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Miscellaneous Childrenstories Whose World Rings of Fate Life ain’t that hard

Rings of Fate S5xE5 – Endeavor II – Encounters

Lights were dimmed on the bridge of the Endeavour II, deep space reconnaissance vessel. Captain Frankson stared at the display.

“There has been no change to yesterday.” He remarked. “Or last week.” The Endeavour II had been ordered to hold position near the debris field left behind from the encounter between the DEhuman fleet and the unknown aliens.

For a week they had sat there, unmoving, just running long range sensors, repeatedly.

Over and over again they returned the same data.

Metallurgical analysis of the debris. Chemical analysis of the debris. Energy signatures from the debris. Bio scans revealed thousands of dead humans.

Linkers, all of them, but no life. No artificial movement.

Just inertia, parts that were adrift and crashed into one another, a game of billiards in space.

The major parts, chunks bigger than their ship, stayed where they were, with smaller debris bouncing off on them, crashing into them, disintegrating upon impact.

“Let’s see what this stuff is made of, from up close.”

His science officer, Serena Kaur, a slender and tall woman with dark skin and ravenous black hair, let her fingers fly over the console before her. “Another probe?” She asked, almost bored.

“No.” Giving a nod to his navigation officer, Lieutenant Cassandra Cole, he braced for the arguments from his fellow crew.

“If you don’t mind my saying so, sir, finally!” Cassandra breathed in anticipation, the dull task of staying in position was more taxing than the maneuvers she’d have to pull off to avoid crashing into any of the debris.

Earning a scolding look from Serena, the Lieutenant put in the commands into her console, motioning the ship forward.

 

The slender ship glided through space, far from any light source the shiny hull reflected only faintly the distant stars as dots, flickering with the changes of the hull.

Previously sent probes had revealed the same as the long range sensors. Analysis of the materials and matter in the debris field.

Any residual pockets of antimatter from the propulsion systems had, immediately after the deatruction of the ships, interacted with the matter around. Annihilating everything it came into contact with in violent explosions, along with itself.

There was no energy detectable anywhere.

“Reading a whole lot of nothing.” Serena stated, she was slumped into her chair. Although she would’ve proceeded with more caution than Captain Frankson, she had not expected anything else than what they found so far.

“Wait.” She sat up, her fingers once again flew over her console. An image appeared on the viewscreen, depicting a humanoid shape. “This is odd, reading only metallic compounds in this person.” A search light on the exterior cast a powerful beam on the body.

Indeed it had a metallic shine on its skin, no signs usually associated with explosive decompression. “Take a closer reading of it.” Intrigued by the unusual and unexpected find Captain Frankson leaned forward, waiting for the display of the data. “No temperature to speak of, organs like a human, but all composed of this weird stuff.”

“Is that a scientific term? Weird stuff?” Not reacting to the Captain’s reply of her initial readings, Serena kept staring at her own display.

Like the others she shrieked as the body on the display flung its eyes open.

A silent scream followed. The body flailed its extremities in a vain effort to reach closer to the ship. Fully alert Cassandra halted the forward motion of the Endeavour II, still a good ten meters away from the flailing thing.

“Put some distance between us and that thing.” Feeling his heart pounding up to his throat, Captain Frankson settled back in his seat after having jumped from it.

Gladly complying with that order, Cassandra reversed the thrust, not averting her eyes from the horrific picture on the viewscreen.

“It is heating up, roughly 30 degrees Celsius and rising.” Serena commented on what she read. The data streams on the viewscreen showed that there was something else going on in the creature. “What’s that, pressure?” Spinning his head round to his science officer Captain Frankson’s face was contorted grimace of terror.

Before Serena could comment on it, the head of the body popped off shooting towards the Endeavour II, silvery liquid streamed behind it, freezing in the vacuum of space.

Within seconds the head traversed the thirty or so meters between Endeavour’s hull and the body, impacting with a barely noticeable sound.

“Get me external!” Frantic Frankson rushed to Serena’s console. She too acted frantically in her typing the console blindly, all the while keeping a fixed eye on the display above.

“There!” She gasped. Where the head had impacted a puddle of silvery mass was stuck to the exterior of the hull. It seemed to be liquid, although it wasn’t reading as such.

By now they all had understood what the thing they had discovered was.

“Sir!” Cassandra called for his attention, pointimg at the main viewscreen. On her own she had turned the search light around a bit.

There were large chunks of debris, their preliminary analysis had determined those to originated from a linker ship. It was covered in the same silvery sludge as the impact site on Endeavour II. Gently the surface was writhing in the light.

“We walked right into a trap.” The Captain surmised the situation. “Not necessarily, ” taking a moment Serena looked at the data from the main viewscreen, comparing it with the data on her own. “This thing we have here is trying to board the ship, it isn’t spreading, the stuff out there is.”

Feeling powerless Frankson sat down in Serena’s seat. “That’s why the blobs have left the site as well. Their ships and crews can regenerate, even use the opportunity to increase their numbers.”

Shaking his head he woke himself from the train of thought. “Seal off the affected area, once that head has eaten through the hull it will probably be a full sized person again.”

Serena nodded in agreement, pushing the buttons to do so.

“Orders are to attempt capture of the entity, sir.” Communication officer Hu looked up from his console.

“Capture! Who gave that idiotic order?”

“Admiral Friedhelm Bauer from the CBI.” Only hearing that name and agency invoked an urge to strangle someone or something in Captain Frankson.

“Fine, we’ll try and capture it. If it proves to be difficult, I want you all to be prepared for immediate emergency separation.” Since the glory days of Phoenix engineers had seen the advantages of a ship that could detach parts. In case of an emergency the crew could still use part of the ship to escape, sort of like a lifeboat, capable of housing all of the people aboard. Frankson’s sister always had mused how different history would’ve been if naval ships of the past had had the same capabilities. Titanic hit the iceberg, detached from the affected sections and sailed on with all the crew and passengers.

Until that day he had never given that a lot of thought, but now they had hit an iceberg, that had the potential to destroy the Endeavour II.

“Prepare the reactor on the bow section to overload on command.”

About to settle for a difficult mission he wanted to go and have a drink, call it a day for now. “Sir, I’m afraid that plan has no future.”

“Why Serena? Comming forward as a sleeper agent for the CBI?” he turned back, a jesting expression on his face, what he saw on her display, however made the jester disappear as his blood seemed to freeze over. A multitude of slowly growing blobs of the silvery sludge was dotting the hull. “Tiny impacts of debris as we moved through the debris field, they carried the nanites to the Endeavour. We can separate, but it won’t do us any good.”

Frankson’s face hardened, there was a spiteful gleam in his eyes. Would Admiral Bauer somehow manifest on the ship, he would take a slow and painful death to the CBI admiral. “Rig all the reactors, I want a self-destruct if need be.”

 

Cool breezes flowed over the lake, as usual. Curious Claire watched a fat, almost amorphous, Ghoti lie on the lake shore, taking in the warm sunshine.

Dmitry had finished his work on establishing the infrastructure for his Ghoti farm, and had put some of the creatures in the lake from a nearby river. Three had tried wandering over land back to the stream. One had succeeded, hopping, and rolling across the fields and through the forest, while the other two were attacked by PK-p222’s predators.

Those had also drawn their attention to a small clearing in the broad valley of rivers further to the north.

They had stumbled upon the half eaten remains of the phoney guard who had been planted by the CBI.

The big black dots the Ghoti had for eyes, jerked upwards. A droning buzz lay in the air, immediately followed by the appearance of the slightly beaten ship shift commander Alexandra Wenzel had inherited from her parents.

Ungracious the Ghoti slumped itself back into the water and soon swam away, while the ship circled the lake once, landing on the farside of the water.

Like expected by Claire, and Dmitry who had joined her coming from the house built into the lake, Alexandra exited the vessel. For a change she was alone, no new guard.

Petra Xhu, the guard posted by Alexandra personally, also came rushing to the lake shore. “To what do we owe this visit?” Dmitry was a bit defensive.

“Bad news, I wanted to deliver personally, before the CBI does something ill advised again.” Bearing a benign smile Alexandra greeted the assembled, waving a tablet in her left hand.

“Sludge?” Almost wincing Claire stared at the device.

The last to arrive at the lake shore was Doctor Antonius, the psychiatrist tasked to help with Claire’s transition from DEHuman to normal human. “I’m afraid so.” The data she was about to show Claire and Dmitry was directly from the CBI, unofficially siphoned off by Alexandra’s fiancé, Paul Dekowitz.

 

It always sank her heart to confront Claire with things from her past. Barely left behind her time as a linker, she was always reminded of what had happened to her then. Alexandra took solace in the fact that once the sludge has been sufficiently dealt with, the young woman would be of no more interest to the CBI or mankinds struggle for survival.

Claire’s enhanced eyes widened in shock and terror seeing the carnage of the short battle, followed by the transmissions from Endeavour II.

“They must use a field oscillating in the EM spectrum, beyond gamma rays. That can halt the sludge, but not for long.” She had an expression of guilt on her face, obviously she was thinking of her involvement in the case of the sludge.

“Beyond gamma rays? We know of nothing beyond gamma rays.” Alexandra tried bogging her down with technical issues, more to get information out of her, than to keep her mind from wandering too far into a guilt laden territory.

“I can not recall the specifics.” The guilt laden eyes closed, a concentrating expression appeared on Claire’s face.

With her left she began rubbing her head. “No, I can’t remember it.”

Gently Dmitry put his hand on Claire’s back, between the shoulder blades, a pleading glance in his eyes looking at Alexandra.

“It’s alright. We’ll figure it out, thank you.”

 

Not staying much longer after briefing Claire on the newest development, Alexandra sat in her ship, the autopilot took her back to Horizon, her mind was with the problem posed by the current development.

How would the crew of the Endeavour II get out of that mess? A short bump disturbed her thoughts, about to dismiss it as turbulence, she suddenly realised that she already had left the atmosphere. Her brows formed one continuous beam above her eyes, glancing on the displays. Nothing had hit the hull, there was nothing that could cause turbulence.

Her eyes stopped searching the controls as her gaze fell on the speedometer.

She had stopped.

“Back here, shift commander.” A flickery image of Admiral Bauer showed on the large screen in the back of the dockpit. “To what do I owe this transmission, Admiral?” It was her turn to sound defensive.

A sly, mirthless smile twitched on his lips. “We deliberately fed your fiancé the information you got. You are a calculated factor in this equation.” Something about his speech was unnerving. Although the bureau was known for being cold and distant, he had gotten even colder.

“Then this is to receive the information I have gathered without needing to go through Paul?”

“In a sense, you see, we bugged your tablet. We have the information already. But you seem to be resourceful, I contacted you to make an offer.”

One I can hardly refuse, isn’t it? “Let me guess, work for the bureau as an informant?”

“In a sense. This situation is a delicate one, the threat posed by the sludge is an enormous one.” A set of coordinates appeared on the screen below Admiral Bauer’s face. “Go there, everything will be explained.”

Leaving her with just the coordinates the ship resumed its course to Horizon. Baffled, albeit curious, Alexandra raised her eyebrows.

Those coordinates were near a failed star, a brown dwarf. That posed a problem. With the antimatter free technology available in the system it would take a long time to reach it. Trade ships came through the sector, loading their goods on to fusion drive cargo trawlers which then ferried the freight, and passengers to PK-p222.

Her only chance was to either hijack a freshly docked ship from someone who had immigrated to PK-p222, or steal antimatter for her own ship.

Both posed a high risk, and whether what ever she’d find was worth the effort was unclear.

I’ll ask Paul.

 

Captain Frankson wore an environmental suit, his face a mask of stern concern. All sections around the impacted head were sealed off, and void of any atmosphere. A finger tip sized area on the hull a few meters away was already showing the shiny metallic sludge.

“Kaur! Suggestions?” Next to him Serena, stepped forward, her tablet tied in with the internal sensors. “CBI suggests a variation of an EM field, however, I don’t see how we could make that happen.”

Showing him the data that had just been received, she took another reading of the mass. It was growing on the inside. “What ever its intentions are, it has a sense of self preservation. Externally the hull is fully intact, unlike with the small droplets elsewhere which are eating away on the hull, but not progressing inward.”

Turning away he gave her orders to try and work on the EM field, even if that meant burning some midnight oil.

 

“I have never heard of any place there.” Paul’s words rung in Alexandra’s mind, following her like a comet’s tail as she navigated her way through the maze of corridors. Behind each door was a ship, most had already dumped their antimatter into the Horizon, to harness the power for both Horizon and the colony.

Most, but not all. It wounded her to take another ship than the one entrusted to her by her parents, but it was easier to take one of the others than getting antimatter into hers.

Override protocols were not hard to come by, thanks to Paul’s access to the CBI network. Unbeknownst to her a few of the ships docked were fully equipped, and not going to dump anything, thought as emergency transports for high ranking officials from the colony. Ironic, she thought, a colony sworn to avoid using antimatter, yet the governor and local Admirals had antimatter fueled ships waiting for them in orbit in case they needed to go anywhere really fast.

An old timey saying about rats leaving a sinking ship came to mind.

The interior of the ship she chose was spartan. The cockpit designed for one person in mind, with a passenger compartment consisting only of four seats. There was a restroom and small storage capacity. Definitely not for long flights.

After sealing off the entrance, and overriding the docking clamp controls, she put In the coordinates from her tablet.

Swiftly the ship disengaged and took flight, an autopilot kicked in, apparently the CBI had anticipated which ship she was going to take.

Impressed, but uneasy, Alexandra leaned back and watched the computer navigate away from Horizon.

No attempts of contacting her were made, or the ship simply had turned off the communication systems.

After half an hour of undisturbed flight the ship activated its main engines.

 

“Containment field is active. I strongly advise against coming closer to it than a meter. These rays have unknown, but surely lethal effects on the human physiology.” Quarantine protocols had been engaged, immobilising the Endeavour II, condemning it and her crew to stay just outside the debris field. External sensors revealed that the sludge was working away on the chunks from the other ships, transforming more and more of the masses into more of their kind.

“Test it.” Sitting on the edge of his seat Captain Frankson stared at the tablet in his hand. He was trying to find the right words, drafting a farewell message to his exwife and more so to their daughter.

“On?” Serena’s voice was distant, not only due to her speaking over the intercom, but also in tone. “One of the tinier spots, our visitor, a chunk of linker ship, I don’t really care. Test it.”

Returning his full attention to his tablet he didn’t register the annoyed “Aye, sir.” Serena replied him.

 

A forceful shudder went through the deck as Serena fired a beam at one of the smaller intruding spots, emitted from one of the shield emitters. Sparks flew like harmful fiery rain, lights flickered.

Not without effect though, flaking off like silvery snow the targeted sludge dispersed into space. “It worked sir, however, we blew out relays all over the ship, the emitter used is broken beyond repair,” pausing Serena checked the camera feed showing the mass. Some of it began writhing again, “and the mass has not been fully neutralised. As suggested, it may work as a temporary shielding.” Not waiting for a reply Serena noted in the ship maintenance log a schedule for replacing the broken emitter.

Whether that would ever be going to get done was another question.

A soft chime from her tablet drew her attention to a new set of data received.

 

As was planned the ship dropped back to normal propulsion upon arrival at the designated coordinates. In the distance the brown dwarf emitted heat and not much else. Unlike the data from stellar cartography suggested, there was an object orbiting the almost star.

A sphere, not much bigger than Horizon, with long tendrils, some of which were occupied with docked ships, was placed in orbit around the brown dwarf.

Intriguing. Is that ours, or theirs? Still Alexandra could not regain control over the ship, as it steered towards the object.

By the blinking guiding lights she deduced that it was of human origin. Regular human, never the less.

As elegantly as the automated controls had dislodged the ship from Horizon, it docked it with one of the tendrils, wich turned out to be long docking poles.

Standing at the door of the airlock, Alexandra had armed herself, and was waiting for them to reveal what was behind it.

“Welcome, shift commander Wenzel.” The door opened, revealing a man with dark skin and contrasting green eyes. “This is a top secret location. Any mention of these coordinates to individuals not cleared will ridicule you, as we monitor any and all approaching ships and can simply move away if we choose to.” Despite his words he displayed a friendly expression, his lips even formed a friendly smile.

“Thank you for welcoming me. Where exactly am I, and who are you?”

Not changing his expression he made an inviting gesture. “Denta draconis alpha. My name is Ranjeet.” Following the man to an elevator Alexandra hoped to be seeing the ship, and more so, Horizon ever again, as an uncertain feeling took hold of her.

 

The ride in the cab was a short one, delivering the two to a deck where the hallways were much broader than what she had ever seen. Ranjeet guided her to an office, where Admiral Bauer was awaiting her.

“Please, take a seat.” He pointed to a chair at a round table, two more people, women between the ages of thirty and fourty, sat there. One was a blond tall woman, with skin the color of snow, her eyes a watery blue, the other was a stark contrast, dark skin, almost black, her hair black, and dark eyes. Both looked at her with a certain curious interest, as one would look at an interesting piece of technology, or an intriguing specimen of some foreign species.

Immediately Alexandra caught a strange vibe from those two. “I have invited you here to explain where our brainwork is done.” Not wasting time to explain her presence on the oddly named station, Admiral Bauer sat down, a pleased expression on his face while Alexandra too took a seat.

“The bureau has founded this station twenty years ago. The programme leading up to this has been running longer, ever since the Phoenix returned from the alternate time line, with their databases.”

“You’re genetically modified humans, aren’t you?” A knowing glance was exchanged between the two women, the blond one nodded.

“Not all of us.” The other said in a reserved voice, as if she was about to reveal a secret to a toddler. “But many are.” Ranjeet said. “We safeguard the parts of that database that mankind should not have.”

Bewildered Alexandra leaned away from the table. For all she knew the parts of the alternate time line database that mankind wasn’t deemed ready for, weapons and dangerous technologies, mostly, had been deleted.

“Do not be confused, it was my mistake.” A man who appeared to be in his fifties stepped into the room, some features about him seemed familiar. Familiar like one is familiar with some portrait of a man who has long died. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Doctor Leopold Braun.”

That’s where Alexandra knew him from, he had some resemblance to his father, Kurt, a well known figure from mankinds past. It was him who had deleted the database parts he thought mankind was unfit for. “There was an unedited copy of the database on my tablet, and that of my wife, Tracy.”

Some pieces fell into place now. Tracy Braun, a geneticist, Leopold Braun, a man like his father, genius but borderline mad.

“You have been led here to understand the validity of the bureau’s strategies and theories. These people are the best and brightest in the universe.” Bauer rattled down a text he obviously had studied.

“Your think tank here surely has all the expertise in the known universe, but they have no experience.” She turned around to see the offended faces of the geniuses around. Genetically enhanced to be smarter than the rest of mankind.

A dangerous thing, she thought. “Who of you came up with the scenario of Claire being a beachhead for a linker invasion?” The blond woman raised her hand, shyly.

“Next time you have such a bright idea, go to one of the ships docked outside, fly to PK-p222, and talk to the supposed beachhead. Surely your fears would be doused by what you’d find, what you’d experience.”

“That’s why we have recommended to bring you here.” Ranjeet spoke up. “We do realise that we lack experience. You do not.”

Doubtful Alexandra squinted at him. “Now I shall be your source for experience? That’s not how it works, you know.”

“We know.” The blond woman now stood up, a name tag dangled on her belt. Leonie Braun. “But until we can make our own experience, we need you.” Despite the wishes of the bureau of having you tucked away, and me silenced? Alexandra raised an eyebrow, an ever watchful eye from Admiral Bauer on her.

“Let’s cut to the chase here.” Alexandra sighed, resting her arms on the table again. “What are the plans for Endeavour II, and the sludge in general?”

 

Satisfied with her efforts Serena looked over the strengthened relays, and emitters. It would be enough to keep the intruder from proceeding onwards, unless he went through the wall. Which would take him some time, but he would be able to do it. “I tied the engines into the energy relays, we can stop the intruder from progressing further if need be.” From the murmured sound on the other end of the line she took that the Captain was still occupied with his farewell letter.

A warning beep on her tablet drew her attention, she turned around, looking at the wall where the intruder was forming, his back was still attached to the wall. After reading that hull integrity was not compromised, the area had been repressurised. Warning her of the intruder becoming more and more independent of the wall the tablet had rung, but what Serena found when she turned took her breath.

Mouth gaping wide open, staring at her with bright silvery eyes the intruder formed silent words. “Captain, the intruder is lucent, and soon will detach from the wall. I recommend you come down here asap.”

 

With a stern expression Captain Frankson studied the creature before him, only the fingers and feet were still attached to the wall. Silently speaking without any apparent form the intruder wriggled around, arching his back.

His silvery skin glittered in the light of the room, his equally slivery-beige clothing bore no markings, or decorations.

Finally he yanked himself free of the wall with an audible moan of relief. Instinctively the assembled stepped back a little upon seeing this. Serena kept her hand poised over the button on her tablet to activate the forcefield if need be.

“I am Captain Frankson, you have boarded the Endeavour II, deep space reconnaissance vessel. Please state your identity and intentions.”

Shaking off a momentary confusion the intruder rose to his full height, which was about the same as a martian human, towering above most of the crew of the Endeavour II.

He stared at each of the people before him with an almost unbearable intensity. “You are unlike the others, you speak to communicate.” His voice was calm, but raspy, as if he had smoked for a large portion of his life time. “My name is nineteen, as I was the nineteenth to spawn from our primordial state.” Serena guessed he spoke so well after the sludge had taken the information of human languages from the linkers that had fallen victim to it.

“Why are you attacking this ship?” Frankson tried to sound calm, but in truth he was scared. Scared enough to kill the intruder and try to flee with the life capsules in deep hibernation.

“I have not attacked your ship. But I believe to know what you are referring to.” He blinked, the first time Serena had seen him do that. “Spread of the other sludge has halted, sir.” Came the message from the bridge. Somehow Serena knew that the sludge would not come off, as the intruder would only get rid of that if he determined Endeavour II, and in extension mankind, as no threat.

“There was an attack by people very similar to yours, they were all linked however, acting as one consciousness. They gave us our new form and knowledge, but they also attacked us. A strong desire to tame us, control us for their purposes is nested deep within their mind.” Eloquently, yet anger and determination shining through, he lay bare what had happened, and more precisely how the sludge people saw the linkers.

“Are you out for revenge?” Serena could not help but ask, hoping the answer would be something positive, expecting a species of machines to be above such feelings.

“We seek new grounds, more knowledge.” Fast learners, he’s lying! “We also wish to find our creators.”

He stepped closer, causing the others to inch away, and Serena to almost touch the command to activate the field. “You must understand, that we are reasonably cautious about you! Those who gave you your new shape and means to seek out new grounds, they are technologically more advanced than we are, you made short process with them.” Frankson warned him to step closer. A smug smirk appeared on his lips. “We are thinking at the speed of light, a feat only a machine could achieve, your kind, and those who are so similar to you, only think in the speed of chemicals. Your anatomy is hindering you from achieving our level of thought.” He looked the Captain up and down. “Biological life is inferior to our form of life. And although it was biological life that birthed us, and molded us, it is we who are now the dominant species.” Again he stepped closer. “You and your achievements will be remembered.” He lunged forward, caught in the field as Serena activated it.

Instantly much of him fell to the ground in a glittery dustcloud, causing him to tumble over and lie still on the ground.

“We best get this field of yours working on all of this stuff.” Frankson stared emotionless at the pile of dust before them.

Moaning and crying what was left of nineteen twitched and tried to move, his remaining body was in a state of being sludge again, trying to compensate for the lost particles.

“The other sludge is on the move again.” Serena noted, as the amorphous nineteen jerked upwards, now a good deal shorter, he charged for the field again, quickly Serena altered the frequency, destroying most of him. Only a blob of nanite mass remained behind the field while sparks flew from the over strained relays around them. “We’ve lost the field. Here goes nothing.” More than her words, did her expression convince Frankson to give the order to retreat from the deck. “Clean as much of the sludge off the ship as you can. Concentrate on the rear, I want to get out of here!”

For a moment Serena envied the first settlers who arrived at RV-p296 in the Orion class ships. Had something similar happened to them, they would’ve discarded the affected pods and moved on without them. Endeavour II had no such luck.

A murmur in the roommwhere nineteen had met his temporary fate cause Serena to look back. Already he had reformed his head. “Biologic life is inferior and will be purged!” Whistling with his windpipe and only a croaking whisper as he had no lungs to speak fluently, he quasi declared war on mankind.

And all other forms of life that was not like that of the sludge.

Rings of Fate S5xE4 – 222 – Secrets

Even from orbit a sunset was an amazing experience. More so, however, on the ground. At least for Alexandra Wenzel. Having spent the majority of her life in space, she was accustomed to the orbital sunset.

Although PK-p222, also known as Eldorado, or Paradise, was tidal locked with its parent star, had no sunsets, or sunrises, per se, if one flew in orbit around the planet, or in a similar vessel in or outside the atmosphere, the illusion of a sunset would be created.

“Welcome to the sunset inn, your room has been prepared for you. Have a nice stay!” Woken from thought Alexandra thanked the woman at the reception of the hotel, looking at the key.

A key!

It had taken her some digging through archives to understand physical keys, and how to open a door with them.

 

Situated on a mountain slope looking out towards the dayside, the sunset inn had all guest rooms facing to the day side. In the winter the sun stood low, half omitted by the horizon, in summer it stood a little higher. All the time the slope was drenched in a perpetual sunset. Or sunrise, depending on the season.

PK-p222 had only a minute change in seasons, unlike other planets, it was barely noticeable in most places, but on the mountain side of the sunset inn, it was.

Booking a room usually took half a year in advance, when Alexandra’s fiancé told her that they were spending their anniversary in the sunset inn, she was reasonably surprised.

Trying not to be too fascinated by the key, Alexandra walked to the lobby, her luggage was already taken care of. So she just looked around for her fiancé.

Paul Dekowitz stood at the bar taking a sip of some beverage, from a far Alexandra could not tell what it was, but she figured it was something alcoholic.

Everything in the sunset was made to look and feel like a grand hotel, it stood to reason they would serve replicas of ancient drinks.

“Paul, what is that?” She blew him a kiss, stopping also at the bar. Somehow she felt out of place. Every other guest was wearing evening wardrobe, she still wore her uniform.

“Whiskey, seven years old.” A broad grin on his lips. “If we still used money like they did in the time these hotels existed on earth it’d be expensive.” He wanted to explain how it was made, but Alexandra cut him off by saying she’d change into something more fitting.

 

Although they came as couple, they had separate rooms. It seemed a little more romantic that way, besides they were connect by a balcony and a door.

Quickly she got out of her uniform, folded it properly, took a quick shower, and then got dressed. A long dress with a slash on the side.

Doubtful she looked at the shoes. No way I’m going to wear these! She slipped into  polished flat shoes, instead of the dangerously high heeled ones that came with the dress.

After twenty minutes she returned to the lobby, finding Paul still at the bar. He had something else in his glass. “It’s a non alcoholic tea.” He explained seeing her look.

 

Not much later a man in a butler outfit appeared, he showed them to a window side table, where they would have dinner.

Landing site for the hotel was good deal further down, from where the guests were brought to the hotel with shuttle service. Caterpillar, full enclosed snow mobiles, made to look like old limousines.

 

The sunset inn was founded and operated by a group of history buffs who loved the grandios aspects of that era and environment. They changed their responsibilities weekly, to keep things fresh, and not fall into a hated routine.

Below the window where Alexandra and Paul were seated, a limousine pulled up. Out of the corner of her eye Alexandra saw a uniform.

A richly decorated uniform. Followed by another person in uniform. Only able to catch a glimpse of the two she still could tell it was an Admiral and a shift commander of Horizon. Immediately she felt as if they were there for, or because of, her.

Minutes passed in which she didn’t really hear anything that Paul said. Another one arrived at the entrance. Another Admiral left the opened door, followed by a woman in an uptight suit.

This time Alexandra had her eyes turned to the arriving guests. It was the governor of the colony!

Governor Kristen Handall.

The feeling of being the reason for the presence of these highly decorated officials subsided, but her curiosity was woken. She had spent the last two days preparing for her vacation, during her shifts none of these things had come across her desk.

Elegantly as was to be expected a waiter came to the table. Paul was about to place his order when the man leaned forward to Alexandra, asking her to come to the lobby.

Immediately she the feeling of the officials being at the sunset inn because of her returned.

Walking in a pace adequate to her surrounding, Alexandra made her way to the lobby, indeed finding the governor the two Admirals and Ngyuen Tapron, the shift commander there waiting for her. One of the Admirals was Admiral Norton, a local man, the other she was unfamiliar with.

“Shift commander Wenzel! Glad you could make it.” Governor Handall feigned a friendly expression.

“Governor, Generals, Nguyen.” Not saluting on purpose, as she was on vacation, Alexandra greeted them. “What gives me the honor of being summoned on my vacation? The first in two years, might I add.”

Almsot mechanically the other Admiral jerked forward, extending his hand. “Admiral Friedhelm Bauer, colonial bureau of intelligence.” Reluctantly Alexandra shook his hand, with the same artificial friendliness the Governor had shown her before, she claimed to be pleased to meet him, although the CBI was anything but sympathetic.

“We should go to the conference hall.” The governor felt curious eyes on them.

 

The conference hall was kept in the same style as the rest of the sunset inn. Wooden panels covered the walls, but they were probably not real wood. A carpet coverd the floor and a glass covered lustre hung in the center over an oval table, which provided enough room for twenty people.

The double wing doors were shut behind them, Alexandra sat down at the table, if they had the nerve to disturb her unannounced in her vacation, it was her right to determine where at the table they sat.

“We have come here because we knew you’d be here. There was not enough time to cancel your vacation, and we don’t intend to keep you long.” Bauer was speaking while the governor and the others sat down.

“What’s this all about?”

There was a glint in his eyes she could not place, as Admiral Bauer approached and sat down three seats down from her. “The incident three weeks ago.”

Immediately Alexandra knew what incident he was referring to. He could have just said the incident, and she’d have known.

“Claire.”

“Yes, the linker woman.” He folded his hands, inching around in his seat. “We are, of course, reading the reports concerning her development, and we come to the same conclusion that you have reached, that your Doctor Antonius has reached. This person poses no threat to us, or our security.”

Folding her hands as well, Alexandra leaned forward. “However?” Her glance fell on the big old style clock on the wall. Twelve minutes to eleven, she had already been gone from the table with Paul for close to twenty minutes.

“Our long range sensors have picked up unusual activity at the linker moon over ES-p296, and a long range AI probe sent into space has also detected unusual activities, this time however from an unknown source.” He nodded to Admiral Norton who sat next to Alexandra, a tablet was produced and given to her.

Grainy images showed vessels of an usual shape.

Spherical.

No details were visible, no definite size could be determined. “Didn’t the AI steer the probe closer?”

“It did, but we lost contact with it.” Norton spoke for the first time since Alexandra had met him that eve. “That was a few hours ago.” Bauer added, completing the picture.

Slowly Alexandra understood why they had no time to cancel her vacation. In her report she had included the details about Digitalys, and the linkers involvement in an experiment there.

Naturally they came to her. “We would like to question the linker as well.”

Raising her eyebrows in disapproval Alexandra looked at Bauer. “It is not recommendable to do so, but of course. I however, doubt that you’ll get any satisfactory answers from her. Back when the collective mind had any contact with the sludge, it was just that. Sludge covering the planet. Any advances they made, they made in the time since coming in contact with the linkers.” She pushed the tablet back to Norton, who put it back in his jacket.

“Claire Doe falls into your jurisdiction, and yours alone. That’s why I brought them to you.” Nguyen leaned forward, her hair tied to a neat knot on top of her head, slightly bobbing as she spoke.

“I know.” Winking to her colleague paired with a knowing smile, Alexandra then glanced at the clock. More than half an hour.

Paul would be furious.

“If you’ll excuse me, I need to return to my fiancé. After all I am on vacation, and this is our anniversary.” She got up, walked to the door.

 

Contrary to her assumptions, Paul was not angry, but surprisingly understanding.

Their meal was brought, and a relatively uneventful eve ensued. Yet, after their dinner she found herself staring out the window of her room.

Paul had turned in, their anniversary would be celebrated the following day.

Strangely she had not seen the Admirals and Governor leave again. In need of some fresh air Alexandra opened the door to the balcony. Immediately the cold air urged her to hug herself against it. Now she saw the balcony connected all rooms on the floor, but that there was no one else out.

Understandably, in the frigid temperatures. It was three in the morning, and although the sun shone, as it always did, a nightly silence lay over the sunset inn.

A few hundred meters lower than the sunset inn, drenched in the eternal night, the hangar was weakly illuminated. There was no sound of any transports comig or going, neither from the garage of the hotel, nor from the distant hangar.

Calm, peaceful night.

Alexandra walked a few paces to the balcony door of Paul’s room. He was lying on his bed, about to walk back to her own room, she noticed movement.

Movement not coming from the bed. His door was opened, someone walked into the room. A dim light went on at the nightstand, Paul got up. Finding herself at a loss for words, she saw her fiancé greet the late visitor. Admiral Bauer.

Apparently neither had noticed her presence, and as far as she was concerned, that should remain that way.

Up to that point she had assumed that Paul was just a regular crew member of Horizon, but the late visit by the CBI Admiral suggested he doubled as a spy.

Quickly she withdrew and went inside her room.

 

“…she’s probably asleep, sir.” Paul’s voice was apologetic.

“Your engagement to her puts a mark on your record, if her actions should in any way be hindering.” They were talking about Alexandra, obviously.

“I doubt her actions have any consequences for the bureau, sir. What brings you here anyway?” Was he not informed about the latest developments? Somehow Alexandra had doubts about that.

“You know what has happened at the linker moon, and the probe. I came to inquire personally.” The Admiral’s voice got closer to the door as he spoke, Alexandra held her breath, he tried to open it, found it locked, walked away again.

“What I found was an annoyingly lax way of handling potential security threats. In and of herself the linker woman could be a beachhead for potential invasion.” Angrily Alexandra closed her cold hands to fists. He had not seen Claire, her agony. She not only had been there after her landing, but also talked with her weekly, as part of her integration programme, devised by Doctor Antonius.

“Two possible scenarios have been developed by the professionals.” Bauer continued, the ensuing silence suggested he either showed Paul or handed him a tablet which held the information. “Sir, with all due respect, it’s late, and reading this much text,” genuinely sounding tired Paul sighed. If she hadn’t been enraged by him being a secret informant or agent of the CBI, Alexandra would have felt sorry for him, being dragged back to work in the middle of the vacation was annoying enough, but also late at night?

“Scenario one, the linkers have successfully managed to tame the sludge into their collective, preparing now for invasion, both by their forces amassing at ES-p296’s moon and the beachhead linker here. Either humans of biologic origin will become a thing of the past, replaced by creatures consisting entirely of nanites, or humans will be brimming with nanites. Scenario two, is what is being presented to us. The linkers accidentally ignited the spark of evolution in this stuff, and are increasing their forces to defend against it.”

Strongly suspecting that the specialists devising these scenarios were paranoid eggheads, Alexandra favoured the latter scenario.

Another sigh from Paul echoed through the door. “What’s my assignment, sir?”

As curious as him, Alexandra concentrated. “Keep an eye on your fiancé. She gets info, we need to get it asap. Other operatives have been put into place.”

That was all? Alexandra felt a little disappointed. She had hoped for something more spectacular.

 

How to handle the knowledge that your fiancé is a spy? Watching him take his breakfast, this time at a table further back from the windows, Alexandra had been feigning feeling unwell as he wanted to give her a morning kiss.

She had claimed that the late visit by the officials had made her feel unwell. Work seemed to never end, and took its toll on her, she claimed. Sadly that also meant to eat something out of her comfort zone for breakfast.

Oatmeal.

Confronting him would probably be disastrous. For his career, potentially hers, and their relationship.

Relationship. Could she maintain a relationship with him? “I thought, maybe we could go skiing today, if your health permits it?”

Realising she had to come back to reality from her absent minded state, Alexandra raised her eyebrows, uttering “Huh?”.

“Skiing?” A chance to be alone with him. Talk to him.

“Yes.” Forcing herself to chow down another spoon of oatmeal, she cleared her throat afterwards. “I’m beginning to feel better. Perhaps the empty stomach.” It was only half past eight, neither of the two had slept much, but still, both acted as if they had had a restful night.

 

An hour later they met outside their rooms, im full skiing atire. From the sunset inn a shuttle service ferried guests to the other side of the mountain, to a well lit skiing slope. Unlike the hotel, this was run by the government, in an effort to promote exercise. Ever since mankind had settled down again, abandoning the rigid lifestyle of a military run spaceship, unhealthy lifestyles were on the rise again.

 

“I saw you and Admiral Bauer last night.” Her and Paul were alone, halfway down the slope, no other skiiers in sight, let alone earshot.

If he was surprised he hid it well. “What are you talking about?” Well acted, honey. Well acted. “I heard your conversation. And I’m giving you a choice my dear. Tell me the truth, all of it. Or we are through.”

There was a small stop on the side of the slope, Paul gestured towards it. “There’s nothing illegal of my being a CBI agent. It is our mandate to accumulate intelligence, and official channels sometimes don’t give you all of it. If you heard what I said, you know that my feelings for you are genuine.” He kept his voice low, nervously looking around.

Before they had sat down to speak he had taken out a small cellphone sized device, activated a scrambling function, in case one of them was bugged.

“I know, and all I want is the truth, the CBI doesn’t need to know that I know.”

With a long sigh Paul looked into the distance. Far away from the brightly lit skiing slope the nightsky was in full glory. “I was placed here five years ago, the CBI was distrustful of the colony, as it was contradictory to its own doctrine. No antimatter, but in orbit hovers a space station housing countless ships with antimatter, generating power with said antimatter for both the station and the colony. Naturally we were curious what else the colony did that was against their mandate, or that of the fleet.”

With little satisfaction over the answer received, Alexandra still managed to fake a smile. “It’s a start. What are your plans concerning Claire?” Now Paul did react, he made a tortured grimace. “Do I have to?”

“If you desire to keep me, yes.”

Lowering his head Paul began to understand why agents and informants with a family were seen as a liability. “The guard on duty at her side, will be replaced by an agent, who will steer the psychiatrist to ask her the right questions. The CBI sees your orders as a hindrance to getting all the information out of her.”

Already knowing about that part Alexandra just nodded. “Thank you for your honesty.” She put her gloved hand on his. “Now we can continue our vacation.” Satisfaction was far away, but it was all that she could hope for. Unless she gave him drugs designed to make a subject talk.

 

The week of vacation went by without further incidents with the CBI Admiral, or the other officials, who left the sunset inn on the third day. Thanks to Paul she stayed up to date concerning the situation at the Ghoti farm.

Not much relaxation had settled in during the time at the sunset inn, but still Alexandra felt refreshed as they entered the hangar. Stepping out of the luxurious comfort of the shuttle service, into the hangar it felt like stepping through a time portal. From an opulent past into a functional futuristic time.

 

Returning to Horizon Alexandra found a report waiting for her. Doctor Antonius wrote that Claire had refused cooperation since the new guard had arrived, along with a few discreet, but pointing, questions to Claire. That was quick.

Looking to see what had been going on in her friends lives she put the report aside.

Later she decided that a little away mission to the Ghoti farm was warranted, to see how the CBI operative was doing on his mission, and maybe give Antonius a few hints on how to distinguish between the influence of the CBI and genuine medical advice, from the board of specialists supporting him in his task.

The very next day, she took her own ship, down to the surface. As shift commander she enjoyed that sort of liberty, as the Admiral was mostly to be found at the colony, and the shift commanders enjoyed free reign aboard the Horizon, during their shift, of course.

At her side she had one of the security guards she knew and trusted, she was to replace the phoney one sent by the CBI.

Sure, her actions would be noted by the CBI, perhaps they’d even take actions to prevent future actions of the sort, but for the moment, it was a necessity to her. Claire fell into her jurisdiction and her responsibility.

 

Outside her cockpit she saw Claire and Dmitry, sitting next to the door of his pod. Antonius stood in front of them arguing wildly.

The phoney guard was nowhere to be seen.

Intrigued she left the ship. Feeling the soft ground beneath her shoes she had to smile, who would’ve thought she’d be back on the surface so soon?

“Good, you’re here!” Antonius greeted her, he seemed distressed to a certain degree. “Not that anyone called me, or anything.” Alexandra returned the unexpected greeting.

“That guard you sent down here, he is a spy!” No shit sherlock. “What makes you say that?”

“We, I mean Dmitry and I, caught him communicating in secret.” Claire spoke up, remaining seated, her voice clearer than the last time Alexandra had spoken her, a few days before her vacation. “He used a coded signal, which I was able to decipher. When we confronted him yesterday, he ran off into the woods.” Almost casually she pointed behind the pod. That path would lead the agent to a vast valley with many rivers and lakes, much wildlife and thick forests.

Once the battery on his gun ran out, he’d be practically defenseless against the predators of PK-p222. “I suspected as much, that’s why I brought someone I can trust.”

Alexandra too sat down. Someone, presumably Dmitry, had built a chair that stood opposite of the bench.

“What was in that transmission?” Not wasting any time on pleasantries, she cut right to the chase.

“They suspect Claire here to be a beachhead for the DEHumans,” interestingly enough for Alexandra, Dmitry had not called them linkers, “and some involvement with the sludge. Any insights on that?”

“Maybe.” Antonius brought a glass of some tea out, handing it to Alexandra. “A long distance probe has detected unusual space crafts near the Digitalys planet. Also, there’s a staging going on at the moon base in the 296 system.” Constantly looking from one to the other, Alexandra gave them all the information she had, that was not classified as far as she knew.

An absent gaze appeared in Claire’s expression. “Staging you say?”

“Yes, the CBI fears that you are just the beachhead, turning some people here into linkers, before the others can arrive in greater numbers.”

Slowly Claire’s expression grew horrified. By the glances Claire threw in Dmitry’s direction, Alexandra could tell that the thought of turning Dmitry into what she once was frightened her. “Our, I mean, their, strategy works differently. By now the population of your colonies is no where near the number of units in the collective mind. If they would desire to invade, they would arrive in massive numbers. Let alone the fact that they have superior firepower, shielding, engines.”

Raising a hand to stop her from talking, Alexandra nodded. “I understand. The CBI doesn’t.”

Best to keep the CBI’s suspicions concerning a linker involvement with the sludge from Claire, if she reacted this shocked to the other suspicions of the CBI, Alexandra mused.

Dmitry stretched, getting up. “It’s time, I need to continue working, if you’ll excuse me.” He gently touched Claire’s hand, and nodded to Antonius. There was an unspoken invitation to Alexandra, asking her to follow him.

“There is something I need to talk with you about, alone.” Alexandra too got up, following him across the clearing. A beaten path led through the forest to the nearby lake.

Much had changed since her last visit there.

After Claire’s capsule had been retrieved, Dmitry had built a peer out into the water. A drone sat on the edge of the peer, manufacturing parts for a hut.

“CBI suspects that the linkers have, in essence, tamed the sludge.” Alexandra blurted out as they arrived at the crystal shore of the crystal clear water.

“I feared as much.” Dmitry Zalenkov shook his head, they were outside of Claire’s hearing range, if she had remained at the pod. A casual glance at his scanner, as if to check the time, confirmed that the two were alone.

“I can’t guarantee that there won’t be other operatives of the CBI coming here. You know that?” Feeling help- and useless Alexandra watched him walk out on the peer. The artificially constructed material was safe she knew, and boyant in case the pillars failed, but still she shied away from it, as her swimming skills were miserable.

“I know. If you suspect that another operative is here, just tell us.” Winking he waved her to follow him.

“There is nothing more the CBI can learn from her, at least concerning current intentions of the collective mind, or the sludge. She is disconnected.” Almost with a proud expression he turned to her as Alexandra walked down the peer. “Permanently.”

An intrigued expression from the shift commander asked all the questions, there was no need for words. “She had disconnected herself, but asked me and Antonius to fry the circuits in her implant that would enable her to connect, or enable the others to do so, or contact her.”

“That wasn’t in any of the reports! Why?” Kneeling down next to him as he checked the programming of the drone, which was an older, outdated version of the drones used to build and maintain the colony. Dmitry had repaired it after it fell into disrepair, and took it with him to build the Ghoti farm. “I felt it was something we should add later to verify her intentions of joining our society, right now, it would seem like a desperate attempt to paint a nice picture of her.” He kept the part of Claire’s agonising headache after the procedure, to himself. The countless hours of her screaming in agony, which they explained to the guard as normal, almost withdrawal like symptoms.

After checking the programming, amd seeming satisfied with it, Dmitry looked out over the lake.

“There are other things you should know about.”

 

Pale, almost lifeless, Paul hung over the dinner that Alexandra had prepared for them. His condition was not brought on by her cooking skills, which were actually quite good, but the news she delivered unto him. He would’ve been more shocked, had she told him about her initial plan of replacing the guard by one of the people she could trust. “That guy’s failure will make Bauer mad!” Although the news of Claire’s disabled connectivity was uplifting, he still was not in a high spirit.

He would weave the report for Bauer about the lost capability of connecting as Alexandra spilling that secret over dinner.

The other part was a lot more difficult to report. “And Dmitry told you this?”

“Claire had recalled that information only shortly after the guard vanished.” Smiling dreamily Alexandra recalled the scene that Dmitry described.

 

After confronting the phoney guard the man took out his weapon, threatened to shoot them if they pursued him and ran off, afraid that they already had contacted Horizon. Relieved to be safe Claire had embraced Dmitry, kissed him. Which had triggered the memory from other women in the collective mind of the DEHumans, left buried in her brain somewhere.

 

“So the linkers send out women in cloaked ships, who then turn up in various nightlife locations, seducing men, gathering DNA?” When Bauer repeated the intel it sounded ridiculous. “As it seems, yes.” Paul weakly smiled into the video conversation.

“As far as I understand it, sir, they have a contraption in the uterus keeping the sperm alive. Just plain DNA like envisioned for the clone programmes, seems to be less in demand. Besides, they want to maintain a certain diversity.” Admitting to himself that he would not object having his DNA stolen that way, compared to having his own cells forcibly removed from his body, Paul maintained his weak smile. “Did the linker woman disclose any details?” A dark shadow seemed to hang over Admiral Bauer’s face as he spoke those words.

“No, sir. Only that it has happened in the past, and that the linkers have mimicked the cloaking technology of the silicate lifeforms after witnessing it on their long range sensors. Apparently good enough to fool our sensors.”

The Admiral remained silent, but there was a glint in his eyes that told Paul that the CBI was interested in the very same technology, if they didn’t already work on prototypes.

“Thank you for the report, agent Dekowitz. Until next time.” The report of the fled agent had flown past the Admiral, or it semed that way at least.

After the transmission had ended Alexandra stood up from behind the console, slowly clapping. “Excellent performance.”

By now he had accepted his role as double agent, for the CBI on the one side, and for his fiancé on the other. A news broadcast for CBI agents arrived, causing him to shake his head. Worried Alexandra moved behind him, a video message popped open. “Field Agents, this footage was recorded by long range sensors, monitoring the staging at the linker base in the 296 system.” What followed was a grainy image of the dozens of ships that had gathered there, vanishing. “As clearly visible they have jumped away, defense had been put to high alert, as their destination was unknown at the time. A reassigned deep space exploration vessel however had figured out their destination.”

The ships appeared out of nothing, in relative close proximity to the foreign objects linked to the sludge from Digitalys.

An exchange of hostilities ensued. Awestruck the two watched. After only a few moments most of the linker fleet was destroyed, as were a few of the foreign objects. As sudden as the ships had appeared, they vanished again, only a brief moment later, so did the supposed sludge vessels, leaving behind a debris field. “Remember Agents, this is classified information.” Only about a dozen agents received this news cast, as it seemed relevant to their assignments. Shocked and terrified at the prospect of an enemy that can defeat the linkers as easily as they once handled harpies and human ships, Alexandra subconsciously reached for Paul’s hand, who returned the squeeze.

“We better prepare ourselves for the worst.”

Covid19 shenanigans

Day 45 of Selfisolation / pseudo quarantine.

Work

Sleep

Work

Sleep

Enough!

A blue collar worker, an armed germaphobe and an undead warlock seek…

…seek a…

…a….

A GRAIL!?!

Rings of Fate S5xE3 – 222 – DEHuman pt.6

From the night side the colder and moist air traveled through valleys and across plains. Rivers meandered, or streamed down the mountains and hills, supplied by the condensing moisture of the constant draft, and the melting glaciers.

Dmitry Zalenkov looked across the valley, red shrubs and grasses as far as the eye went. The majority of the colony on PK-p222, mostly dubbed Eldorado by the crew of Dawn Horizon, concentrated on the northern hemisphere at the twilight border. He had set up a site on the southern hemisphere, away from the buzzing colony. Four years ago they had landed on the planet.

Tucked away from antimatter and technologies too volatile for human hands. Former Admiral Mulgrew had been right.

 

Although they arrived with antimatter propelled ships, new arrivals were constantly showing up on the doorstep of the colony. The over use of technologies was driving the people into the arms of the colony that was not using them.

Dmitry remembered the news about the other time line that spread through the QEN, while they were still on their way to PK-p222. The colonists felt validated in their conviction. Only after they had established the colony and made that known, did a constant stream of new arrivals start.

Previously it had been assumed that Dawn Horizon went to another planet, in the domain of the Harpies, a plan which they had abandoned.

 

It was said that the data about the technological advances of the other time line had been deleted. Dmitry doubted that. Most people did.

Advances in science and technology, were piling up, empowering mankind further and further. Were they mature enough for those advances?

Again massive doubts.

Again massive droves of people arriving at Eden.

Masses that drove Dmitry to leave the colony and seek his peace in solitude on the southern hemisphere.

 

High above the Eldorado colony Dawn Horizon hovered in geosynchronous orbit. A wild menagerie of ships was docked at its rings. Only for a short time had they been empty. As the first wave of emmigrants from Equatoria arrived with their antimatter powered ships became a problem.

One by one they docked in orbit, generating power for both Dawn Horizon, now little more than a space station, and the colony, without replenishing their supply of antimatter.

Alerted by a nagging proximity alarm, shift commander in charge, Alexandra Wenzel took her eyes from the pages of the book she was reading on her reader.

Almost weekly a ship either came by, Eden was an accepted colony and commerce partner of Equatoria, Mars and Ericsson now. Or it brought new arrivals, some of which were not carrying an implant any more, and had to remain in quarantine on the Horizon.

“What’s it this time?” She asked the tall former martian, Colonel Steven Kelly.

“No IFF, it’s not one of ours.” Interested Alexandra got up from her seat. There were no Harpy ships scheduled for arrival in the system. “Is it in range?”

“Positive.”

With an engaging nod of her head she told Steven to hail the craft. “It’s not responding.” Sensors told the two that the unidentified ship traveled too fast for dockimg, or even entering orbit. “Reading an energy signature, some sort of transponder I guess.” It was not necessary to mention that the ship was powered with antimatter, except for Dawn Horizon, and it’s local vessels, everything out there was powered that way.

Explorer and Destiny had long been dismantled, replaced by new ships. Even Phoenix was outdated technology. Only difference being that it had been turned, partially, into a museum above Mars.

“They are not slowing down. On the current trajectory it will pass between us and Eldorado.” Additionally to the known data new results of the continuous scans revealed only one life sign aboard.

“It reads human.” Steven looked up with a dreadful expression in his eyes. All color faded from Alexandra’s face. “Linker? After all these years?” As a precaution Alexandra hightened the security warning level, lasers were armed, a tactical officer called to the command centre. Until that officer arrived, Alexandra would man that position. “The program is still active, no worries.” Trying to smile Steven had checked the communication systems.

“I’m not afraid of them turning us into linkers, but them blowing us out of the sky. That thing is probably a scout, if they read Eldorado and Horizon, they might come in and destroy us.” For decades no one had so much as seen a linker ship, or a linker. Their base on the ES-p296 moon was busy and active as ever, but no one had bothered to go near.

According to the linkers themselves they would not interfere with humans, or other primitive species as they phrased it. Still, what if PK-p222 held resources the linkes needed or wanted so badly they would annihilate Eldorado?

“If you destroy this thing, they might see it as an act of aggression, and retaliate.” Pausing her fingers from opening fire Alexandra pondered on the words of Steven. He was right of course. What could or should she do?

On their screens the two watched the foreign object shoot by in between the Horizon and the planet. “Something detached right before passing, heading down to the planet!”

“Crap!” Trying to get a weapons lock on the small object that had detached from the presumed linker ship Alexandra was glad to hear the tactical officer enter the command centre.

Again an alarm beeped, energy levels in the ship that had passed them by increased dangerously.

A bright flash filled the screen, and then disappeared together with the signature of the vessel. “It blew up.” Dazzled Steven checked his instruments. “The pilot however is on his way to the surface.”

“Am I still needed?”

“Take the weapons.” Ordering Germaine Duprois, Alexandra returned to her console, tracking the descending capsule. Perhaps they still needed to shoot at it, if any suspicious signals should emerge. Otherwise a ground crew from Eldorado would need to be dispatched.

 

Cracking thunder caused Dmitry to look skywards. A streak of fire headed across the sky, but it slowed significantly. As it passed by him in some distance he could clearly see thrusters blasting to slow the craft down and maneuver it.

It flew past Dmitry’s position, after about fourhundred meters it had slowed to a halt from its near horizontal movement and dropped vertically into the nearby lake. Now they can’t even use the port or the damn Horizon station anymore. Still sensing some sort of urgency Dmitry hurried to the lakeshore. Hurriedly he took off his shirt, slipped out of his pants. Just as he was about to dive into the icy lake, fed by glaciers in the shadows of the mountains, he noticed the waves.

Someone, or something, was swimming towards his position.

Only a moment later a head bobbed out of the ice cold water. Dark brown, almost black hair, and skin the color of snow. Hesitantly he still waded out a few paces.

Shivering, her lips pale, almost blue she reluctantly accepted his aid.

Awkwardly she got up, towering above him, taller by a little more than one head. “Are you alright?” Stupid question, she just had crashed into a glacial lake! He reminded himself. “Are you hurt?” Revising his question brought the same result, no reply.

Shivering she sat down in the warming sunshine, her lips trembled as she reached to her garments, peeling herself out of the soaked and cold synthetics.

Beneath the clothing her skin was even paler than in her face or on her hands, that was if it wasn’t red and somewhat raw looking. “Can I help you somehow?” Hanging his dry, and by comparison warm, shirt around her shoulders he got the first reaction from the mystery woman. A flinch.

“Does it hurt?” Careful he retreated, but kept his hands close to her shoulders to take off the disturbing shirt if It hurt.

“No.” So she does speak after all.

“We can’t sense you.” Almost as if she had just realised his presence she looked at him, studied his face. “We?” He feared a moment to have a mad woman at his hands, but then something even more terrifying occured to him. “Are you a link, err, a DEHuman?”

As if trying to comprehend his words she paused before replying. “We are, but hope to seize being that.”

Was it uncommon? After the encounter of Horizon survivors with the linkers on the moon of ES-p296 there was no linker ever coming forward desiring to turn into an individual. So yes, it was uncommon as far as he was concerned.

“Did that bring you here?” Worried that her landing in the lake might have caused some psychological trauma in the already unstable defectee, Dmitry kneeled down to look at her more comfortably.

“We were with child,” her using the plural was annoying to Dmitry, but as far as he knew, that was the same with those linkers who returned with the survivors from the moon, “but are not anymore.” That lack of emotion in her voice! Was she distancing herself from what had happened, or was she a normal linker?

Startled by something in his shirt the woman threw off the garment. Dmitry too noticed the vibrating communicator. Once he had glasses, but when he moved out here he decided to take a communicator that resembled a cellphone, it was able to handle the harsh conditions better. Slowly in a non threatening way he took out the device.

“Dmitry Zalenkov, hello?”

“Greetings, sir. Shift commander, Alexandra Wenzel of Horizon speaking. Please excuse this intrusion on your privacy, but we have detected your signal close to the estimated,”

“If you’re calling because of the linker woman, she’s sitting in front of me. Perhaps you should come here.” Feeling rude for interrupting her Dmitry wanted to spare himself the lengthy explanation, when it was bloody obvious why they had contacted him.

Questions about jurisdiction made themselves known in the back of his mind, but whether Horizon, or Eldorado were responsible for handling the crashed linker woman and her ship, was beyond him, and he sure did not want to bother to ask.

“A ship will be dispatched. Using your signal as a homing beacon.” There was an audble smile in the voice of the shift commander.

 

After going back and forth with the governor of Eldorado, Alexandra had received confirmation that Horizon, and therefore she, had jurisdiction of the crashed capsule. It was an unmarked, unregistered vessel, as Horizon was the official first address to turn to when arriving at PK-p222, it fell to Horizon to deal with new arrivals.

“Send down a small craft, they need to pick her up.” Halting for a moment Alexandra pomdered a moment. “On second thought, ready the craft at port alpha 1218, send a security detail there. I’ll go down myself.”

Knowing which ship she was referring to Steven nodded with a smirk, sending the orders out, while the small ship powered up.

Capable of atmospheric flight, even gliding capabilities with its aerodynamic design, it was the ship in which Alexandra had arrived, together with her parents, when she was twelve. Even back then she had already picked up how to fly it. Later in life she pursued a career in Eldorado’s forces, some of her closer friends suspected it was to be close to the ship, her closest link to home.

The same applied for Steven, he had come to PK-p222 only a few years later, the ship he and his parents had come to Eldorado however was down on the surface, doubling as their home. Still, he had been impressed by the Horizon, its design and sturdy technology.

 

Shivers had stopped, slowly the linker woman had warmed up in the constant shine of the sun. Dmitry had run to his home, a former pod from Horizon, and brought her some dry clothes.

She had answered some of his questions, one had been whether he should put the one piece she had discarded, out to dry. It was a dry, but some what harsh no. Followed by the request to destroy it. When he touched it, he noticed that it already was bone dry.

The ensuing conversation revealed that it was more than just clothing. It doubled as an artificial skin, grafted onto her own epidermis. It withstood high pressure and even ballistic impacts to a certain degree, transferring nutrients from the surrounding atmosphere, through the skin into her body. She had taken it off, less because of it soaking with water, and more to get rid of a piece of her past.

It had been an hour since she had crawled out of the lake, and Dmitry looked to the sky. There was yet no sign of the ship that should get her. “Would you like to come to my home?”

An almost sentimental look appeared on her face. “We have spent our lives in an artificial environment. Although all of us shared in the experiemce and the memory of open spaces of our colonies, it is a new sensation for us.” Still having trouble following her when she talked in the plural form, Dmitry understood what she was trying to say.

“You mean, it is a new sensation for you, although you have seen what others saw.” She looked at him, slowly coming to terms with his words.

Only now did he see that her eyes had the strangest color. An arctic blue with silver metallic streaks in them. Where those contact lenses, or was it grown inside her eyes?

“We can go to your home, but we will remain in the open.” She rose to her feet, glancing down on him. Her height suggested that she had been living in low gravity, or at least grew up in low gravity.

Still unanswered was his question whether she had lost her child, or if it was born and remained with the other linkers. Dmitry did not want to push the issue, or any of the many question that had popped to mind.

He considered himself a simple man, after all, he wanted to start a Ghoti farm in that lake not far from his home. Whether his questions or actions could mentally harm or break the vulnerable mind of the linker woman was beyond him. Specialists should determine that, and take over any further questioning.

Once they arrived, that was.

The nameless woman sat down on a bench that he had built, from the bone like structures left behind when one of the tree like growths died and had decayed. The former pod sat on a clearing of an otherwise dense forest on the sunnyside of a small hill. In the distance the lake glistened in the sun, and the small stream of melting water that came down the mountains in the greater distance. Ice from the dark side of the planet accumulated on the nightside, the glaciers grew, flowed slowly to the ground, winding with the mountains, reaching the day side, melting.

Sooner or later the water evaporated, and the cycle began a new.

Dmitry liked that, and the taste of Ghoti. Hence his desire to start a Ghoti farm, it was a delicacy in Eldorado, out here, it was abundant, but if farmed, it would ensure a constant supply of quality Ghoti.

“Why did you land here?” He brought out some water, and a few slices of algae bread. Common food, but tasty, at least for his tongue. “We wanted to leave the common consciousness.”

“Let me rephrase that, why didn’t you land at Eldorado port or dock with Horizon? It would still be this planet.”

“It was our intention, but we were in a hurry, and had simply overshot it.”

A low hummimg noise became audible, startled the nameless woman jumped to er feet, dropping the glass of water she was holding. “Relax.” The cavalry has arrived.

A sleek ship, almost shaped like a stereotypical paperplane, hovered into view, its landing gear extended. A wave of relief visibly washed over the woman, she sat back down.

On the other side of the clearing the ship sat down, it was painted in a dark aquamarine, which once was a shiny finish, now it had dents in it. Judging by the state it was in, Dmitry guessed it had not only been once in use by the Equatorians, but also that it had sat docked to Horizon for quite some time. Micro asteroids and other impacts up there had left their traces on the hull.

After it had sat down a hatch opened, extending a small stair with three steps. Immediately four armed men and womem exited the vehicle, took up position around the exit. Only after they gave an ‘all clear’ did their commanding officer show up.

Alexandra walked down the steps of the craft, directly behind her a man with messy hair, and deep wrinkles in his face.

If Dmitry had to spot a shrink, that man was one. “Dmitry Zalenkov, I presume?” Alexandra greeted him, wearing a friendly, albeit fake, smile.

“Whom did you expect? Doctor Livingston?” The smile crumbled, what remained was at best an attempt at a smirk. Apparently she did not understand that reference.

Dmitry couldn’t blame her, it was rather historic. “Yes, none other.” He added, refreshing her friendly smile.

“Then this, I presume, is the crashed woman?” As if she wasn’t there Alexandra pointed at the nameless woman, some shaking had returned to her extremities and her lower lip. Not due to the cold winds from the night side, but anxiety.

“Yes, she is.” Dmitry felt the need to correct the officer, although a linker, the nameless woman was a person and deserved to be treated as such. Especially if she was to be integrated into society.

The man with the messy hair shoved himself between Alexandra and the two people sitting in front of the old pod. “My name is Doctor Antonius. Zachary Antonius.” Over pronounced and slow spoken he introduced himself, clearly addressing the woman.

“She is a linker. Not insane, nor slow of understanding.” Again Dmitry felt a need to correct what was said. Earning a punishing stare from the shrink, Dmitry got up, only to feel the nameless woman’s hand reaching for his arm.

“Please, don’t leave me.” Surprised by the first use of a singular concerning herself, Dmitry nodded, then turned his face back to the guests.

With a small gesture of his head he made the shrink understand that this had been a first. “I will not, you stay here, I need to talk with these people.”

 

“We can’t take her away now.” Doctor Antonius spoke to Alexandra, standing somewhat between her and Dmitry, who had his back to the woman. “For the first time in her life she had used the singular for herself now, that is a remarkable step in her development. She is beginning to realise her status as an individual.”

Nodding in agreement Dmitry said nothing, watched the eyes of Alexandra as they narrowed. Obviously she wanted to take the linker with her. As long as it was not determined safe, she posed a threat, both she, and the colony’s government wanted her in a controlled, safe environment.

“Why won’t you leave a guard and the shrink here with us? My pod is capable of accomodating four people. Once it is safe to bring her to Horizon, we will contact you.” Striking for a compromise Dmitry abandoned all hope to return to his endeavours of building his Ghoti farm any time soon. In a weird way he felt responsible for the crashed woman. “Alright. A guard, myself and the doctor.” Extinguishing any protest from Dmitry before he could voice it with an angry gaze, Alexandra turned away to inform the  guards.

 

“These people, they will stay here for a little while, just like you will.” Dmitry sat down pointing at the guards and Alexandra, the doctor stood at the edge of the forest talking with someone over his glasses, presumably he had to cancel a few appointments.

Slowly the woman nodded.

“Do you have a name?” Asking the most obvious question only now seemed a bit odd to Dmitry, but he knew that linkers had no names. However, it was possible that she had chosen one in the meantime. “No. Do I need,” she stopped mid sentence. Realising, or remembering from some dark corner of her once shared memory that in a non joined society of individuals everyone had a name. “No. Not yet.” Her attempt at a smile was weak, facial expressions were not necessary in a collective that was conjoined in the mind, operating as one consciousness.

“We’ll find one for you.” He showed her an honest smile, turning his attention back to the ship. The stairs were just lifted back up, Alexandra and a woman in uniform and armor walked away as the engines warmed up again.

“They will return in an hour to bring us supplies, we need a bit more than what you can provide.” Was she talking about fresh underwear? There was plenty of food and drinkable water. Just nodding Dmitry decided not to linger on that question.

 

Spending the day outside his home, being mostly unproductive in respect to his Ghoti farm, had left Dmitry filled with energy. Not that there was any transition between day or night, the sun always stood in the same position in the sky, as the planet rotated as fast as it was revolving around the sun.

Bit it became late concerning the time. Well past, what was once designated midnight he went back outside. After the ship had come and dropped off the ominous supplies, three bags, suggesting he was right when he assumed it was underwear and other garments, it got quiet. Doctor Antonius had tried speaking with the linker woman, starting off his therapeutic sessions with her, but ultimately had to give up as she did not respond.

“You’re still up?” Wondering at the name less woman’s unchanged position on the bench, Dmitry too sat down.

“We do not require as much sleep.” Her speech sounded sluggish. “We process information differently, our bodies need the rest every thirtytwo hours, then we slip into hemispheric sleep, resting our bodies but remaining mentally active.”

Making a brief sound of acknowledgement Dmitry reached for some water. “But you’re not connected anymore. Your ability of processing information is therfore impaired. You need sleep. Natural sleep.” He winked, taking a sip from his glass.

While sitting alone she apparently had practiced her expressions, as she flashed him an honest, albeit tired, smile. “There’s something I feel compelled to do.” She rose to her feet, awkwardly stumbling away from the bench, as exhaustion worked on her mind and body. She walked a few paces, turned into the wind.

Cool breezes from the night side of PK-p222 played with her hair, she spread her arms, opened her hands and spread the fingers, wiggling them.

Gone was the dull, passive expression of someome who had never had emotions, let alone knew how to express them. Replaced by a peaceful, calm and gentle smile.

In an instant it changed however. Dmitry could swear that he saw how a metaphorical dark cloud went over her face, twisting the peaceful gentle smile into a hard, agonised frown.

With that she fell to her knees, prompting Dmitry to run to her side. As he reached her she was sobbing uncontrollably, crying.

Gently he cradled her, triying to calm her, all the while wishing he knew what she had remembered, or thought of in that moment.

Woken by the sudden outburst of audible emotion Doctor Antonius came out the pod, stopping dead in his tracks.

“Our child,” she sobbed, “it has terminated. Within the boundaries of our womb we have driven it out!” Slowly her hands wrapped around her stomach, as if she could cradle the child she had lost.

Her agony driven sobs and cries drove Dmitry to tears as well. “Everything is well now. You are safe.” He assumed that it was not her who had killed the child, but the collective consciousness of the linkers. Too intertwined was her concept of a self with that of the collective to make that distinction, at least verbally.

 

“What drove you to come here?” After sobbing for a while she had grown more silent.

“We once had been lost to the others. A power failure had cut us off.” By the way she spoke Dmitry figured she was half asleep, or in the hemispheric sleep she had mentioned before. A feat mostly achieved by animals. “We formed anew, once we returned to the others we were not one again.” Had a disconnection from the collective mind caused her to defect?

She jerked for a moment, but remained in her semi conscious state. “Our new life, we wanted to bring it away, raise it without the haste, the rigid life. We realised the missing love, the missing fun.” A tear formed in the eye Dmitry could see, rolled out onto her nose, from where it fell to the ground. “But it was terminated by the others.” A clot formed in Dmitry’s throat.

So that was what drove her. To protect her child she wanted to leave, for which she got punished. In the most dire way.

Again she jerked, in the meanwhile Doctor Antonius had reached the two, with a few gestures he signalled Dmitry that she probably switched to the other hemisphere.

“They punished you for leaving the collective?” Gently caressing her Dmitry had to bite back the tears that wanted to flow from his eyes.

“No.” Her expression grew distant again, the logical part of the brain seemed to be the active one now. “It was terminated during decontamination after a mission, to ensure termination of foreign technology. We left to ensure any future life in our womb would not suffer the same fate.”

What technology could warrant that sort of decontamination? Although Dmitry thought it best to let her rest at ease he had to inquire.

“Unable to handle, we underestimated the foreign technology.” With a gasp she jerked back to life. For a moment she looked around in a bewildered manner.

“The sludge, it is not here?” A chill went down Dmitry’s spine, Antonius seemed t be taken aback. “No.” Stammering Dmitry put his hand on her shoulder to calm her. For her it must’ve seemed like a dream remembering the events that had cost her child its life. “There is no sludge here.”

Trying to move, her movements still were sluggish. “You are correct, Dmitry. I need to sleep.” There couldn’t have passed more than an hour since she broke down, yet she seemed not rested at all, obviously she needed to rest like a regular human being. “There’s a bed,” Dmitry was silenced by the nameless woman laying her head to rest in his lap.

“Outside will be my bed, please stay with me.” Suddenly she seemed afraid, as if she herself was a child, afraid of both the dark and of being alone in it.

It did not take long for her to fall asleep, exhaustion saw to that.

 

“What is the sludge? You seemed to know what she was talking about.” After a few minutes of her sleeping Doctor Antonius figured it was safe to talk in a hushed voice without waking her.

“I hope I am mistaken, but if my Harpy history is correct, we, or the linkers, or both, are in trouble.”

Now it clicked with the shrink, as he too grew pale. “Digitalys? That sludge?” Hissing sharply the Doctor inched back from the sleepimg woman and Dmitry, the latter softly stroking the woman’s head, to keep her calm in case she heard the hissing doctor.

“I hope I am mistaken, but I know of no other foreign technology that would warrant a fear of sludge.”

Retreating to the former pod Antonius reported to Alexandra what had transpired on the clearing. As was to be expected, she too became nervous, as soon as the woman would wake up she wanted more answers.

 

Unable to catch sleep himself, it was Dmitry’s turn to feel exhaustion weigh him down, as the nameless woman woke again.

“Good Morning.” He managed an honest smile and kind expression. Momentary confusion on her eyes, she clearly was unfamiliar with sleep. “Sadly, there are a few questions we’d like to have you answer us.” He had hoped to go easy on her, but the revelation on the sludge topic was sounding like urgent business.

Alexandra had prepared procedures to quarantine the entire area, to keep any potential threat from nanites at bay.

“You can ask anything.” Glancing suspiciously past the returned Doctor, to Alexandra and her guard, who were talking amongst themselves at the pod, her features hardened. “But they can not.”

“When you fell into hemispheric sleep, you revealed information on foreign technology and asked about the sludge. Can you elaborate?” The doctor asked, she turned to face Dmitry, who nodded gently.

Slightly bowing her head, as if about to apologise for bad behaviour, the nameless woman took a deep breath. “Approximately three weeks ago a ship was dispatched to investigate existing technology concerning further advances in nanotechnology, as our own vantages in that realm had turned to a dead end. The planet designated Digitalys by the Harpies was our destination. Four days in, the ship had gone silent, after retrieving some of the sludge, now covering the entire planet five kilometers deep, another vessel was dispatched.” She spoke without emotional intonation, almost invokimg the impression she read it off of some imaginary display.

“You were on that second ship?” Dmitry asked, trying to bring some emotion to her. Simply recalling the incident was not going to help her solve her emotional trauma with it, he needed not to be a psychiatrist to understand that.

“Negative. We were on the first ship.” Did her recalling those memories plunge her back into the plural view of herself as part of the collective? Dmitry feared that the little progress that had been achieved so far, was melting away. “After retrieving the sludge, we noticed signs of adaptation to our presence. At first the material attempted to consume all forms of containment, ultimately failing with our energy fields of containment, but turning all consumed materials into new nanites. The material began exhibiting signs of intelligence, by mimicking faces of the units involved in the study of it. On day four the material had found a way to breach the barrier, eating away at the controls designed to contain the material, thus setting all of it free.” Her eyes were empty, as if she was talking in her sleep, or under hypnosis.

Antonius was clearing his throat, he figured It best to snap the woman out of her trance like state, but he did not get to say anything as Alexandra put her hands on his shoulder, slowly shaking her head.

“When the second vessel arrived and retrieved all lives from the first ship, those units not affected, got exposed to radiation, strong EM pulses and contained within a stronger barrier of containment fields, until definite proof was evident of no further contamination.” Blinking a few times she turned her gaze back to Dmitry, her expression changing from absent to normal.

“What happened to the other ship?” Equally fascinated as horrified Dmitry could not help but ask the obvious.

“It was plunged into the planet’s atmosphere, where it burned up. Perhaps some technology, especially the sludge, survived reentry. Further studies of the technology is suspended until better ways of containment can be devised.”

Uncertain she glanced to Alexandra, who stared at the woman in a cold manner. “Doctor, Mister Zalenkov, I need to leave. Report to me as soon as she is ready for a full debriefing.”

“Wait just a minute!” Jumping to his feet with more agility than he himself had anticipated, Dmitry raised his voice. “She poses no threat to our safety, unlike many of the colonial new arrivals, she carries an implant eliminating disease, she has no technology that is in violation of our laws, and she has wronged no laws. On what basis do you want to interrogate her?”

“I’m a member of an enemy faction. It is standard procedure.” The nameless woman rose to her feet next to Dmitry. Seeing the knowing, yet still saddened, expression on the face of the woman Alexandra closed her eyes.

None of them had gotten much sleep last night, the new situation had caused a lot of tension and stress, was she really heartless? “Alright,” she flung open her eyelids, as if she could fling her worries away with that, “the guard will be replaced, an immigration officer will come here in a few days. Doctor, you’re staying too.” Squinting her eyes at the nameless woman she sighed, knowing she’d have to a few questions herself for those orders.

“You will have to report weekly, and your movements are going to be restricted.”

“I don’t want to move around. I don’t want to spend time in crowded environments. All our,” pausing for a second she bit her lip, “my life I was in a dense crowd. From the moment my brain formed in the womb, I was in a dense crowd of thoughts, disembodied voices in the mind, constantly there.” It was her time to close her eyes, a benign smile appeared on her lips. “Unlike here. It is quiet here, and yet, I do not have to be alone.” She looked to Dmitry.

Still somewhat distant Alexandra looked the strange woman up from head to toe. “You need a name. My transport will arrive in an hour, I expect a name by then.” She had to maintain an image of discipline, almost barking orders at them.

“Claire.” She blurted out, stepping closer to Alexandra who had turned to leave. “We, pardon, I want to be called Claire.”

Barely noticeable nodding from Alexandra followed that declaration. It was a step closer to individualism. An important one, she assumed, which would later be verified by the doctor. Giving herself a name, defining a self.

 

“I have a question of personal interest, Claire.” Alexandra stood at the opening of the pod, on the clearing the ship she had arrived in, had just landed minutes earlier. “Why did you discard your ship and ejected?”

A shiver of discomfort went through the pale woman. “The others, they tracked the ship with long range sensors, I am certain of it. Long range sensors have difficulty picking up an ejection, so I flew the vessel close to the planet and ejected, setting my vessel to self destruct by engine overload. To the long range scans it would seem as if I was unable to stop at my landing point.”

“Will they look for you?” An intense feeling of discomfort formed in Alexandra’s stomach.

“Not anymore. They would’ve tried to, just for defecting, which is seen as an act of malfunction, that needs to be investigated and resolved.” Claire explained from her seat in front of the pod. Claiming to understand, Alexandra found a few nice words for her good bye to Claire and Dmitry, flashing the good Doctor a look that told him to never miss a report, while a new guard replaced the other one.

Carrying that intel about the sludge to us, might be another reason for your kin to look out for you. Gazing out the cockpit window Alexandra watched the scenery shrink away during vertical ascend, and then pan around.

“Shift commander Alexandra Wenzel to Horizon, run all possible long range scanners, in all directions you can think of. There might be linkers out there.” Or worse.

Covid19 shenanigans

Day 17 of self isolation / pseudo quarantine.

Telecommuting / Homeoffice.

You know what?

Screw this. Time to don the old pelt and staff.

Time for

the forbidden incantations…

Yep. Going crazy.

Cabin fever.

Woop woop.

Wash your hands. Stay home. Take care, A.

Covid19 shenanigans

Day14 of self isolation / pseudo quarantine.

The new shopping attire. Finally I might be able to leave the house.

Still stuck in telecommuting / Homeoffice. Still stuck at home. Only playing with Playmobil on the balcony…

Wash your hands, keep your distance, stay at home, be safe, and, as always, take care.

A.

Covid19 shenanigans

On day 2 of selfisolation/pseudo-quarantine I shaved my head – mostly because I thought “hey, I don’t have to see people for a while now, if this looks like shit, I can just sit it out”

I am already follically challengend (aka going bald) so it’s not that much of a change. ^^

On day 10 I’m ready to hop into this (imaginary/toy) rocket to get out of here.

Take care, wash your hands. Stay inside (your rocket ship). Be healthy and act responsibly.

A.

Covid19 shenanigans.

Day 9 of selfisolation (aka pseudo quarantine).

Had to increase the daily workout to 500kcal per workout (in roughly an hour) as a coping mechanism – telecommuting/Homeoffice sounds like fun until it is your daily routine, while also doing homeschooling, housework, making (improvised) food from provisions and trying to keep your sanity, all day everyday.

What is funny is that most supermarkets can’t deliver groceries right now, because they’re booked out.
By young(ish) people.

Because the old people, those who are most at risk by that virus, those whom we are trying to protect – they don’t give a fuck.
My mum (70+) is going shopping once a week and visiting people.
My neighbors (~60+) go jogging and shopping almost daily.
I see predominantly elderly people (or families) on the streets when I look down from our balcony.
So why exactly are we doing this again? To flatten the fucking curve? There’ll be no endangered population left once the curve has been flattened sufficiently! The old people will be dead, the vulnerable will be dead because some grandma somewhere coughed in the wrong direction and the healthy population that can take that virus will be sitting at home – again, now sick as fuck – wondering why they endured this quarantine BS on the first place.

Regardless of my humorous words, people, please stay home, wash your hands, and stay safe.
A.

PS: If you’re wondering whether I have time to write between dayjob, and the rest – no. I need peace and quiet, ALONE time, to write. I don’t have anything alone. My workout time, but that is reserved for workout, to stay SANE. 😉

Rings of Fate S5xE2 – Phoenix – Time pt.3

“It’s the Ronin seven, they replicated the procedure.” Kurt was greeted to the Bridge with a statement of the situation. A look at the viewscreen confirmed the presence of the sturdy ship, but also that the Alarm was unjustified.

After getting hit by the magnetically charged acid that burned through their hull the Ronin seven dragged on and followed Phoenix by imitating their behavior and settings from the database procured through the QEN.

But that time jump had wreaked final havoc on the proud and majestic warrior. “We ought to do something. If we don’t, they will crash down to earth.” Maryjane had beaten Kurt to the bridge, she stood next to Rich, a tablet in her hand. “By my estimates they would all die, but their ship would survive reentry. In large enough pieces to cause further alterations on the time line.”

Figures. Also walking over to Rich Bauman, Kurt glanced on the console. “We could pull them out.”

“With what? They’re too fast and too close to earth to try and use Phoenix’s mass to pull them away, and I doubt we’re going to ram them out of the way.” Maryjane fiercely pushed her chin forward, as to defy him and his idea.

“Grappling.” Regina interjected, hearing her words Rich drew up schematics of the spearhead section of Phoenix. There was the capability of shooting grappling tethers onto other ships or bodies in space. As Phoenix was designed as a frontier ship, also capable of setting up mining operations, it was designed to haul in asteroids in case they should be mined.

“They will not like that, what if they become operational again?” Doctor Hutzinger’s voice was sharp, showing a fatal flaw in the plan.

“If they do, they might be grateful enough not to murder us all. We are not like them. We won’t let them plunge down to earth, to burn up in the atmosphere, so we can pick up the debris later!” Rejecting any delay of the plan Regina turned away from the trio. Besides, I don’t want to spend another week, or weeks, or months picking up debris that might change the future, again.

 

Beads of sweat stood on Toryama’s forehead as he carefully navigated the Phoenix’s spear head into position to begin the rescue operation. There were no hails of any sorts from the Ronin seven. “Launching grappling tethers.” Zhu had the difficult responsibility to grapple on to the other ship, as her normal duties as communication officer were not needed at the present time.

“Three down, one missfired, one did not connect. Rewinding and retrying.”

The rewinding process took a felt eternity, nervously the bridge crew stared at the screen. If the Ronin seven was to start an offensive against their rescuers, it’d be at that moment when the tethers were all connected.

Again the two fired, hit the targeted area and yanked into a tight position. “Alright, bring us up.” Reclining in her seat Zhu was glad the difficult part for her was over, now the burden was lying on Toryama again.

Slowly the two ships gained altitude, while the Ronin seven still showed no signs of activity.

“Prepare an assault charge, we need to take control of that ship once it is operational again.” Regina turned to Rich who saluted, left his post to gather a team.

To ensure that the Ronin would not assume an attack position all of a sudden the tethers were to remain connected, as they could be disengaged at any time, but that way Phoenix would have an advanced warning.

 

“Alright Joe, we have located the thing. Now what?” Major Adamovic stared at the display. “Can we go down there?”

“We sure can, but will it do any good?” Again Joanne Carlin was his pilot of choice, other than those two they only had one other man aboard. Linus Tuovinen, who was the chief engineer, and knew exactly what to look for. “Aye, it was never tested, but theoretically the pods can dive.” He leaned forward in his seat, a strange calm confidence in his voice gave James and Joanne the same confidence in the vessel’s ability to dive. Metallurgical scanners had detected the pieces they had lost, on the ocean floor, now it was time to do something about that.

Carefully Joanne pointed the nose of their pod at the water and began descending. Previous experience had shown that the pods floated, to remain under water was therfore requiring effort on part of the pilot, just as keeping it aloft in the air was. “Once we reached it, what will do then?”

At a loss James turned to Linus. “Landing gear? Trapping it there should be no problem, the area is not connected to the cabin, and we have no reentry planned.” Still calm Linus seemed to have planned out the details of the operation.

“Wonder what is happening up there with that Ronin ship.” James leaned back after seeing their descend was going to take a while. The outside of the ship was moaning a little under the immense pressure that was exerted on it, making him feel uncomfortable.

 

“Check your sensors Phoenix.” Rich stood in the hallway of the Ronin that was behind the airlock hatch their pod had latched on to. A dozen marines accompanied him, weapons ready to shoot at everyone who seemed threatening.

“We can’t tell you anyanything we haven’t told you before.” Scans of the Ronin had concluded the crew ought to be alive, as lifesigns were detected. Still Rich stared into ghostly emptiness.

Illuminated only by the helmet mounted flashlights of their spacesuits, Rich could see. The team had no idea how well the airlock systems on the Ronin worked after the acid attack, followed by the damage brought on by the time jump.

“I’m reading an atmosphere. Breathable.”

“Don’t take off your helmet. They are not afraid of utilising pathogens, some our implants might be powerless against!” Rich recognised Kurt’s voice on the radio, waved his men to swarm out and check the adjacent rooms.

“Locked.” Was the response he got from his men, for the three doors visible. Hoping that, that was a good sign, not a trap waiting to be sprung, he gave the order to move on. “We do have a map of this place, right?” A guy, the second in command of the mission, Hendricksen, asked with a nagging undertone to his voice.

“Yes.” Replying with an annoyed tone Rich was looking at their position on the inside of his helmet. “We need to take a right in ten meters, go up a level and then we’re at the bridge, below that lies the engine room, so we’ll have to split up.”

Giving Hendricksen the command of the second group was standard procedure, but Rich had doubts. He seemed too trigger happy the way he handled the gun. “Freisinger, what’s on sensors?” A man with a small device mounted on his forearm got slower, glancing down on the display. “Bridge and engine room filled with people, otherwise we’re clear.”

Did Phoenix read this too? Or was the ship shielded in a way that allowed for their sensors to only locate the general presence of lifeforms, but not their precise locations?

Small tremors reverberated through the ship, moaning and screeching on the structure.

Feeling as if they should get out of there and leave Ronin seven and her crew to their fate, it was hard for the team to go on. Especially in the semi darkness of the corridors.

“We have a problem, sir.” It was Freisinger, stopping at a corner. “I’m reading a power source in the center of the hallway, but the tube, or whatever they call it, is dead.”

Looking around, there was nothing that Rich could use to either throw or hold out into the hallway. “I’ll check it out, sir.”

“No, it’s too dangerous, Hendricksen.” Rich pondered on a way to get to the bottom of the mysterious energy source in the hallway without endangering anybody. At his side Hendricksen dismounted the camera from the suit, held it out in the thick gloved hands, between index finger and thumb. “All that could happen is, I lose the cam and two fingers.”

“And containment.” Finding no alternative to the plan proposed by the marine Rich then nodded. “Alright, but be careful.”

Programmed to transmit it’s image to all the men in the group Hendricksen inched to the corner. Slowly extended his hand, the camera facing in the hallway they were about to enter.

Almost immediately a series of discharges hit the wall and corner, Hendricksen withdrew his hand faster than anyone had thought possible. “A turret.”

 

A few minutes passed in which Hendricksen calmed down and the others had to gather their courage as well. “Now what?” The still shacken Marine asked, the terror in his face obscured by forgiving darkness.

“Freisinger, can you hack it?” Not wasting any more time Rich got up, turning the volume from the exterior Microphone up, to listen if there was any movement of the Ronin crew.

Surely they had to have been alarmed by the sudden gun fire. “Detecting no frequencies. It must be autautomated.” And battery operated. Thinking to himself Rich kicked the floor, a mechanical sound from the turret replied to his stomp like sound. So it also listens. “Alright, ready your guns. We’re trying something.” Hoping that it also had heat detection, and priorized hot signatures, Rich raised his gun while going to the other side of the corridor, still hidden from view. He targeted the opposite corner, while the marines readied themselves at the corner where he just had stood.

The laser from his gun hit the wall, creating a hot spot, immediately the turret opened fire at that point, to which one of the guys jumped the corner and fired at the turret, receiving a salve of shots himself.

“Fuck! Leroy!” Hendricksen pulled his dead friend back around the corner, a few shots from the turret followed him.

Opening the helmet of Leroy Hendricksen realised that all hope for him was gone. The eyes looked up at him in a fixed stare of death, a trickle of blood ran from his chest up the neck of Leroy. “We’ve known each other since kindergarten. He was my best friend.” Hendricksen cried, tears went down his cheeks, unseen by his comrades. “Don’t worry mate. You have not died in vain.”

Rich was about to say something, but in that moment Hendricksen yanked off the helmet of his dead buddy, and threw it across the hallway, gunshots from the turret followed it, Hendricksen threw himself around the corner, firing relentlessly at the turret.

Shocked and surprised Rich and the others watched, but were astonished at the accuracy of Hendricksen’s shooting, as the turret did not open fire at him, but remained silent.

“It is toast sir.” In his voice Rich heard that he was crying. Not the proud mentality he came to expect from Hendricksen, but a whimper of a man who had just avenged his best friend’s death.

“Bring Leroy back to the pod, secure the position there. Got it Hendricksen?” Rich too came around the corner, the cylindrical turret had a gaping hole in its center. Still it was powered, but obviously Hendricksen had taken out the vital part that controlled it.

 

Slowly Freisinger approached the turret, while Hendricksen dragged Leroy back to their ship. “Weapon systems are still on, but it lost its sensors and control unit.” He deduced, reaching in he pulled a few connectors out. “Now it is completely dead.”

Splitting up the group up was easy, while Hank Black took half of the group to engineering, Rich and Freisinger opened the hatch to a ladder system, connecting the individual decks. It was listed in the blueprints they had procured from the database, but at first glance Rich had not paid them attention.

Outside the ladder on the deck of the bridge the small scanner on Freisinger’s hand registered two people.

Guessing that they too must’ve been upset by the firing turret below, Rich wanted to stay calm, despite the fact he felt his pulse in his throat.

He and another man squatted down to the sides of the closed hatch. Freisinger, only his helmet showed in the ladder opening, gestured that they were moving down the hall.

As elegantly as possible in the clunky space suits, Rich and the other guy opened the hatch and spung outside, the two crewmen they had surprised dropped the heavy turret they were carrying. Other than the defensive automated wapon, they seemed unarmed. Immediately they barked something in Japanese.

I hadn’t thought of turning on a translator. “Raise your hands!” Obviously the two did not understand him either, his external speaker was on however, he had made sure of that.

For a moment the two crewmen exchanged a glance. One raising a hand to touch a wrist mounted device of his own, the two leaned to the sides, ready to jump out of the hallway. Rich shot at the man, removing the device from his wrist, along with the rest of the hand, his comrade stunned the other guy, who was now lying on the floor, twitching.

Quickly the two hurried to the wounded man, kicked the damaged device away, as it could be either a weapon or a control device for the turret.

He was shouting in pain. “He’s warning the bridge crew of our presence!” Freisinger followed up to them, along with the other two guys in his team.

One of the two shot the inactive turret, before it might get activated by someone else.

Passed out from the pain, the guy with the control device was dragged around a corner. Meanwhile Rich walked over to the stunned other one. Only in the bright light of his lamp did he realise that it was a woman.

“Wake up.” He barked, automatically translated by the computer in his suit. Gently he patted her cheeks. For a moment he pondered whether he’d be as nice to a man. “Wake up!” Reluctantly her eyes fluttered open.

“Tell your captain to surrender!” A defiant smile on her lips the woman spit at Rich, jerked her jaw around and bit on something. “Fuck! This is,” he couldn’t finish his sentence as her body slumped back to the floor.

Suicide pills. Probably hidden in a fake tooth. “Suicide is more honorable than capture.” He heard the monotone voice of the translator speak to him.

A man in plain clothing stood in the hallway. Only his colar was richly decorated. “You have saved this ship from burning up in the atmosphere, that’s when we decided to hand out the pills, so we can’t be taken prisoners.”

Behind his helmet Rich made a frown. “We’re not here to take prisoners. But we also cannot let you stay here, or hinder us from achieving our goal.”

“We’re at an impasse it would seem, because we cannot let you achieve your goal.” Only you are in no position to stop us. For a moment Rich wondered why no other ships from the Armada have showed up. Figuring that due to the presence of the ships in Earth’s past the future has already been changed, no matter what the outcome would be, the timeline they had left no longer connected with the past they existed in at that moment. “I have given orders to destroy this ship, my crew will gladly die for our cause.”

It was a sentence drenched in pride. Although the translator did not transport the emotion of the Captain, or what ever his rank was, his posture told Rich everything he needed to know. “Engineering is welded shut, your people can not enter it, unless they cut through the reinforced doors. Our core is being rigged to detonate this ship as we speak.”

Heat rushed to Rich’s head, he felt his cheeks burn, cold sweat gathered on his forehead. “Attention, Hank, fall back to the turret. Now!”

Rich got to his feet. “It does not have to end this way. You could come to our time line with us.”

A calm smile appeared on the Captain’s lips. “To be the outcast aliens you were in ours? I do not think so.” That sentence told Rich that he and his team were not going to be hindered from leaving the Ronin seven. A weird sense of understanding formed in both of the men.

Would Rich decide any differently if he had no chance of correcting the time line in any way possible? He figured not. “You will die with honor, sir.” Rich indicated a bow.

“Good luck in returning home.” The captain did the same.

 

Upon receiving the updates from Rich Bauman, Regina was not pleased, but she too understood the decision the Captain of the Ronin seven, and his crew, had made. Disgruntled she turned to Kurt who was looking equally displeased.

“We need to tow the Ronin seven out.” He lowered head and gaze to the console. “If they blow up and their tech survives even in the least, it could mean we are not returning home, and quite frankly, neither my nerves, nor the ship, could take another journey through time after we return to our time.”

Sketching a picture of either the Soviet union or the cold war era US finding technology from the Ronin seven in space at the beginning of the space age, altering the history of mankind again, perhaps even more so than what their own alterations had changed, he plotted a course for the wreckage and ensuing debris. “Or if it enters the atmosphere,  survives reentry, and is found. I get the picture.”

Ignoring the annoyance in Regina’s voice, Kurt kept typing frantically on the console. “The sun.” Zhu suggested, pointing at the star setting behind earth’s horizon. “They have no power, what if we drag them towards the sun?”

Shrugging his shoulders Kurt explored that possibility. “The antimatter in their engines might upset the delicate balance of the sun.” A horrible scenario of solar storms upsetting life on earth, spelling an end for mankind, or yet another altered human timeline, began to unfold in his mind.

“We have to bring it out of here. Before they blow up. An explosion in interstellar space should be relatively harmless.” Kurt theorised, an alarm on the console disturbed his research.

Proximity alert.

 

Scrambling to his station Rich was glad to be out of the spacesuit again, a feeling Kurt knew all too well he recalled as he surrendered the station to the first officer of Phoenix. “It’s a Harpy ship.” Kurt heard as he left for his own workplace in the adjacent control centre.

“Hail them.” Curious as to what would happen now, Regina turned to the viewscreen. A skeptical looking Harpy appeared on the screen. “Please do not be alarmed.” Regina began, hearing the translation the Harpy’s expression changed to pure astonishment. “How can you communicate with us? We have never encountered your species, you are technologically not advanced enough to have covertly listened to our communication!”

Beginning to grasp what Kurt felt since they first traveled through time, the utter insanity of saying they have traveled through time. “We thought it impossible, but we have actually traveled back in time, and you discovering us, poses a new problem.” Another realisation hit Regina.

Another communication line was activated, from Kurt’s office. “We can offer you data we have gathered. Scans of the planet below will reveal the presence of our species, but no capability of building vessels like ours.”

Confusion replaced the other expression on the face of the Harpy. Too much information, especially the bits about timetravel, had been showered on her.

“Reading an energy buildup in Ronin seven.” The same reading was shouted to the commander of the Harpy ship. “Do you need assistance?”

“Well, the crew of the ship we have in tow decided to destroy both their ship and themselves along with it. We must protect the timeline, and need ways to ensure that no harm comes to the life on the planet, or that their technology is preserved in any way.”

Almost as if she wanted to bite someone the Harpy’s head snapped to the side, she gave a command to take the Ronin seven into tow.

Yanked from the tether cables the Harpy ship pulled the Ronin seven with an energy beam.

“We have theories about tractor beams. But seeing it happen is something else.” Kurt’s voice came mumbling from the intercom.

Apparently he had accessed the sensors. Not waiting around for more explanations the Harpy ship engaged their engines. Using the presumably brief moment until the Harpies should make their return, Regina requested an update from the ground, or rather underwater, crew. “Out of communication, the water is disrupting the signal.”

We should outfit the pods with QEN devices. “They’re coming back.” Rich watched his console attentively.

“Good. We need to iron things out.” Behind Regona the door opened, it had felt awkward for Kurt to continue from his desk, his presence on the bridge was required simply due to respect.

“I have prepared a data package for them. It leaves out events that need to play out unhindered in their civilisation too.” He handed his tablet to Regina so she could approve of it.

 

“Got it!” Sighing in relief Joanne Carlin fell back in her seat, eight times they had tried to scoop up the debris with the landing gear, seven times she had failed. All the while the hull was moaning under the immense pressure of the ocean above and around. But now the part was trapped in the landing gear compartment. “Super! Let’s get out of here.” In annoyance James too reclined in his seat.

“Steadily, just be sure there are no adverse effects on the hull.” Linus winked from his seat.

Joanne pressed a button while giving the two men a death stare, turning off the engines that kept the craft actively from floating to the surface.

During the mission she had begun to question James’ presence. She and Linus would’ve been enough. A pilot and someone to fix the craft if any malfunctions should pop up.

“Wonder what we’ll find up there. Perhaps they should fit these pods with quantum communication.” Looking at the engineer, James secretly asked himself the same question that Joanne had herself.

“More scoop up jobs, as the Ronin crashed into earth.” Grumbling Joanne slowed their ascend, expecting to be stuck in the cockpit of a pod for a long time.

“What if Ronin seven recovered, destoryed Phoenix and we can be expected to be shot down too? Or if both ships got destroyed?”

James’s scenario frightened Joanne a bit, but she maintained their slowed ascend, still the hull moaned and creaked, but due to being exposed to less stress than before.

 

“We must code our data from this encounter with a timestamp, prohibiting access before you leave for the past.” The commander of the Harpy ship, Cryva, walked next to Regina. Curious about the strange ship from the future she had decided to pay the humans a visit. The data that Kurt had prepared for them was convincing, intricate knowledge of the Harpy society, their struggles with the patriarchists, their history. Even the vessel hidden in martian soil. Regina was giving her an extended tour, explaining the recent jump technology from the ringbased simulation of gravity to the gravity generated on the Phoenix’s spear head section.

“We would be very much in your debt.” Admitting this was hard for Regina, she hated depending on the Harpies, or anyone other than herself. “In case we fail in our enterprise, we have prepared something else.” Reluctantly Regina gave the Harpy a tablet, configured to be handled by the Harpies. “Our alterations on the timeline have caused our kind to develop into a ruthless conqueror, and although you are further developed, they have sought and found a way to cause great damage to your people. Herein contained is the cure for the sickness they used. If we fail, you can still save your people.” There was an ill feeling in Regina’s stomach as she revealed that information, but also a sense of making right a wrong not yet committed.

 

As she examined the tablet Cryva’s eyes widened and then narrowed. Biological warfare was a concept the Harpies had abandoned long ago. Seeing the potential threat from the virus she was appaled. “Thank you, for trusting us to not take steps of our own to prevent the threat to our society your species poses.”

Voicing the doubts Regina had about the entire reveal of information, Cryva held the tablet close to herself. “We must. Our ship can’t withstand another time jump I am told, so if we fail, at least your people will come out of this relatively unscathed.”

Regina’s glasses rung, informing her of the return of the pod to the surface of the ocean. She exchanged a few words with James, reassuring him that they were still alive and in one piece.

Another tidbit of information flashed up on her glasses. Sensors had detected the explosion of Ronin seven, according to the Harpies that had happened, but due to the distance it only now showed up on the sensors.

 

Water poured out of the small opening in the landing gear compartment, the pod hovered above the waves, a relatively calm day had the waves not reach the ship. After most of it had drained, Joanne put the autopilot in charge of returning the pod to Phoenix. Exhausted she was glad to finally let go of the controls.

A second pilot. They should’ve brought a second pilot instead of James and his constant babbling.

Silently the ship darted upwards, cutting through the air and clouds. External view revealed a brilliantly beautiful view of the sun rising above the ocean. As they climbed the light grew brighter, soon the sun lit the north American continent.

“There’s Phoenix. Majestic as always.” Linus leaned forward, pointing at the screen. Sunlight reflected off the hull, giving the illusion that the ship itself was a shining beacon in the darkness of space.

Next to it was the beak shaped, impressive vessel the Harpies had arrived in.

Guided in by the autopilot, soon taken over by guidance from Phoenix, the pod navigated to Phoenix, swung into position, and slowly descended into the landing bay.

The landing gear was opened before the ship could dock, a remote operated drone retrieved the part from the landing bay.

Docking clamps engaged, outside the airlock door, pressure returned to normal, freeing the three people inside the craft from the confines of the pod.

“Hey, you want to hang out tonight?” It was not unusual for James to make a pass at Joanne. They had a history.

“Don’t take it personally, but I want to be alone, and as far as possible from either of you guys.” Winking with a smile, Joanne got out, stumbling into a group of their comrades and friends welcoming them back.

 

Examination of the recovered debris revealed that it was the item that had caused the change in the time line, not some rogue additional piece. The tedious journey back to the strange star was refreshingly uneventful. Kurt truly enjoyed the dull routine of getting up, doing just routine work and checks on the systems, and calling it a day afterwards.

As much as he had fond it taxing in the beginning of his time on Phoenix, he now enjoyed it. Things with Regina were slowly picking up again, as she had been shown the error of her ways with the altered time line.

A break in the routine was coming in the form of the strange star. For the first time in what felt like ages Kurt entered the bridge.

“All systems are prepared and ready. We can go back home.” He reported gleefully, taking up position at Rich’s station, who had surrendered it gladly for the delicate procedure.

“Perfect. Take us home, Doctor Braun.” A small, almost unnoticeable wink in her eye told him that she kept up the professional attitude for show.

 

As in previous encounters with the strange star, the ship rocked, knocking things over. But not again any people, as everyone was prepared for it.

A menacing moan and creak reverberated throughout the ship, sparks flew from an unprotected system, for a few moments the light went out. When they returned, Kurt looked at the console.

Surge protection had protected the systems from any severe damage, so the data was soon coming in again.

“As Linus and I feared, the spearhead section is now permanently fused with the rear.” He gave a synopsis. For once the amount of damage was irrelevant. “We should be,” Kurt picked up on the data coming in and out the QEN. “We are in our time, and time line.” Designations like RV-p296, Equatoria, PK-p222, were swirling around the network.

That was their home.

“Reading a ship. Harpy destroyer.” Kurt felt an adrenaline rush, for a moment he feared an attack, the patriarchists could’ve gotten wind of their time travels and decide to pry information about it from the vulnerable ship. “They’re hailing.” Zhu tweeted in an overly cheerful manner.

“Put them on.” Regina replied, equally cheerful.

“General Marston, I am commander Gavarth, and it is my honor to extend the congratulations of the matriarchy on being the first known time travellers.” She read off a screen. She put down the device she was reading off of. “We thank you for the trust put into us, and our ancestors. Although some might question why you haven’t warned us about tragedies in our culture, or between our people, others understand. Digitalys had to happen, it was bound to happen, if not on that particular colony, then another. The initial misunderstanding between our species, had to happen so a mutual relationship could evolve.” Gavarth paused in her speech. “I can not say I would’ve acted the same way in your situation, I would’ve tried changing history to a beneficial outcome.”

“Trust me, the temptation was there commander, but seeing the implications of one accidental alteration this temptation withered away.” Not having expected a welcoming comittee, Regina was thrown off guard by the presence of the Harpies.

With a bening glance in her eyes the Harpy commander looked at Regina. “Forgive us for this unexpected hold up. It was inconsiderate.”

“It is not inconsiderate, I just had not expected anyone awaiting our return. Perhaps once we have overcome all the ill effects of the latest jump we can continue this conversation?”

Still displaying her benign glance Gavarth nodded. “Perhaps.”

Rings of Fate S5xE1 – Phoenix – Time pt.2

Regina looked to Kurt, devastation in her eyes. The scientist shook his head in disbelief.

“Check the date with theirs, perhaps this is a mistake and we overshot it.” Regina’s hopes banked on the humans out there referring to RV-p296 as earth, and that they traveled too far, into the future.

“The date’s is alright.” Kurt grumbled from Rich’s station, who was pale as chalk in his chair. “We need to turn the QEN off.” He pressed the buttons to do just that. If the Phoenix could link into the network of the people out there, they could do the same.

By the first glimpses caught by Rich, and now Kurt, they were technologically more superior than anything Kurt had ever seen.

Perhaps rivalled only by linkers and of course Harpies.

“Kohaku, lay in a course for an empty patch of space, far away from any POI we know of, perhaps that’ll be a place where they are not. I’ll be supplying you with some antimatter asap.”

Regina had sunk into her chair as well as Rich, pale and devastated, she could only nod in agreement when Toryama looked to her for confirmation of Kurt’s orders.

After a few minutes a signal beeped on Kurt’s console. “We’re out of the worst, attempting to make our fuel.” All the while Kurt flashed angry glances to Regina.

She noticed, but could not react.

 

“Nothing close by.” Kohaku Toryama sighed, it had taken hours to reach necessary levels to engage the engines. “Good.” In the meantime Regina had recovered enough from her shock to resume her duties as General.

“I know now why this has happened.” Rich too had recovered, sitting slumped in his chair, he had studied the database they lifted from the QEN. “It’s our fault.” He added, as the main viewscreen was not required at the time he put the information on that screen. “Japan had entered World War two, but surrendered very quickly. Not because they had any trouble in supplying the war efforts, but because they feared losing their most valuable possession.” An image appeared, it was grainy, age had not treated the image well before it was digitised. It showed some piece of metal in a staff.

“In a coastal shrine, a monk was put to rest. It is believed that he, or his predecessor, had found this piece in the wake of a tsunami. Only during the industrialisation of war had it become clear that the unique relict had more properties to it than just the assumed divine powers.” A clearer image was displayed. Regina gasped at the sight of it. “A piece of the electronics blown out from the lander?”

“Affirmative.” Rubbing his temple Rich got up, wandered around his console to the main viewscreen. “They surrendered, so this would not be destroyed, or fall into enemy hands should the war be lost. By the nineteen fifties they had developed technologies we know from the late 20th century. By the turn of the millennium they had, peacefully, conquered the world, and space exploration was in full swing. Martian colonies and settlements further out in the solar system.”

Quietly Regina listened on as he explained that the new earth, completely different than what they all had known from history classes, skipped the nuclear age for the most part. In her mind she was trying to figure out how earth could be saved from the devastating effects of the neutron star.

 

“…which then led to earth’s salvation. They sped it away, in essence.”

Suddenly alert Regina stared at the screen. “How?”

“Complicated, I don’t understand the science behind it.” Rich had sat back down while elaborating the differences between their timeline and the one they had found themselves in.

Discreetly Regina typed a message to Kurt on her console, soon after she received an automated reply telling her that he was not at his desk, but currently under way repairing systems that had gotten damaged in the time jump, and that he would read the messages as soon as he could.

“But they saved Earth.” Sighing he slumped back into his seat. “Because of debris they found from our pod.”

Sensing a philosophical debate around the corner Regina felt uncomfortable. It was exactly what she had wanted. Earth, and all its denizens were alive and safe. But it was almost exactly what Kurt had warned about.

They had not seized to exist, but the present they had returned to was not theirs. An entirely different world was out there.

“Ma’am?” Zhu sounded alarmed, almost panicked. “There is a ship close by.” Upon her command inputs the screen displayed the data she received on her console. “I believe it’s the Sakura.”

Cursing, Regina sat up straight. “Prepare thrusters, prepare main engines.”

“They could catch up to us, always.” Rich interjected.

 

A moment of silence passed. Regina felt the Adrenaline pump through her system. What should she be doing now?

If the Sakura got wind of who, or what, they were, what that meant for them and their existence, how would they react? How would human civilisation react?

If they learned that they lived only due to an accident?

An accident that the Phoenix intended to correct?

“Open the QEN.” For a moment she hinged her thoughts on the QEN. The quantum entanglement network worked because of quantum particles being entangled, but their entangled particle should be entangled with nothing in this time line. Could it be possible that there were now several particles entangled with theirs?

A headache announced itself.

“They’re gaining on us.” Zhu had managed to overcome her panic. At least in her voice.

“Receiving a radio transmission. It’s in Japanese, translator is working.” Doubling as communication officer Rich listened to his earpiece. “Apparently we are in a restricted zone, for safety reasons. They are demanding we accompany them out of the zone, and identify ourselves.”

Swallowing hard Regina nodded to him, taking up an earpiece herself, as it came equipped with a microphone.

“I am General Regina Marston, from the Martian ship Phoenix. Our vessel is limited in mobility as of now, but we will follow your instructions.”

 

A few minutes of silence passed, as the Sakura positioned itself slightly ahead of Phoenix. Somehow Regona was awaiting an alarm that they armed weapons, but nothing of the sort happened.

“Incoming video transmission.” A man of Scandinavian descent appeared on the screen. He had piercing pale blue eyes. “English? Interesting choice. What are you doing here?” In broken english he asked.

“That would be a very long story.” Offering him a full explanation and access to their database Regina ordered Toryama to follow the Sakura.

 

The message on his tablet puzzled Kurt for a moment. But only for that amount of time. Phoenix was in desperate need of his attention, he had no time to follow Regina down another rabbit hole of hers.

Knowing her, he figured that her sudden interest in the technical details of how earth was saved in this time line could mean only one thing. She wanted to duplicate the procedure.

Be that as it may, he thought to himself, right now we’re not even in conditions to correct the mistakes so far.

How she wanted to do that without harming the timeline again was beyond him. The damage they had caused, proved that tampering with the time line was dangerous and unpredictable.

“Is there a Doctor Kurt Braun in here?” Never had Kurt heard anyone speaking english as bad as the young woman that entered the auxiliary engine maintenance control room. Upon looking up he noticed that the woman was about his age, but had a rather young voice, dark almond eyes and black hair.

“Yes. That’d be me.”

With a broad smile she rushed to him, raised a tablet computer of her own. “Ishimura Kagome.” Along with her introduction she typed in a few commands on her tablet.

“I was assigned to help you in the repairs of your ship.” A monotone voice belched from the device as she began talking in Japanese. With all your advances you still have those monotone auto translators? “Although I am certain I can manage alone, with your help it will be completed much faster.” Equally monotone was the translation of his words.

From her he learned that the Sakura was guiding Phoenix away from the strange star, as it was considered a dangerous place, therefore in a restricted zone. Together with Captain Gunnarson she had arrived on a small ship.

There was a lot of anxiety in the crew of the Sakura, as scans of Phoenix had confirmed that it was the ship that had played a vital role in the salvation of earth.

 

“I theorise that, since we did not get annihilated, but rather ended up in your timeline, you and all you have achieved would survive too if we go back and undo what we have done.” Kurt sat at the control panel. He and Kagome had been talking about the incidents that had brought them together.

“Please forgive me for saying so, but isn’t that an awful risk to take for us? Thirteen billion people don’t want to end up washed away by the change of the past.” Stunned by that number of people, Kurt had to pause. “Aren’t you changing it by not permitting us to correct our mistake? Phoenix in this time line never got built, never journeyed back in time and lost the technology in the ocean. Thus preventing any of this to ever happen?” Now Kurt too felt a headache coming on.

“It seems you ave created a paradox Doctor.” Kagome smiled over to him from the other control panel. Slamming the buttons instead of touching them, Kurt kept quiet.

He had not created anything, he merely had not fought hard enough to prevent the paradox from being created by the careless actions of Regina.

“How is earth?” He tried to bring the conversation to another topic.

“Cold and Dark, but we’re working on relocation.” Kurt did not inquire further. A civilisation of humans, as old as the civilisation of humans he was familiar with, that could speed earth out of the way from a neutron star, would probably relocate the planet, not only its population. “It’s a shame we have to leave earth.”

“How so?” Now he was intrigued.

“It was feasible to give earth a nudge to get it out of the way and fling it out into the universe before the neutron star could destroy it, but we cannot relocate the entire planet. A small colony is all that will remain on our home planet.”

A nudge? Thats how you did it? “We have nothing of our earth, no small colony, only what our ancestors took with them. Seeds, soil and our fellow human beings.”

Unmistakably there was a sad undertone to Kurt’s voice, even he himself noticed. But the  earth that was lying out there, within arm’s reach so to speak, was not the earth his ancestors had left. It was a different earth, transformed by changes in history, prior to the neutron star.

“Why do you want to change it back?”

“As I said, we would not change it per say, but merely create conditions that would allow us to return to our time line.”

Kagome squinted at the scientist. Satisfied he slammed his hand on the console. “We’re done here, excellent work. But there is still more.”

 

Captain Gunnarson pinched his nose, his counter part rubbed her temples. The two had been arguing over the Phoenix’s future course. An armada of ships was descending upon them, estimated to arrive within hours. Science vessels, most of them, curious to study the rather primitive vessel from an acclaimed alternate universe, or time line.

In advance Regina had the majority of Phoenix’s systems disconnected from the network, so any hack via the QEN would only affect the connected systems which included a copy of their database, so the curiosity of the others could be satisfied.

“Your story sounds like science fiction. Time travel! For all we know this ship could’ve been built intentionally flawed and primitive, with falsified databases, so you could be taken for who you claim to be.”

“For what reason would we want to do that? Besides, Captain, you have a ship that is capable of travelling interstellar distances within hours, what takes us weeks. We live in science fiction!”

Again the two commanding officers stared at one another, battling with headaches. Neither could tell if it was exposure to some exotic radiation from the strange star, or from trying to understand implications of time travel. “Let us assume you tell the truth.” An asian man got up from his seat, as far as Regina had understood he was Gunnarson’s right hand man.

“You could go back in time and correct your mistake. The mistake that saved billions of lives. Thirteen billion people, soon fourteen, to be exact. Let us also assume that this would not spell the end for us, which the scientific community suggests it wouldn’t, since you’re all here and have not vanished into oblivion. Why would you want to return to a universe with only a few million people, strewn out on a few colonies, when you can stay here? Billions of people, earth and several colonies, soon a new new home world!” The picture he began painting was a tempting one, Regina had to admit to herself.

Still it was off. There was simply no place for her and the crew of Phoenix. Compared to the other humans in the galaxy they were primitives from their understanding of technology. “You, and your crew, would be treated as heroes! Your technology allowed for our salvation!”

Slowly Regina turned with her chair. “Are you scared, Mister? Because you sound scared. I think the consesus of your scientific community is not reassuring you.”

“Regardless!” Gunnarson slammed his hand on the table. His blond beard trembled a little. “Soon the other ships will be here, they won’t allow you either to return to the strange star, let alone attempt another time jump. Perhaps one day that might be granted, but until then your ship will be studied. First to validate your involvement with our past more thoroughly than our scans could, then to study your technology and your version of history. Until then, I am afraid you will have to stay.”

Surprised Regina stared at the tall blond Captain. His voice and demeanour told her that this decision was final.

And also, that it was not his decision.

With a nod she agreed to the terms.

For now, at least.

The two men took their leave, leaving only their engineering chief behind to keep working with Kurt on the repairs, but not without expressing their desire to meet the people involved with the landing on earth on their next visit to Phoenix.

 

Left alone to think about the situation Regina stared blankly at the wall, her feet on the table. The door sounded softly as someone entered. “General?” Doctor Maryjane Hutzinger made her presence known.

“Yes?” Unable to hide her annoyance with the disturbance, Regina did neither turn, nor take her feet off the table.

“We need to return, soon.” The, by comparison short, woman sat down next to Regina. “I have here two entries from their databases. One is the original that your first officer lifted from the Sakura while they had no idea who we were, or that we were even here. The other is one I took from the systems connected to the QEN.”

A tablet was pushed to Regina’s feet. “I already have a headache. Reading would make it worse. What’s your point?”

“They’re lying. They accessed the database and washed it clean.” Intrigued, but still feeling powerless Regina finally turned her head to the scientist. “They landed on RV-p296, just like the Equatorians did. The clean version does not mention anything about the natives. Not a word. The other one however,” Maryjane nodded to the tablet. From Phoenix’s own database the Sakura had accessed they knew that mankindn in the other time line had landed on RV-p296. Phoenix and her crew knew there were natives.

Hastily Regina read through the lines that had been redacted. “They slaughtered them?”

“More or less.” Maryjane flipped to another entry in the database. “They too encountered the Harpies. At first they suffered heavy losses, but soon they developed a weapon.”

Stunned Regina felt that everyone in the timeline they found themselves in should wear a goatee. “Biological warfare.” Disgusted the General straightened up her posture.

“Harpies and their ships share common DNA, they introduced a weaponised version of bird flu, delivered with tiny projectiles. It is assumed the Harpies had lost half of their fleet, and about a quarter of their population.”

Alarmed Regina inched to the edge of her seat, realising that they would never be let go. Mankind in this time line was not a group of people who let go of something they wanted or already had. Even the Equatorians avoided the natives of RV-p296, and those were refugees from a destroyed earth.

“They also deleted information concerning technology in the database. Perhaps to keep us ignorant of potential weaknesses, or to keep us from upgrading Phoenix to be a match for them.” Hearing this Regina guessed it was both of those reasons.

“Excellent work Doctor Hutzinger.” Getting up she handed the tablet back. “Set up a fake network of key systems connected to the QEN. In case they want to take us over, let them think they can.” Saluting Maryjane too got up, leaving the room shortly behind the General.

 

Lying underneath heavy parts of the ship was never a favourite of Kurt’s, especially while repairing things. Constantly he had the delusion or fear that dust, or something else was raining down on his face.

With Kagome assisting him he at least took comfort in the fact that she could always hand him tools if he needed them.

An hour ago the roles had been reversed, she had to unscrew a plate in order to change a fried circuit board. Now it was his turn.

After being stranded in the past for a few weeks he assessed the damages and could tell which ones needed replacement. So he had them made in advance, instead of patching things on the go until later on.

“I admire your ingenuity.” The dull monotone translator voice broke his concentration, however briefly. “The prefabrication of spare parts? I didn’t want to wait, again.”

Over the course of hours they had repaired and replaced circuits, and other systems that Kurt didn’t want to entrust to the engineering crews.

“Not only that, but the fact you have the capacity to fabricate these things, with your,” she stopped.

“Our what? Limited technology?”

“Yes.” He had not needed the translator to understand that.

Outside of the alcove in which Kurt was working another person approached. By the sound of the steps Kurt already recognised Regina.

In a dry, yet commanding tone she asked Kagome to leave the two alone. Slowly Kurt reappeared from underneath the conductor he was servicing.

“What’s it this time?” Incapable of hiding his frustration with the strange ideas she had in the recent past Kurt grabbed another screwdriver than the one he held in his hand, before he slipped back under.

“Do you see any way we can escape them?” Bowed down to him Regina spoke as quietly as possible, so no one could listen in.

“I should ask you, I was repairing the bloody ship.”

“Their technology, study it!” She hissed slipping a tablet into his pocket. “They are trying to whitewash their history, and keep us from studying their tech! They have commited genocide on the natives of RV-p296, developed biological WMDs against the Harpies, and I don’t know what other dark secrets they are hiding!” His forehead in deep wrinkles Kurt reemerged again.

There was no need to ask verbally if she was serious. Her gaze told him that she was.

Although shocked and appaled by the news, Kurt could not say he was that surprised. The exodus to Mars and especially to RV-p296 had made mankind in their timeline a little more humble. They understood survival, and letting others live.

Mankind in this time line had gotten a push in technology. A push they were not ready for. Plus they had all of mankind behind them as they ventured out into space.

Those advances in technology, and the reassurance of getting Backup whenever needed, made them arrogant, and dominant. Much to the disadvantages of the RV-p296 natives and Harpies. Although Regina explained to him that more peaceful movements have filled society and government in the last decades, he too was certain that they would not be let go from the grasp of the fleet that was coming towards them.

“In case you were wondering, Phoenix is ready enough to make a renewed time jump. Taking auxiliaries offline protected them, but I’m worried about structural integrity, especially the clamps holding the head and body together.” Wearing an expression that warned Regina from recless actions, as they could easily get stranded either in the alternate time line, the past or yet another changed timeline, Kurt went back under the conductor, replacing the circuit board.

 

Replacing the conductor circuits was the last of his actions, Kurt then retreated to study the database given to him by Regina. It was apparent to him that they needed to destroy the data in it as soon as they returned to their own time line, as to not turn into what they tried to get away from.

Overpowered for their own understanding.

In retrospect mankind was overpowered for their own understanding when the first atom bomb was constructed, what followed was an era of potential annihilation, due to mankind’s lack of maturity for the power they wielded.

 

“I can’t find a weakness we could exploit.” Throwing the tablet on the table in frustration, Maryjane got up. “Me neither, but there is intriguing stuff in here.” Leaning on his left hand, Kurt scrolled through the database with his right. “Too bad we can’t,” he stopped, narrowing his eyes to mere slits. “An EMP could blind them long enough.”

Putting on an inquiring expression Maryjane reached for her tablet again.

“They skipped the atomic age, they also never had the Orion-class ships in use, ever. Propelling those with the nukes creates and EMP, an EMP that our technology is shielded against. Phoenix doesn’t have that form of propulsion, but we have the same shielding around most of our systems. If we shut down the spearhead and navigate from the ring section, we can get away!”

Staring at the screen herself Maryjane cursed herself for not noticing that little detail, but the intricate workings of the ships that had brought mankind to the stars were not her speciality.

 

“Receiving a hail from Sakura.” Rich nervously drummed his fingers on the casing of his console. “Ignore it.” Replied Regina, biting her fingernails, a habit she had parted with in her late teens, but now picked up again. The fleet was twenty minutes away. Well within hailing distance. “They’re trying to open a channel through a hack in the QEN.”

“Open it then.” Coldly calculating the deceit Regina lowered her hand.

“Our operative on your ship hasn’t called in as scheduled, please elaborate.”

“Bogged down with work, I suppose?” All outgoing signals had been scrambled on Regina’s orders, Kagome had been taken into custody. After questioning her it was revealed that neither Sakura, nor any of the other ships would bargain for her safety or return. There was hence no reason to try that.

“Are you sure? We can’t contact her either.” Captain Gunnarson’s expression hardened. “She and Doctor Braun are working in heavily shielded areas of the ship, perhaps that shields your communication attempts?”

Fifteen minutes until arrival of the fleet. All vital systems of the spearhead, which lacked the EMP shielding, were ready to be shut down. “I will give them a call so she contacts you, it might take a couple of minutes.”

The first of the ships came into visual range. Impressed by the majestic vessels, that resembled flying fortresses, capable of decimating Phoenix in the blink of an eye, Regina turned to Rich. “As soon as they’re all in range, punch it.”

Simply giving her confirming nod he continously watched the distance of the approaching ships. “You might want to have them come a lot closer in order for this to work properly. Most their systems work on optics, but the interconnections are vulnerable.” Regina had forgotten that Kurt and Maryjane were listening in over an open com line, preparing everything for the coup.

“Alright,” grumbling she nodded to Rich, who returned the nod. “they will be in for a surprise.”

 

Majestic ships, designed with an aerodynamic asthetic in mind, slowed into positions around the Phoenix. For a brief moment Regina felt as if they had some heroic role. As if they were giving them an honorary parade, not one to ensure the small and inferior ship stayed where it was supposed to.

“Rich, do it.” Regina said. Most of Phoenix’s crew had taken refuge in the ring sections, only the bridge crew and some other essential personnel remained.

“They’re calling again, trying to force a channel on us.”

“Let them see darkness.” Smug faced Rich Bauman followed that order, although they themselves would be affected too.

After he pressed the displayed button the bridge went dark, gravity, created artificially, too went away.

“I completely had forgotten about the gravity.” Regina grumbled, a flashlight in her hand, while awkwardly trying to buckle her seat belt with the other.

Already buckled in Rich shrugged it off, as he had thought of it.

 

The blinking position lights on the other ships went dark, as went the lights out in the few windows there were. In the auxiliary bridge in Phoenix’s alpha ring, Kurt watched the display of primitive ingenuity overcoming much more developed adversaries.

“We follow the procedure laid out.” Colonel Oskar Drake announced the obvious, the navigator pressed the buttons that had been preprogrammed with the maneuvers necessary to get Phoenix away from the armada and back to the strange star.

Within moments the ship performed a jump away from both armada and star, before turning around at the fastest way possible, rocking all people aboard Phoenix around. Then again the engines engaged, bringin Phoenix to the assigned coordinates.

“I’m reading a ship on our tail, they have armed their weapons.” The sluggish dialect of the region on Mars where the officer obviously came from made it sound like ‘weapins’, Kurt noticed, with a refreshing reminder of home, was it the Olympus Mons dialect the man uttered.

“Distance?”

“Out of range.” The officer replied, Kurt looked at his console. They still needed a few minutes. Originally it was the plan to jettison the lifepod with Kagome in it at the last possible second, but it was worth a try. Even if they did not stop to collect her, they at least would slow down to get a good reading of the lifepod, if only to ensure that Phoenix was not hurling bombs in their direction.

A possibility they had both considered and prepared.

With the touch of a button the small lifepod got ejected from the beta ring, immediately dropping out of the wake of Phoenix.

“They’re slowing, marginally, resuming.” Damn. Like that the lifepod was pushed out of the way of their pursuer by their powerful deflector field.

“Prepare the wake stoppers.” The Colonel turned to Kurt, who saluted sloppily paired with a sigh.

Although he thought the actions of mankind in this time line were wrong, he still had a hard time doing harm to other people. Imagine them as evil aliens. Just imagine them as evil aliens. He pressed a few buttons on his console.

Tiny lifepods disengaged from beta, flung into their pursuers path. Filled with a container of highly corrosive acid, acid that had to be suspended in a magnetic field and artificial zero gravity because it would also eath through the container. The magnetic field holding the acid in place would react with the field created by the pursuer’s deflector, pass through and spill the acid on the ship’s hull, creating damage to force them to either stop or slow. “Do we know which ship we are dealing with here?”

“It’s the,” Kurt had to pause. Was it poetic? “Ronin seven.” A Samurai warrior without a master, undoubtedly, those were romanticised in this timeline too. The sensor readings from right before they started their grand escape, revealed that the Ronin seven had been sitting in the shadow of another ship, shielded by it from the effects of the EMP.

“It is working!” A victorious glee was in the voice of the woman reporting.

“Good.” Colonel Drake replied, without the gleeful tone, just like Kurt he disliked the idea of harming other humans. “ETA?” He turned to Kurt.

“A few more minutes. Everything is set to go.” The release valves on the antimatter containment chambers were ready to be activated on the press of a button, they just needed to reach the position they had before.

 

Once again Kurt stared at the image on the viewscreen.

The main bridge had once again power, and was in control of the ship, but he remained on the auxiliary bridge with it’s crew, just in case they were required to take control again.

 

In variations of blue, dominated by the deeply saturated indigo of the oceans, the waters of earth welcomed Phoenix. Mossy and pine green colors played out on land where the icesheet was not covering the ground, framed and intermittent by patches and strips in brown and beige.

“We have the course of the lander on record, starting the operation.” The messages of what was going on the bridge did not faze Kurt in the least. He kept on staring at the ancestral home in front of him.

Yes, he had to admit to himself, it would be great to save it, but at what cost? The gruesome nature of mankind could not handle technology that far beyond their understanding. Somewhere in the nicked archive he had glimpsed the term linker. While the operation to retrieve the lost technology was underway, he retired to his quarters to read up on that.

 

Inside his quarters he found relaxing darkness, the air was somewhat stale, but that too was reassuring and relaxing for a change.

“Doctor Braun!” As the light went on, Tracy jumped from the couch. She wore a shirt that belonged to his son Leopold. Quickly she grabbed it by the hemline pulling it down to cover herself completely, Kurt turned around, facing away from her. “Sorry, I should have announced myself.” He mumbled. Behind him Tracy hastily dressed.

“No, sir, I should not have wandered out here barely dressed.”

Letting his shoulders hang he calmed her, she was not at fault, he barely spent any time in his quarters anymore, thus she could easily get the impression that he didn’t really live there anymore.

“Leo and I were reading that database, it got late and he fell asleep, I then went out here, and fell asleep later too.” A fully dressed Tracy edplained what she had been doing out in the living room. Knowing his son, Kurt did not need to ask how they procured the database. “What did you find in there?”

“We read on the linker war.” How convenient. He sat down on the couch, taking up the tablet that lay there. “They were defeated eventually, mankind has nicked the counter program from a defeated Harpy ship, and laced it with a virus.” Tracy sat down next to him, obviously still nervous about her previous state. “Turning them back?”

Knowing the answer he still had hoped to hear that, that was the case.

“No. Committing genocide on them.” her voice became dampemed by a sudden onset of sadness. “They had programmed the Virus to send out a message using the infected host, they then counted the incoming messages. Eight million, six hundred thrity five thousand, four hundred twenty five people were murdered. Remotely, in cold blood.”

More linkers had died than there were overall humans in their own timeline’s present.

“Tragic. But all the more reason to fix our mistake.” Tracy wanted to reply when a screeching alarm went off.

Kurt’s glasses rang.

“Come to the bridge!”