Small puffs of smoke rose from the target, tiny, smoldering holes near the centers as the source. Simultaneously with a warning tone from the speakers in the room, the lights changed. All the men and women put their guns down.

“Good,” a lieutenant took note of their progress, “recruits, I hope none of you will ever need the next practice sheets.”

He pressed a button and the images at the end of the shooting range changed imto the shape of what had become known as a Harpy. “Lieutenant Shepherd?”

“Miss Kharkova?” Gant slowly strode to her. “Are we truly going to face these creatures, sir?”

“Who knows? We would like to have you prepared in case we ever do meet them.” He pressed a button on his tablet. Again a tune sounded, lights changed.

With silence as their companion the recruits started shooting the targets, after a while the targets changed again, and turned human shaped. Gant Shepherd told them again that he hoped they’d never need the practice, but that they ought to be ready.


“I fired guns before.” Dana sighed sitting down in the locker room with her female colleagues. “This is entirely different.”

“You don’t say?” Julia Hopes, her bunkmate sat down as well.

“Most disturbing is the lack of recoil. With a real gun you felt the destructive force you unleashed upon your target. In your fingers, palm, wrist, lower and upper arm, ellbow. There was a loud noise, letting you know that destructiveness has been unleashed. With these ray guns, nothing. No noise, no recoil, no smell.”

“No re-aiming.” Julia noted an advantage with a wink and a smile. “Besides, there is a little recoil when you fire the darts, and a hiss!”

Dismissing that notion with a hiss of her own Dana Kharkova got up, finished changing.

She stopped at the door on her way out. “Are you going to see him?”

“Nah I’m good.”


A plain white ceiling greeted him. Every year he was woken for a brief moment. A week, people flocked to hear his soothing words and his insight on things.

Afterwards he was returned to the cryogenic chamber for the rest of the year. “It is early this year.” He sighed before anyone could greet him.

“How did you know?” A nurse approached the table.

“I have seen that ceiling now every year since we left earth. The computer simulates seasons in the lighting. This is earlier than the last times.”

Returning his benign smile the nurse still felt uneasy. “It’s Earth.” She needed not to say any more than that for him to understand. Presumably all life on earth had already died from intense radation from the neutron star, but now it was being torn apart. If anyone or anything had survived in some bunker, now it would die for sure.

“You are the great Rhama, unifying various religions and philosophies. We need your solace ahead of time.”

He nodded, brought up a hand to his greying beard. “Just give me some time to get my bearings again. Yes?”

After discovering the neutron star and its course that would annihilate earth, various sects and cults seceded from various religions. Christianity, Moslems, Jews and Buddhists had brought in their philosophies and surprisingly it had culminated in the new religion. Although most factions held on to their original traditions, all accepted his counsel, and that of his predecessors.

Stretching he decided to proceed with the wake up protocol, put forth my medical experts and his own experience.

In the mirror he checked his face for wrinkles he was not familiar with, noticed his beard had not gotten too grey yet. He scratched the shaved head of his, hair had regrown since the last time he had shaved it two years earlier. I don’t want that back again. He remembered his thick black curls, reaching for a razor.