sleep on it?” “No” “Then, no” “Really” Smug, followed by a raised eyebrow. Ass. “ This will give you power, respect, everything that your father ever wanted for you, Your Flagship will be waiting for you in dock ze5400 in the morning, it flies, with or with out it’s captain. He then looks towards his work again, obviously done with this conversation. Porir quietly steps out and leaves.

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*** ~2407 AHD~ “LIGHT” smash “Damn! Light” his voice is harsh and percussive. Slowly a warm amber light starts to light a small cramped cabin, about 10’x10’, with a small cot, a writing tablet, and a sink. A large 6’x10’ wide book case dominates the far wall, slightly eclipsed by an overstuffed chocolate brown leather chair, with the arms lovingly, if not so carefully patched. Some of the patches are even patched, the smell coming from the chair codifies the room even in the dark, and it is a light leather smell, mixed with red cedar and some unknown spice. There is a large golden mocha dog lying as if auditioning for the part of an ottoman in front of the chair, he lifts his head lazily as Porir falls into the room, knocking over a pallet of charts and maps of moons, satellites, and the occasional Planet States. He is nostalgic enough to maintain a physical inventory of these maps as well as the ships navigational library. He kicks them aside, instantly regretting it, some of those charts are from the first settlers to venture out. He would worry about them later; nothing would further damage them on the floor. As consciousness was slipping away he tried to make a mental note to remember that there were three steps into this cabin, and that the lights need to come up a bit faster. *** ~2377 AHD~ “Who are you?” “Who the fuck are you?” nasty feral bitch, hope she’s tethered. “I, I’m the captain of this ship, who are you?

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“I am this fucking ship! I am its life blood, as this ship I am the promise that all men seek I can raise them to great heights or ruin them at a whim. I give passion and desire, revenge and retribution, I give purpose. So, who the fuck are you? “This is ze5400, right?” “Sure” “This is the Judge’s ship…” “I am this fucking ship! Nobody owns me, who does this fucking judge think he is? He attempts to push his way past her, noticing that she is indeed tethered, at least from a terminal interface to a set of wetware neural ports. He gets two steps forward and sees, no actually hears the whistling speed of her fist flying towards his face. He goes down, the world spinning and blackness conquering his vision; well at least she was hot, scary. Scary-hot. “Fucking glass jawed pussy.” *** ~2407 AHD~ “Captain” she waits a moment “Captain, were entering orbit around Warwick, wakey wakey, oh no you don’t, don’t groan and roll over, you knew how much you were drinking last night, you also should have expected this… you do remember last night… right… us. I mean it was sooo wonderful, and sweet and meaningful…” “Liar” he partially leaned his head to face her, rolling his eyes the remainder of the way, he caught her eyes and rolled back, his head throbbing with the obviously excessive movement. A minute passes.

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“I’m taking off my clothes and rubbing oil all over myself” she says this in a sultry drawn out purr. “Liar” “Wouldn’t you like to know” “What are you, some walking embodiment of a teenage boys’ fantasy?” “I am going to go get in the shower, I am a bit sticky. The men are waiting for you in the hanger, get there in 15.” With that he hears her exit, but not completely before he twists his head to catch her amazing beautiful bare ass, noting the set of knives strapped to her shapely leg. Yep, Scary-Hot. *** Captain Porir Narayan makes his way down to the hanger to speak to his troops, his men of the cloth, his warrior monks, The Legion. He bemusedly thinks about that label, the warrior monk that has been grafted to the Legions collective hides. Really they are only monks in the fact that, yes there is a vow of chastity, and a variety of others but realistically it is enforced by the fact that the one woman onboard is Shyama, and well, she would kick the crap out of any man that attempted to touch her. Rubbing at the corner of his clean shaven face he thinks, it’s not like she’s virginal or anything. He comes down the catwalk in his dress blues, looking spit polished and shiny. His sinewy musculature, and his lean catlike gait accented by his height and wide shoulders make him a paragon representative of the Legion, his affable smile and humble personality make him well liked by all of his men. They respect and listen to him; they understand him as he understands them. Captain Porir Narayan tries to keep to himself, but usually fails. He often can be found working side by side with the men, playing basketball, an antiquated

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athletic pastime which was revived on the Morana due to limited space, but is actually quite fun. He listens, gambles, and drinks with his men, and they all know that he would march straight to the depths of hell for them, but what he does not understand is why they are willing to follow him. Thinking these thoughts he reaches the catwalk, with the clicking of his dress shoe heels alerting all to his presence, he winces when he hears all murmuring in the hanger stop and his men snap to attention, the tight practiced motion of disciplined men. Porir steals a glance at Shyama, noting that she has not changed her clothes, but out of some sense of decorum has buttoned two more buttons on her shirt and tucked the midriff riding edge into her pants, showing off her fine female curves as the shirt is now held tighter around her body. “Oil, huh, what type?” “Gun oil Captain, it was still in my pocket” she whispers in response not looking at him “Ah, I see…” “Gentlemen” all eyes turn towards him, but the bodies stay fixed. “As you know we have been branded pirates” as small waver of murmuring washes over the landscape of men below. “I am unsure of how or why this label has been given to us, what I do know is that we followed our orders, and we will continue to do so. I am confident that this is propaganda that is being used to either sooth or rile the masses. We know that what we are doing is right, it is just and we are on the side of God. I wanted to give you all the information, as I know it. The Judge has never once named the men that he calls pirates, he didn’t say The Legion have become pirates. Rather I think that we should look at it this way, we have done such outstanding job that we have made the space ways safe and

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that without the fear of an attack challenging safety, wealth and power, the Judge would no longer be able to control the masses. However the actions that he attributes to the pirates are deeds that we have done, deeds we are proud of, things that have brought justice and right to even the darkest corners and the most dismal Planet States. We are The Legion, our light will continue to shine and we will continue to grow; in numbers, strength, virtue and justice. As we gather here Lazo is out recruiting, this one is special, he is a brother, and needs our help. While he is there we will head down to the Planet State of Warwick, there seems to be some political unrest there, and our presence has been requested. That is all. Dismissed.” The men broke rank and murmuring quietly to themselves filed out of the hanger and into the mess. One new recruit, a thin wirery boy, about eighteen, recruited more for his technical prowess than his physical approached Porir and Shyama, and paused two feet away standing at attention waiting to be recognized. “Captain Narayan, Shyama. I am, I mean I’m, well, Ilija, that’s me, my name anyway, um” he pauses and sniffs the air happy to be distracted and compose himself “do you smell… gun oil” he looks around the catwalk apparently for and open bottle. Porir and Shyama share a smile. “…anyway, I just wanted to express an interest sir, in, um, well sir, I know that…” “Come on spit it out, boy” “Well, I would really like to be on this mission to Warwick, I have been through all of the basic protocols, and trainings, my tech experience could be really helpful, being on a city planet and all…” He kept speeding up, talking faster and faster, face growing redder with every word, nervous is beyond the word needed to explain this boy. Shyama

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smiles a wonderful warm, almost caring smile and leans into the boys ear and whispers breathily. He at once calms and turns scarlet, about to pop. Porir just stares at her. “Son, I admire your desire, but have had the nanite infusion yet? Or even hand to hand training yet? I don’t think this mission is for you, not yet. You’re dismissed.” Slump shouldered and defeated he walks away as if the wind had just been knocked out of him. “What did you say to him?” “Wouldn’t you like to know.” she smiles coyly and walks away.

Chapter Two Circa 2500 AD: excerpt from a journal Solon Bruce. Tonight I lay awake, just starring at her, her face so close to mine I can feel the warm caress of her breath. I can see the speckling of freckles across the bridge of her nose. The moonlight shines on her face in the pleated design forced on it by the louvered shutters. Her nose twitches slightly as if I had brushed it with a downy feather, she mumbles incoherently and stretches her arms over her head and leaves them resting on her bunched up pillow. The multitude of blankets covering us shifts as she kicks her legs, gently entangling them with mine. The stretching reveals her smooth, soft, paled by the moonlight breasts. Each perfect in their asymmetry, her nipples rising like a holly berries out of a snowy field. The proliferation of her freckles once again makes themselves known. They are soft and scattered, spilling softly across her breast bone and around the rising and falling of her curves. She rolls to her side showing me her back, the gentle and dramatic curve of her waspish waist and the downy small of her back. She clutches and pulls a stray pillow close to her nuzzling into it as if it was some lost pet. She inhales

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deeply and lets out a prolonged sigh, a light whisper in the darkness. I reach forward with a tentative calloused hand, afraid to wake her, but unable to resist touching her. I lightly caress her back and lean forward to kiss the nape of her neck. With that I roll to soundlessly exit the bed lifting and pivoting my body as to not jostle the bed. My bare feet touch the cool wooden floor the air is cool but humid in this transitional season. I am used to this recent nightly ritual, as I pad to the kitchen and reach for a room temperature glass of water I had left on the table earlier. I slide on an old linen shirt and drift outside, careful not to let the door slam. I crave company, but also solitude, I relish this moment, this silence where the only ones that know I am here are the animals wandering and flitting by. I sit in the silence absorbing it all in. I hear the sound of a nearby set of waste bins creak and pop as the heat of the day escapes them. The first time I heard it I was startled, assuming that some wayward mongrel was going to decide it was hungry enough to challenge me as a source of dinner. I calmed when I realized what it had been and chastised myself for my jumpiness. Unease in my waking hours is slowly assailing me here in my solitary night life. I feel like a stranger squatting in someone else’s house, awaiting their inevitable return and the accustomed escape. I dream of escape as I feel the air change again, almost imperceptibly. I note that the wind slightly picks up, I feel the coolness of that new breeze cutting through the stagnant air. I watch as the leaves on the uppermost branches on the nearby trees begin to flip themselves preparing for a long awaited drink. I feel that I should move back into the house, but I know that I am rooted here just as sure as that tree is. The same as my immutable friend I realize that I live a life, but I am not truly alive. I feel hollow, unable to provide the way I should, unable to relax and enjoy life.

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Society has created a regimen that allows self- anaesthetization when we work for free moments we no longer know how to use. As a culture we are numb to our losses. Is this what happens before each great leap of faith. Did the Mongols feel this when the drifted off of the steppes, did the Europeans feel this when the ventured for new land, was this why the west of the Old United States of America was settled. Was this the way that the people of those times were; walking dead, pathetic automatons that could no longer think for themselves? Like now, when innovations have ceased. Where are the thinkers, the scientists, the engineers? Where are the great strides that need to be made to keep the human race interested in living? Without goals and challenges, humans fall into patterns of comfort and platitude, unable to raise their heads above the glut of information, entertainment and things that make our lives, ‘fulfilled’.

Chapter Three 2407 AHD The ringing blows continue every hour of the day. In the morning it begins with single blows, and is then joined by an exponential growth of sound, and then it dies down in the evening until late into the night you can hear that one singular sound of a harmonic impact, a rhythmic tattoo of one note. The sound comes from one man who works for lack of anything better to do, he requires no sleep and can work by the light of his sweat. This mine was a piece of a huge network and planet wide penal colony, for years it received the worst criminals in the worlds, and often the unluckiest men and women. It has now been decommissioned and works as a quasi-legitimate corporation, which still

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functions as a planet wide minimally paid slave labor force. Many men stayed because they had lost everything that they have ever known, others didn’t leave because this was all they had known.

*** Listlessness would be the wrong descriptor, because it would indicate boredom, instead… elation, soaring sounds cliché, while just plain floating sounds inadequate. But, he was flying with the ease of a Warwick Angel, he looked around his body to see his saffron wings effortlessly cutting through the air around, the amber clouds, reflecting the sinking sun, in an artists rendering of a perfect sunset. His electrical impulses were powered by small illegal nano-motors which pump and thrust his body forward creating the rushing of wind on his sweating face. This technology, which he reminds himself, is illegal for safety reasons gives an exhilarating and dangerous grin that spreads across his face from ear to ear. These wings are powerful and unstable, but the air whistling around his ears, and the freedom they give him is pure…ecstasy. Of course unstable is an understatement, these wings were so powerful they can rip and tear muscle, he thought with some irony as his back muscles began to creak, and then began to tear, until that tearing became an unstoppable burning that spread across his back starting in his shoulder blades, engulfing his lats, and shredding everything in between. Of course all he was thinking was how happy he was flying, and the pervading panic accompanying his fall through the sky. The acid of the malfunctioning tech produced an alkaline back flush throughout his entire nervous system. The muscles spasm makes his limbs flail about and nothing he can do regains his control as he starts a tortuous downward spiral that jolts his

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entire body. The system shock and the dream timer refused to let him die, death dreams are not fatale any more, they are just unpleasant at best, but the pain is real, he supposes this just lets him know he is still alive. The lucid dreaming images induced by the neural stimulators, a Dream Weaver, began to fade leaving him with nothing but reality. This reality included a blaring horn and hot air buffeting his face, a 180 from the cool fresh air breeze that he had just been ‘experiencing’. Actually, not a blaring horn, but a screaming voice which cut through his dreamscape and forced him back to reality. “Judah, get your sorry ass off of that pallet and break in the new rookie, your beautiful dreams of flight and fancy are done. Smell your life and remember what you are.” Always shouting, Judah had gotten used to Rodriguez and thinks to himself, he is being downright sunny today. Sunny disposition aside the spittle that cascaded down the fat man’s lip onto the stimulator goggles was not the wake up call that he had been looking for. As for the rookie all Judah saw was a frail old man with a beard that rested on his naked chest hiding a number of purple liver spots. Each heaving breath of that spotted concave chest shook his entire torso, which rested atop two, sure footed, piston enhanced legs. The pistons were oxidized and had seen better days, but then again, in Judah’s opinion so had the man. The old man stood there in the backlit doorway oddly framed by pitch black, swaying from side to side leaning entirely too much of his weight on a shiny new chrome shovel. Heaving himself off of the bed pallet Judah addresses the ‘rookie’. “I don’t even want to know your name old man, I most likely will have to bury you down in that hole, so before you even try I have no desire ‘getting to know ya’, but thanks any way, I’m

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flattered, really” preemptive anger generally shuts them down. Judah spoke with calculated arrogance intended to make the old man dislike him, to ease his own mind when another man dies down in the mines. “Mining mirror crystals? You know if someone arrested you for something, real or not, and said that you had to do time he was lying to you, you know that, right?” Judah, was getting overheated now which was not hard with the furnace jets blowing the way they do, but he was actually becoming overheated talking to the old man, who stood there with the patience of a parent with a petulant child. He looked closely at the old man and even took a step forward and got into his face. He could feel the moist heat pulsing in and out of the man’s nose and mouth. Judah became lost within the cracked and weathered skin of the old man. The crags on his face looked like open fissures around his eyes which served to create a strong contrast between his pale slate eyes and his black leathered face, which suddenly erupted into a wicked grin. It split his face open like someone cut it open ear to ear with a scalpel. Despite the size and shape of the grin, it was amiable, if not half witted, which sparked off an odd twinkle in the man’s grey eyes. “I like you” he declared “Lets move before we need a cooter to start my legs up again. The mirror mines won’t die out, but I just may” with that he spryly turned on point and marched away, not betraying any of his previous frailty. “You know you glow?” way to go captain obvious, half-witted or senile, he wasn’t sure yet. “Why, You wouldn’t do that to yourself, would you? I mean, I can’t figure the ladies would take to it much, I mean no disrespect, you can hardly notice, just a, ah, healthy glow.”

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Well what response is there to a statement like that, technically the old man was right, annoying, yes, wrong no. He figures this ‘life limit’ will just babble on so he began to wander down the tunnel pausing briefly to stoop down and collect his gear on the way to the new mines, he chatted minimally with the other men on the way. “Hey, Judah, who’s the new canary? “I hope he lasts longer than you last one.” “Last long! That one doesn’t seem likely to reach the mines” “Ah shut up, who cares, Judah always comes back, Canary or not” “Nothing will kill that boy, provided he takes his juice” Laughter quickly erupts, Judah notes, with some admiration that the old man’s gait never varies, his forward movement doesn’t even increase. He just continues on steady, reliable, and humming to himself. “By the way glow boy, they call me Brand” So? Judah briefly pauses, he considers a parlay, but doesn’t feel like wasting the time. “Try keeping up, or, should I call a Cooter for you. You got any goggles for me, I can’t see anything in this ink-well, how do you manage?” The old man had moved ahead of Judah, despite not knowing where he was going, he hesitates and glances back to see a white glowing giant. He hadn’t noticed how huge Judah really was. He cast a faint glow that seems to be spreading. Brand sees him pop something into his mouth which after a moment causes Judah to begin to glow more. Responding to the un-asked question “thermogenic tablets increases my core body temp and when I get hotter we see more. My genetic make-up has been… improved.”

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“Did you do it to yourself? I mean why would you want to? really, think about it, throughs of passion and all, it must be, awkward.” “My parents were part of some Mengelain experiments which manipulated and pushed the human body to new potentials never dreamt of before. This was done by those so called legitimate corporations, before they truly legitimized themselves. I am the end result. Interesting opportunities and applications, of course there are certain side effects. I don’t sleep much, no REM, so I need artificial dreams, hence the neural stimulators.” The old man merely nodded mainly due to confusion. Suddenly Judah, a man that didn’t enjoy company or like to talk was, rambling. “Of course the ‘wake up’ part of the dream sequence is never pleasant around here, Rodriguez is always altering the input, it is just something that I expect now.” Reaching the destination, a dead-ended tunnel Judah had begun working, he had placed his pack gently on the ground and started removing its contents he tosses a compressed powder ball to Brand. “Careful with those pellets, they crumble very easily into powder, its cyanide don’t breathe deeply.” “Cyanide, why?” fear creeps in “we’ll both pass out in this cramped space, not much in the way of efficiency there, huh?” Despite his complaining he began drilling quarter inch diameter holes into the ground, walls, ceiling, and every corner, just as he had been instructed to do. “Why the holes, you’re hammering away, which by the way, thank-you it is making brighter in here, but I don’t understand.” Judah pauses and leans on his five foot hammer, the sonic ball slowly disintegrating the ground beneath it, even with the minor pressure. “We mix a small amount of water and synthetic gelatin with the cyanide and inject it into the holes that

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you’re drilling.” Judah’s light was dimming, as his heart rate returned to a resting rate. “The cyanide brings to the surface heavy minerals that are waste materials which inhibit the mining of mirror crystals. The waste mineral is gold, so just shovel it into the corner, ok? We’ll melt it away later” Work continued, with minor instructional interruptions, for the next ten hours, good work was done and the old man certainly earned his sleep that night.

***

This labor continued for months, they can’t be said to have become the best miners, because alone Judah was already the best, he personally dug more tunnels and retrieved more mirror crystals that anyone else, Brand was just a healthy addition primarily for the health of Judah himself. These men never truly had personal conversations, that first day’s anomaly aside, of course. The two were a good pair, working on in the darkness only with Judah’s luminescence refracting throughout the mirrored tunnels. They spoke frequently and amicably, but these men were mysteries to each other and that was just fine with them. “Judah, why are you here?” Broken silence answered by a flush of Judah’s personal light. It was easy to read a mans emotions when they were tied into your only source of light. “Thanks, I needed more light anyway, so what, I annoy you I see better, if I had only figured this out before.” His leathered face cracked and split into a jester’s grin and his eyes twinkled, reflecting back a little of Judah’s light. The light began to fade as he relaxed again.

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“Old man, Brand, I was born in these damn caves.” Judah took a deep sigh. “Back when the corporations used this prison colony my parents were sent here. I can’t say they were saints, but they were good people. My father was a fine man, and a better smuggler, he was damn good, until his first mate rolled on him. He turned him in at a Corporation checkpoint. My mother met my father here. She was sent here for refusing to do her job for a corporate magistrate. She earned her living the old fashioned way, on her back. Everyone wanted her, men, women, everyone. Everyone respected her too. She could afford to choose her work; unfortunately she did not choose the ‘wrong man’. This magistrate first spoiled her name then her face, and finally her wealth. He then freed her to earn her wealth back the same way that she had before, if it was possible. It wasn’t that the path had been blocked for her, it had been completely eroded. She came to rely on a second skill, one that even she did not know she had, well, at least until her previous way of life had been stripped away. She was forced to wander the disease and rat infested back alleys of Liberata, a city renowned for being a disgusting and unsavory place. She realized that she was effectively invisible; no one would even look at her. Despite her invisibility, her body was that of a goddess, but her face was ruined to the point that children would stare and adults would rather not look. With this revelation came a career change for my mother. It was not long before she was given for her first assassination. She was good, and took pride in her work and sometimes even pleasure. Her first job she did gratis, the Corporate Magistrate that ruined her was the target. She earned a name shortly thereafter, she was known as St. Joan (for her figure), The Maid of Death (for her disposition), but within a short amount of time she was just known as St. Death. Yeah, just a little cliché, but sadly,

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reality is quite often. As in all things, she was soon ended by the corporations. Unfortunately, for them she was apprehended in public and therefore required a public trial, instead of a private execution. Continuing in her odd luck, the judge that tried her had also been a patron and handed down the lightest judgment she could, while maintaining her position. That ‘light’ judgment was imprisonment on this sorry rock. She met my father here, in this hell. My mother and father were subjected to genetic tests, drugs and DNA reprogramming, my genetic ‘disposition’ is the end result. My mother, in another cliché, died during my birth, I was told it was complications with the drugs in her system, and the drugs for the birth. My father was executed the next day for killing six of the scientists that had begun the testing on my mother, I guess he had a temper.” Judah worked on in silence, his story had finished. *** For days after the baring of his soul he worked on in silence. And, as always happens with silence, it breaks. “old man, Brand, you still have not really told me how or why you are here, mines are not well suited for men of your, condition. I mean piston legs alone means you need to be your own cooter, and your age. Did you lose a bet, or owe a corporate stooge more that you could pay? Wanting to learn about a ‘colleague’ has never passed through Judah’s mind, he usually never bothered talking to them in the past, they died to quickly. Despite the old mans condition, he has lasted longer than most. Judah also considered himself rather intuitive, he didn’t need to talk to people because when he met someone, he felt he already had found out everything that he wanted to know. Why bother

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confirming through ‘delightful’ conversation what he already knew. This was not the case with Brand, he was rather, enigmatic. “To find you Judah” an answer, brief, but sadly it would only lead to more questions. “To save you, does that give you a better answer?” Brand was an ass, and Judah was just getting confused or frustrated, both, he just didn’t know. Judah started to shake, not from emotion, that would show a weakness that he did not admit that he had. The shaking, conveniently was accompanied by a rumbling, and dust, and of course with dust, it probably means rocks falling, which only get bigger. This usually leads to bad things, bad things which Judah tries to avoid. All vision was stolen from the two men, even Judah’s light was not enough. Screaming could be heard through the rocks surrounding them. Sparks could be seen in the multiple drilled holes and openings in the rocks. The world was shifting, plates were moving. To call it an earthquake would be a mis nomer, not being Earth and all. But, there is a lack of appropriate vocabulary for this singular action which births chaos and death. Judah was thrown like a rag, tossed into a corner, dirty and soiled clay and stone adhered to his iridescent skin. His unique pigment was hidden by layer after layer of an increasing cloud of powdered mirror crystal and waste minerals. For the first time in very long time, he was scared, and for more that just himself. He was not a selfish man, but his concern was never for those he did not know. And this is EXACTLY why he doesn’t try to get to know his canaries. At this moment, alone with his fear and concern, he felt a hum that radiated from his spine and reverberated around his molars and skull. He felt the

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screams of men, women and even children, luckily for him the screams faded along with the rumbling. It had lasted for five minutes, and five days. Judah could not rise, there was a huge weight on his chest, his breathing was shallow, blood was dripping into his eyes, and he could not even see himself. He realized part of that weight was Brand. He could feel his warm, moist breath puffing out at irregular intervals. Judah passed out. When he awoke again, the weight was feeling that much heavier, and that hot moist puffing was much more irregular. Judah pushed and lifted, swayed and maneuvered, trying to wiggle out from under the weight without injuring Brand. Once out he looks at Brand who is now lying on his stomach, and rather humorously on his face amid the rubble in the now pathetic looking mine shaft. Shards of mirror crystals peppered his back making him appear to be a crystalline porcupine. Brand had apparently shielded Judah from the crystal showers, which are now stealing his life away by the numerous cuts he received. Brand, shudders and begins to roll, making Judah jump. He only rolls onto his side, revealing a puddle of red under his belly and surrounding the pistons on his legs. “Follow me” Brand chuckles, spewing a bit of blood. “ok, carry me, let me lead you away. There is a corridor that transects this mine.” His rasping voice was a fitting match to the image of his back. With a spurt of blood, like a cooter dry starting an unoiled digger engine, he begins to speak again. “Follow the tunnel and seek the fresh air we’ll take a rest in the field. Help me a bit, I’ll be on my feet again in a minute, I’m just a bit tired.” It’s only a whisper, but it moves Judah like a command form god. The sulfur stench was horrible; it must have rivaled a march straight down to hell. The old man has a sick sense of humor to say follow the fresh air, it felt like he was

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following one big fart. He couldn’t help his mind from wandering, he had been walking, actually Igor walking, up a very long, very twisty tunnel, which inevitably would lead to a new life, as he assumed the mines were destroyed. Plus he owed the mines nothing. About an hour into his walk he began to wish his Warwick Wings were not trapped within his dream weaver. A few times the tunnel was so narrow he had to lay on his back and drag Brand. Ok, so the wings would have just gotten in the way there, but they would have helped earlier, he can’t help but chuckle at this thought. His silent companion never made a sound, not even a sigh, but all he could think about (with a touch of guilt) were the few remaining mirror shards that he could not dig out of Brand’s back. Crawling for an indeterminate amount of time Judah progressed, exhausted he decides to rest for a moment. When he roused himself, his arms and legs throbbing with muscle burn, he immediately checked on his burden, whose increasingly shallow breathing was concerning, but not fatale. The air was becoming fresher with each agonizing crawl forward through the darkness, the sharp rocks digging into the palms of his hands and that really soft tender part of the knee cap that you usually don’t give any thought to. Honeysuckle sweetness began to drift down, down was a problem. Judah looked up and at a rather steep incline the tunnel narrowed and at the very end he could see stars, which, he thought looked awfully nice tonight. The tunnel with its loose rock and pebbles made it difficult to make it to the opening, some sections were so narrow his shoulders threatened to not make it thorough. He often needed to shimmy ahead and then bend awkwardly to reach for Brand, whose breathing was indeterminable. With more pressure than he would have wanted he pushed forward, he paused to draw a deep breath laden with dirt and honeysuckle, with a touch of residual sulfur. He finally reached the

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opening which was conveniently wide enough for his head, but that was about it. He tore at the opening thwarted and antagonized by the land itself he let loose a primal yawp accompanied by a grunt and he was able to push his way through the hole, an outsider would have seen the passion and pain of the ground giving birth to a giant. He paused with his torso out of the hole he planted his palms for one final push, he winced as the final hold of the rocks dug into his thighs. Once out he rolled to the damp dewy grass which soothed his cut and torn back, he caught his breath, inhaling that beautiful fresh air infused with that honeysuckle scent. He lay there for a moment and then he went to retrieve Brand. As Judah approached the small rabbit hole in the ground it started to dilate shut, crumbling in on itself he doves and jammed his arm into the collapsing hole grasping for Brand. Panicked, Judah realizes that he had been selfish and had not taken care of Brand, but instead rested on the ground, waves of guilt instantly made him nauseas. But, the nausea subsided as his hand closed around Brand’s arm, but the guilt did not. He managed to pull him out, covered in dirt and ragged clothes Judah felt like a grave robber, but he was too afraid the comparison might be a little to accurate. Judah was left holding the shell of Brand, but it was hollow, his spirit had been left in the tunnels. Judah’s skin flushed and glowed to the brightest, his fury shown through his pores. Judah just sat there cradling the man he would claim if asked that he couldn’t care if he lived or died, he was just a canary. But, even Judah knew this to be a lie. Chapter 4 Circa 2500 AD: excerpt from a journal of Solon Bruce I take partial blame for the lethargic advances in science for this my guilt rests on my shoulders like a heavy burden. I stay for hours researching. Researching all sorts of

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things, trivial things that matter only to those that have a coat-check stub for their lives. Through a string of data that I established we were able to create new species of Human. We have now, as a scientific community begun to re-classify our species back to the more anthropological label of hominidae, allowing for many sub-classifications, of course never allowing ourselves to be surpassed on this evolutionary ladder. What we created were sub-par and did in fact historically die off while scampering up the evolutionary ladder. But we were excused; we claimed that we were broadening the gene-pool of our species which will also aid in the colonization of new planets with the infinite possibilities that would need to be addressed in order to survive there. Although some scientists argue that we do not need to manipulate the human genome, instead that it will evolve over multiple generations into what is necessary to inhabit new planest. Regardless we have created humans with a higher density some with gills of sorts that are suited for watery homes as well as the more Cro-Magnon approach basic laborer, or genetic inferiors destined for servitude and slavery. Honestly this type of genetic research and manipulation sickens me. I know how it will be abused; I know that soon sly young girls will sport tiny feline ears as they sway their suggestive tails. My focus and I hope that it is in time, is the terra-forming of planets. I want to plant the seed that will allow for human life to thrive, as we strive to kill this planet; I am in a marathon race with time to give birth to others, before we run out of time.

Chapter 5 2405 AHD

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It looks like an artist took his brush, dipped it in sepia ink and ran it across the sky. When it rained the buildings looked like they were dripping rust, spilling it out onto the poor wet denizens that are trapped outdoors, often without the trademark of this planet state, the much needed sapphire lensed goggles. The only thought that Jillian has at this moment as she whips her hair out of her eyes is that everything that she sees is this orange and sepia mud hole of a city. Her mother said that is would be wonderful to see a whole world through rose tinted eyes. To bad it is rust not rose, and it certainly isn’t wonderful. She thinks back to when she was uprooted from Warwick and transplanted to this hell. It was shortly after moving here that the two suns began to pulse, and the scientists were oh so distraught over the anomaly. Land speculators sold what they could and then cut their losses. What was designed and terra-formed to be a heaven became her own sepia hell. The wealthy had optic surgery which tinted, or more accurately stated, tattooed the cornea, she was unsure exactly how. They often had bionic replacements or even worse human harvested eye transplants. Bitterly she thought about it, why have ugly bionic eyes which left scarring?, when you could steal real eyes every other year as the wore out. The worst part is that the class division that had created a caste of untouchables left the poor so poor and desperate that they would sell their own eyes, often not even replacing them with low end bionics. She wonders, without seeing your hell does it become more bearable? The average person would wear appropriate contact lenses. Of course the average section of society is almost non existent. While the poor would let their eyes rot in their head. She supposes if they were just going to rot anyway they could be seen as a tradable commodity. Of course the sapphire lensed goggles slowed the

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process, but it was inevitable. During the day the streets were barren wastelands in the untouchables’ ghetto, but at night they were a busy ant colony, inhabited by rabid workers. However the night provided it’s own nightmares, harvesters would come out and kill, just to harvest real eyes for the pampered and privileged. Jillian walked on in the rain her vision blurring into it’s own unique mix of mud and rain. She shuffled along outside of the great generators that gave power to the shiny casinos and hotels with their fancy blue glass walls for all their fancy or luckless guests. She cast her eyes from side to side, a habit she had acquired since wandering deeper into the night. On this night she was looking for more, she was looking for someone, someone that should be here on the strip that borders the untouchable’s ghetto and the elites gaming grottos. The number that she had responded to instructed her, with automated tiredness that all those interested in a new future attend a meeting at the Men’s Club on the strip. She was hustled away from the com box before she could get the address by a panicked man in a Feline Bros. suit and a Portugal Lights coat. He was rich that was for sure, and he was nervous. Well, she thought, he should be, looking like that on the strip, she had the burning desire to take him down, arrogant self righteous prick. But she knew better the repercussions for harming an elite were, she chuckled to herself, final. She walked along looking at the gypsy booths of trinkets and stolen goods, the smell of smoked and seasoned meet greeted her with a familiar embrace, and here she felt safe. The untouchables were accepting and caring, acting like a giant family. All scrounging, all lost and all looking for something. She found that a song had crept into her mind …making love to neon signs while all the rest are going blind... She continues on humming to herself making her way through a dense wave of pedestrian traffic.

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The Brotherhood of the Uprising, she read the sign to herself. It was hastily made from a half melted vrano vat barrel. She looked around a corner to see a string of men standing in the rain. She is interrupted by the random question of when she saw the sun last, and she could not provide herself with an immediate answer. The men in the rain stood mostly in miserable silence shuffling forward a distance of one or two steps at a time. Tired, timid, and listless men who were soulless and weary, looking for a future it was depressing. They stand there with the buildings crying rusty rain down and the wind blowing stained litter up, swirling it all around until the world looks like and old and weathered fresco falling apart in age and shame. These soul weary men stand there not even seeing one another, not really seeing the pathetic reflection they were providing, each grasping the same flier that Jillian had in their clenched sepia stained hands as if it was their last ticket to heaven. This queue of men lost in litter, rain and smog do little to inspire Jillian and neither does the large man with a black skull cap at the door flanking a sign that read no women, no children, no mongrels. She began to turn and stepped squarely into a hole which had gathered into a nice deep puddle. “Inspiring, isn’t it” she jumps at the unexpected intrusion, and unaccustomed to being spoken to. “All these poor slobs, creating our future.” Propelled by sarcasm these bitter words cut through the already cluttered air. “I’m not a whore.” She finds herself sputtering, used to only speaking to herself. “I know” “Then… you know I’m not a whore, I’m not playing a tease…” “I said I know” “Then why…”

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“You seemed like you needed someone to talk to, you’re so lost.” “What, WHAT, who are you?” “Well, frankly…” “Ok, Frankly,” unchecked agitation colors her voice get out of my way…” “No, not frankly, umm, to be honest, how bout that, er, we are all lost, some more than others, some with a hope of retrieval, they” pointing the growing line of men “they a lost, but more are also lost causes. You are not” “Why do you think that” she testily responds while trying to push her way past him, uninterested in a conversation, eventually he will admit to desiring her. All men are pigs and to them all women were whores, what didn’t help matters was that almost all women had been rendered thus. She finally glances up to the source of the voice while pausing to wring out the hem of her skirt, although she can’t really figure out why she’s bothering. The voice was a resonant tenor, but, belatedly she realized it did not belong to a man at all. The voice came from an exceptionally slender and fragilely tall female. She knows immediately through vids, not first hand knowledge, that she his looking at a native of Du-Shang. Du-Shang was one of the later cultivated planet states, a risky terraforming, but the Asians that populated it thought the risks were well worth it to add another representative to the Asian cadre at the Congress of Planet States. With representation came influence, wealth and power. Du-Shangs incredibly low gravity accounts for the average human growth increase anywhere from 10 to 12 feet. Of course it won’t really affect an adult that moves there, although it does alleviate some of the

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adverse ailments of old age. Only people born there will receive this environmental mutation. The Du-Shangian carries herself with poise and grace projecting a dignity that queens of old would have been envious of. She is adorned with a more than immodestly sheer, fitted sari. Oddly this vision of elegance with her iridescent bronzed skin and fine silk ribbon hair gathers no mud, and garners no attention. Jillian, the empiricist is forced to question her waking reality and wonder if she is … asleep? “I think this because, you think, you still retain the ability of free thought, your cognition rolls off of you like a beacon in the night.” Jillian unintentionally steps forward, into the same puddle, this time she does not care. Jillian, the realist knows this is some figment and that she should leave, run should be the word of the moment. Instead she listens and trusts this… apparition. Her trust is partially derived from a yearning to be close and to touch her, and inhale her perfumed skin. Jillian knew, or at least assumed that this was a pheromone induced trigger used by many to create calm in an individual, or an entire situation. This was not true lust, but it sure felt that way. However knowing it did not change the fact that she could not break its spell over her. She realized, with a mild amount of shock that she has been walking, following this vision down labyrinthine back streets and dangerous alleys. What could have been painful silence was instead filled with what felt like and smelled like spring, a fragrant spring day after a rain. The familiarity of this scent triggered and avalanche of long repressed memories, which brought with it tears. They stopped their back alley tour in front of a rather ornate door, which was framed in actual wood, her brain registered this information but, it did not process into

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any coherent thought. Thoughts slowly began to percolate through her haze and she began to regain the ability to perform higher order thinking, which allowed panic to creep in. She had no idea where she was, when it was or even why. This is usually a recipe for a dead girl. Before she was ushered through the door she had the chance to glance around and get her bearings. The building she was entering was a three stories, small for a city like this but bigger than most in the ghetto. It was at one time white washed, but like all other building built before the solar issues, it has now been stained by the sepia streaks that make it look like a sad relic. In its day it must have been a fantastic building. But now it has become a dirty shell of a building, rather incongruent with the Du-Shangian. Jillian began to have a horrible sinking feeling. She was all alone and has entered an unknown, uninhabited (she guesses) and unlit building. She suddenly remembered every vid that she has ever seen about those stupid girls who find themselves in stupid, horrific situations. Up until now she was always blown away at how the insipid horror chick just blundered around. Tabling her panic for a moment, and upon further examination she sees nothing horrible or wrong, instead she sees a library, with real bound, tangible books. Some look old enough to have traveled across the ‘verse during the early days of The Diaspora. Despite Jillian’s over arching sense of responsibility her curiosity took over and she mindlessly drifted over to a table, a beautiful, hardwood, hand carved, oiled and very cluttered table. Looking at the table she notes a collection of clippings and pages torn from notebooks, and to her horror, some from actual books. Nothing looks orderly or organized, in fact it looks as if someone had just dumped a box and let them tumble everywhere.

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“Buddha-Christ and his Seven Blessed Valkeries, what is this place?” she crosses herself and turns to find her escort. She does not find her, but instead sees a com pod sitting on the table, where, she thinks that she had not seen one before. It was possible that she had uncovered it when looking at a clipping, but she did not think so. She reactively presses the blinking red button on the front lobe of the com pod, thinking belatedly that this was invasion of someone’s property. But before she could give it further thought a holo-projection, wavering light blue and grainy details showed a man in about his forties, give or take DNA reassignment surgery etcetera. He had piercing eyes of unknown color due to the mono-chromatic nature of the pod playback, he had a weathered appearance with lines around his eyes and tugging the corner of his mouth. He wore a finely trimmed beard, and closely cropped hair. When he spoke his voice spilled out of the com pod like honey or liquid velvet, she loved the soothing voice, which was obviously well practiced in oration. “Welcome, I know this is an exceptionally strange situation that you find yourself in, and this message may be playing to an empty room, if you have already left, if not, welcome. This is a recruitment of sort. I know that you met my agent, a striking lady, unless of course you are some miscreant that is here to loot the place. In that case, shoo, go on, get out,” the image lets out a soft chuckle. “… if you are indeed the miscreant, the authorities have already been paged” the image now winks at Jillian, and she softens and her face cracks into a small smile, a reflex almost long forgotten, and seldom practiced. “… But, I know that you are here to work for me, you may not know this yet, but allow me to” he pauses and with a rueful look and whispers “entice you.” Curiosity

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seems to take hold of her physically as she grasps the high backed real wood! chair her fingers leaving streaks where she has rubbed off Allah knows how many years of dust. Regardless of the grime she finds herself seated at this table, buoyed comfortably in the wooden hovering chair. It gently forms to her body and starts to radiate a little bit of heat, warming her and chasing an unrealized chill away. She leans forward, placing her elbows on the table, and her chin in her palms, and listens to this… invitation. “…I need a chronicler, or at the very least and organizer. As you know Hominidae, or the conventional, humanity, has a long and at time tragic past, most of it is being absorbed back into the annals of history destined to be forgotten. Why should people care? That is the questions most modern thinkers ask, and it is valid, why indeed, we have evolved, we have grown, bee perfected. We have even filled the void of space bereft of our alien fears, we have populated it with our own alien Hominidae. Our race has expanded and evolved to the point that some of our brethren are unrecognizable as having originated from Earth of Old. Even before The Diaspora, new species of human had arisen, some due to environmental mutation, some exist having proven Darwin absolutely right, and wow did that deflate the dogmatic ancient church, and some even due to purposeful gene manipulation. Regardless” the image shakes its head as if trying to refocus himself. “Regardless, our narrow term of humanity must fall by the wayside, to allow for hominidae’s history to be recorded.” He pauses to collect his thoughts, he glances to something out of the projection, Jillian follows his line of sight, feeling foolish the instant that she does so. “So, if you are still with me, I may get to the point at some time. Oh, how rude! I never introduced myself. I am Professor Lazo A. Brand, I am an historian, a philosopher,

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and just generally odd if you must know. I have been collecting records, first hand accounts, trials, facts, lies rumors, and fears and began to compile my thoughts. But, I have become, indisposed with other matters, but would like someone to organize these findings, and make some sense out of them. If the fruits of our labor ever are bitten into, who knows, maybe the collective wayward souls of hominidae may be recognized. Without history we become listless, awkward wanderers, if we do not remember where we came from, we have no where to go. As a species we have been adrift, we have populated, and polluted more planets than ever imagined possible, we have pushed physical, and mental boundaries, but we have no idea who we are. I want you to remember for all of us.” He pauses and looks expectantly into Jillian’s eyes, as if this weren’t a recording, but an actuall transmission, which would be impossible. “Well what do you think, is this a job for you? My agent through whatever means she felt necessary was told to recruit a thinker, someone that will process and understand this, not a mindless drone, but someone that is willing to rebel, and hole themselves up in this little library. If you take this job I offer you will have access to the upper floors of this building, which are all libraries and collections, some very old, others not so much. You will even find ancient vids, and the machines need to play them, trust me they were hard to uncover and repair, but I am anything if not persistent. There is plenty of fresh food in here, my agent has see to that, there are living quarters, and the best safety features that I could include in a building of that design and age.” After I have seen progress, I will check in sporadically, I will send you money, for more food, and if travel is required.” He stops to consider his next words, tugging unconsciously at his beard.

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“Well, I can only assume, due to the nature of this one way message that you will take this job, if not, please take some food, but leave the books, because they are indeed very precious to me.” Jillian found herself nodding in agreement to the Professor; she began to nod off, unsure why she was suddenly so lucky. *** Jillian reached forward plunging her hands into the scraps of paper on the table cursing her painfully unorganized benefactor, at the same time noting the increasing ambient light in the room, Will-o-Wisp light orbs maneuver to flank the table presenting her with the perfect light to read by. The first scrap is handwritten in a flowing scrawl, neat and sloppy at the same time. Some words were written in all capitals while others were written with an odd mix of script and print. Obviously this was written by someone more interested and focused on the information than how they were recording it. “Taken from the Book Of Seven” Jillian read aloud, almost startling herself in the process. The noise of her own voice breaking the silence of the past few days makes her wonder if the walls are sound dampened, she realizes that she hears nothing at all of the outside world, which, she smirks, is very odd especially for this city. She takes this moment to pause, she still does not know where she is, she knows that she is not in the ghetto, she wandered to far that night to still be there, but a building that look like this would have bee torn down in the Casino District. Her curiosity in the scrap outweighed her curiosity in her location. The world will still be there when I need to stretch my legs, she thought to herself, holding up the paper again for closer examination.

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“The Book of Seven was the culminating effort of over a hundred years of bickering, jihads, and crusades; finally at the Conclave of Religions a new holy book had been created. To some this seemed blasphemous, to realists this was the last effort to save the collective religious whole from becoming myth. When man-kind left their bullet-riddled, dying Earth and fled to the sky during The Diaspora they thought that peace was the only logical outcome to colonizing the heavens. After the first successful terra-forming project in 2581 AD1 each country on Earth waited to see if Mars could maintain a viable ecosystem that could sustain life, all of it’s weaknesses and flaws. After 10 years of observing Mars the Soviets, newly reunited under the Red Banner decided to fire the starting gun, making them the first out of the starting gate. For the most part they were remarkably successful. Their primary hurdle was transportation, they had not yet perfected cryo-sleep, they could put people under, but they could not reliably revive them. This is the small element that held other countries back. So the soviets that went volunteered, they did not go into cryo-sleep, which created some complications with the transportation and production of food. Hydroponics saved the day. When they finally reached their planetary destination it was actually the grandchildren of the Soviets that landed and began the colonization on the previously terra-formed planet. They had been educated and trained by true communists in communist philosophy and tradition. The education was outstanding, and perhaps for the first time in history a large social communist society thrived and lacked the traditional corruption that accompanies it. Sadly their counterparts on Earth did not

1

Editors note, this is indeed AD, Anno Domini, not AHD, Anno Hominidae Diaspora, as is used in the new measurement.

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succeed in a similar way, they fell to their own leaders. With the success of the Soviet colonization, it proved to those who remained on Earth that the Heavens awaited. *** It took until 2593 AD for the other nations of Earth to move, but the allure of controlling an entire planet became rather enticing. Most nations had left by the time that it happened, but when the Republic of the Americas left they wanted to lay waste to their former soil so nobody could benefit from their land while they were gone. Selfish and shortsighted America triggered a cataclysm2 which shifted tectonic plates sinking old and rising new continents. The shifting of the Earths crust also triggered multiple, massive nuclear explosions, from the weapons stored in the ground. Nobody knows what exactly they did but it was a final solution, that’s for sure. Anyone that had not left by that time needed to leave immediately. A few unlucky souls remained on Earth and lived through a new Ice Age. The scientists left on Earth even remained in contact with the colonies, but eventually it ceased and no one cared. The nations of men had fled to the heavens gliding on the wings of Ikarus and they cared little to look back. The only strange new life they found out there was themselves, which excited some, and left others lost. These lost Earth-men found the old religions again, religion which had been slowly dying out on Earth for centuries. This was a new epoch for religion a glorious golden age. Of Course the stronger a man’s faith the more he is willing sacrifice for that faith. All it took was for one religious leader to realize the age old rule of power by numbers. Worlds full of faithful mounted crusades against one another. Each filled with righteous fire, justifying their slaughter. It was

2

This was due to some secret ‘Doomsday Device’ that the Americans had hidden away, some say for generations. We are unsure what exactly it was, but it was effective none the less.

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Pope Clement XII that was the first in this realization and one of the more successful. But it wasn’t until the Zionist clashed with the Jihadists, that these titans truly enflamed the heavens. The bitter triumphs and the pale losses nearly destroyed more people than had at one time lived on Old Earth. It wasn’t the monumental holocaustic nature of these crusades that began to truly upset the worlds, still in a fledgling congress, but it was the ground work set by Clement that really made people fear, true righteous fear, fear of their own sin, and the sins of their worlds. Clement had called for a renewal of the Holy Inquisitions, in order to root out and destroy all heresy. Heresy to him was not limited to not following the complex Old Catholic dogma, but it was also as petty as eliminating mutations caused by some of the newly settled planetary environments. He called for a purification of the human race dating its ‘purity’ prior the Diaspora. His papal decrees were just seeing fruition, not only in written word, but also in action, sometimes even eliminating entire planet states by a single weapon still unknown, he just it called Gods Wrath. Eventually he was eliminated. Natural causes were for the weak, murder was for the unknown and unloved, assassination was the end of powerful men and in the end, this would have brought a smile to his perpetually grim face. It seems that the boy concubine of that particular evening, had a few inches of his own to give Clement… in the form of a poison laced serrated obsidian blade, found imbedded up to it’s pommel in the popes expansive gut, twisted for his pleasure , not Clements. The Inquisition could have ended there, a strong man would have seen to it, but the newly chosen pope liked power, like a moth drawn to a flame, he emerged under the Cardinals white smoke screaming for revenge, when in fact, blood was what he wanted, blood of the infidel, the sinner, the mutated, the impure, and even the unenlightened. No

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missionary agenda for this pope, Gods Wrath was his only missionary. This Holy Inquisition and the crusade that accompanied it, and the reciprocal crusades, and jihads carried on for seven generations, when it was done and the dust settled, and the rivers finally ran clear, the Holy Church and all of the other Holy Participants were exhausted and weak, the faithful had fallen and the old faiths were rejected. The end was heralded in by the first Holy Conclave of the old Religions, lead and controlled by a man known as Amrit. Many leaders from all faiths wondered, often aloud if he had been there to confront Clement XII in the beginning if these crusades and inquisitions would have happened. He was majestic, holy and humble. He was simple, and kind, wise and honest, and this scared people. But the bickering in the conclave room was like a hummingbirds war, a war of talk, insults, innuendos, and finger pointing. All of the major players were there, representing all religions, even the small factions, and the long forgotten cults of various saints, all vying to confer with Amrit. All of Earth’s Old Religions met, and one thing was agreed on, in order to save themselves, they needed to stop trying to destroy each other. The sad fact of the conclave was that it took four years to reach this consensus. Naturally the next great decision by these holy men was to recess and convene a Second Holy Conclave. This second conclave met seventy years later, the two conclaves bookending an uneasy armistice between the religions. During the Second Conclave a new generation of men and women for whom the wars were history decided that there was in fact only One religion. This idea was actually the brainchild of Amrit who had stayed on board a Caravel Class ship traveling beyond the speed of light. Time for him abbreviated, he aged negligibly and all he said was that any sacrifice of his; which included losing his family and friends was all worth

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it in order to truly conclude the conclave in a way that eliminated the possibilities of ever having these now historical Holy Wars ever again. The mythology that arose around this man almost deified him, and certainly earned him a canonization a few generations later. His ideas were basic at their core, but were monumental in their religious and philosophical applications It took years more to establish evidence and precedent to truly support this new “old” religion3. A new holy book was drafted, the Book of Seven. This holy text told parables, and stories, and even myths about the interchangeably named Buddha- Christ or Allah-Shiva, or even Yahweh- Mary and his layers of heaven and hell, and the often times virginal rewards found in one place or another. Each representation of the god/redeemer/judge presented the deity in various ways. Sometimes it was death and damnation, hellfire and brimstone, others, it was peace, harmony and revering generations past, or even reflecting the “way” back to nature and animals. This new religion took pieces of all faiths, put them in a blender and what came out was a new believable religion that was very hard to disaggregate into it’s original parts. This effectively put the Church lead Rabinical-Pope in saffron robes on top of the ‘verse. The power of the Church began to rival that of the corporation. Her eyes were raw, but she rubs them anyway with the meat of her thumb and palm futilely attempting to keep more dust from irritating the current reds of her eyes. Jillian “the exhausted” felt relieved, and at peace, she decided that she could at least stay here for a few nights, and abuse this entirely too trusting ‘professor’s’ generosity. She 3

This is actually a reference to the way that the new religion was rolled out. tI was described as a resurrection of the One true religion of Old Earth, and that all of the religions practiced after the Diaspora were in reality just a splintering of the One true religion. The most amazing part of this is that all but a few believed and easily accepted this as truth. Whether this was subconsciously a way to avoid more violence, conflict and death or sincere beliefs is unknown.

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wandered the room, noting a lack of food in the refer, and decided that she would need to remedy this in the morning right now an overly oversized chair was calling to her, its supple brown leather beckoning to her, inviting her to envelope herself in its comfort and warmth. “ “What a strange rabbit hole you have found yourself in Alice”, she muttered to herself as she drifted to sleep. As she faded to sleep the com pod happily pulsed a gentle red light from its dome.

Chapter 5 Circa 2500 AD: excerpt from a journal of Solon Bruce We did it!!! The first evidence that we have successfully terraformed Mars, we need to wait a few years to see if it holds actually a decade at minimum, but it’s been successful. We have just now injected remotely malleable nanites into the atmosphere with some more complex microscopic organisms. We will never see the limit of what these nanites can do, eliminate disease, sickness even death and now create life, despite these idiots customizing drugs and weapons with them they may be the greatest invention. Too bad we took generations to find valuable realistic applications for them. Granted some planets will have different ecosystems and appearances despite the terraforming. It all begins the same, but the gasses that can be released for the ice caps, the size and spin of the planets, the fact that we can actually terraform moons, and on a very long shot with some luck asteroids, each will have their own flavor in the end. The asteroids excite me, think of it a planet ship moving throughout the universes, finding new, well new everything, all form the comfort of a planet, at least a reasonable facsimile

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of a planet. Each planet will be unique, despite the seeds, chemicals, and gasses dropped in the planets will evolve to meet their own needs. Human life will be able to live there but they won’t all look like my Earth. I just hope that someday I will be able to see at least one of these wonders. I had barged into the house screaming this like a banshee. My wife’s eyes turned up-ward to meet mine, the glimmer and sparkle of her once life filled eyes had dimmed. I don’t know when it happened, but I do know when I realized that I was married to this stranger, but I had momentarily forgotten in my excitement. We had long ago fallen into routines that met on elliptical orbits in our lives. When we did have time to share we did not know what to do with each other. Our lives used to be concentric circles, mocked by people that watched, we lived for each other and almost within each other. I once was making a bed with the cat standing on it. I tossed one sheet and it covered the cat, it promptly scrambled out on top of the next blanket that needed to be straightened, as I tugged and pulled the cat lost its footing but remained determined to stay standing where it was maintaining it’s hold on what it clearly considered it’s territory even as I continued to tug and pull. Finally with that last layer to be added the cat again rose to the surface of what I was stretching and pulling, when I was done the cat finally jumped off apparently having had enough. I am like the cat I faithfully keep hopping on top of the next layer moving my feet over one ripple and challenge adjusting to the ground that I am loosing. Despite my excitement and my personal victory I miss my wife, you would think that with all of my science and all of my contacts I would be able to save her, but we just don’t know what the sickness is that is stealing her away from me.

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Chapter 6 2407 AHD “ARE THE DREXLERS READY?” a young man crouching behind a C.A.N.D.L.E. lift engine shouts. “yessss” a hissing came in response, intended to reply and quiet his partner in crime. The second voice came from a tall gaunt young man with a very serious, somewhat harsh face. It looks like it had been pinched and pulled forward molded like clay, his nose was hawkish, his eyes were dark and sunken, his chin was almost nonexistent as it slopped into a violent Adam’s apple that jutted violently from the front of his open collared shirt. His stained white shirt and overalls, which were three or four times to large for him, either they were handouts or his drastically lost weight. He did look sickly, pale, almost jaundiced. Judging by his clothes and the nervous looks over his shoulder he was a worker, born and bread to it. He represented the lowest caste still allowed with in the city walls. He leaned over a tub of swirling gray liquid. It looked as if powdered graphite had been poured into a small whirlpool, if it stopped spinning you would expect the gray to separate from the water. Like an animal used to being preyed upon he darts out to a large crate in front of the lift engine and places the bucket there with noticeable effort. In a stage whisper he hisses “NOW!” The loud boy fingers an antiquated toggle switch with a metallic flip on the side of the engine, a sloppy addition to the engine which apparently does nothing. The young man with the bucket braces himself as his sandy dirty hair begins to blow into a frenzy. He slides a heavy leather glove onto his left hand and grabs a dull looking brick of metal

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he quickly drops it into the bucket and it immediately begins to steam and create a gray fog that rises and tumbles out of the bucket. The young man clutches his gloved palm in obvious pain; the leather insulation was apparently not enough to protect his callused hand. The fog is quickly blown by the silently running engine, dispersing the fog into the air. If the brigade of corporate security marching by the entrance of the alley way were paying attention they would have noticed the slightly tinted air that they breathed in and which clung to their clothes. Nothing visible happened to them as they kept marching, but the two young men looked satisfied with themselves as the slapped their hands together and ran the opposite direction, leaving the engine turning, and the bucket bubbling. *** “Where the hell is my security?” The voice screamed and echoed around the vacant halls as an angry fragile red faced woman checked various doorways, and security stations. She was followed by a small escort of attendants; aides, secretaries, boot lickers, media and a mute man carrying a small dog on a pink satin pillow. She stumbled upon a slovenly worker boy polishing the gold leaf framed portraits of her ancestors, he was surprised by her entrance and fell from his ladder, luckily only from a four foot height, but still enough to injure his arm and spill a bottle of polish. She grabs his overall straps, wincing at his smell, and screams bordering on hysterics into his face. “Where the hell is my security? Where are they? Anyone could come in here and…” with a look of comprehension she drops the boy and backs away as if he was training a gun on her oversized head.

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“They were all sent home” he says this with as much courteousness as he can muster. His dislike of this woman is plain to anyone, except her. “Why” “To be honest I am not entirely sure, but the word in the workers barracks is that the entire security brigade came in and tested positive for nanites.” He paused for effect and to measure her reaction. “they all seamed genuinely surprised, but if you ask me it was all a plot… against you” She flinched at this suggestion, but took it seriously, if her step closer to him was any indicator. “What, what can nanites do? They’re illegal, right? Why? How? Am I safe?” she was whispering “No” he was somber as he did aim a gun at her, she passed out. The sight of a worker threatening her must have been too overwhelming. Her army of escorts panicked, the media man started reciting to his com pod, but all in all they did nothing *** “Take her to the roof, she needs to be seen in all of her righteous glory and ruling majesty” The voice dripped out of snarling lips and fell like acid on the ears of his audience. The young man winced. “and, you, great job. But Buddha-Christ, go shower you stink, you are no longer forced to be a lowly worker, and change into your uniform. Then meet us on the roof, you stand with me today as I address the people” The entourage of black shirted men with angry faces marches up the stairs carrying a struggling naked red faced woman. They sporadically cheer and scream like gun fire it makes the woman flinch and scream. Her eyes are panicked and tears roll down her cheeks and soaked into her mouth gag. She has been badly beaten and cut on, but she is alive enough to know that the end of her rule was certain; the end of her life

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may be bargained for if she can just talk to the man in charge. She always knew that the workers in the city would do something like this, she just doubted their success. She had been to reliant on her security and too confident on their ability. The entourage emerged onto the roof of rusted metal and sepia colored streaks they all wore blue tinted goggles, and smiled as she squinted and moaned. She was placed on her feet, but manacled as she was all she could have done was fall, so she chose to stand with as much poise and dignity as she could reign in. Looking around the roof she was able to see the entire city within the walls, and the casinos rose like monuments to her greatness, but they were dark, and some of them burned. Her eyes focused on those burning shells of greatness and felt a great loss. Looking out onto the plaza in front of her palace she noticed with little surprise that the large screens were on and showing her, bruised, beaten, and naked, but in her mind not shamed. “Ahh. My sovereign lady, what a great… pleasure it is too see you this way.” His voice still dripping venom came from her left, as she turned to see her captor her eyes took in her entire battalion of guards, standing at attention and unharmed. Violence and hate welled up inside of her until she noticed tears running down some of their faces, and the shame that creased their foreheads. They stood stock still, inhumanly still. Fearing that they had mutinied it gave her some comfort that they may indeed be controlled by nanites, whatever they may actually do they seemed to have subdued an entire battalion of her best. “My lady, your attention here please, not on your men that have been oh so helpful in their punctuality. It was their time keeping skills that made this all possible.” The angry man had sidled up next to one of the young bright looking, blonde haired

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security men that had cried for her and ruffled his hair, kissed his cheek and pushed him off of the roof. The falling boy did not even scream or struggle, he couldn’t, he fell like cord wood. The lady looked away, the angry man laughed and the growing audience in the plaza, gasped and cheered, calling for more blood. “Do I have your full attention now my lady” she nodded silently, tears welling again, but this time not for herself. “Oh, don’t worry about him, we can fix him up, almost as good as new, nanites are wonderful things. It will hurt like a bitch, but hey it’s not me” he paused, a twinkle entered his eye “or you, so what do we care, right?” “ You know you’re done right, the planet is ours, no more castes, no more untouchables” she winced at their very name “no more men and women bread for their lot in life, thinkers, soldiers, workers and the accidental refuse, which might I add have bred like crazy out there.” His voice was jovial, his grin was toothy, and his menace was tangible. He waved his arm indicating the shadowy areas outside of the city walls. The collected black shirted men chuckled and nodded knowingly, the pinched faced young man and his newly showered associate looked at each other and nodded along with the group, but seemed somewhat unsure. The pinched faced young man mourned the loss of the young guard, this was supposed to be bloodless, that was why the nanites were used to gain control nonviolently, they worked fine there was no need for violence now, but he could not say anything now. He wordlessly fingered his rosary and started mentally saying some Hail Allahs. His young associate was going through just as many pains as his friend, he heard the angry man’s speech before and now as he was delivering to his plaza audience, shouting at the practiced points and pausing for the most effect when needed.

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“… and the fat, rich royalty, that stole our lives, our city and even our eyes sit protected in their ivory towers, a monument to their cleanliness and ignorance towards the poisoned planet that they were responsible for protecting. Most have fled, many have been arrested and dealt with, the casinos are burning and will be reclaimed for living and working space, not for playgrounds for the rich and stupid, but for us, we are the rightful heirs to this city, and this planet-state and the Congress will recognize our authority. You are my brothers and sisters, I no longer fight for the lost lives of my family, my wife, and daughter, I fight for the stolen lives of our entire family.” A great cheer erupted from the crowd, the angry man was elated he grabbed another from the battalion pulling him close like he was a friend and close confidant. “He may look like a man” the angry man began again. “but he is a robot, does he have free will, was he born with it? YES, does he exercise it or does he lace up his jack boots every morning and stomp over us, does he care that he will imprison our brothers and sisters for stealing foot to feed a starving child? Should he pay?” “YES!” “What?” he responded in a practiced mock horror. “What should I do with him?” “MAKE HIM PAY!!!” was the universal response. Before they had even finished their response he had planted his boot in the small of the terrified security man’s back and softly pushed. Again he fell wordlessly and landed with a sickeningly dull faint thud. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, the pinched faced boy looked around panicking, trying to see if anyone else was felling the same as he was. He saw no reciprocation in his

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comrades faces, their eyes were calling for blood, all he had been calling for was justice. This was his fault those men were dying because of his nanites. Anger welled up inot his face, his vision was clouded by spots, rage had set his legs in motion, slipping lightly on a patch of gravel on the rusted roof, he sprinted forward. Before any his black shirted comrades could respond in any way he was shouting and lunging. “Buddha-Christ forgive me.” He was in flight with the righteous rage of Shiva’s vengeance, he caught the angry man about the waist as he dove. He had meant merely to push, but they both careened quickly to the plaza below. Realizing this was his own personal Qayāmat he mentally paused and thought of all the wrong he had recently done, and he hoped that this action would assure his place in heaven under the Bodhi Tree.

*** “Chitragupta must have kept a good tally, but Yama seems to be excessively cruel. It seems that my flesh is being torn from my body, I am being eaten by hundreds of mouths. I suffer if that is what you demand, by my karma is balanced, I had done wrong, but I have righted it! No the burning oils are too much, and whatever you have done to my head, please just let me die. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” “Allah, what have we done, Alexei?” The boy exhausted from the flights of stairs down from the palace roof was winded and breathy, wheezing with burning lungs, he clutched the prone form of his fallen comrade pulling him to his chest. With tears

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mercilessly cascading down his face the boy screamed “What have you done? You may still die and if you don’t this will be more painful than anything that you have ever experienced, and when you come back to me, please, please forgive me.” His voice was impassioned and came from his soul, all the anguish and loss in the world resounded and amplified through him. “This bloodless revolt of ours is slick with blood and bile, this city is now Abaddon cursed with all of its hellish creatures. This is what Dante saw, but could not articulate in all of its ghastly accuracy. Flames rise, mankind screams in agony, children suffer and I can say like one of the horsemen, I brought Abaddon here. Forgive me.”

Chapter 7 2408 AHD “My friend,” a heavily accented voice carries through the painfully dry air. “My friend, you look like you need a drink, let me buy you one, are you a freighter, a sailor a fighter, which … oh never... bother with that.” His mumbles quickly faded as I walked by. A Swarthy man grabbed my arm and led me half a block down the street I was already wandering. I had no destination, and I am sure my body screamed identifying me as an unguided mark for this huckster. I don’t know what he was selling, but everyone has something to sell. We had headed off of the main thoroughfare past the respectable shops, to a street that was still part of the city major, but leaning towards an unhealthy angle. It’s buildings were so close and crowded that they touched one another, and often shared walls. Alley ways were narrow and serpentine, and the main streets weren’t much better. This city was one of the first colonized and has had the most time to decay. The

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swarthy little man attached to my arm was speaking through dry cracked lips, missing teeth and a spotty moustache and a few days worth of gristle, he looked as if he had mange, and his breath stank. His head was too small for his body and his coat hung loosely hiding many things I am quite sure. I decided, while ignoring the buzz of his babble that I did indeed need a drink and a bite would not hurt, that’s for sure. The road was straight, but without his arm I would have drifted into a sirens nest of merchants shouting the quality of their wares, each offering the thing their neighbors did not have, Their stalls created a labyrinth of colorful clothes and fragrant leathers mixed with sweet desert fruit. The walls seemed to close in on me as I progressed, or was dragged. The building walls were only two to three stories high, some with terraced restaurants on their roofs, promising sights unimagined and food over priced. My head was pivoting around; even if I had been standing still I would have taken all day to take in this beauty and wonder, the violence of the voices and the passion of their movements. Just in time I heard my guides voice cut through my amazement. “Hey big guy, heads up� I only grazed the top of my head. I had to turn as I walked down a short flight of stairs into a windowless room that smelled of cigarettes and spilled beer. I am sure that in the past it smelled of opium and stronger brews than I could handle, but now it only brokered legal addictions. The stairway was a narrow brick wall of painted white stone, whitewashed like this whole city. I saw a short composite wood door at the bottom with a grill at the top, presumably an eyehole. This man, my guide just opened the door and swept in with a whoosh that was hard to tell if it came from him or the bristles on the bottom of the door. Without warning the ceiling rushed down and knocked me on the head, ok, maybe I just stood up,

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but memories are allowed to be remembered as you like. Light stars filled my vision and blue haloes momentarily ringed my eyes. I was again being guided, with a note of apology, and mumblings about being aware of your surrounding, or not being aware could get you hurt, even someone my size, the mumblings drifted away as my guide shuffled towards the bar. The haloes lifted and I saw myself seated in a high backed horseshoe shaped booth of composite wood and well worn velvet. The bar was lighted in the traditional bar half light, almost twilight, the type that is difficult to focus your eyes. The floor was sticky, but clean, and effervesced beer. The walls were sparsely adorned, a small icon of the Buddha-Christ painted and highlighted with gold leaf on real wood hung in stark contrast with what I saw next. Now bear in mind that I was casually panning around the room, rashly assuming that I was in a bar, tavern, pub whatever, and I suppose that I still was but when I visually reached the bar my eyes lingered. Ok, I started to stare, because there, clustered around the bar… oh before I get there, did I mention that the place was dead silent, silent in the way a bar is at close, with the music blaring but no bodies to soak up the noise, no rustling or talking, laughing, or falling over dumb drunk noises that you would expect, it was early, well you don’t just expect me to wander aimlessly in the dead of night do you? Anyway hanging on the bar chatting to each other were a gaggle of girls, women really, but the alliteration would not have worked if I had said that, but on second thought some of the women were barely out of their teens, I guess. Call it a sheltered existence, but this year marks the first year that I have even seen a woman. Most of them were small wizened superstitious babba’s dressed head to toe in black, some in finery (black) some in rags (still black). So the mystery of women was still there for me. These girls at the bar were different, well for obvious age reasons, but also

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for clothing issues, or should I say Lack there of. I was never raised with the ancient Judeo-Christina beliefs and taboos, not even Buddha- Christ’s more flexible morals, but I didn’t know what to do. They were talking to my swarthy guide and listening to what he had to say, he’d said a few words, look at me, and then continue talking. One girl in particular looked at me, not Monsieur Swarthy Man Stinky Breath, and licked her lips. He jerked his thumb at me over his shoulder, bold move for him, I could have moved from where he had left me I thought cheekily. This one girl with fake red hair and comically practiced hip swaying loosened herself from the pack or gaggle, and started to approach me. Suddenly remembering that I was not looking through a window I freed myself from the towering booth I made for the door, reached it and had to dive back to the booth for my sack, leave it you say, but that’s where I keep all my stuff. “Dumbass.” I muttered as I banged my head again the door. “Bye Dumas” fake red cooed after me. The room had been small, it was just claustrophobia, or it was dark in there, just mood lighting, she could have been as ugly as a harpies butt, or I still would not know what to do with a mostly nude girl bringing me a beer. Sure naked girls have been creeping more and more into my thoughts, ok, every few minutes, but they still terrified me, like hounds at the gates of hell. Sure I heard women before, through the walls when I worked, mostly screaming, there were often dull thuds that either momentarily increased or stopped the screaming, If women only equaled screaming or scary silence I wanted none of it. Of course now I realize at how they can look so soft, their skin with healthy glows, their smiles inviting like a fox talking to a rabbit, me being the rabbit. I made it back out into the labyrinthine market immediately gaining, nothing. I had completely lost

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my bearings, while being guided along like dope I had payed attention to the sights but nothing else. I shouldered my sack thinking that fake red did look good, a bit skinny, but curvy the way a girl should be in my amateur opinion. Her lips were pouty and her nose slightly upturned in an impish way. That comic swish of her hips, maybe that was sexy, maybe I had it all wrong. I paused and began to turn back when I saw Monsieur Swarthy Man Stinky Breath stepping out of the stairwell; I turned my back to him quickly pretending to examine something, what is this, ahh! lingerie, I quickly drop what I was pretending to, but then really was looking at in the dust, I bent to pick it up, I feel that all eyes are on me, but really they aren’t, well anymore than they were before this mess I put myself in. Replacing the item on the stall none the worse for wear, err, touch. I saw my guide shuffling down the cobbled dusty street, I almost felt bad for letting him guide me down here just to have me run out, but he said a drink he said nothing about a legion of mostly naked girls. Serves him right he should choose his mark better. Feeling a little better about myself, ignoring the voice in my head that was struggling to remember the half listened to mutterings of my guide on the way in, I began to walk in the opposite direction of my guide. I really didn’t care which way it would lead. As my luck would have it I immediately tumbled over, you guessed it, ‌ no not fake red! she stayed inside, remember she was mostly naked. It was another woman, a real woman not one of the enchanters of the cellar that I left. She was small with tawny hair and hazel eyes, actually, wait, I amend myself, one hazel eye, and one radiant blue eye. Her hair was loosely pulled back allowing strands to fall into her face. She wore a reddish herringbone high collared sweater, even though it was not cold. She had a scarf cinched around her very narrow waist and tinted goggles lashed to it tighter than her coin

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purse, intriguing ranking of importance. She wore a loose grey, well kept peasant dress common to this area, with high dull black boots, not common. Sprawled on the ground as she was, her skirt rose to reveal a very shapely pale leg. Ok, so I stared a bit. “Get off of me you Dumbass giant” she kept going, I stopped listening, at least she got the name right, a smirk tugged at the right corner of my mouth. “…and what do you think you are smirking at if you think that you’re grabbing my money, or anything else for that matter, you have another thing coming…” She still kept going as I was trying to unentangle myself from her inconveniently wriggling body and the crap that she had spilled, god how much breath does one woman have, she hasn’t taken one, unless she knows how to practice circular breathing. I used to know a man that could play an antique Old Earth horn, a coronet I believe, he always tried to circular breath but would pass out frequently. Does the modern woman need to practice this sort of thing or is it bread into them? Buddah-Christ, is she going to pass out soon, it would make this all easier, it’s like we are trying to stand after tangling on ice. I finally righted myself, and while she was still throwing a fit and cursing I lifted her by her waist and planted her tiny feet in the cobblestone and began to gather her bags and parcels when I was hit on the head, again! To be honest I don’t understand why any man would truly want to saddle himself with one of these. *** I tried to be witty and smart, neither of which I am, I have to work at it, and I am sure it comes across that way, my hands were sweaty as I handed back many books, disks, and com pods. I banter, and smile, I am used to neither, in my previous life I was feared and respected, I was the best of the best, I broke in the new, and buried the old. I

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spoke rarely, and even then it was just a snarl of sarcastic barbs. The whole time parallel conversations played themselves out in my head, ones in which I would make friends, not bootlickers. The last man I buried was better than the rest together, mainly because he was genuine, and wouldn’t take my shit, he was also an ass. Were these qualities of a good friend, who knows, were they the qualities of my friend, yes. I have to forcefully steer my thoughts away from my dead and buried friend and my dead and buried life. “Hey! You, dumbass, you promised me a coffee, and lunch, and I think that you owe it to me.” Wow she is a spitfire, nah, who am I kidding she’s a bitch. But, I did promise her. I begin to walk further down the street. Her voice chased me before she did “where are you going, are you going to talk to me, an apology I got, albeit mumbled, but maybe a where are you taking me, your name, I don’t know, oh just give me the rest of my stuff and let me find lunch on my own. I stop abruptly and she walks into my back, but she didn’t drop anything this time. Maybe I hadn’t knocked her over before, maybe she… whatever, at least she was company, not exactly warm and fuzzy, but she was someone to talk to, I just had to remember to hold up my end of the bargain. All of a sudden she just started to shriek. “What now lady?” my eyes followed the direction of her pointing finger and I saw one of the multitude of cats that inhabited this city in the path of a automated cab. Before I knew what else to do I shoved the items of hers that I had been carrying into her hands, and I ran in front of the cab scooping up the cat, actually a kitten, tiny little white thing with a quarter black face a grey streak down it’s nose and a tan tail, which looked like it belonged to another cat completely. The cab crashed into me, I held my ground (kind of), hunkering down and folding myself around the terrified kitten similarly, I am sure, to the

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way the cab seemed to fold around me. My feet skidded maybe a foot as I leaned into the wrecked cab, it’s rear raising into the air, the man inside was jettisoned through the front windshield. I tried to stand, but the cab held me tightly in it’s embrace, the annoying girl came running toward me, quietly screaming almost to herself, almost comically, a lot of almosts, this almost didn’t tear at the scars on my back, I still had some shrapnel grit and dirt sealed in there. All I could think was. “So, what’s your name?” I tried to sound glib “How’s the kitten?” She tore at my arms to reach the squirming animal; it bit me as she freed it, ungrateful… “No, don’t worry, I’m fine… I would insert your name here, but” I shrugged my shoulders, damn it that hurt “I still don’t quite know it.” Glib doesn’t work so well when you are wincing. “Jillian! and you, you, you Dumbass you could have died” it was about now that she really looked at the wreck sitting on my shoulders, her eye widened and she took a step back tripping over bystanders. I look up, and grin, but it falls off, great Monsieur Swarthy Man Stinky Breath is leering at her and chuckling at me. I twist myself and manage to shrug the wreck off and open fresh wounds on my back. I stand to my full height, it feels good not to slouch at this moment, I realize that the back of my shirt is torn open, and I am sure that my glowing personality is starting to shine through. The thought is confirmed as Monsieur Swarthy Man Stinky Breath’s mouth slaps shut and his eyeballs pull themselves back inside his head. I am sure it is a faint glow but it is enough to elicit a gasp from the crowd. I quickly hustle Jillian away to anywhere but here, I reach into my sack and pull out a fresh shirt and grab my canteen of cooled water trying to

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lower my body temperature. I drop the destroyed shirt behind me on the street, and she frees herself from me, still clutching the kitten bends down in one graceful motion and scoops up my shirt, muttering “men are …” her mutterings faded so I could not here them. “Let’s get lunch” hah I managed glib! “Uh, oh, ok” Jillian was finally silenced, I won, it hurt like a mother, but I won. Feeling proud of myself I let my feet and my appetite guide me, up one flight of stairs and then another to a terraced roof. It smells of garlic, olive oil and spices that are nameless to me. We are seated near the edge under a wide umbrella; Jillian positions herself as far away from the edge as she can. She ordered for the two of us, what it was I have no idea, and I don’t think that she did either. It too smelled of olive oil and garlic, it had eggplant and beef, some onions, some small sweet tomatoes and a cheesy creamy white sauce. It was a hearty meal that satisfied the growing hole where my stomach should have been. It was served with a crisp cool cucumber and tomato salad drizzled with a sweet tart combination of oil and vinegar and a generous sprinkle of salt. Our conversation was superficial and forced for the first few minutes, she was polite enough not ask about the cab, and I was polite enough to ignore the kitten climbing up my leg. I look back on that lunch, nearly dinner by the time all was said and done and I remember very little about what she said, I remember how she said it. We would be talking and she would take her glass to her lips and sip silently from it, looking over the rim at me, and at everything else happening on the terrace. When her sip had finished she would hold the glass there a second longer than it had to be and roll it along her bottom

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lip collecting any droplets of water. This only served to moisten and shine her naturally red lips. She would then replace the glass to the table and cock her head at an angle dislodging an errant hair that she kept brushing behind her ear. She listened intently to my ramblings, although I know I said nothing tangible. She may have been purposefully cryptic or I was just entranced by her lips and her eyes. She was vague, but I gathered with my Sherlock like skill that she was not actually from here, but was in fact conducting some research, on… I don’t quite remember, but I know that she had been examining texts and artifacts for three years and she was so eloquent and delicate as she spoke. She would frequently smile as she spoke and this brightened her whole face. I know that I had been staring while trying to listen intently, but she was captivating. Night had set and a shower had begun, it started as a light mist but within a few minutes our host came to escort us down to the interior, which was brightly lit, closed in and served to dampen literally and figuratively our interaction. We exited into a river where the street had been, which had apparently washed all of the stalls and carts away, or they had packed up, which I suppose would make sense. Mud and garbage flowed down the cobblestones, which had become slick. We continued with the flow, because it was much easier, maybe she knew where she was headed, but I didn’t. We saw people scurrying in various directions panicking often stumbling on the cobblestone. True twilight had come and gone leaving yellow and orange pools of light spilling out of open doors and closed windows. The rain only increased, at first we knew it was raining put we could not feel it through our clothes, we merely strolled, well strolled quickly, but we did not scamper like the pompous man in the suit covering his head with a newspaper was when he managed to fall into a drain hole that had partially

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eroded away on the far side of the street. We quietly laughed, but managed to stay somewhat polite and not guffaw out loud, even though by now it would not be heard over the rain. It was a warm rain, refreshing and honest. “Isn’t this city mostly surrounded by desert? And isn’t the way a desert made and maintained by not having a lot of rain? We both ponder this silently as we continue to walk. We wander and reach the edge of the city, thinking in retrospect we probably went through some dangerous areas, but we emerge unscathed. When we reach what should be considered a dead end street we hear whoops and hollering, screams of joy and happiness, we see men and women bounding and jumping in a huge expanse of open acreage. It is pitch black out, or it was on the streets, but here it looks like sunrise is beginning, even though night had just set. The horizon was filled with a heat shimmer, distortions of amber and gold radiating from the ground. I begin to see spotlights one by one snap on cutting light paths through the orange sky. Jillian pulls closer to me as she notes, what I have missed, the silhouettes of the screamers and shouters are molting clothes and throwing them into the air, enjoying the rain and the steam that rises off their bodies. A man pushes past us and Jillian grabs his arm. “What’s going on, is this some strange bacchanal, some rite of the night thing that should scare out-of-towners.?” “Are you kidding lady, this is life, this is what brings the next day?” “What?” obviously Jillian does not appreciate the cryptic answer. “that doesn’t make any sense.”

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“It’s the monsoon” she is cut off by the man “ the river is going to begin to swell and flood, all of the mineral deposits from the delta and the riverbed are going to flood into the farmland, once again making this the rich farmland that it deserves to be. Those merrymakers out there are farmers, and their families, and the monsoons have come early.” He grinned the grin shared by fools and the drunk, and apparently the farmer. “But” I try to choose my words carefully “we can travel through space, we can genetically alter ourselves, biospheres and hydroponics are excellent reliable resources, we have all of this technology, why depend on what nature does and does not give you?” “Who would pay for all of that? You? We make enough to survive, technology is expensive, and here with uneducated farmers who would keep it working right. We only have the scraps that the Corporation and Congress give us. This Planet-State was one of the first colonized, but we lack representation. We are no more than a rusted out freighter, so yes we wait for the annual floods to allow us to farm. You see those shadows out there, those are cast by honest folk that work and are proud. I don’t know if you could fully understand you’re just nameless denizens of a nameless city.” With that he stepped off of his soap box and ran away stripping his clothes and whooping like the others. We watch his shadow lose definition when his voice comes back to us. “You could always join us.” He ran further embracing another shadow, his words took a hold as we stared a bit more but then we moved on. *** We wander on neither really discussing what we saw and what we now understood, at least a bit more. We did not talk much at all, we had fallen into the silence of realizing that we were complete strangers that had shared something, maybe just

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lunch. We ended up stopping in front of a small personal transport, the kind that would make me feel as if I was in a coffin, but it was efficient and affordable to travel between moons and close planets. I was still caught up in her, so entranced, entangled, enraptured that I didn’t know exactly what she said, but it did involve leaving, and then a thanks, and then a very soft, slightly salty velvet kiss, and when she pulled away she tugged slightly at my bottom lip, she then turned and waved her hands for me to back up as the thrusters flared and she flew away.

Chapter 8 “Sir, we are coming in for our landing, with the previous carrier pods will rendezvous with us within the city. As per your command they are trying to subdue the citizens with little to no casualties.” “Good, are the reports as bad as we had received?” Buckling his armor and tightening straps for the fifth time Porir shifted uncomfortably while speaking to the disembodied voice of Barton Torres. He chided himself for having to look at the speaker plate on the wall when he spoke. “Worse sir, everything that happened in the city major is confirmed. The insurrection started throwing men from the rooftops. Then there appeared to be some sort of scuffle and the leader and one of his own took a swan dive too. Chaos then followed, the gates to the city major were thrown wide and the untouchables flooded the city and started attacking the elites and their defense forces indiscriminately and tearing down buildings with their bare hands.”

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Porir paused to consider the environment he was dropping into, a pre-existing war zone and possible immediate firefight was not the best way to enter the city. “This caste system of Scelus Sceleris is nonsense, it always has been, these quasi-manorial systems with their serfs was a powder keg waiting to blow.” Shuffling to his feet, weighted by his armor and his conscience he strode to the center of the common area. The immediate attention of all men was directed toward him. As a leader joining the ground force grunts he was respected both as a warrior and a leader and was treated as an equal. These men would follow him into hell and back. “Gentlemen” his voice boomed surprising even himself. “We are descending into a hostile environment, maybe even a revolution, but as agents of the Congress we are required to facilitate peace. Most people we will encounter are desperate people belonging to an ‘untouchable’ caste that have spontaneously risen with the death of their rightful sovereign leader. They are taking out lifetimes of resentment and anger on the city major. We need to fight cautiously and respond to threats logically. Remember we are an unknown commodity to the locals. Kill when necessary, defend those that can’t defend themselves and… my brothers, stay safe.” In a well practiced manner all the men lowered their heads and recited; “May Buddha Christ and his Holy Consorts bless our endeavors great and small, guide our weapons and temper our holy rage with compassionate wisdom and to help us all remember that behind every sinner and behind every sword we will only find a man. Fortify us to do our duty unto you, Amen.”

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This was followed by a brief silence and a righteous “Hell Yeah” battle cry from Barton Torres over the speaker. “May you all kick some ass, I’m opening the main bay now. The men roared their response. Porir merely looked up at Shyama with a crooked grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. “Let’s move out.” The cloying smell of gun oiled rifles, mechanics grease and the stink of perspiring armored men was met with a wave of burnt plastics and the distinct smell of cooking meat. No one sought out the origin of the aroma. Looking out onto the landscape they could see seven leagues of ______________ in one panoramic view. Buildings were crumbling, fires were burning out of control and men and women fought openly in the streets among numerous examples of carnage and debris. The battalions marched out in cautious waves fanning out as they progressed. Each battalion had specific instructions. __________________________________________________________ “Pod, commence recording” Jillian paced around the glassed in widows walk staring at the city major. Her fingers knitted themselves in and out of knots within her sweater sleeves while the recording comm pod on the small off kilter table pulsed patiently. “ As a chronicler or archivist, whatever I am, I am used to digging through others thoughts and observations but here I am about twelve hours into witnessing the failed coup which awakened the citizen elite of the city major and roused them into a panicked frenzy, and I need to organize my own observations and thoughts. The leader of this coup roused sleeping, hungover and in some cases still drunken men, women, and children with his raging voice and scarred and angry visage projected on monitors on the square, in front of the palace. The angry man had apparently used contraband nanatechnology to subdue the palace guards and gained entrance to the palace itself and

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assaulted the magistrate. This is the best of the information that has been filtered my way. The magistrate was then stripped of all rank and dignity; even in her nakedness she projected power and indifference. After some time inciting the crowd of workers and untouchables that had found their way inside the walled city major he delivered his speech with calculated planning, but something outside of his speeches theorem caused it to go all wrong.” Jillian paused taking a sip of her quickly cooling tea remembering the face of the young man whose face briefly dominated the projection as he careened into the angry man. His eyes had been closed, and his face of fury bought a moments peace with his actions. His face was a complex canvass of emotion. He was mouthing words asking for forgiveness, it was his silent prayer in a cacophonous world. She couldn’t shake that image from her minds eye. As the young man and the angry man fell more chaos erupted. Those with fatalistic curiosity quickly found a battle raging around them, seeing the futility of leaving safely the majority joined in. “About two hours ago two dozen small military transport pods landed around the city major’s wall. I saw the comet trails coming in and followed them to the ground watching as their retro-rockets fired billowing up enormous plumes of dry red dust into the rusted sky. They landed with a resounding thud, which felt like a minor tremor. The pods collapsed like unfolding cubes and soldiers poured out of them, not in a rag-tag manner, but that of a well trained and well disciplined unit. They moved as a single organism. It was impressive in what I can only describe as a deadly beauty. About fifteen minutes later a larger Charger class transport landed with a slow grandeur within the city major. I couldn’t see over the walls but I feel that they are here to bring the planet under

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control. I can’t say why I just feel it. I just hope that we are not replacing one tyrant for another.� ____________________________________________________________ With rifles raised, butts at their shoulders the battalions crept down the main thoroughfares talking with their hands, in jerky twists and twitches. They split into units of eight at every intersection, despite the surrounding destruction; the silence was only broken by the crunching under their boots. Their efficiency was impressive. As they inched forward they shuffled the sepia dust into the air which settled into the corners of their armor and goggles. They moved with a cautious intensity deftly weaving in an out of shadows. The man on point rotated without complication indicating the benefits of their practice regimen. Danny Petty was on point, one of the newer recruits, who was still a little wet behind the ears, but eager to succeed and prove his father wrong about a number of thing primarily himself. A small pocket of insurgents, rebels with blood on their hands initiated a conversation in bullets. Danny raised his hand palm facing the dead end alley and jerked it ninety degrees the rest of the unit slammed into the walls with their backs while keeping their rifles centered at their core, the violent end pointing up. Danny took a deep breath an stepped forward and cautiously asked for a parley. Their response came with a percussive sound and the shattering of his goggles. He dropped to the ground. His scarlet blood began to pool on the sepia ground quickly finding a new home. Barton Hajjar, who had been recruited the same time as Danny, and being in his first engagement responded with passion for his fallen brother, not wit his head. He stepped out of the shadow of the wall screaming and firing wildly at the impromptu

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barricade where the insurgents slunk like cornered animals. At least that is what Barton saw. His bullets delivered his message of anger alone, but they were quickly joined by a chorus of anger from his brothers, they had no choice but to support him. Right or wrong they worked as one. It was an easy slaughter. The firefight lasted for a sad three minutes and fifteen seconds. The entire barricade had been reduced to its most basic components of garbage and debris. Only one more casualty joined Danny , a veteran from the Pirate Campaigns, Marcus Yates. The unit moved as one to check for survivors on and behind the barricade, but individually they began to fall, red stains blossoming from their armored bodies. Too late they realized their folly and the trap the insurgents had laid had been executed perfectly. They had been standing on the rooftops surrounding the alley, laughing at the death that rained down. They had been willing to sacrifice their own men to take down one unit; they merely smiled with satisfaction upon seeing the fruition of their plan. The entire battalion had fallen like marionettes with their strings severed. Chapter 9 I went back to that run down spaceport where she left and I paid a boiled cabbage smelling man just about the last of my money to find out where she had come form. I was happy to know that it was a planet state called Scelus Sceleris within this same system, a sad little planet where the terraforming had been botched. It’s been called State of Sin since the rise of the gambling complexes, gladiatorial games and other excesses of human extortion for entertainment. Knowing that she is so close does not help me when I am so flightless and grounded. Feeling my limitations I shuffled on down the road. I was momentarily surprised when the asphalt ran out and the city limits were reached. Instead

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of the drunken naked orgy of a rain celebration I saw men and women, ancient and toddling, working the fields. Each helped their neighbors with their labors, sharing responsibilities and hardships as if they were kith and kin. As I was straddling the edge of the fields and the dust of the incomplete road I saw a young girl struggling under a burden much too large. I hustled to help her. She wordlessly thanked me but seemed shamed and lost until she grabbed my bag form my back to carry. Feeling an acceptable exchange of burdens had been made she lead me forward to where she had been heading. It had been a fifteen minute amble when we reached a larger croup of workers enjoying a well earned rest. Some of the elders seemed relieved to see her and slightly alarmed by the sight of me. I placed the burden down and reached for my backpack. I was turning to leave when one of the crackly voiced elders spoke. “Where are you going my friend?” “Oh, I am sorry sir, I meant no disrespect or trespasses, it just seemed to me that what that girl was carrying was much too big for her. I’ll be on my way…” “Lyra” “…Lyra, what” “Her name, its Lyra, and you shared each others burden…” “Oh no it was…” “Shit boy, don’t interrupt me, when we share the weight we share the reward” with that a matronly woman who had been standing at the ready shouldered past the and man and shoved a plate of spiced potatoes, a chunk of bread and some steaming stewed beef and vegetables into Judah’s unready hands. Her smile was gap toothed , but warm and genuine.

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With the tension relieved the rest of the farmers or family quickly had their own steaming plates of what seemed like an endless supply of dinner. Lyra sat by Judah’s side, still not saying a word but staring up at him while balancing her plate in one hand and dripping gravy onto her chin with the other. Judah just laughed; Lyra joined in, her childish laughter freed him from an unknown burden, but a he didn’t realize it, all he knew was that he felt good. They ate in a large communal area, cleared of brush and debris, leaving some protective large oak trees towering over their heads and small Joshua Trees lining paths to some long houses where it appeared extended families lived together. Everything was earthen and handmade, comfortable and inviting. *** It was an unspoken invitation, but Judah heartily accepted and worked by the side of his new family for two planting cycles. He grew during this time he learned to sing and dance, he let down all of his defenses and learned about himself. He started his work early in the pre-dawn light. He still enjoyed his solitary time but now he took greater pleasure in being social. He often would lead the wild serpentine dances around large fires at festivals, and Lunar Nights. Wildly spinning like a whirling dervish spinning out of an arid land. He sung with purity and passion, but his skill was limited, and was a constant joke for the entire colony. Lyra always worked by his side, often not a word escaped their lips, but just as often they could be heard humming and singing together. She used him as a jungle gym and they told each other great stories in a friendly one-upsmanship extravagance. She had been six when he first shared her burden, and now she was celebrating her eighth birthday. The entire community was there, neatly dressed in their best, clean

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and crisp cotton, loose light dresses that extended to the ladies mid calves, bare foot and dusty the men in strait-legged cotton pants, usually wrinkled but a clean compliment to the rest of the colony. They were wildly colored like a child had played with dozens of finger paints. Happiness was the word for this picture, despite their laborious hardships, carefree spirits dominated the night. Judah had just given Lyra a carved stone shaped like a rose which she hung around her neck. She radiated innocence squealing at the gift, she jumped to her feet and pulled Judah to his attaching themselves to the string of dancers as the spun on by. The craved rose quickly became her most prized possession, on particular day it had fallen off on the dirt road that led to the city and she crawled around for hours on her hands and knees enlisting help from younger siblings and Judah until they found it. Judah had offered her another, assuring her that it was easy enough to carve another. But she wouldn’t hear of it. When they found it she just leapt up, hugged the little boy that had found it and with dusting herself off she began to skip home, humming to herself. Judah had caught up with her and scooped her up from behind and placed her on his shoulders, they walked the rest of the way laughing and singling with a chorus of the younger children weaving around them. Judah had enough love to care for them all, each had a personal connection with him and none felt slighted by his frequently diverted attention. When the parade of giggles and laughter arrived back at the family compound all of the adults were panicked and the children that had remained were scared and confused. All of the adults and older children were running to the fields that were ablaze with a devilish glow. Fire. “Lyra, you stay here and mind the smaller children.�

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“But Judah I can” “Don’t argue with me, just do it.” She hurriedly skulked off, wrangling the smaller kids while the rest of the older children followed Judah with buckets, wheel barrows, and glasses full of water, some carried shovels hoping to suffocate the fire. *** When the frustrated and weary adults made it back home lamenting the loss of crops and the ruining of the fields it took moments for the continuing horror to sink in. Everything was destroyed, tables were overturned, chairs and benches were smashed, the roofs of many of the smaller buildings were beginning to smoke with small flames spreading. The great common buildings had been torn down, effort had been made to do this, in some places vehicle sized holes had been punched right through the walls, on others complete ends of the buildings had collapsed where load bearing beams and walls had been torn away. The adults heard crying and wailing from the smallest of children which had remained. They were hiding in the kitchen prep area, hidden from sight huddled together behind an overturned table. Many of the older children that had stayed along with Lyra were conspicuously missing. The children gasping for breath through their own choked sobbing screamed about how other adults had taken the older children. Lyra had stood up to them along with some others using pots and pans as weapons. They all fell under the attack of the adults as soon as all of the weapons were taken, when Lyra fell the men were especially cruel to her, kicking her and punching her long after she stopped struggling. Judah bent down to where the terrified children were pointing as the spot of dirt that Lyra was beaten down into, he found covered in dirt a broken cord wrapped around a stone rose.

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Judah tore off into the darkness his own light brightening his way. He followed the trail of displaced earth debris recently disturbed by a large vehicle. He ran flat out for hours never doubting his direction. He only slowed when he found a small crumpled form lying in his path. Lyra’s head was at a perilous angle, he limbs were all akimbo. Her eyes were beaten and swollen shut her cheek bones were visibly shattered and out of place. Blood had tried and caked under her nose and around her mouth. Her clothes were tattered, her shirt was torn open reveling gashes, bruises and bite marks. Her skirt was covered with blood, darker spots were evident over her pelvis and her methodically broken knees. Her ankles had also been tied and twisted, broken as well. She had fought, she had defied and was beaten instead of quietly surrendering. She must have been more of a hassle than she was worth. For the second time in his life a primal yawp tore itself away from the deepest well of his soul. A sorrowful keening sound poured from his throat. Collapsing to his knees he could no longer stand, iridescent tears traced pathways down his dirtied and anguished face falling soundlessly onto her mahogany hair as he gathered her into his arms rocking back and forth. She was still alive, that may have been worse torture, but he knew that it would only be fleeting. Her sparkling amber eyes and contagious smile beamed at him, content before her light guttered out. He tied her necklace around her neck positioning the stone and length of cord just as she would have worn it; he imagined her leaning closer and smiling faintly as she quietly went to sleep. The darkness was broken by his tragic light as he cradled her in his arms and held her close to his chest, protecting her now as he should have before. Judah walked on only hearing the shuffle of his feet and the hidden night animals until he entered the families

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common areas. Upon his arrival he was quickly surrounded by family, they wanted to share his burden, but he would not allow it. It continued this way until dawn cautiously broke the darkness. With the light of day came the realization that all of Judah’s growth had been stripped away. He had been destroyed, as broken and dead as Lyra. He kissed her small head and caressed her face, he could not bear to witness her burial, so he meekly grabbed his sack and wordlessly walked away. His family wept, they wept for them both, Judah and Lyra died that night. Chapter 10 “She was just a girl!” agony seasoned his horse voice. “Which one of you bastards did it? She was just a girl.” He raged in the center of marketplace, amid the multi-colored stalls. People tried to ignore him and carry on their way, but he would grab poor souls that hurried by a little too closely by their shirt fronts and with tears streaming down his face he would hoarsely plea for help, information, anything, because she was only a little girl. He grabbed one pock faced man with shit breath, realization slowly crept across Judah’s pained face as he realized he knew this man, Senior Swarthy Man. “You! You have to help me,” he was frantic now. “You know things, you can help me, who… why, where can I find who did this?” “Sir you are creating a scene” His putrid breath poured from behind his bristling moustache. “Leave this alone, the children are gone, taken care of, do not worry for them any more, or you may disappear as well, I warn you as a friend, but keep this up and all the warnings in the world will not help.” He removed Judah’s stunned fingers from his rumpled and stretched shirt, smoothing his front to create some semblance of neatness and he coolly began to walk away with the air of a man whose duty was righteous and

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complete. Anybody that had been paying attention had quickly diverted their focus from this pathetic agonized giant. That is until his tenuous link to the rational was snapped. “You know!” Judah struck Senior Swarthy Man square in the back causing the portly man to stagger forward. “Were you a part of it?” his attack continued. “Who did it” this is punctuated by a kick to the gut. “Who” next a broken arm. “Why” a broken collar bone. Judah’s craze began to subside, he slumped to his knees his arms leaning on the ground head tilted forward as if his was praying towards old Earth. “Children disappear, people know not to ask too many questions, saftery for your self should be paramount, not that of disappearing children. It may help to pretend that they never existed, these families have been doing just that for generations.” his voice is raspy and his breathing is crackled by fluid, broken ribs, and possibly a punctured lung are contributing to the fat man’s discomfort. “LIAR” Judah’s rage was overwhelming; it was a crushed larynx that finished the job, successfully ceasing any answers that may have come. Judah knelt there and through his head back roaring and flinging his arms wide as if he was demanding Buddha-Christ’s judgment. An electric jolt brought him back to the here and now of his situation. A small brigade of armed local constables had encircled him each carrying a non-lethal energy rod. The rods were also heavy enough to be good for beating. With each blow came a the shock form the highest setting of electricity the rods would allow. There were many, Judah lashed out like an ensnared animal. He grabbed a rod form one would be captor, mentally shutting out the pain involved in seizing the man’s weapon. He thrust the rod so hard into the man’s chest that the tip of it could just be seen exiting the man, tenting the

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back of his shirt. So much for non-lethal weapons. The rest of the brigade renewed their assault with an unusual fear of their quarry. They managed to bring Judah to his knees. While there he was positioned so well that it was easy to break the left knee of one constable, by thrusting open palmed with his fingers curled back he struck with the heel of his hand forcing the knee to bend forty five degrees in the wrong directions. As soon as that strike had been executed Judah moved his attention to his next target. He kicked out from his kneeling position at a downward angle, temporarily leaving his own legs prone to damage, successfully shattering another mans ankle. One constable tried to stomp Judah’s exposed leg forcing him to roll out of the way. His momentum was stopped when he rolled into the body of the first of the brigade to fall. Judah wrapped his hands around the energy rod that was beginning to smolder in the dead man’s chest and gave it a hard jerk releasing it like Excalibur, ready to fight again. He fought like a brawler not caring about etiquette or form, he lacked finesse and discipline. But with each wild swing that managed to connect bones were broken. However he missed his target frequently living a widely exposed flank, which honestly being larger than most men was an enticing target. He kicked and jabbed, his thumbs found homes in more than one eye socket. His fists were bloodied, his ribs were cracked, and many organs were well bruised, some may have received permanent damage. This was not a concern of Judah’s. He fought longer than wisdom or human physiology should allow, but in the end the remaining three of the brigade stood over him with a look of hollow triumph shared between them. ***

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That very next morning a wooden X was erected at the city limits, where the road turns to gravel, where the denizens of the city can trade life for agrarian pleasures. A small crowd of weathered and haggard looking men and women stood in semi-circle around the X staring at a giant of a man that been beaten and lashed to that X. Judah’s final lesson from the constables was not for himself, but for his adopted family. They cut him down and carried him back to the remains of their smoldering homes and smoldering hearts. Chapter 11 “Sir, there are still pockets of open rebellion but it’s not like they wear a uniform, they make hit, often sacrificing themselves and then anybody connected fades away into the crowd. They have some willing supporters that supply them, others I hope the minority, help them out of fear. “Do we know where they are hiding, or even where they disappear the most frequently, I can’t believe that just mysteriously walk into the wind.” Porir’s voice was weary and burdened by its own authority. “Actually this is the odd part, the untouchable’s ghettos are docile, the problem actually stems from the city here.” “But this is where we are congregated, the majority of our sweeps are here, they must be doing this to humble us?” “Well some of our intelligence feels that there are multiple hidden rooms, almost bunkers which are well stocked, well fortified and definitely well hidden.”

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“It can’t be the elites that are actually taking up arms, can it?” Porir sounded incredulous but resigned to the truth that they were the only ones that would want to remove the Order from the city. “Actually sir, mercenaries have been hired here for decades, creating small personal armies, we believe that they are responsible for our headaches.” “Well I have two problems with this, the first being that all the money from the elites found guilty of these atrocities has been seized and second, why would a hired mercenary sacrifice himself, what sense is there in that. Isn’t a righteous suicide reserved for fanatics?” “I really don’t have an answer for you sir, but I can try to look into it, maybe we are dealing with two separate entities here.” “Well in the mean time increase the sweeps. Can we modify the equipment to find these hidden bunkers? If they are hiding small armies it should, in theory, be rather easy to find them. Is there anything else that should be brought to my attention?” “Well, yes sir there is. It appears that we have developed something of a reputation. Because we have been erratically mobile for so long people have had trouble locating us. Well, now that we are parked on a planet people have actually been flocking to us.” “Why” Porir finally put down the file of paperwork he was drowning in. “Well it appears that we have gained some political support in the form of the recently promoted High Judge Phillip.” “The rodent that Phillip?”

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“He sent messages to all of these elite, aristocratic houses and clans spread throughout the ‘verse asking for their second sons to reclaim their right and rise to their duty, and pledge to the New Brotherhood of Pious Pilgrims, I assume that he means us. Anyway he claimed that Buddha-Christ himself has given us a holy mission and that in order to succeed we need to grow. Apparently the Order is the manifest hand of our absolute god.” “Yes that was part of our initial motivation, concerns of overpopulation, and bored aristocrats which equal dangerous aristocrats, but my overriding belief at the time was that the Order would create a sense of unity and belonging in the ‘verse” “There is more than just that, heads of Houses and the Border Clans have arrived and are kneeling outside, waiting for an audience” Pause, deep breath. “with you sir. They have come often with an entire retinue of men. Younger sons whose sole future is clerical or minor secular positions have arrived and pledged their lives and whatever wealth they have.” They say that they are looking for a sense of belonging and feel that the Order claims a closer relationship with the myriad faces of the absolute god. They are calling us the Poor Knights of the Absolute.” “Poor knights? They know of our wealth, and really knights?” “I believe that this is in response to our deeds and our individual vows of poverty. There is more they know of our vows and the embrace the Oath of Order4. So what should we do?” “What do you mean what do we do? We test their motivation, glory for themselves or glory of the Absolute, and then we allow them in. If piety can be spread who are we to deny these supplicants? I need to meet these men.” 4

The Oath of Order…

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*** “Brothers, it has been nine months since the first waves of you arrived.� Like a mother that is expecting we can truly appreciate the rapid growth that can happen in such a short time. Like the continuing tides more and more come. Each day more come, our ranks swell, but we can not become complacent. I fought in the Pirate Wars with only a few hundred men, and we made the space ways safer. Now imagine what we can do with a thousand times more at our disposal. We have been called holy warriors, warrior monks, and even been give the name of Absolution. The fist of the Absolute God, who in his infinite incarnations has given his guidance and strength to us. Look what we have done for Scelus Sceleris we arrived on a State of Sin to the sale of humanity and every vice was on clearance for the convenient purchase by even the lowliest. Now we have a viable economy, trade has arrived; humanity has been brought to this planet. Yes casinos are back, yes vices are catered to but we have destroyed the abuses to humanity, the caste system has been all but destroyed. The untouchables have been embraced and the elite have been humbled. The economy of the planet has never been better the pyramid of imports over exports has been inverted, wealth is seemingly flooding in. We have not cleaned the sky of the suns impurities, but as we speak we have begun to erect a temporary dome over the city, and the surrounding lands, farms will thrive and be productive decreasing our dependence on other city-states. Eventually these domes will be torn down and we will have orbiting solar filters that will rotate in synchronous orbits to the sun. I have bragged long enough about your accomplishments. But what is next?� Porir snapped a quick salute to the assembled men and walked away. He quickly approached his office noting to himself how quick the walls and floor were when housed

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on terra-firma. He missed the hum and feel of his ship and the solitude of space. He slept better in space the gentle hum surrounding him like a warm blanket. He unconsciously wandered into his oak lined office and falls into his leather chair and closes his eyes. A mild grin crawls across his face with the licking of Mikado’s warm tongue on his hand. Porir flies off of his chair onto his knees and tackles the unprepared dog, wrestling with Mikado occasionally allowing her to get the upper hand, or paw. “Come on Mikado, what am I going to do, your smart, tell me everything is going to be great, that we aren’t starting to stagnate…” “What you’re the wrestling poet now?” Both Mikado and Porir stop mid-tumult, Mikado with the momentary victory Porir is forced to roll his head back in order to view Shyama. “I see London, I see France…” “Oh shut-up Porir.” He starts to rise to his feet tossing a ball across the room into the corridor for Mikado to chase. “What would your mother say wrestling like that in your dress blues? Oh and look at that.” Shyama notes and avoids a string of drool dripping from his elbow. “It looks lie Mikado won, I shouldn’t be jealous should I , you rolling around on the floor with another bitch?” “Well in my defense we have a healthier, richer and rather fulfilling relationship, but Mikado but I have talked it out and she thinks that you are ok for a bi-ped and all.” “I should be flattered, but I am here on actual business.” “This is a rarity.” Porir puffed up and deepened his voice and started polishing a medal. Shyama proceeded to cuff him upside the head.

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“I’m serious, be a grown up just once in a while pretend that you are the responsible leader of over a million men an armada of new Cutlass class warships.” “Ok, well they are shiny and new aren’t they?” “Shut-up! You need a focus these men will become a problem if they become unfocussed. If we are to be a power of piety and peace we need an agenda and need it to be public knowledge. Conveniently there is small temperate planet rich in minerals, natural medicines and resources which are used across the verse and they are on the verge of destroying themselves. The planet is split and ruled by two separate state governments. I know this is an oddity but it is a reality. The planet state was colonized by the Phanthavong, which were a small population of industrious people. But after the Pirate Wars when we found that flotilla of pilgrims things got messy.” “I remember the flotilla, they were lost, weren’t they some of the earliest spread colonizers, didn’t they share the same genetic origins as the Phathvongians? The congress placed them on the same planet, so what is the problem?” “Well the Phanthavong people are puritanical believing in the Path of Reality. This belief is the idea that the iron fisted absolute god incarnate in Shiva the Destroyer will not allow mongrels to exist. So their ‘relatives’ that were placed on the planet were impure due to their mutations. If you remember they traveled in space for generations. Those families at the core of the flotilla were considered to be ‘pure blooded’ or of Holy Blood and were allowed into Phantahvong, however the other families living in the rings around the core along the walls and axis were mutated over the years due to the increased radiation and poor climatization and varying degrees of increased or decreased gravity. All of this changed the mating habits and the genetic pool, making them ‘unholy’.”

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“This bigotry would have been nice to know before the forced colonization of the flotilla survivors on Phanthavong.” “Wouldn’t it have? The long and the short of it is that Phanthavong recently had an open election and the newly elected leader ran on the platform of genetic purity and a hegemonous rule of the planet. This would include genocide and the over through of the neighboring government. Now the Eiratzi , the partner planet state government have had the same leader for generations, a man by the name of Roseof he was a great man who worked hard to keep the uneasy peace. Unfortunately his age and health are finally catching upand he will soon be dead. A young man named Niedhl is maneuvering for leadership demanding equal or even greater control of the planet than the Phanthavongians and has threatened that any violence committed against his enemy will be returned seven-fold.” “Sad story, adder still that in reality they share the same origins, I mean beyond just being from Old Earth. They can’t truly claim an historical or even religious divide, so Shyama, what is our responsibility in all of this?” Porir looks down to see Mikado wagging her tail patiently with the ball in her mouth. He reaches absent mindedly into her mouth, retrieves and tosses the ball halfheartedly down the hall. “What is our position here, does this even really involve us?” “Hell yeah this involves us, this is the perfect opportunity to act as mediators to help with the peaceful transference of power, in essence trying not be the military power instead being the pious power.” “Who are you, pious power, where is the real Shyama? Let me guess you are a demon in disguise, or wait, wait I know this one, you’re a robot, because the real Shyama

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would not have said this, she may in fact be the most blood thirsty bitch that I have ever met.” “Actually Lazo is back, it was his idea, me, I would prefer to walk in there and bang some heads, but thanks for the vote of confidence, I could grow someday.”

Chapter 12 2378 AHD “…thanks for that vote of confidence, but what I am proposing is a military branch of the church. The Judge, Philip agrees with this idea and has agreed to finance our first ship, what we are looking for from you is jut your blessing something to give us legitimacy. Look you have even decreed that the laws of the church are immutable but they are hardly enforced. We could be your hammer. I have gathered eight other men, and we know what must be done in order to grow and succeed, and the rigors involved in such a thing.” The Rabbi-Pope sat there with his fingers steepled in front of his furrowed brow. His saffron robes casting a reflective glow into his eyes adding to the illusion of depth of thought. It was a well known but un-acknowledged fact that the Rabbinical-Pope, Godfry, had received his appointment through the influence of the judge, the rodent faced Philip, so this meeting for a blessing was merely a public formality. “I understand” The Rabbi-Pope’s voice was resonant and grand-fatherly “that my appointment is dubious at best, but I am still the head of this church and I did what I needed to in order to get here, to create change and bring about true piety so I will not blindly acquiesce to Philips demands. I believe in your cause, if applied correctly, you

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could be the church’s hammer, mold and shape these lost children of Old Earth and bring to them the ways of the Absolute in all of his innumerable manifestations. Bring us back to the true passion of faith that was left behind all those years ago on Old Earth. But you need guidance, I will not let you loose without some insurances. Number one, I will make you a law unto yourselves, provided that you require an oath, a pledge to the church. I will allow you to be lay ministers of the faith, I will allow for you to speak and act in the Absolutes name. You will answer only to the Church, no planet-state may hold sway over you. Vices and sins of humanity must be stripped away. You are all to renounce your wealth and status, bequeathing it to this new Order that you re creating. I will allow you to finish this Oath of your Order, but be true and follow the churches guidance.” Godfry stood silently ending this meeting. He leaned over his desk bowing his wizened head. “Porir, above all I have faith in you, I see your soul and I understand your heart, Pledge to me to bring back what humanity once had, because I fear the path that all of hominae are blindly heading down. Promise me this, and you will have your Holy Order.” “Sir, more than you know, I do promise this to you.” Chapter 13 Circa 2500 AD: excerpt from a journal Solon Bruce. I was working again today, not knowing why I still push forward, I know what science has done for me and I know what it has taken from me and those two things can never be reconciled. Yet the irony is this, when science destroyed all that I have, it has only left me with science. Being on this ship with the vibrations and humming I can never achieve peace, it is a cacophony of noises that tear at my brain. I have had little focus, the funny thing is that I was allowed on this ship because of my ‘brilliance’ and yet I am

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too distracted to think and when I do it is of her. I was told that she could not join us, we would only be transporting a body, not a brain, not a soul, not her. Space was precious, and only those viable to the continuance of the species were allowed to join us here. I begged to stay with her, knowing what I would be without her, knowing that my brilliance only found it’s inspiration through her. The higher-ups that were making the decisions felt that it would be a sin against the species to let a mind like mine die, they felt that I was having a temporary mental breakdown, and that I was not in my right mind. Because who on Earth would rather stay with a woman that did not know me or herself any more than save their own lives. Most of academia never had the completion of self that I found through my wife. They don’t understand that all that I am had been a lightning rod for the passion and power donated to me by her. I know in my mind that Earth is gone, nothing but a rock is left now orbiting a distant sun with empty broken cities and lives tossed aside like a child’s toy after a tantrum. But, every night I weep thinking of her waking alone traveling around that distant sun. Alone. Chapter 14 “Alexei you bastard, you know that you can’t fucking fly, what the hell were you thinking!” Robert, of the insurrection, lay draped over his friends bed mentally blocking the beeps and blips of his life support weeping unabashedly into the blanket. Light peaked in from under the door leading to the outside hallway, some soft yellow glow came through the shuttered window, a gentle breeze pushed the curtains aside to allow the sight of the dome to eclipse his thoughts. “How did we ever choose the wrong side, that communist fool was never going to lead us to a glorious revolution, he was just leading us down a quick path towards death turn back all ye who can thank for their

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fucking selves. I know I should just let you go but you are my brother, my father and my guardian angel. You took care of me and brought me up right, we just made some stupid choices; I know that you always say that choices are always half chance and that goes for everybody, but it seems that some people get more chances to choose than we do. Now, now you can’t even choose anything for yourself, but don’t worry I can do it for us, I will be the big brother, this might hurt, but it will make things right I swear.” Crossing himself and praying to the absolute god of benevolence he lifts the lid off of a small cup of swirling grey smoky liquid, careful not to inhale any of the precious Drexlers that he salvaged from the attack on the guards. “I ran back to the bucket as fast as I could, there was a little left in the bottom, I guess that the wind from the engine didn’t blow them all out, or the catalyst ran out. I don’t even know if this will work without the catalyst in it again, I just hope that it has already been activated enough.” Robert reached up to the IV drip and cut open the pouch so that it still hung but he now had access to its contents. He slowly poured the liquid Drexlers into the pouch and quickly worked to tape it shut again. “Buddha-Christ, what have I done?” *** Robert had drifted off to sleep, the first true sleep that he has had in the months since the some-what failed insurrection, it snuck up on him and clubbed him over the head; he didn’t even feel it coming. He probably would have stayed in his drooling slumber except for that horrible screaming, bloodcurdling agony of the damned had found voice and it had the nerve to exercise that voice in his room. Realization slowly began to flower in his consciousness when he caught a glimpse of the dome from the

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window, the summer suns beginning to cast their wide net of light over the city dome, refracting and reflecting on the finished parts, and shining like ribbons through the unfinished. It was odd; he noted how the sky looked blue on the left but on the right where it was unfinished, it was still that sickening sepia color, the color that had encouraged a revolution. The cries again came to the forefront of his conscious, not that they had faded away, just that they had been pushed aside. Now the reality of the screams descended upon his thinking brain, which powered his legs upwards in a shot. He found himself drained of blood swaying on his feet wanting Alexei to stop, his face was contorted in pain, he couldn’t control his limbs, they were flailing all around, tearing out IV’s and monitors, his back arched in a grand mal seizure. Then it went silent, at least if you ignore the cacophony of bells and whistles, alarms and alerts, if you got beyond all of that you would notice Alexei had stopped screaming. He saw Alexei still mid grand mal in a silent scream, eyes wide and terrified, black lines tracing themselves along his veins. Robert noticed this in his face first but then he examined the rest of his body and was able to trace those small black lines in all of Alexei’s veins. His fingertips were the first to turn completely grey and it crept up his arms evenly paced in a slow motion horror show. Robert had now substituted his own screams for Alexei’s open-mouthed grimace. As his panic asserted dominance his remaining rational thought was why had no one else come to help? He was thinking through the details of what to do next as he was tearing down the IV that contained the Drexlers despite that fact the shunt had been torn from his arm a full minute ago. Robert felt rough hands on his shoulders throwing him aside he crashed into the moveable tray table and slid into the wall as he sees this multitude of white clothed women launch themselves into action, a frenzy of work re-attaching cords,

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wires and a fresh bag of whatever the unknown fluid was that Robert had poisoned. The deafening noise is silenced, but the terror in the room is still tangible. The doctors calm themselves once they conclude that they have done all that they can. As if frozen by Medusa’s glare Robert is riveted to his spot until he is manhandled to his feet. He knows that the flat faced woman is speaking to him, but he can’t hear a thing. He is only staring at the relaxed body of his friend. The woman is still railing him with accusations and questions, when he interrupts her. “Is he alive?” “Yes,” was her only response. Robert collapses to his knees and pitches forward burying his face in his hands bawling like a child. For a time he is just left propped against the wall like a rag doll tossed aside, the rhythmic beeps and blips reassert themselves into his consciousness. After the hasty exit of the doctors and nurses Robert is in his own little world unaware that, he and Alexei are not alone in the room. He sees a silhouette leaning against the doorframe, backlit forcing him to squint to make out a face. He knows that it is a her but other than that he notes nothing remarkable as she marches to where he is crumpled. She doesn’t say a thing instead she just points to the floor silently asking to join him. He shrugs with an apathetic I don’t care. She leans against the wall for a moment and then gracefully slides to the floor landing in a lotus position with her hands cupped together in her lap. *** “Okay, I am only just so patient, so fuck this shit, your friend here took a swan dive taking out some moderately influential big bad. He managed to live through the fall, if that’s what you want to call this,” she waves her arm towards the bed, but Robert’s

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eyes don’t follow, “and you’ve been weeping like a nancy over him for months. Then all of a sudden, you decide hey, I can’t live with this any more, so I am going to poison said friend and see what other pain and torment the human body can live through. So now here you are feeling sorry for yourself, forgetting about you friend and the rather noble sacrifice that he made to protect you and the rest of this lousy planet-state from another would be public servant.” “You don’t understand you couldn’t possibly get it,” Robert’s sobbing had stopped, but his speech came out sotto voce. He broke down again, almost as far as a man can crumble, his tears had been exhausted. He began scratching the back of his hand making it bloody, as him simultaneously started rocking slowly back and forth. The rocking continued gaining in speed and momentum until his head was slamming full force into the wall behind him. This continued, longer than was probably good for the brain until the shadowy woman placed her hand behind his head. He melted into the touch and collapsed, his head falling to her lap. Shyama gently stroked his hair consoling him in a rather un-Shyama manner, and in a way, she was consoling herself as well. “We have some plans for that brain of yours so treat it well, you and Alexei have some hard work ahead of you, but just like Alexei you need some time to heal too.” She silently waved the column of doctors and nurses to come back in now carrying a gurney. They gently lifted Robert onto the gurney, which sagged slightly under his weight and carted him off down the hall. Shyama unfolded her legs and strode across the room to stand by the bedside of the silent victim of his own righteousness. “You, my friend will fit in well, your naive idealism will compliment that of our fearless leader. His blind optimism in you and the

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boy Robert may pay off, but you need to focus on getting well.” She brushed her fingertips over his shoulder and silently turned and stalked away like a panther on the prowl, her tail would be cutting the air violently behind her in anticipation. *** “Come on you hit like a girl,” Shyama staggers back a step “you don’t deserve to join us,” she smacks a fist into a blond man-child’s unprotected kidney “no wonder you were thrown out of your family if this is how you handle yourself.” He missed her as she drops to a crouch and sweeps his feet out from under him. “Your soft and weak minded think when you move.” He stays down and rolls to his side mewling like a kitten. Showing her unpracticed maternal instincts for the second time in one day, she hesitates over his body checking to see if she really broke him or not, when she finds herself slammed against the wall knocking the wind out of her. He rounded on her so quickly that she was unprepared standing in a prone position, but the rest of the newbies saw something that they will not forget. It wasn’t the windmill kick from lying on his back or the two feet that connected solidly with her chest sending her back to the wall, it was the fact that Shyama had hesitated and not gone for the ‘kill’. She quickly rebounded invigorated for a fight, she opened the flood gates this time, landing one blow after another. She did nothing to pull her punches, kicks, jabs and gouging were the lessons of the moment. She had a sick intensity in her face he soul focus was on the man-child and his next move. For the man-child’s part, he managed to fend off the majority of her blows and he absorbed the impact of many others. He stood there somewhat stunned swaying from side to side his arms reflexively in the defensive position when she forecasted her next move she was swinging around for a speedy roundhouse kick aimed at his neck.

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Collectively the rest of the newbies held their breath; they tentatively exhaled when they finally saw her there with her foot held at his neck with a smile on her face. The man-child was exhausted but he had held his own against Shyama, and he landed his fair share of hits as well. She held her ribs with her left hand as she wiped blood from her face with the back of her right. Her eye was swelling nicely and her leg was causing her to limp noticeably. For the newbies the man-child had scored a victory for Shyama she was given a release of energy frustration, rage and longing. Still holding her ribs she waved her right hand tiredly asking for the next sparring partner. She had only gone through about half of this new class of recruits, testing their abilities and deficiencies. All of the newbies were eager to spar now with Shyama in her weakened state, but each knew deep down that this would be a hollow victory, so they all stood there refusing to make eye contact with Shyama fearing her like they would a wounded dog. One older candidate stepped forward, he had a shaved head and clean angular features, he was very dark complexioned, when the light hit is body it cast shadows of dark purple making his athletic body reveal all of his secret strengths. She dropped into a horse stance, ready to receive the attack but too tired to make her own. “No Shyama, we are all done for today” His voice was smooth and honey thick his rich baritone soothed her. She unexpectedly let her guard down and leaned into him hard. “I’m Amittai “Hold me tall and lets walk out together” Her own whiskey velvet voice was replaced with the wet rasp of a punctured lung. She spoke in hushed tones. “Please” Instead of carrying her out like a small child he decided instead to walk out with her shouldering most of her weight, he dismissed the rest of the class on the way by them.

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He continued this way until he was out of earshot and then a little further until he was around the corner. He then stooped and swept her lithe body up cradling her close to his, he then proceeded to run down the myriad of tangled corridors to the infirmary to where the man-child had been flirting with the nurse. Apparently, she had been pulling her punches. He kicked open the next room and gently laid her on the table, the Doc flew in followed by a contrail of nurses. Amittai slowly backed out of the room watching with a little apprehension to the flurry of movement happening in the other room. He was still backing up when he bumped into the man-child. He swiveled quickly and his smoldering eyes locked to the man-child’s wide panicked pupils. He swung once and he swung hard causing the man-child to sail bodily through the air connecting with the wall eight feet way, the impact caused him to loose consciousness. Amittai just stepped over him on his way to the door thinking to himself the Doc will find him later. Chapter 15 “What do you mean the new squad of recruits has not made it to the training room? So help me god if Shyama is keeping them late again so she can teach them the proper ways to address ones superiors, my eyes are up here you piece of shit or my favorite why don’t you go on home to your fathers like the scared little girls that you are my eyes are still up here you piece of shit…” “Sir,” “…do you have to concentrate to just keep breathing? Is the mantra in your head blink, breathe, heart beat, blink, breathe, heart beat? Look at my eyes while I am talking to you.” Porir was pacing around his office with his arm flailing about regardless of how emasculating it looked.

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“Sir, no, Shyama is in the Infirmary, and the rest of the unit is MIA.” This stopped Porir’s pacing rant, he ran nearly knocking over the portly Johan on the way. He ran full tilt to the infirmary ward, pushing people out of the way. When he finally pushed his way in he stopped at the viewing window and rested his palms and forehead on the glass staring at Shyama laying on the bed, with an IV tied into the back of her hand, her left eye nearly swollen shut and her beautiful raven hair matted to her left temple. He could see a cast on her lower left leg and she was breathing slowly. She was asleep and this gave her an air of peace and rest, which on anyone but Shyama would look like just that, peaceful rest, but Porir knew that pacing around under the quiet Shyama was screaming to go run and play. Porir turned to charge out of the room to get some answers when he nearly bowled over one of the new recruits, an older one that showed none of the insecurities and naiveté that the others possessed in quantity. He held his head high and met the captain’s gaze with out hesitation. His smoldering eyes bored through Porir holding him to the spot. “Sir, I’m afraid that I may not be fit for your Order, I appear to lack the control and self-discipline that you might want to see in a new recruit. Well, you will understand in a few moments, I have something that you need to see. Come.” Amittai strode of with a graceful gait full of power and dignity. Porir followed along like a young disciple following his messiah. Amittai began to explain things on the way, as a way to lessen what he was about show Porir.

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“She had already sparred with a few of the unit, she was fatiguing a bit, but she still had some punch in her. But then this one kid landed a lucky blow and then more in quick succession, she kept on, she refused to lie down for anyone, I can see that, but her own body was probably screaming out in pain reprimanding her for the punishment that it was receiving. She stayed up still ready to go, even after she had beaten the punk that got through. She was about to collapse when I went up to her, my immediate reaction was to carry her out, but that would have humbled her too much in front of the boys so I walked out with her and we went straight to the infirmary. After I saw that she was being taken care of I went back to began to speak with the rest of the unit. I know that rage ended up conquering my rational thought, but it is our job to protect those that can’t protect themselves. In this instance Shyama needed protection and they let one of their own nearly kill her. That pretty boy that stopped sparring and truly brawling came up to me and took a swing at me, saying that he didn’t like my tone that I wasn’t any better than him. So I decided to show him that I was. I took him out quickly, he was tired, just as the others began to rush me. They attacked as a pack, like wolves, but I was able to isolate and deal with each individually. Most of them relied too much on their brawn and not enough on their brain. In the cramped spaces I used their size and ignorance against them. Many became tools of their own destruction, taking each other out accidentally. I then tried to think of a fitting punishment humbling and emasculating.” Porir and Amittai reached the courtyard of the compound, which at noon was filled with blinding sunlight, but at most other times of the day, due to the double sun, cast confusing and irregular shadows. Following the mysterious Amittai, Porir could not seem to quell an odd sense of apprehension bordering on dread. After seeing the feral

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Shyama bedded like she was, he now felt very unsure about many of the constants in his life. Amittai stopped in the center of the courtyard, at the intersection of obsidian and marble stones; this allowed him to see the rising walls of the main buildings the dormitories and the four spires located at cardinal points. Silently he pointed to the spires and all Porir could do to refrain from letting loose a giant guffaw was to cover his mouth and smile into his hand. There strung together like paper dolls was the entire missing unit. They were stripped to their under garments and tied together and to the outside of the spires, all four of them. “Who helped you do this?” “Helped?” “Seriously you took out an entire unit of young men by yourself, even untrained mob mentality should take over and overwhelmed you. I could see you getting to a few, but this is,” Porir pauses searching for the right word. “rather sad.” “I moved quickly, they fell easily, but in their defense they have never been trained and they were not blinded by righteous indignation.” “That’s it?” Incredulity has now fully taken over Porir’s tone. “I work out.” His voice finally wavered, and his guard had fallen, the repercussions he was expecting did not seem to come. Porir reached up and put his arm around Amittai’s shoulders and turned him back toward the main entrance smiling. “I think that we are going to get along really well, Amittai right? let’s go have a drink, I’ll even buy.” “Aren’t we going to get them down?

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“Why should we, they got themselves up there, they can find a way down. Maybe they will come down after I speak to Shyama.”

Chapter 16 “… So then another time she lifted this guy up by his crotch and began to shake him and she whispered ‘man, I was always told that rich pricks like you kept your jewels down her, but I feel nothin’. OH, I’m sorry does your wife keep them in a jar, ooo! maybe she wears them as earrings.’ She then pulled his red and sweaty face close, her lips just brushing his ear in a rather suggestive way. ‘You ever touch another woman ass, and offer to buy her for the night and then don’t have the balls to admit that you are a shallow piece of womanizing shit, I will tear your manhood right off, I promise you this. Do you believe me?’ He only responded with a whimper, it was all a very sad event, she then said ‘I can’t hear you and I know that all of your rich friends don’t either, so why don’t we try this again.’ She gave a good squeeze and yank causing him to yelp. To his honor he did manage a brief bravado, and very little stammering considering this crazy bitch had him by the balls. He ended up leaving the planet state within the next week or so. She was rather proud of herself for that one.” Porir tossed back the swill at the bottom of his fifth ale, he was slurring his speech and talking in a drunken stage whisper. Nevertheless, he was enjoying himself, and drowning his fears all at once. Across the room a more attractive than ordinary woman was paying particularly close attention to Porir’s and Amittai’s conversation. I can’t get over the changes that have come with the Order. You would never know it by looking at him, but he is an honest man who is true to his word and honor, even if he does imbibe a bit too

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much occasionally. The dome that they proposed a month ago is nearly done, the construction has been great of the economy too. I also feel safer walking down the streets, I know that there is still some unrest but I honestly feel better, I mean a girls got to know where to go when, and when not to. Just because I feel safer does not give me a license to be stupid. I do wonder about the Order, they seem way too military for my taste, but they bear the blessings of the church and clearly they bring the peace of Buddha-Christ, but it seems that they are at odds with themselves. I have met with their currently drunken leader Captain Porir Naryan on more than one occasion, and he seems weary and burdened by some knowledge. I know that weight I see it in the mirror everyday. I asked about the Order, what was its purpose and his response was funny and it plagues my thoughts. ‘He said that often the truth is more important than knowledge, what is it that you seek Jillian?’ He met my eyes with clarity and intensity, I don’t know if that makes sense but all I know is that if you analyzed his body language, it and his face gave away his honesty and integrity. He gives off an air of immaturity and ‘silliness’, but it is a mask. I deal with books and scraps of paper daily, and I know this may be an odd analogy, but I have learned to disregard the surface, and look for the truth of what is written. The truth is a curious thing sometimes it does not want to be found. Intrigued by their ethics and morals I had to ask about their vows, he winced momentarily, if I had not been paying close attention I might have missed it. He explained briefly, their meaning and the intent in requiring these vows, echoing what I had already heard about the Order. I felt like a reporter pulling answers during an interview, he wasn’t hiding anything, but he never volunteered extra information.

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I kept probing; I don’t even know what I was looking for. ‘Sir, how many planet states and territories are now under control of the Order?’ ‘Jillian, first I have repeatedly told you just call me Porir, don’t make me more than I am. We are not some dictatorial power that has swept in to suppress the people, or limit them in any immoral way, but we do claim residence and some political influence on over 200 or so Planet States, the same as here, which is in the least invasive way possible. We have advisors on about twice that many, well some are a little less than fullfledged planet states, many are just small outposts or lunar colonies.’ ‘Do you feel that you are needed on these planets and outposts, whatever you need to call them, have you been invited?’ ‘Many of the first Planet States to align with us did so because a member of the ruling class joined the Order, as you know we attracted many of the sons that would have no claim to an inheritance, unfortunately family wealth and power is passed to the eldest male. The next wave of Planet States that joined were those that began using us as a bank, those unstable politicos that felt their wealth was safer with a third party. This allowed us to invest and make money to fund our expansion.’ “Jillian! JILLIAN! damn I though that was you, you left your holy tabernacle of books, what is this your birthday, come on, join us.” Porir patted a stools and the cushion poofed a cloud of dust into the air creating a denser haze within the already hazy bar. She was hesitant but eventually acquiesced after being nearly dragged onto the stool by Porir. Amittai gave a look of apology to which Jillian responded with a grin and shrug of her shoulders.

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“Jillian I want you to meet, maybe the strongest man I think that I have ever met.” Porir began to slur through his introduction. “This here is my good friend…” looking panicked Porir leans in and whispers loud enough for the table next to them to look up from drowning their woes. “What’s your name again, I just can’t seem to remember right now.” Porir tried to straighten up, but he needed to readjust his feet to keep his swaying from becoming a falling on his ass. “Right, RIGHT, I knew that it just slipped my mind.” His voice was taking on an unmistakably sing songy tone, “this is Amittai, you know that really strong fella I was just telling you about.” Amittai finally reached forward and took Jillian’s hand and gently raised it to his lips and placed a gentle caressing kiss there. Jillian looked taken aback and tried to resist jerking her hand away, but she still managed to be noticeable about drawing her hand away. “I’m sorry Jillian, it’s just that I tend to be more tradi…” “That’s okay, Jillian’s just a little funny that way, don’t like to be touched as all.” Porir was explaining this conspiratorially and with a wink. “She wouldn’t even shake my hand the first time that she came to my office.” He turned, just gazing into Jillian’s eyes. “Well, I usually spend time alone, you know with,” she was stammering, and looking more than a little flustered “books.” Meanwhile she turned red in the face and her hands became sweaty. Fight or Flight Jillian, decide! “No, it’s just that,” she could feel herself relaxing and her face cooling, she was still flustered but not as painfully as she was just moments ago. Amittai was soothing and looking at her as if he honestly cared about what she was going to say next, This planet-state really has turned around, just look at the new imports, Damn-it focus Jillian, and not just on those eyes! “I am an archivist, or more of an historian, I chronicle the path of hominae since the Diaspora.”

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“REALLY, so that’s what you do!” Porir had re-roused his attention in what Jillian was saying. “Wait, wait, I knew that, that’s, what we talked about when you came to my office both of those times. Who is that you work for, no, no wait, I should know this shouldn’t I,” pause, “Nope, not coming to me.” “Well, I don’t really know who it is I mean I have seen holo-messages, and he keeps sending me money to continue my research, but I have not met him, his name is Professor Lazo Brand and he is extremely generous.” “Brand! Lazo Brand, my Brand. No he’s not! He is a self-centered miserly old warhorse who keeps his own personal cooter on a very short leash just to tune up his personality every now and again. Trust me I would know if Brand is spending money, he doesn’t even have any.” Porir’s eyes widen. “Hell the only money that he has access to is our treasury.” Porir’s thoughts and voice drift away, thoroughly confused. “Miss Jillian, I am so very sorry for the Captain’s inability to hold his liquor. I am new to the order and I , well long story, I believe that we went out so I could quietly be removed for unofficial disciplinary action, namely an anonymous beating, but right now I am beginning to suspect that my suspicions were a bit…off” Looking shocked, Jillian leaned in, enjoying the smell of Amittai and whispering “did he say that! That would be outrageous, I thought he was pretty straight forward guy, he generally, not that I have talked with him much, I just know him, I mean never, oh, he seems to just speak his mind for better or worse without any duplicity, and he surrounds himself with the same.” Looking over her shoulder towards the bar. “Speaking of which where is his sidekick, the attack bitch?”

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Lowering his eyes and swallowing the last drop of ale that he had been staring at for the last ten minutes waiting for a serving girl to notice his drought, he seemed to fold in on himself. “What is everything all right? I mean I like her she just scares the piss out of me, she was the type that picked on me back when I was a young girl in grammar school, all tough and hot, scary hot mind you, but confident and always got the hot guys…” “She is in a coma right now” he nearly whispered this as he again leaned into his empty mug. “…and they never noticed my, oooh, look it’s Jillian will she ever grow a pair of … Did you just say that she is in a coma, like the hospital, bright lights, white sheets, peaceful look on her face coma?” “Yeah, it’s a bit of a long story, sort of why I thought I was going to get an anonymous beat down.” Jillian began to pull away her eyes darted around the room only to find Porir leaning against the wall shouting about the tilt-a-whirl theme bar he thought he was in. “You didn’t?” “Oh no! Buddha-Christ, no, I served those boys a truly righteous ass whoopin’, biblical in proportion. They just kept at her one at a time all day, she called them on, always had that glint in her eye, but she is only human, extraordinary to say the least, but there are limits to the abuse the body can take. Even with an infusion of nanites, a brain sloshing back and forth is just unhealthy. She was probably well concussed by the time that last dumb boy tried to beat her, nearly did too, but she’s too stubborn to give in that way. Anyway, I should have stepped in long before I finally did, after I finally got her to

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the infirmary, and the rest of the new recruits squad was unconscious I daisy chained those boys together and hauled them to the tops of the four towers around the compound, If it was light out now you could probably see them from here. I then went to turn myself in to Porir, he would have none of it and even said that those boys deserved what they got plus some. I assumed that he was just appeasing me, afraid that I might lash out at him next. He left them up there, and I went along with it. I should have pulled them down, they’re sacred enough, it’s my job to look out for those weaker, and they were weaker, Oh I don’t know any more. Anyway, we ended up here, I have to say I really like Porir, he is the type of leader I could have followed.” “Are you going somewhere, I don’t think he will get rid of you for schooling some dumb kids especially after what they did to Shyama, no if he even is talking to you, you have gained some sort of his respect, that drunken buffoon over there is noble and he seems to attract it too. Hey, they are going to try and roll us all out of here shortly, it is a cross city hike to get you guys back to the compound, but I really would like ot talk with you more, if you want to give me a hand with the mild mannered, yet slightly sloshed captain.” Chapter 17 It is dark and stormy, well at least it is twilight and very over cast, thunderclouds have been rolling in for the last hour. A pre-rain mist has put a glossy sheen on everything. As the rain starts to pick up it’s splashes sparkle and dance in the light of the neon signs. There are a few people out, scampering here and there many are holding the coats or some papers over their heads. They tell me this rain used to be heavily polluted and orange. It’s just sort of yellow now. They have this magical dome here, well not

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really magic, but I can’t explain it. Do you ever think that ancient magic was just science that people couldn’t understand? This dome is like that to me. It is an odd stretchy selfreplicating material with nanofibers that filters the pollution, cleansing the air and blocking some bad ass solar particles which have been killing the populace. It allows the rain to fall through the membrane, but only after it too has been scrubbed. Now that’s some crazy voodoo if you ask me. “Hey big guy where’s your permit and ID? Show me your arm.” The voice came from behind, it was brusque and authoritative, but genuinely respectful in tone. Judah could feel his stress level rising, the cool rain was keeping the tell tale signs at bay. Judah turned to face the voice addressing him. He pivoted slowly keeping his hands at hi side with his fingers splayed and palms facing forward. He didn’t want there to be any excuse for violence. “Sir, I just landed on this planet-state, I have my visa in my back pocket, I don’t have any ID, but I do have a letter addressed to me from a friend that lives here.” Judah had just finished his 180° turn and froze. Now Judah is a huge man by any measure, but he felt shrimped. He started out looking out and slightly down, as he has grown accustomed to, but then his eyes unconsciously drifted another two feet up until the fell on a helmeted head. Reading the panic on Judah’s face the first man reached slowly to his arm pressing a button, his face plate snapped open and his helmet retracted into a cowl around his neck. “Sorry about that, I was just trying to keep the rain off. So you really are newly arrived, huh? I haven’t seen you around before. My name is Michael this is my squad. We patrol this neighborhood keeping the peace and helping those who need it.”

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Judah tensed he began to back up. Rain was running off his shaven head blurring his sight, giving the illusion that the squad was actually increasing in mass. Judah fell backward; his heel had caught on the lip of a large pothole. He just kept staring up wide eyed like a puppy in front of a truck. “Sir, are you feeling alright? Our thermal optics indicate that you are running a low grade fever, and your white blood cells seem to be triple what they ought to be. If you come with us we can bring you to our medics and they can give you a once over. Your choice, no skin off my nose really. Michael leaned forward extending a hand forward. Taking his hand Judah rose to a squat leaned back on his heels and yanked hurling Michael over his head, rocking onto his back he finished making Michael air born by pushing with his lower legs. He continued through a neck roll, tucking his head and torso like an armadillo. He ended by placing his feet on the on the ground with his left hand extended out before him in a crouch. He sprinted away in the rain, hearing Michael call forward to his men with the voice of a man that had just been hefted off the ground and replaced there in the most undignified manner, to just let him go. Judah ran pushing his legs like giant pistons running forward he kept his head down like a bull, traffic and flickering lights blurred by him. He ran until his legs collapsed under him, he leaned into a wall and tried to melt into the shadows. His blood pressure eventually lowered and his body temp equalized. He shut his eyes more out of reflex knowing full well that rejuvenating sleep was not in his immediate future. His dreamweaver was broken. His body slipped into a state of unconscious state of awareness, his breathing and pulse were shallow and slow. He practiced his breathing an

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meditation, during the course of this concentration dawn had arrived surprising him, what roused him was the sweet warm kiss of the sun on his face. When he cracked open an eye he saw Michael, unarmored, and dressed like an average joe, this recognition was slow to blossom in the early morning light. Michael was leaning on the other wall of the ally with a rough grey wool blanket pulled up to his chin tucked around his hands. He was sleeping. Snoring. Looking down Judah realized the he was also covered in a similar blanket. His blanket and presumably Michaels was soaked through because of the rain storm the previous night. His first reaction was to run despite the generosity and safety Michael had given. Instead he sat there mulling over his situation, staring at this soldier. This stubborn soldier sprouted mouse brown hair that would hang to his shoulders when not tied loosely at the base of his neck the way it is now, by a ragged piece of twine. His face was round with youth but hardened by life. Criss-crossed with scars his face told an involved story, they were just faint lines tracing spider webs across it’s entirety. He had a broad nose and a full mouth a days worth of stubble shaded his jaw. This soldier had a powerfully built body, honed well to do it’s job, he was not Judah sized, but close to it. He rolled shifting his blanket away from his chin revealing livid scar encircling his neck like a necklace. It looked to be the product of an ill-executed lynching. His forearms were meat hooks, used to physical labor, not just soldiery stuff, but hard sweat of the brow labor. Thinking back to his lost agrarian family he began to relax. Michael’s eyes shot open, emerald fire. Judah jumped, he was not prepared to suddenly confront an awake Michael.

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“You know you made it clear across the city. It actually took a while to find you. I was serious I want to help you, and it looks to me like you could use a friend. I know this sounds trite, but I mean it.” Michael stood letting his blanket fall to the ground. He bent to retrieve the sodden insulation. He leaned forward extending his hand to Judah for the second time. “Please I am not to keen on being somersaulted through the air, that and the wall right behind you, well, ow.” He stood hand extended waiting for Judah to grasp it. Trusting in Judah. “I’m starved lets go eat.” With that Judah accepted his hand rising to his feet assisted by Michael. It was more of a symbolic gesture but Judah’s legs did burn and were cramped from resting in the lotus position for so long. Once on his feet he reached his hand out to steady himself black spots began to coalesce at the fringes of his sight taking over blacking it out for a few seconds. He began to sway closing his eyes feeling flushed. It passed as quickly as it came. I really need to repair that dreamweaver, this lack of REM is just not cool. They walked out of the ally each carrying their more than slightly damp blankets. They turned onto a main thoroughfare Judah noticed how different the city looked in the daylight. It didn’t look really menacing. It was not filthy there was even some evidence of revitalization of some of the smaller ghettos. Michael saw Judah’s eyes darted around taking in the required sights, he hesitated when he reached the wall that had formerly divided the castes. It was now being dismantled. Following his line of sight Michael explained. “It used to make the Elite pricks that ran this planet-state feel safe. It is no longer needed hence, the dismantling.” This was all explained in a mock tour guide voice. “Why are they suddenly safe, because of you? They’re safe now?”

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“Oh very , we have guards on their prison blocks every day.” He chuckled at his own joke, but quickly sobered up remembering his quest for breakfast. “These ghettos all intertwine, this planet-state was more or less a dumping ground for other planet-states refuse and rejects. This of course lead to some political scuffles, but on the flip side of that coin it has also lead to some of the best food in the entire ‘verse. Every other day that I take my daily run I make sure to swing by this little hope in the wall called The New Balance. It’s kind of a fusion restaurant a mix of everything, you might not think of mixing some of the flavors and pieces that they do, but it is pure brilliance.” As they wandered the early morning mist was being burned off by the growing intensity of the suns. The majority of street vendors were just putting the finishing touches on their stalls for the day. Putting out a strange array of goods, colorful vegetables, metal worked goods and some outrageous clothing. The hucksters were calling attention to their specific stalls. The din was rising to a mighty crescendo which threatened to overwhelm Judah’s already wearied and overloaded senses. When Michael signaled for him to stop he pushed aside a curtain which lead quite literally through a hole in the wall. Michael stepped over the opening folding himself through the hole, Judah followed suit. As Judah’s eyes adjusted to the darkness he shuffled his feet alone the floor hoping not to fall remembering all to well the last time he was lead blindly into a bar. He quickly scanned the room looking for women with questionably morals. Nervous. His eyes quickly landed on a figure with the cracked and weathered skin of an old man. Smile lines wrinkled around his pale slate eyes contrasted by his black leathered face, which split into a wicked grin. “Glow Boy! How ya doin’”

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*** Amittai groaned and stretched on a leather sofa knocking a perilously placed pile of books to the floor causing Porir to sit up snapping momentarily to a soldiers alertness. Flashes of light caused him to squint as he looked around he saw small halos around the sparse lighting in the room. He turned scanning Jillian’s library grotto, noting a blinking comm Pod to his left on the floor, flipped on its top, feeling the return of the fatigue that had been rushed away by his rapid awakening. Turning hurt! As he did he felt that someone had placed their feet on his shoulders wrapping their hands his head and was twisting, pulling as hard as they could. He leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees gingerly placing his head into his clammy hands. He was still wearing his uniform form the night before obviously slept in it was rumpled and creased an embarrassment to any soldier. He stank too. He smelled of stale beer and he was covered in a fine dusting of bar dirt. He tried to raise his head again causing the throbbing within to strike a harsh dissonant chord, which rang in his ears and reverberated throughout his skull, which felt two sizes too small. With some effort he stood, teetering, he placed one foot in front of the other and gingerly made his way to the kitchen. There on the counter he found a pitcher of water along with three glasses which had been graciously left out. Thoughtfully there were also three non-descript pills presumably some sort of hangover-be-gone painkillers. He reached for one hesitantly but then pulled his arm back. The slow dawn of thought was rising through the fog of his mind, gulping down one glass and then another the water felt cool and refreshing. He hoped that between that and his invisible friends the nanites he would quickly free himself from the evils of the dreaded hangover. He rummaged around and found a tray, he placed the pitcher and the remaining glasses along with the pills onto it. Amittai, that poor bastard’s going to need this, no

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nanites yet, but that’s what you get for trying to keep pace with the Captain. Cautiously he wound his way back into the main room where he had awoken in a rather uncomfortable strait backed chair. It was very early, still dark out, although you could almost never tell because the windows were shuttered so tightly, but he had rested enough besides his back and limbs were tight and sore. He paced around the foreign room taking in the vast treasures in the room. Scattered across the table and on just about every surface he saw manuscripts and bound tombs even small scraps of paper. Each caught his attention like a beacon, and each delighted him, like a small child. Unconsciously he slid into a suspensor chair that immediately adjusted to his height and weight; he began to shuffle through portfolios of hand written pages. Sloppy man writing graced the pages, a guy name Solon Bruce took credit for it, but honestly any finishing school matron should have whipped him for this chicken scratch. Chapter 18 Undated excerpt from a journal of Solon Bruce Division. Division among the stars, I would have thought if you told me this fable as a child that running away to space would have unified our species, not driven them apart. But, again I am wrong. We have this fierce independent spirit that makes us believe that we can stand alone that we are tall and strong, but even stone is eroded by things as simple as air and water. For generations now we have been fed the lie that we can be anything that we wanted to be, and for a long, long time people believed this crap. They even thought that they were entitled to it, like it was their birth right or some their nonsense that they deserved to be given wealth success love and happiness without even

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trying. The world revolved around us. I know I include myself in this argument, my hubris made me blind to events that were long in coming and in stages they could have been stopped. The end began long before the republic of the Americas set off that stupid doomsday weapon, long before the Russians and Chinese raced to colonize the stars. We had been killing our planet, like a parasite we nourished ourselves from the living planet, but in the process we were killing her. Our sky was full of pollutants, the oceans were poisoned, continents worth of land were made uninhabitable by war, and nuclear leftovers. At one time it could be said that the only atomic bombs to ever have been dropped were those of the Americans, but within two centuries of their own hubris many other countries followed suit. All the while claiming that the saved lives by decisively ending whichever war or even skirmish they were in outweighed those lives lost due to the bomb. We even saw continents due to drift dive under the waters, new mountains were formed and islands rose all the while creating new land grabs and territorial disputes. We were living in a new age. The word of the time was potential, we could have put everything behind us, we hand survived many pandemic flues and viruses, culling the population more than once. We almost as an afterthought created carbon sinks gradually reversing the effects of global warming and the greenhouse effects. But human nature being the way it is needs struggles, challenges and confrontations to fell alive, so when we conquered nature all we had to turn to, to feel alive, were ourselves. The history books mark the twentieth century as an entire century of war. And it certainly seems that way. We then needed to unite against, or for nature, but once solved, we decided upgrade and we fought for two and a half centuries, only ending when I was conceived. Not because I was conceived, it’s not like I was the second coming or anything. My whole

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generation seemed to be a gift to those who had fought. We had had about a zero population growth for fifty years; long life preserved the race until finally we sprang up. Ushered in by my generation was relative peace and calm scientific advancement, reclamation of lost science and art and a general feeling of contentment. This was dashed within my own life forcing us to scatter as we finally razed the entire planet. As species we need contact, we need interaction without that we will go insane or at least major depression and possible suicide which was common on the first colonizing ships. No one wanted to admit such weak feelings like homesickness or loneliness, so they stayed cloistered in their own births on the ship. Social graces waned and pretty soon our fierce independence melted into xenophobia, and with generations being a world unto themselves and the center of their own personal universe that xenophobia included anyone but themselves. Within a few generations we had slipped into a dark age, no new growth for science or art, not even any colonial growth. The planets that were colonized at the outset remained undeveloped, not even loosely federated no universal government at all. The irony was that with the history of Earth all of the races had slowly bred together creating little differentiation between them, but once out in space cultures and races broke down and separated once again. It was sad to see. “Its’ strange his writing keeps declining the newer the documents are” Jillian was hovering over Porir; she had silently crept in causing him to jump when she finally spoke. “Buddha-Chirst woman don’t do that to me, I may have done something ugly in reaction.”

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A small smile tugged the corner of her mouth up. “It’s also anomalous in the fact that it is undated and he keeps referring to things that he should not have experienced, this may be some bizarre joke or someone else using his name, I had only started to look into it. Besides Amittai is up, I’ve got nothing here, I’m not so domestic let’s go eat, I know this great hole in the wall.” Chapter 19 Beep, squawk, wine, Beep, squawk, wine, Fuck that’s annoying. Shyama tried to move she felt heavy, arms of lead and all that shit. She began rolling her entire body, loosely swinging her arms until she smacked into a tower of machinery to the left of her bed, they were tied into her ram, but she felt nothing. It crashed to the floor giving he a satisfactory crash and tinkling of glass and thin metal, and then blessed silence for all of four seconds. A much louder wail filled the room with a blinding white light which alternated with red. She had twisted so much on the bed that she had pinned her arm twisted behind her back and under her hip the other was hanging off the bed her fingers grazing the floor. She could not lift her head; her hair had fallen forward shading the annoying light. Her muscles tensed and twitched but would not respond to her commands. Gentle hands lifted her and straightened her body, laying her out on the bed, the quickly re-tied her into a new beeping tower, she was injected with something that made her not care that her body was unresponsive to her whims. Her body is her greatest tool, and right now it was lost to her. A lone tear rolled down her cheek, she felt something odd in her stomach, loneliness. ***

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I rolled to my side today wanting to feel the weight of my belly, almost aching for the swelling breasts to come back, yes those same ones that I was willing to cutoff just last week. The doctors removed what was left of my baby, they said that the body could naturally process it, but I just couldn’t bear the weight of carrying around that dead… I just can’t believe that it’s over, all the steps, all the procedures, all of the hopes. I want to put on the face that echoes so many others sentiments, of ‘oh well maybe it is for the best’, Buddha-Christ has his plans and maybe it just wasn’t this baby’s time’. But dammit it was his time it was the time for my life to move forward to stop running from what I was to what I could be, a mother. It began with some severe Braxton Hicks contractions but I was ready for those. I couldn’t call the midwife yet, she would just say ‘Now Shy, what have I told you about patience?’. And it would sound sweet and lyrical and she would calm me as she had at every stage of the pregnancy. But these didn’t feel right my belly went rock hard with each one, but only on the right side. So I was lopsided no biggie, right?. I had about seven in one hour. I bit my lip with each, it is still torn and bruised even this week later, serving as a throbbing reminder of what I have lost. Then that following morning the spotting began, nothing major, but it was followed that afternoon with major cramps that spasmmed my body. Hey all I know is that I am wearing a pastel blue dress with my ass hanging out of it, I don’t know what happened after that asshole began to speak on the roof, it was kind of all a blur, I felt like I was flying and then nothing. I woke up here. Damn it! My blood is boiling, my skin is crawling, I twitch and can’t stop. I wish I could lie to him and say hey it was all a happy blur, but I remember everything the sound of my shoulder knocking the wind out of the Che wanna-be, the wind rushing by as we fell, I even

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remember each and every curse and threat that he said, said, finishing, and oh I love the irony, ‘I’m gonna kill you, you ugly bastard.’ I remember lying in a pool of me, well us, I remember my head was turned so that I saw him die, and I could not move away from the sight, knowing that I caused it made me sick. I saw the shadows of the circle of people surrounding me. I tried to cry out for help, for some one to just finish me to stop the pain. All that I produced was a gurgle, I tasted iron in my mouth, I knew I didn’t have long, and momentarily I felt the peace that the warriors of old must have felt when they finally got to walk the Elysium Fields. This faded in and out with each sharp pained breath, I began to catalogue what was pierced, shattered and broken, the list was long, that was when I finally began to fade. Then I heard his screams, his cries, I am ashamed to say, I wish of all things they were blocked out, out of reality out of my memory that is the one thing that I could not and can not handle. It made me stay when all I wanted was to go and rest. I know that I was brought to a hospital; I know that I must have slipped into some sort of coma; I know that he came and cried over me every day. I could never see him; my eyes wouldn’t even flutter open at the strongest of my commands. Then I heard a new voice, not a doctor, not a nurse someone else. She had a warm liquid voice, velvet and soft. She came and sat with me, often in silence, but I knew she was there; her sweet scent enveloped me whenever she arrived. She wasn’t necessarily coming to see me, I mean she was, but, on a whole she came to console grief, some in a way relating to me, others not so much. She came on a semi-regular basis mostly at night after visiting hours had sent most others home. She finally did meet up with Robert, he reacted poorly, and

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she then claimed to need us. Of course this was shortly after she had knocked him out in a brief tussle, after he nearly overdosed me on Drexlers. Now we are back to the pain, the agony, the lava running through the veins, if I can recover from him saving me and master the Drexlers before they kill me I will need to sit down and talk with Robert. *** Swaying left, right, twisting and moving in the breeze its arms cats long shadows stretching over loose papers blowing like little dervishes caused by the open window. “Who is this? “Well this room was rented to Robert Droit and some other guy I haven’t seen since the rebellion, Alexei I think.” “You have an idea why he might hang himself like this? He probably had a lot to live for he was rather young.” “Nope, hey when can I have this room back? He’s not paying rent dead.” Chapter 20 “Professor? OhmyBuddhaChrist,IamsorrythatIhavenotcomeupwithmorereseartchandevidenceIwillIpr omise,ohandIusuallydon’t,ImeanI’mnotIamassociatingwith…” “Brand?Howthehellareyou,didn’t,ohmygoddidIburyyoualive? Iamsuchandidiot,youlookgoodforadeadguy.” Both Jillian and Judah circled Brand like dervishes on the attack, both speaking over each other, neither making much sense. “Oh for the love of Pete! Stop, the two of you…” “Buddha-Christ, Jillian I have been trying to find, you It took me a long time to get to this planet-state, I wanted so desperately to meet you again, I knew where you

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lived, but I had no way to pay for passage, and then I got a little lost on the way, and that farming community that we met at the beginning of the monsoon, well anyway, they took me in, they are my family now, but I had to leave, I only bring bad things…” He spins from Jillian back to Brand. “and you were dead, I swear, I would not have buried you If I thought for a second that you were a fucking phoenix. You stubborn old bastard, can’t even die without spiting somebody can you?” Pushing Judah out the way Jillian goes from 0-60 in one second. “Sir I have so many things, references to the Bruce, and old Earth and I have followed the spread and growth of hominae across the galaxy, I have found evidence of further mutations and almost improvements on the hominae genome, granted some abuses are still happening. We should be able to track our way all the way back, we just need some resources and maybe a large ship, oh and of course cryo-chambers, I can’t be Methuselah’s wife when we get there…” “Ok darlin’ take a deep breath, running into you and Judah at the same time with both of you coming at me like this, and way to early might I add, and before the coffee, just give me a second.” He shuffles away to find the matronly cook of the Hole in the Wall. As if for the first time realizing that Judah was standing behind her from where she had brushed him aside, she spins, causing him to jump. “Oh mother of Shiva, thank god.” She rushed into him knocking him backward a step she enveloped him in a hug and a passionate kiss worthy of the history books, rather ironic for her. Then realizing what she was doing she slowly pulled away while redness was filling her face. Judah pulled her back close to his chest refusing to let her go. Brand shuffles back with a try of

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steaming coffee, he paused just staring. “I guess you kids have already met. Lets eat I’ve already got a table, I pushed a few together to accommodate us all. *** Seated next to Jillian so that thighs were touching they were chatting amiably with everybody else, but they were really focusing all of their other energy on each other. “This really is just an outstanding breakfast, wow! You weren’t kidding about the Hole in the Wall, which by the way made me a bit nervous, the whole curtain thing but wow!” Judah gushed. Granted he was exhausted, severely sleep deprived, but he was at ease, relaxed and had let his guard down. Speaking with his mouth full he mumbled through forkfuls of meat and eggs. “So I buried your sorry ass, I dragged you through some really nasty shit, I even still have the scars, so how the hell am I even talking to you? “Rash assumptions” this was Brand’s enigmatic response, this is not an answer. “What a rash assumption that without a heartbeat, and no breathing silly me I just assumed that the world was rid of you, fool!” another forkful. Pause. “Well I forgive you! I mean sawdust up there would account for it, big stupid giant, hey you’re a BSG.” Brand chuckled at this while the rest of the table shared glances with each other and then tentatively looked for Judah’s reaction. A man that size was not someone to make angry, he could squish Brand. Instead he threw a heel of bread at his head. “Well fuck you too, on second thought I don’t forgive your glowing white ass. Do you have any idea what it was like to wake up with a mouth full of dirt; you couldn’t even cover a dead guys head. Disrespect man, disrespect.” Lifting his hand from his throbbing forehead Porir stares at Brand.

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“Well spit it out boy, I’m not getting any younger.” “How did you get out, well, at least not dug up dead, and why don’t you tell me when you die on these little excursions that you go on, I’m just saying that it is a bit rude, inconsiderate even, I am your boss.” Porir shot Brand a cocky smirk accented by a twinkle in his eye which was quickly replaced by the hangover. “Well thanks for the concern, you know it’s not my intention to die on these things, Really, it’s a bitch coming back. But I thought that it would be more poignant for the boy here, and I thought for some reason that he might be worth it, of course my body crapped out before I told him to come find you.” Glancing at Judah who was mid forkful. “How did you find my boy here any way?” “Funny story that. First…” “Hey! We’re in my story here, I’ll care later, you just keep eating Tummy.” “Anywho, a dog started digging, making it easier for me, and I just waited for him to get me out and then I killed him and ate him for dinner. Very satisfying I must say.” He licked every finger smiling “puppy liking good.” “Really” Amittai was riveted by the split grinned man telling his tale. “NO!” Porir, Judah and even Michael joined the chorus. They have known Brand far too long. Laughing Brand began to revise the story. “Ok, so I did wake up with a mouth full of dirt, I was tired and week, but luckily glowboy here was lazy and dug a pretty shallow grave” he pointed a wavering accusatory finger at Judah, who responded with a shrug and more chewing. “It actually was pretty easy the ground was wet, heavy but easy to push through, I suppose the bonus of not being wrapped like a RESPECTED DEAD GUY was

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that I was not tangled or confined. I wormed my way up through the mud and muck those run down legs still had a bit of juice left in them. After that I laid back in the field, I could smell the sweetness of the air, huneysuckley, and the sulfur and smoke from the burning mines. I let my legs recharge, and air to fill my lungs. I gave a prayer of thanks that I had so many contingency modification surgeries; otherwise I might have suffocated to death in that dirt nap. Once I was upright again I managed to make it to the ruins of the mines. I have to say when I paid those raggedy workers to shake things up, even suggesting the whole make it look like an earthquake routine I didn’t think that they would destroy everything. It looks like I was one of the few casualties, oh by the way they actually mourned you, funeral and all. I watched from a distance, I didn’t need any weird questions, like why are you here and Judah’s not, just too awkward, plus with no answer, well it just looked a bit suspect.” Chapter 21 “Chancellor, what can I do for you?” “Captain Narayan, I trust all is well and that your flagship is still serving you satisfactorily.” His face had changed and filters are adjusting the nasal tone in his voice, but it was still the rodent like benefactor Philip, Porir grimaced reluctant to speak with this man again. Any time was too soon. “Yes Sir, everything is just outstanding, other than someone accusing us of Piracy every once in a while.” “Oh that, pish its nothing, just something to keep the populace awake, plus it doesn’t hurt your Order, in fact from what I hear, your little group of warrior monks have grown beyond all of our expectations.” He’s fishing for something.

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“We do what we can sir, we are rather diversified and on a variety of PlanetStates but everything still filters through me at some level. You know you never want to loose touch.” “Actually that I what I wanted to talk to you about, loosing touch, and getting back into touch. As you probably know I have been recently married to my fourth wife, and she has finally born me a son, a son which needs a godfather.” “Oh yes I read about the wedding that I wasn’t invited to, because, now why was that. Right I couldn’t RSVP appropriately due to some misguided bounty hunters believing that I led a band of pirates, black sail and all.” “Porir, I am serious, I want you to be my sons godfather; he is going to be dedicated in a fortnight. I also plan to unveil a new gift to the Order. A grand acquisition which will serve you… well, why spoil the surprise. I hate surprises and if it comes from him its going to be tainted and attached to a load of strings. “I love surprises; anything coming from you will be a benefit to the Order.” Porir grinned his happy puppy grin into the monocular camera on the comm. pad. “The Order and I will arrive a day or so ahead so as to prepare a formal invasion of your hospitality; we will give notice when we are two days out.” “Until then.” Philip signed off abruptly, visibly annoyed at Porir inviting the rest of his Order to the dedication and abusing his hospitality. This was a s satisfying, albeit a small victory. “Shyama, I know that you are creeping around back there, I also know that you have not been released, and in the process of signing yourself out you broke a doctor’s arm. Get your ass over here now.” He turned to see that she had already stepped up to

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him stepping softly, all ninja-y. He leaned and wrapped his arms around her shoulders in a relieved bear hug. She said nothing. “Now go get the men ready to move off of this rock, solid ground is beginning to bore me. We will leave a political advisory cadre here to maintain and facilitate the transition. This should be as brief ass possible, and when that and the dome are completed they will need to join us wherever the wind takes us. Have Amittai take charge, and pass on some sort of promotion to him, set up a ceremony for this evening and we will make it official. Make sure to invite Jillian too. Brand wants her to move into the compound with us….Please. Welcome back” “I’m not your fucking secretary!” She turned with a smile and set everything up as per his orders. Plus some minor additions. *** Music could be heard throughout the entire city. Every peron in the city looked like they were in attendance. Some were dressed very formally, rivaling the soldiers in their dress blues. Other citizens came in the only thing that they owned, but all had capped it with a shiny new smile. Chandeliers, relieved of their former homes in casinos and mansions were suspended in the air tracing the path up to the palace where a giant Ball and celebration was being held in honor of Porir, the Order and their upcoming departure, and as a sidebar to see Amittai receive his captains rank. “You had to make him equal to me?” “Well it seemed the only right thing to do” Shyama smirked, her eyes glinting in the refracted light coming from any and all different angles. She wore a tight fitting, does she own anything else, off white backless, low cut gown. A slit went up the entire length

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of her leg not quite hiding the large hand-cannon strapped to her leg. When Porir’s eyes found it she just smiled coyly and grabbed his arm, like and actual lady.

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Book II: Earth -Prologue“During the Long Thaw humans had fallen into what some call a species wide stupor, advancements of all kinds ground to a halt. In fact the human race took a few steps backwards.” “How did we get back, well back to normal?” “Believe it or not it took a few thousand years to get back to normal. Technically we don’t even know what normal was. But, we are finding out more all the time. Let me read a part of this article to you, it was published last month.” “We (archaeologists and historians) are finding more evidence that the world at one time was very advanced. The further down into the sediment we dig the more evidence we find of advanced civilizations. However, these are not evenly spread over the world, instead it suggests one of two distinct possibilities. The first being that certain parts of the world were completely inhospitable and not conducive to human existence. The other more likely possibility was that certain continents were subsumed and driven under neighboring tectonic plates, while other land masses rose as virgin territory. Without hard archaeological evidence our most conclusive data to date, which some consider superficial, believes that at one time there was a small continent called Australia which was surrounded by a number of large and smaller islands.” “Logically, if it this article proves true the lost continent of Australia would be found in, or more truthfully under the Austral Sea. Can you even begin to imagine, a whole lost advanced culture from our past being swallowed up by the sea, forever frozen in the crust of the Earth?” “so anyway, where was I, just bear with me the author just rambles for a bit, ah here we go.”

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“Therefore it is with the growing opinion supported by all of the new evidence excavated that there was in fact a large global civilization that existed many millennia before we ever thought possible. Which indicates that the Dark Ages were in fact a few thousand years longer that fist estimated.” “Think about this. What happened during that time, what would have had to happen to send humanity scurrying back to the caves? Imagine the advancements that could have taken place during that time and imagine what we as a civilization has lost.” “Ok that is the end of our time today, I will be around for live chats online for the next hour or so, after that leave a message in my e-mail and I’ll try to get back to you right away. Oh, and watch the news tonight new evidence is found daily, we are truly living in a time of historical revelations.” One by one the faces of his students began to blink out, one remained. “Sir?” _________________________ “Man against God God against Man Man against Nature Nature against Man God against Nature Nature against God A very, very funny religion.” - Suzuki-

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“Is the nature of all religion confrontation, confrontation with the truth, selfdeception, or even just a confrontation of the self? Is the need for religion to illuminate those corners of our soul that we need to avoid? Is the root source of confrontation really religion? Will man and god inevitably need to rise up against nature in order to end this confrontation? What nature you ask, are we talking about our own limited physical nature, or our inestimable spiritual nature? I suppose to focus that train of thought could this nature be condensed down to the idea of our base human nature or concept of natural law. Which nature is the source of conflict because it must be nature that we need to rise up against for how could we ever raise up against the gods? Can there be an end to confrontation? Without religion would this world finally be at peace?”

“What the hell are you talking about? This is just… what the hell are you talking about, REALLY?” “What do you mean, what do I mean. You’ve never thought about that?” “No, Why should I have, and you are drunk my friend” “Says his drunk friend” “Well, I dunno, but you should’ve” “Oh, I should, according to who, you? I am so sorry, you’re right you know with you being the newly enlightened one and all it must be a tremendous weight on your shoulders. Please forgive me and give me a moment to catch up.” “You’re an asshole” “Well, I do what I can. When is this thing supposed to start. I just want to get this over with.”

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“No one told you, you had to come, I ‘m just fine.” “I’m not here for you, so what I’m enlightened and now the whole world revolves around you?” “I just thought” “that’s your goddamn problem you started to think. Don’t. You might hurt yourself. I loved that old man, and neither of us would be what we are without what he taught us.” “Yeah and we might have both become well adjusted adults too. Imagine that being accepted by society in general, maybe even respected.” “I know instead” “instead we, WE are jokes, even worse we are dreamers, all thanks to that selfish son of a bitch.” “I miss him too, but you don’t need to get all sappy, it’s unbecoming of you in front of the enlightened one.” “Shut up” “You know you’re right.” “I know, but about what specifically, I’m only curious because I am cataloguing this moment for posterity sake.” “He did make us what we are, and we asked him to do it.” “I know” “And for the record it’s human nature that can’t abide by the gods’ will and boy does that really piss them off.” “So you have thought about it then.” “Maybe, Lets go drink until remember his ugly ass face as pretty.”

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A Walk Through the Fire