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Once back in the command centre he was informed that the DEHuman ship had powered down weapons and reassumed its previous position, ready to collect the others leaving the Horizon. “I have an estimate of the loss.” 

Raising an eyebrow as he sat down Frederick waved for Bettina to go on. “Nearly a third of our population.”

Struck by the immense number of people he would lose if he let the linkers go, Frederick took a few deep breaths. 
Who knew that in their war ridden, and slight undermanned, population there were so many linkers? Was it that the maximum number of permitted children per couple had been raised to four? Or did the people need the escape mechanism? 
“Guess we won’t need the implants for a long time then.” He grumbled, opening a channel to the beta ring’s speaker and public broadcast system. “This is Admiral Doherty speaking, to all non linked individuals in the beta ring. I strongly suggest for you to leave, as the separation process will commence shortly.” 

Before he could give the command an alarm began beeping. 

“Bufferzone is disengaging!” Lieutenant Fohler couldn’t help but feel utterly helpless, she found herself locked out of every control that the beta ring had to offer. 

“Can’t halt it, they locked us out.” 

Resigned Frederick leaned in his chair. “Figures.” He grumbled. Behind him the doors opened, Jane entered, intercom had been disrupted, so she came on foot from the infirmary. “Sir, I bring you the grim news of Admiral Grienberg’s death. Apparently the shock dart had caused a heart attack, from which he didn’t recover, after a second heart attack some ten minutes ago he died.” 

“We’re loosing too many good people today.” He nodded, “take that station there.” He pointed Jane to Joleen’s former post. 

“Buffer pods are orbiting as planned. It seems the linkers at least will leave us with that much.” 

“Not funny.” Jane commented, immediately she put her hand over her mouth. Bettina was a superior officer after all. “I agree.” The Admiral grumbled. He has gone to another station, was observing the situation as well. 

One by one the landing crafts disengaged from beta, floated over to the Ark1, where they stacked up on the other parts already lifted from Explorer. 

“They’re taking more than allotted.” Jane had familiarised herself with the planned evacuation while she had stayed at Solomon’s side, of course only after the former Admiral had given her the access codes to the secret files. 

“Can we stop it? No, so we have to watch and see what they leave us with.” Still grumbling Frederick wanted to shoot the Ark1 out of the sky.

But he had nothing in his arsenal that would do the job. 

“Where are you from Mulgrew?” Almost sounding disinterested the three watched the same data on the main viewscreen. A lieutenant commander entered the room, and took post at the security console. “Beta, sir. Born and raised. That’s my neighbourhood floating off.”

“There will not be much of a beta ring left after today, Private.” Lieutenant Commander O’toole too turned his gaze at the main screen. “All sections are secure Sir, except, that of course.” He nodded to the ships leaving the beta ring. “Emitters are in place, once they leave and are out of range, activation will commence.” 

“Good work O’toole. Stand ready.” 

The last ships disengaged, leaving only the central garden and the first two decks outwards. Preprogrammed the buffer ships docked again. 

Far from where the new surface of the beta ring was. “I hate these creeps.” 

“Me too sir, me too.” Jane concurred with O’toole’s words, as did Fohler. 
A few minutes passed after the docking of the bufferpods and the last ships on the Ark1 had finished. O’toole had his finger poised over the button to activate the emitters. 

It was a field that would probably kill every linker hidden amongst their midst. Only their prisoner and the harpies were shielded from the emitters. 

“Sir! Look!” Fohler pointed at the screen, some of the ships that had docked with the Ark1 began to break apart, but in a strange, orderly fashion. “They’re breaking it apart.” Assuming to mold the components and alloys into new equipment Frederick watched in awe how fast and efficient the linkers were.
“No sir, they already broke it down. That which we see here is behaving weirdly.” Jane enhanced the image. “Nanotechnology?” 

“Yes, for now it is a mass of tiny robots, behaving like a controlled liquid. Once the desired form is reached, the machines bond together on a molecular level in the new configuration.” Looking at her with disbelief in his eyes, Frederick had to acknowledge the genius in both her, and the plan of the linkers. 

“What will they produce? Doctor Mulgrew, I presume?” He put the emphasis on the title. “Master of Nanotechnology, sir. Hard to say, looks like a massive ring,” the moment she had said it both she and the Admiral knew that they had just increased their power capabilities. 

“Antimatter!” They yelled simultaneously. As if they had given the other ship a que, it vanished in a bright flash. 
It took a second or two, before the alarms went off again. Not the antimatter alarms, but proximity alerts. “It’s the harpys again, we would’ve seen them sooner with the whiskers intact.” Fohler reported her sensor readings. 

“Great. The vultures come.” Frederick shook his head.

“Weapons cold, they’re hailing on the frequencies provided by Admiral Grienberg.” Fohler seemed more than relieved about these circumstances. “Accept their call.” 
After formal introductions were over Frederick begged the Harpy commander to send the program to inhibit the link, not only to the Horizon, but the Destiny. He had to force himself to give up their position in space, and admit their existence to the Harpy in the first place. In the long run he figured the linkers posed the greater threat.

There was no reply from the Harpy ship for agonising moments. 

“We agree to give you the information you seek, as the threat from the conjoined minds outweigh the difference between our species.” The computerised voice, he was all too familiar with from Hylia, gave the reply from the Harpy commander. 

Thanking her with quite a lot of relief showing in his voice, Frederick turned to Jane, his joy was dampened by the fact that he didn’t find Joleen there.

“New Whiskers are ready, sir. We can launch them right away.” Jane tried not to feel offended by the sudden diminish in the Admirals joyful expression. 

“When the Harpy left.” He nodded, forcing himself to smile harder, attempting to mask his true feelings.

“I doubt that they’ll reach Destiny in time.” As the transmission from the Harpyies was received Fohler couldn’t help but muse about the situation.

“I believe that there is hope. The Harpies have more experience in that mode of transportation, plus, the superior engines, and thus can outrun the linkers.” O’toole replied. Before the Admiral could say a word of his own, the Harpy ship sent a final message that they’d attempt to reach Destiny in time, before they too vanished.

“Alright, we’ll know soon enough. O’toole, activate the emitters. Mulgrew, launch the Whiskers. It’s time to end today’s shift. It has been a long day.” 

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