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reckoning

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Reckoning

/ˈrɛk(ə)nɪŋ/

noun

2. the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds.

“the fear of being brought to reckoning”

synonyms: retribution, fate, doom, nemesis, judgement, punishment, what is coming to someone

“the terrible reckoning that he deserved”



image_from_reckoning_gus5.jpg

NOTICE: This is a first draft in progress an Open Writing Exercise it is being used as a basis for a comicbook conversion of the story and is not intended for re-publication or re-distribution - When final editing is done I expected that this text will be released under a CC license or something similar, so please refrain from copying by any means till this is in place, just read it here thanks!

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Reckoning

by

Einar Petersen

Copyright and all rights reserved



Part One – A terrible mistake!

Click here to see the storyboard for my comicbook conversion of chapter 1 on Patreon

Christopher Edge was pleased, he had just blasted a watchtower on his way to work and Red Faction was scrambling for cover.

CowTow had taken down the Aruba Garrison singlehandedly, not a feat to take lightly and the com chatter was thick, ecstatic and filled with gloating remarks about Red Faction and their dismal performance during the last interval.

The Purple Haze Brigade were kicking butt that much was certain.

Sure it had become a minor obsession, the wife did not like his odd nightly detours, nor the fact that Christopher was so preoccupied with something that she could not see he in any way could gain anything from in the long run.

Ross looked upon it differently, to him his father was a hero of humanity and he could not wait to grow older, have his own handheld and getting himself engrossed in the battle for humanity, it would be at least two more years his dad had said before he would be allowed to have his own handheld, life as a 7 year old sometimes sucked.

Christopher smiled smugly, looked around the metro. A ragtag punk dressed in camos eyed him as he looked up from his mobile. Christopher felt a shiver, were they following him ?

The ragtag punk looked down again and started flicking and waiving his fingers on and in front of the screen seemingly engrossed in some social media interaction. Christopher sighed with relief.

Was he getting paranoid ? Was his wife right ? Was this a complete waste of time and life or did his missions serve a higher purpose…

The metro came to a halt and as the midway stop tune sounded Christopher suddenly realized he had gone one stop too far.

Shit!, Going to be late for the plane and the meeting in Denver, he looked up, people had started pouring into the already crowded cabin.

He resolutely jumped from his seat, rushed and squeezed his way through the cabin and managed to get out just in time before the doors slid shut.

He exhaled heavily and looked for the track crossing.

To his great surprise the ragtag punk was also on the station deck, not too far from him… it seemed impossible that he could have gotten off so quickly without creating an even greater disturbance than Christopher had done, but there he was standing there seemingly unfazed by the hustle and bustle of the busy station deck.

In his mind Christopher imagined the cursing and swearing that had to be going on back in that cabin, he had been relatively careful as he got out, had pushed a bit. But that punk… holy hell, suitcases, backpacks and people had to be jumbled all over that train.

He looked down. Better not make any further eye contact he thought and hurried towards the escalator, if he was lucky he could still make that plane.









Vancouver airport was at it's usual, still security theater at its utmost, now due to these terrible eco terrorists, what would be next, an alien invasion and shapeshifters hiding in our midst?

Christopher shuddered at the thought of these imaginary threats the establishment came up with in order to feed, now not only the industrial military complex, but now a new and burgeoning security sector commonly referred to as the Security Consortium, hungrily eying hard earned money of every man woman and child still holding on to a job in what seemed like an everlasting recession.

Money Christopher thought bitterly, stolen straight out of the pockets of every honest hard working person out there, just taken without remorse by corrupt and power obsessed politicians and their corporate lobbyists handlers, he grit his teeth.

Christopher was traveling lightly today, only his briefcase with the DocuVault™ and his trusty NiXen™ handheld.

The security officer eyed him suspiciously as he looked at the readout from the fingerprint and iris scan, flipped his DocuVault™ around a couple of times before putting it back on the conveyor along with the NiXen™ and Christopher's bag.

“Business trip eh?”, the officer asked nodding at his belongings as he put them back in the bag.

“Yup Denver”, Christopher said and to alleviate the situation added “First time”, as if he needed that, his travel history in it's entirety would already have been shown on screen and the fact that he'd never been in Denver would have been highlighted to the officer as he was passing through the inspection portal.

“Have a nice trip”, the officer said dispassionately and was on to the next travelers belongings.

Christopher began regretting having had that latté on the way, did he have time to find a toilet, his bladder was killing him. He should have stuck to his breakfast veggie juice and left it at that, but that latté had been too tempting.

Shortly before the gate he finally found an unoccupied toilet booth. He had never really been able to stand at the urinal and relieving himself, always thinking whether if anyone was looking or not, comparing sizes and any other odd thought jumping into his head when forced to be standing in a public men's room.

He knew he shouldn't worry just because of that one freak incident, but his whole adult life in many ways had been one big avoidance on the issue.

He unzipped, it splashed wonderfully as he aimed straight for the black spot just under the waterline at the back of the toilet, at least he did not show any signs of prostate problems even though he had passed into his forties.

Moments later he was done, zipped and flushed. He opened the door and to his surprise found that the toilet was empty except to his surprise a stewardess seemingly putting on some lipstick.

He looked down, the woman was very beautiful, “Uhm… this is the mens room”, he politely said and went over to the sink to wash his hands.

“I know”, she answered with a smile.

“Erhm”, Christopher mumbled not sure what to reply to that.

He dried his hands and headed for the door.

The stewardess stepped out in front of him.

“I wouldn't go out there”, she said with an odd look upon her face.

Christopher edged to the side in order to pass her sideways. She put her hand onto the wall blocking his sidestepping.

“I said I wouldn't go out there”, she repeated sternly.

“Would you please get out of my way, I have a plane to catch”, he said gently putting his hand on her arm.

“You do, but not the one you think”, the stewardess answered putting her other hand on top of Christopher's arm swinging him about, kicking the back of his knee with her pointy shoes reflexively landing Christopher on his knees before he had the faintest idea of what was going on.

“I'm sorry, but you will understand”, the stewardess said jabbing Christopher with something that felt like a syringe in the neck.

Christopher was about to answer something back in amazement, then his vision blurred for a moment and then his mind went black.

The stewardess opened the toilet door and two men dressed as baggage handlers with an oversized suitcase on wheels slid inside.

“Bring him to the compound, I will meet up with you there”, she said and left the two men and headed for the exit.

Moments later a call for Christopher Edge blared over the speakers calling his to the gate.

At the gate Ronald Chamberlain was pleading with the lady behind the counter, “Come on lady, can you please get me on the plane, my father is dying, I have to see him one last time, I need to ask him to forgive me for being such an arsehole all those years”.

The lady at the counter felt really bad for the guy, she was not supposed to do this as Christopher Edge was listed as a priority passenger, but after eying down the hallway and after having gone to the toilet after locating him via the mobile tracking system finding only his mobile lying there on the edge of the sink, she came back to the gate.

She fidgeted with Mr. Edge's mobile for a moment and then made a decision that she would regret for the rest of her life.

She nervously looked around the now empty gate room, there was no way in hell this Edge fellow would make it in time for the gate auto lock.

“I really shouldn't”, she said still peering down the hallway in case someone suddenly came storming down the isle.

“Hurry, get on that plane, seat 39B, go!”, she said pressing the button to open the small pass through gates between the real gate and Ronald Chamberlain.

“I will remember this for the rest of my life”, Ronald said.

“From the bottom of my heart thank you for giving me this opportunity”, he added as he rushed by her towards Flight ARJ-3467 headed for Denver.




Part Two - Awakening!

Click here to see the storyboard for my comicbook conversion of chapter 2 on Patreon

“The ECO-TERRORIST Group - The Free GAIA Confederation, has claimed responsibility for the crashing of Denver bound Flight ARJ-3467 yesterday morning. A mid air explosion has sent wreckage down over an area of several square kilometers, no bodies have been recovered and investigators find that it will be unlikely that they ever will be”. The reporter was droning on about the tragedy of a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and how Prime Minister Soerenson promised that his government would not rest till the guilty ones had been brought to justice, an attack on Canada was an attack on the world and leaders from around the entire globe chimed in with their support against these heinous criminals.

His hands shook “Stop it enough of this bullshit!” Christopher yelled and hammered his fist into the wooden desk.

“I wish”, a female voice said, she had entered the room while the newscast had been running and Christopher hadn't noticed.

“If they were really interested in the environment. Do you really think they would blow up a plane, pollute the athmosphere and litter square miles with debris?”

“You really want to know who did this ?”, she asked Christopher who through his haze recognized the woman. It was the stewardess.

“You!”, he began and got up from his seat abruptly. A heavy hand pushed him back into the chair as fast as he had gotten up.

“I am really sorry for your situation, but we were worried for your life, intel had suggested someone intended to harm you during the flight, we had no idea of them being that desperate”

“What the hell are you talking about? Harm me?”, Christopher barked while thoughts of his wife and child hurled through his mind. He wanted to know if they were safe but the less these people knew about him the better, clearly they had him confused with someone else.

“This”, the stewardess said tapping Christophers DocuVault™ lightly, “This has the potential to change the world, I think you know it, that's why you were going to Denver, you thought you'd found your angel investors that would allow you to continue your research, is this really the big energy breakthrough everyone has been waiting for?”.

Christopher swallowed, how did she know what was in the DocuVault™ no trace of this research had ever left the labs over the wire, everything had traversed from safe location to safe location via secure document pouches, he was 100% sure no data had been leaked from him.

“I have no idea what you are talking about”, Christopher began. At that very moment the doors opened and a high ranking officer stepped in he wore an insignia Christopher had never seen before,

The badge on his arm said TDF, Terran Defense Force in gold letters seated above a logo with a larger yellow dot and a blue dot embedded in a shield, half blue and half yellow.

The uniformed people in the room saluted. The officer a Rear Admiral if the Navy Style dress and number of insignia on his collar were an indication of his rank.

“I bet you have been wondering the heck out of yourself as to why you are here, and I am sure you're plenty pissed off by what is going on, and probably you're also scared for your life. Don't be, we mean you no harm whatsoever, everything that has happened has been to ensure your safety, but you need to prepare yourself for I believe even for a smart man like yourself this will be quite the mouthful to swallow and I suspect you will have a hard time to believe what I am about to divulge to you”.

Christopher remained silent, his mind raced frantically, what the hell was going on. The Rear Admiral cleared his throat.

“Forgive me, how rude of me… Rear Admiral Rasmussen, Terran Defense Force, a pleasure to meet you Mr. Edge”, the Rear Admiral reached out his hand to Christopher.

Whilst reluctant Christopher extended his hand, the Rear Admiral had a firm grip as did Christopher, a streak of satisfaction flashed across the Rear Admirals face as if Christopher had just passed some type of test.

The Rear Admiral composed himself and began.

“For many years, generations in fact a war for control has been waged, you have heard about breakthrough after breakthrough, breakthroughs that seem to fizzle out with a promise of going commercial within a few years, I mean you yourself have commented on countless energy breakthrough technologies until you became tired off it and began looking into an developing that technology by yours. We all have heard promises of cures for diseases like cancer decade after decade get another announcement that cancer will be cured in the next 10 years, only to have no such thing happen after which a new bold statement about a cure in the next decade is made, and you wonder how many times can these bright scientists be so wrong on their estimates”.

“Sure it is part overconfidence, but believe me acts of direct sabotage on human endeavors is taking place and have been taking place for possibly millennia, Tesla just to name one was in the process of offering free energy to humanity and was ridiculed, bankrupted and had his research facilities burned down for 'inexplicable' reasons, Tesla headed research in breakthrough technology that is still actively being debunked by mainstream media, just see the attempts of suppressing electric universe findings, showing how electric currents and energy are at the heart of our existence, and how many accept that matter is merely a projection of force to a point in spacetime, a force that our senses are sensing, and something our brains another construct is merely interpreting ? ”

The Rear Admiral paused. “I can see DocuVault™ - What do you think the consequence will be if you are allowed to expand on your research ? Finish it ?”

“Cheap energy…”, Christopher answered.

“Cheap, try free. The principles you are just about to uncover are so simple that virtually anyone using off the shelf components would be able to build an energy reactor to power your home…”

There was a disturbance, someone whispered something in Suzi's ear and she rushed of.

The Rear Admiral noticed Christopher's eyes following her till she was out of the room.

“She's a good girl, trust me, she had your best interests at hand and I know you have been reluctant to speak freely, I also want to convey my personal guarantee that we are doing everything in our power to keep your child and wife safe.

Christopher swallowed a lump, seemed they had him exactly where they wanted.

“Do you recognize this man ?” the Rear Admiral asked pointing to an image on the wall projector.

Christopher's gaze flicked to the wall projector, it was the ragtag guy from the morning of his abduction.

The Rear Admiral eyed Christoper's expression and gestured causing the images to change.

“How about this fellow”, the Rear Admiral asked.

Christopher was somewhat startled to see a man whom Christoper had seen in the metro countless times over the years, someone he never had managed to strike up a conversation with but whom he considered a nodding buddy.

“They've been following me?”, Christopher replied.

“Yes, but not in way you think”, the Rear Admiral retorted. Christopher did not answer, he was fuming, felt betrayed this was entirely outrageous, after the spying scandals and the subsequent seeming cleanup of the behaviour of the worlds intelligence services this stuff was still going on.

“How much you know about holographic projection”, the Rear Admiral asked.

“I don't know, projecting lifelike imagery on stage at a concert, song and dance functionality at this point!”, Christopher answered supressing his original outburst of emotions bubbling under the surface.

Rear Admiral Rasmussen smiled, pressed a button on his wristunit, seconds later and apparition appeared ghostly on the wall, then it looked as if the ragtag punk simply walked through the wall of the room setting himself down nonchalantly in a chair, then swiveling around planting his feet on the table with a thud.

Christopher was startled, “What the…”

“What's up dude you never saw a living hologram before ?”, the apparition exclaimed.

Christopher looked at the Rear Admiral who made a waving motion with his index finger as to silence the both of then a small hovering quadcopter like drone descended with a swosh from the ceiling just stopping itself right in front of Christopher's face.

“Go ahead extend your hand”, the Rear Admiral offered.

Christopher eyed the Rear Admiral with a hint of suspicion and then obliged.

The drone silently sat itself down on Christophers open palm.

“Push the red button”, the Rear Admiral said.

“Hey wait…”, the hologram began as if to argue against what was about to happen next, then flickered away as Christopher pressed the button.

“And that's just the utmost tip, of the tip of the iceberg, there are possibilities you could only dream of available for humanity, technologies that would alleviate hunger, disease, poverty, you name it everything is possible. This world of ours could become Eden again, if it wasn't for those bastards doing everything humanly and inhumanly possible to suppress mankind at every corner”.

Rear Admiral Rasmussen finally sat down.

“You see they are afraid of us, very afraid. They are scared of how we think and terrified about our wishes for our fellow men, about our visions for equality, peace and prosperity, that's why things are in such a shitstorm all over the globe all the time, through chaos they exert control!”

Christoper stupified by what he had just experienced said nothing, just sad there with is lower lip hanging leaving his mouth slightly open.

“Why do you think they took down the towers, created the economic crisis, keep millions upon millions in poverty, disease and ignorance”.

“Because that is the only way they can stay in control, by asserting their godforsaken manipulations on an unknowing populace”, the Rear Admiral sighed heavily.

They ? Christopher inquired as he was slowly but surely drawn in by the Rear Admiral's briefing.

Part Three - Coming Home

Estimates say about 8 million children worldwide disappear annually, at Ding Zhuang, Shandong Province in the outskirts of Dezhou City two more were about to be added to the statistics.

The ice-cream truck drove in through the narrow country road leading to the village, with 300 households it was a small place where everyone knew each other quite intimately, it was a quiet rural backwater kind of place.

It was a place where what was about to happen was all but unthinkable.

The cheery little melody that emanating from the speakers caused children all around the village who were not in school or otherwise occupied to come outside their houses trying to pinpoint where the ice-cream truck might stop.

Lanying Wu and Xiadan Wu came running through the narrow strait that connected two minor roads.

“Hurry brother or you won't get any ice-cream”

Xiadan was having a hard time catching up, he was overly well bolstered his parents still taking pride in being able to feed their children well. An unfortunate remnant from times past.

The driver of the ice cream truck spotted the children and stopped outside a row of houses painted in colors reminiscent of an 80ies Police Show.

Only a few of the apartments were inhabited as the villagers had been reluctant to buy due to quality concerns, and so the 50 apartments or so were mostly left to fade away so to speak.

The Villagers of Ding Zhuang might not be very rich except for the odd one out, but they were not stupid.

But the strangers in the ice cream truck knew something else about this community, they knew these were both kind and trusting folks and that they would likely be oblivious of any foul play till they were long gone.

Xiadan finally caught up to his sister and together they arrived at the truck.

The driver had gotten out and was maneuvering with the rear hatch as they walked up.

“You want some icecream the driver said with a broad smile”

“Oh goddy, what do you have” the twins clamored.

“For you something really special, here take a look”, the driver answered all giddy and swung the door open to the dark interior.

The twins nearly stood on top of each other in order to get a look.

“But it is empty”, Lanying said with surprise in her voice.

“Not for long”, the driver answered jabbing each of them with a needle.

Lanying of the twins quickly sank onto the ground while the driver managed to grab onto Xiadan.

The driver looked around, another kid had just come around the corner, the teen stopped dead at the sight of what was going on.

The driver quickly tossed both the twins into the back and considered if he should run for it and grab the third child.

After all he would be paid at least 500 yuan for each kid he brought, 1500 was more than he could earn for a months work back in the mountains.

He quickly changed his mind though as a muscular and athletic fellow dressed in a sports outfit came around the corner.

“Kidnapper”, the teen who had stopped by the corner yelled and pointed towards the truck.

Jian Tzu, who had been strolling in his own thoughts once again pondering upon having failed at the 200 meter run thus never winning him a seat at the sports academy dooming him to a life in the village stopped right in his tracks.

Jian was wearing his flashy red sports outfit and his running shoes, not that they did him much good in the village. He looked first at the teen who had yelled, then at the truck noticing how the driver frantically slammed the hatch was steering straight the drivers seat.

The severety of the situation dawned upon Jian, who sprung into a spur towards the truck that was parked a few hundred meters away.

Never before had anyone in Ding Zhuang delivered a sprint like the one he presented and the tale of the sprint and the abduction of the twins would live for years to come in Ding Zhuang.

But right now Jian was but a few meters from the truck and black cloud from the exhaust enveloped him and everything around him.

The truck started carting away with grinding gears and a growl. However it was too late Jianhad grabbed onto the hatch handle and was violently pulled along with the truck as it sped towards the main street, he fought to hang on as the truck sped away. There was no way Jian would let this devil in the icecream truck get away.

With a loud click the hatch came open and Jian swung outward more or less hanging loose in the air, as the truck simultaneously made a left turn the force sent Jian whirling through the air before his body hit the road rolling, miraculously Jian managed to get halfway up on his hands and was noticed at the last moment by the driver of a car that came to a screeching halt just centimeters from his head.

It was as if everything stood still, then every shopkeeper on main street came bustling out through the draperies in the doorways that kept the dust and cold from coming in, while allowing the customers to slip in and out of the stores.

Jian clamored to his feet, the driver of the car pale as snow from fear of possibly having killed someone was just about to yell at the young man when Jian pointed at the truck speeding away.

“Kidnappers”, he managed saying pointing at the icecream truck that was disappearing in the distance, then Jian slumped over across the shiny black hood of the electric BYD Model XVI and mobile phones started glowing hot, the chase was on.


“Go go go”, Suzi ordered as a platoon of well armed soldiers ran onboard a hypersonic craft at a remote airport.

The plane roared into the skies afterburner at full glow, moments later a slight thud from the NEXST-Z3 Mark 2, 1indicated the plane had hit supersonic it steadily kept accelerating heading upwards and finally as reaching altitude engaged the hypersonic scramjets quickly sending it past the horizon.

Inside the plane activity since departure had been frantic, satellite imagery was being uploaded live to the onboard datacenter for analysis and the AdvancedArtificialIntelligenceAssistant AAIA was recounting satelite imagery of the truck and it's path for Suzi.

On the ground a couple of Chinese Army's Special Taskforce vans were following the icecream truck holding their distance.

They were aided by information from an intelligence department they knew only as Oracle-1, a source and force their system of trust indicated they needed to heed and follow without hesitation.

There was an indication that another truck would soon be joining the hunt. The task at hand was to follow a kidnapper in the hope that it would lead to a breakthrough into catching a gang that had beligered the province for quite some time whilst cleverly and almost in an uncanny way had eluded capture or leaving any clue as to how they were operating and never striking the same place twice.

Now a pattern was becoming clear though. The kidnappers had enrolled what seemed to be a respected icecream manufacturers trucks and quite possibly the manufacturer himself in their evil enterprise, the kidnapping of innocent children for gods only knew what kind of purposes.

The black plane descended from high above, suddenly it dropped a cube shaped object that quickly released a drogue parachute bringing some sort of control over its rapid descent towards the ground, moments later as the speed decreased due to the drag a series of further drogue parachutes opened in succession until a full para foil allowed the vehicle to hit the ground gently but running at full speed ahead.

The vehicle skidded somewhat across the asphalt as it touched the ground leaving black marks on the road. It quickly detached the para foil that blew off to the side as the vehicle sped forward.

Moments later the van came onto the main road joining the vans from the Special Taskforce.

“Commander Ào Fei, this is Oracle-1 do you copy”, the speaker crackled

The Commander quickly responded, “Ai”

Suzi quickly barked her orders to the taskforce vans and assigned two of her squad members to each of the Special Taskforce truck crews as they neared the ice cream factory lying in the outskirts of Jinan more specificly in the Ming Shui area undergoing major changes of industry development, going from heavy industries to more environmentally friendly industries as the population in Jinan was expanding rapidly demanding more living space and more green areas for relaxation and recreation.

The factory situated somewhat out of sigh from the main roads looked worn down, clearly the owner had little interest in keeping up appearances, a very typical trait from an era all but gone as China was rapidly speeding ahead in its ever ongoing transformation into an economic superpower rivaled only by a select few other nations.

The vans came to a screeching halt and troops in full combat gear lined up behind each van as the unmarked truck speed up to each of them dropping off a couple of black clad very futuristicly clad soldiers carrying all but the latest in combat accessories ranging from helmet mounted HUD's to wrist communication and assistive battle field computers.

Heavy fighting erupted sending one of the Special Task Force trucks up in an explosion, someone had clearly fired a rocket propelled weapon sending several of the troops to the ground.

The troops inched in on the factory from all sides covering every potential exit, they were not about to let anyone escape but had to limit firepower to a minimum as to avoid hitting any potential victims inside the building, and here the forces of Oracle-1 came in handy with their arm mounted See-through-walls radar scanners, they pinpointed shooters and the Special Task Force members advanced steadily taking only minor injuries.

Finally they were inside and as Special Force Task Members managed to cut the power to the building the room to room fighting turned even more to the advantage of the attackers donning nightvision goggles, making it easy to pick out the remaining gunmen inside.

Finally they were at the office where the factory owner had barricaded himself with a couple of his trusted lieutenants.

The Oracle-1 team quickly scanned the room, “Mei you hai zi”, an officer barked. Commander Ào Fei kicked in the door, ducked a barrage of shots and tossed in a flashbang.

The thud was deafening and the light blinding, smoke filled the room leaving the defenders dazed and confused. It was an easy picking for The Special Task Force soldiers to round them up and put them in cuffs.


Soon after an interrogation was progressing Suzi was bitter, so far the interrogation had produced a room full of scared kids who were going to be sent back to their parents, but Suzi a former abductee rescued by a TDF member by chance could see he was holding back.

“Listen to me if I find you have done these kids any more harm than abducting them, I will personally make the rest of your life a hell so unimaginable that you will cry for death a thousand times over, and trust me, I shall see to that your soul never finds any rest I shall make sure the undead send you to the pits of hell for eternity cycles unend”, “That is how pissed I am right now, if you talk I might go easy on you and let the authorities put a bullet in your pathetic little head after you have had your day in court because there is no way you will ever be allowed to see daylight again except on the day of your execution”.

The factory boss talked leaving Suzi shocked, not that she should be with her experience, but the repeated tales of how respectable business leaders, banksters and top politicians worldwide seemingly were involved in large scale abductions of kids and the revalation that a facility in the mountains of Austria held a castle where this despicable piece of dirt had sent not just a few but thousands of children for processing was outrageous, it was only the calming hand of Commander Ào Fei that kept her from becoming Judge Jury and Executioner right there and then.

“Trust me”, Ào Fei said. “This maggot will get exactly what he deserves, but we need to get to the absolute bottom of this before any more harm comes to him”. He said this as he watched the bleeding face of the Factory owner all but unrecognizable after Suzi's persuasion techniques had taken their toll. It has been clear she had not liked what she had to do, but sometimes it seemed reasoning was without any effect and even the mindprobe one could be trained to withstand, though only a precious few people would be so trained and only those with the highest up connections if not in government would have access to such training.


3 Hours later multiple craft carrying 3 full platoons of TDF personell were inbound towards a castle in the mountains of Austria.

Heavy rain was pounding the hulls and evaporizing from the friction heat and lightning played along the skies providing a spectacle on the dark brooding sky.

The guards on the ground huddling from the onslaught of the weather, did not notice the silent craft coming in towards them.

“We have a fix, 6 sentry posts and communications nest”

“Fire”, Suzi said firmly.

Commander Ào Fei could not help himself to quell the swelling pride in his chest. What an amazing display of technology, and what an honor to be chosen to be his country's representative in a fight on behalf of all humanity a fight so secret so big that the world would completely somersault if it got wind of what was going on without proper preparation, imagine billions of lives in the balance, Omega-1 and TDF were indeed as warriors of the past, a picture of a bearded Zhang Fei breezed through his mind with battleaxes cutting down swaths of enemies before him.

Weapons glared from the approaching craft and lightning bolts sprung forward and vaporized the guard posts in an electrical inferno, to any watchful instrumentation the weapons discharge would register as nothing else than a massive lightning strike.

Inside the radar operators were oblivious to the stealth craft that had taken out the perimeter guards, and firefighters were hustling towards the communications central but other than that nothing suspicious seemed afoot, the electical system had taken a hit and CCTV systems were out but for what seemed like a direct lightning strike this was not unusual.

Outside troops were pouring out of craft, they quickly assembled at 3 different entrances and micro charges were placed on doors and walls that simply melted away.

Once inside flash bang and stun grenades filled sleeping quarters, a few guards tried to resist but they were cut down quickly. Most of the people had been caught off guard and with the electrical systems on the fritz and the fire supression systems having locked the place down most were just waiting to receive orders.

The TDF spearhead group had been advancing steadily with little resistance going down multiple levels through swiveling stairwells.

They had been advancing through largely empty hallways without raising an eyebrow moving silently and completely blending in with the help of their Sea Sapphire Camouflage outfits blocking both thermal and any photo sensory projections. Ào Fei imagined the power a country would have if their military had such technology as they entered a huge pentagonal room.

On the walls heroic displays of valor it seemed dominated the pictures on the walls - There were also carvings looking like some sort of ancient temple carvings going back 1000nds of years, the type you normally only see on pictures or on fragments in a museum, here in this room it seemed as if time had been preserving these in an undisturbed bubble, there was carvings of trees and strange gargoyle like beings, mutilated humans and kinglike figures.

In the middle of the room a golden cauldron seemed to be on display, it was sitting on top of an oval shaped table, hexagon shaped shafts led to what could be windows to the outside blocked by some sort of shutters.

Ào Fei looked again at the images on wall and noticed that in fact what seemed like valour and heroism was only disguised suffering and displays of supreme power over men.

In the middle of the room there seemed to be a round stone circle bench surrounding something looking like a drainhole in the floor.

They advanced toward the hole, Ào Fei could not help feel a little creeped out of the ghostly projection of his fellow comrades on his HUD that turned flaring red in warning if one accidentally pointed a weapon in their direction.

There was an evil feeling inside the room, it seemed that behind these walls anything could go on and the outside world would be none the wiser.

Suzi signalled and they continued onward toward the basement, they passed through another set of rounded and arched stairswell seemingly leading into an abyss, eventually they descended to a large doorway impossible to open with ones bare hands. A set of charges melted the doorhinges and it came crashing down with a thud revealing the entrance to a cave system, humid, warm and with an eerie glow on walls seemingly produced by some sort of luminicent algeae.

Ào Fei slipped and cursed, there was an odd hissing in the distance, then followed a violent discharge of an electro weapon burning 3 troopers as they stood shorting out Ào Fei's active camouflage.

Suzi grapped him and flung him towards the wall and sent a barrage of shots in the direction of the shooter. There was a thud as one of the seeker projectiles sensed nearby organic material and exploded.

A growl indicated someone had been hit and Suzi sent another barrage of shots in the same direction assisted by the team.

A technician frantically worked on Ào Fei's control unit and managed to get it partially working.

They pushed futher into the cave meeting fierce resistance.

“We need backup, repeat need backup”, she barked into her transmitter.

At the same time Suzi took out and sent a small drone whizzing forward, the imagery coming back was shocking.

At least 100 enemy combatants were lying in wait with heavy firepower, it seemed the only thing holding them back was fear of collapsing the exit to the castle.

Ào Fei looked at the HUD video feed “What are these ?…”

“Not exactly human, but they die just the same”, Suzi answered him handing out orders to the remaining squad members.

As they crept slowly forward 6 drones came whizzing from topside and entered the great hall where the enemy was lying in wait and all hell broke loose.

They started firing wildly amongst themselves and as Ào Fei, Suzi and the others joined in and opened fire Ào Fei was amazed to see at least a dozen soldiers moving swiftly fully visible among the enemy who now in wild panic.

The firefight was over swiftly and as suddenly as they appeared the drones whizzed back past Ào Fei and Suzi leaving the hall empty say for a slew of dead or dying beings.

The stench something akin the smell of charred flesh was terrible and they approached one of the beings. It's mouth was open and razor sharp teeth protruded from every surface inside the mouth as if it was a shredder.

Suzi asked the being something in a language unlike any Ào Fei had ever heard, the being growled and Suzi pressed her gun to the beings heart,

“If you den't tell me I will send your soul into the dark void”

The Temparian was terrified, not only had the humans defeated them here in what was the closest to home turf they'd ever have on this godforsaken rock, the human was even contemplating blasting his Cha'Kra gland robbing him of any redemption in the afterlife.

He talked and talked swiftly. he would deal with the punishment in the afterlife, at least that was prefarable to the eternal void.

The Temparian explained about the child sized transport pods, how the Chutulans preferred children, as their size was perfect for in house slaves and as their minds were easily dubbed into accepting a submissive role, even after outliving their usefulness as house slaves the children as they grew were sent off to Janesian territories to fight for the Janesian Generals in their ever ongoing campaigns. Humans as they grew up seemingly were excellent soldiers the Janesian had encountered them fighting for the Councillor's against the Sarlacans. And when familiarized with aspects of non human interactions, most fear of the unknown was stripped from their mind. Yes they made great fighters and good slaves, though bringing them about took some effort, though nothing compared to other species they had domesticated.

Suzi could see the life drain away from the Temparian, but she was not about to grant him the satisfaction of a peaceful death after hearing his story. She flicked a switch and her weapon hummed from building up a charge.

“Yeah life is a bitch, enjoy the void you despicable piece of shit”, Suzi said and fired.

The helplessness in the Temparians eyes was clear as she squeezed the trigger, but she had no merci for someone like this profiting from child trafficking, forgiveness to such an offence was for others, not for her.


Half an hour later they had a relative overview of the situations, drones passed through the cave systems mapping every inch and helping to mop up any remaining resistance.

Suzi was on her communicator, “Yes Sir, it is true, I estimate about 10.000 children, in pods, lifesigns strong, I believe a slave shipment ready to go very soon”.

“Yes the Janesian Collective, I understand absolutely full discretion, I know, we have a good ally in the Commander”


It took 3 days to empty out all the transport pods and root out remaining pockets of resistance and as the last transport ship left with the remaining troops, huge explosions underground imploded the caves and sucked the castle in blasting the stones to atoms.

On the news that evening was a story about an asteroid falling from the skies above Austria hitting an old historic castle, a castle associated to many a gory fantasy tale regarding devil worship and missing children, and by freak coincidence it had been this castle that had been at the epicenter of the asteroid strike and had utterly obliterated the castle, a divine intervention protecting the Earth from evil perhaps, the reporter jokingly added to the newsreport.

And in other news that evening from abroad the reporter could inform the public about how at Chinese villages it was seen that Chinese Special Taskforce vans with abducted children had been arriving delivering missing children back to crying parents.

Seemingly this happened after having busted up a child trafficking ring operating with tentacles reaching in from all over the world from an epicenter yet to be uncovered, as children from multiple nations had been rescued, but one that would eventually be found as no stone would be left unturned in the case of these missing children, spokesperson for the Chinese Army Special Task Force Commander Ào Fei had stated.


Part Four - The Hole

Click here to see the storyboard for the comicbook conversion of chapter 4 on Patreon

And the tears of heaven shall rain death upon mankind. Christopher looked at the printing on the cover of the book he had been handed by one of the men in the back of the truck. It was a book about chemtrails.

Chemtrails, his whole life he had considered the people talking about this phenomena to be at the very least weird and at the worst nutters, but never again.

The military truck was driving up a dusty road towards an off the map facility known only as Facility 9, in his mind Christopher drifted back to where the briefing for this mission started.

There were seven of them sitting in the briefing room, elsewhere in other rooms similar briefings were going on.

Christopher was watching a military whistleblower on LeakTubes of all places, talking about how she discovered Chemtrail ingredients on shipping manifestos as a worker going through goods manifestos during her tenure at not just one but multiple air logistical centers. She was explaining how metal oxides, aluminum, barium, strontium and how chemicals like sulphuric acid and other nasty substances were processed through the system and how her suspicions grew that something was afoot.

During several further videos they sat through, there was further talk of geo-engineering the climate and controlling the weather as a direct weapon against nation states.

Christopher had always been skeptical about any of this talk about what they were spraying and why they were spraying, why the hell would anyone be spraying anything at all.

He'd been a it's just contrails kind of guy most he could remember only occasionally wondering about how some trails tended to linger almost eerily long.

But after being presented with factual scientific evidence that these substances were showing up in higher and higher quantities all over the globe he was sold on the concept but the real shocker for him was yet to come.

“Weather modification is partly correct”, the presenter explained and hesitated “However the main goal is actually to with the help of HAARP to create EM disturbances in the upper athmosphere that is making transdimensional jumping very hard to do undetected ,if not making it altogether impossible within Earths athmosphere”

Transdimensional jumping?

Lights in the skies ain't all swamp gas,sprites and lightning discharges. How do you think we get our supplies, how do you think the enemy get things on and off world? Sure transporter beams would be nice but tech like that tends to be very detectable. So we have to rely on ships, and without our own yards it is a question of either hire or have a friend or ally do the heavy lifting so to speak. But we can't keep endangering others to the extreme, our allies already lost too many valuable pilots to the defense grid as they play the HAARP.

“The whole depopulation agenda is a natural attempt to understand the phenomena, the cancerous sideeffects of pollutants falling to the ground are simply an unfortunate coincidence, not that they are taking this side effects too seriously as population needs to be culled anyway in order to keep it manageable, plus it greases the wheels of the cancer machine.”

“Fact is that the EM disturbances from HAARP are making it impossible for TDF to bring in much needed supplies and technology in order to fight the battle against TMIC and TSC without risking our transports being shot down.”

“For all of the reasons mentioned and more we need to hit Facility 9 hard. We have finally fully ascertained it's location and we are going to wiped it off the face of the planet”.

“This will leave us with a limited time window in which we will be able to bring in Avarian supply ships without imposing further losses”.

Why not take out HAARP, Christopher muttered

The presenter looked directly at Christopher, “Mostly it's just antennae, radio frequency modulation equipment, easily rebuilt. But more importantly it is a last line of defense in case less friendly forces decide to drop in. As for the cancer factor we are doing all humanly possible to push technologies into the public to help humanity overcome the dangers. For now we simply do not dare completely take HAARP offline no matter how much we'd love to do that”, the presenter seemed a bit unhappy with Christophers interruptions, damn civilians, he though.

“Can we proceed ?”, he inquired still looking at Christopher.

“Sorry off course”, Christopher felt somewhat guilty, but he what could a guy do, he was still in very unfamiliar waters.

“We will be collapsing the facility using matter destabilization charges that should bring the facility smouldering down, as we have seen it during certain government false flag attacks on civilian targets in the past”.

“Matter Destablilization Charges will be placed here, here and here,” the presenter was highlighting specific points on the facility blueprints Nd continued, ” at the same time non structurally damaging explosions have to be set of in these 5 locations making it appear as if collapse is imminent spurring an evacuation“.

“Why not blow it to hell with everyone working inside ?”, Christopher interrupted again.

While we do have a formidable enemy to tackle, everyone inside TMIC and TSC are not necessarily our enemy they just work for the wrong boss.

On the base for example you will have a lot of people thinking they are serving their country without being privy to the actual goings on at the facility or on the base, and we do not wish to hurt the lives of those people who for the most part are utterly clueless about the scope or the overall goals of TMIC and TSC to bring in total dominance, they are just trying to eek out an existence in a world mostly devoid of hope.

The briefing continued for about thirty minutes longer, mostly with assigning more specific tasks to each team member.


The truck was a top of the line freshly issued armored personnel carries, getting into the trucks had been a hustle and bustle, packing that many men and equipment into these types of vehicles had been no easy logistical task for the but the careful packing stood in stark contrast to the springlike unloading that the vehicle was capable off.

Christopher was sitting next to Suze, well Suzi was not her real name as Christopher had learned but one she had assumed as she could not bear hearing her name Xia Wen, mangled by foreign tongues, coming from Sichuan Province in China and having been brought up abroad while she never forgot her homeland she had adapted a western name a very common trait to most asians.

Christopher was staring at the book, they had been driving for the most part of an hour since they had deembarked the transport plane.

“Hey don't worry I know you are a scientist and this is your first time in the field with us, but I also know that you are a brilliant strategist and quite resourceful in combat”.

Christopher was dumbfounded. “What the heck are you talking about”

“Come on, are you that blue eyed, no offense, you mean to tell me you have no clue?”

No Christopher did not get it, combat, resourceful ?

“I never participated in any conflict”, Christopher answered in a baffled and slight miffed tone of voice.

“So you did'nt get it at all? That means it works perfectly, smart guy like you should have smelled it. I have to relay that to CowTow” ,Suzi said with smugness.

“What are you on about?”, Christopher said.

“Heh for a scientist you really are thick”, Suzi said and gave Christopher a friendly pat on his forehead. “Matter Destabilzation Charges = Vibrational Detonators?, No ?”, Suzi said with a slight smile.

“I find it really funny that all the social media interaction solving puzzles to learn a secret language of lost civilizations was toatlly lost on you”, she chuckled.

“It's all real you know, well real, but not real, the language is all made up and the symbols as well, but the structure… it's beautiful really, all while playing you have subconsciously learned structures and grammar of languaes that will put you on a fast track to understand and communicate in ways you have clearly not begun to understand.”

“The combat scenarios, the cloak and dagger stuff, all designed to identify individuals with potentials that might come in handy, CowTow was the one who figured out that you would be a good asset and your views on free energy made you very interesting. Too bad your social media roll was cut short, we thoroughly enjoyed you lambasting the ties between corporate interests in the energy sector and the political establishment working towards a so called greener environment all while pouring every nickle and cent they could get their hands on into the black hole of a petrochemical wallet”.

CowTow? the agent name of the colleague that had gotten him into “Code Blue” an immersive real life mobile combat strategy game where factions fought for world dominance, all while uncovering artifacts of technology of ancient earth civilizations, technologies that current earth governments were trying to hide from the general public, all while perverting and exploiting them for their own nefarious purposes, it was all real, but not real ? Holy Cow!

Christophers brain summersalted, millions of people being trained right under their noses, or did they know or see the potential and recruited from the pool as well.

Suzi continued “Too bad your employers were so fast to sell you out, amazing what a few hundred millions can do to people that would have been able to become billionaires I think overnight almost and luminaries of humanity had your technology been fully developed”.

“You were so close you know, we had hoped The United Energy Consortiums would have been the ones to to drop the proverbial bomb on the energy sector but with you dead all the patents are filed and hidden under the national securiy act the technology will never surface via commercial channels, yes we will find a way to popularize your concepts and hope for some other nation breaching the 'patents', but it is hard and mainstream media will never cover it and you know the forces that be will do whatever it takes to bury it, you have felt that on your own life already”.

“What”, Christopher said, he had been in a state of shock since Suzi mentioned him being sold out. Gene Simmonds the CEO of The United Energy Consortiums and him went way back, they had been friends since childhood. Gene was the one that had sold him out.

“Then you will just have to unkill me, I'll sue the bastard publicly”, Christopher suggested. Suzi realized she might have let something slip that had not yet filtered down during Christophers debriefing.

“Don't be daft, we need to set up your wife and kid in a safe place, but for now it is impossible without raising suspicion. Everyone is best off with you being dead and 'Shamus McFarlane' being well and alive”, she said and tapped the name badge on his uniform. This was a very low tech operation, no Sea Sapphire camouflage and fairly standard issue weaponary, say for a few minor details.

The truck came to a halt and everyone tensed up.

They were at the gates of Facility 9 a place renowned for the evil things that had passed on there and were going on to this day, things that would finally be put to a stop thanks to these people.

The forged transport documents were being handed to the gates interrogating the driver, documents that had gracefully been developed by the Cyber Ops Dept of TDF headed by Kim Suk Ho, a North Korean whitehat super hacker.

Christopher watched the squad members, each was hovering their finger over the trigger on their ZM77's Electromagnetic Propulsion Assault Rifles, an ingenious design spurring cone shaped super magnets in between which you could drop metallic ammunition and fire using only a slight nudge as the bullets hovered in a magnetic pocket till electromagnetic forces propelled it forward at immense speed, the weapon was another amazing piece of technology from the lab of Arnold Tlatoani former member of the now defunct Freelancer Corps that had been all but eradicated say for a lone Mars holdout.

Freelancers… Christopher though to himself, amazing how almost every force of good was eventually fought down in this insane world, the political establishment and their masters most dissatisfied by Freelancers digging up dirt and corruption leaving both TMIC and TSC in a virtual stalemate, the Freelancers had been imposing a virtual world peace for years before the establishment had managed to infiltrate and bring down the movement within, only a few had managed to escape the wrath unleashed by TMIC and TSC once they had free reign again, one of those few had been Arnold Tlatoani.

Christopher gazed at the sleek weapons that gleamed in the red light illuminating the back of the truck, with thech like that no wonder the Freelancers had been able to hold out for so long.

No good things seem to last forever, except perhaps the human spirit and it's yearning for freedom and justice Christopher mused internally.

The truck started moving again, Kim had seemingly succeeded in hacking the logistics systems of the facility, the shipment was expected, the grunt at the gate had no suspicion and even if he had he knew asking too many questions around this place was likely to have you either transferred or to simply disappear.

A collective sigh of relief went through the air as the truck bustled down the road towards the goods elevator.

A large clank and a slight shudder told the squad that the truck was descending downward.

The whirring seemed to last forever until the platform came to a stop with a large clank.

Moments later the door opened and the squad filed out. The room was huge and dimly lit. The surface of the stone looked almost like glass and the walls were ruler straight. Christopher could not help wondering how these walls had been created.

Okay you two that way, you over there, you and you that way, Christopher you're with me, let's move.

The squad quickly dispersed moving into the adjacent tunnels carved with equal precision.

“Amazing to see your tax dollars at work huh? “Suzi said as they were sneaking down a corridor.

Christopher affirmed her notion, he could not help think about the wast sums it had to have cost to build this facility.

The hallways had been oddly devoid of people as they snook about towards their destination.

Suzi was about to place another charge when their activities were discovered, Christopher was quickly knocked out cold and the guards turned on Suzi.

She fought like a ravenous tiger, sending first one, then another guard crashing onto the hallway floor. The third one was not that easy to handle though and got her gripped in a pinch.

She used all her power and managed wrench free. The fight waved back and forth leading them out on a walkway, the two tossed each other into the railing that suddenly gave in sending Suzi onto a lower ledge with a banging crash after which she rolled down another level.

The guard leaned over and got a look at her body laying lifeless a fair distance down.

“She's on level Z-23, unconscious I think, I have another one up here, should I take him to the pod?”

“Roger that, ground floor briefing room”, the guard turned about took the unarmed charge off the beam and threw Christopher over his shoulder, his two comrades were regaining their bearings, one had a broken arm, the other could barely limp along as he carried out the unconscious prisoner.


“You are a surprising fellow, dead but not dead, tough as nails, how might that be Mr. McFarlane or I should say Mr. Edge?”

“How did you leave that airport ? - It was a very clever infecting the surveillance systems of the airport and make them record the John Winnifrey show, that must have been a hoot”

“I told you I don't know…”, Christopher started, feeling a metallic taste incur itself on his senses.

Smack, the pain was almost unbearable and the taste of blood in his mouth was nauseating.

Clearly the guy did not believe him, Christopher was frantically thinking of something to concoct but what.

“Listen up Mr. Edge I am tired of holding back, who do you work for ?”

“Last I checked The United Energy Consortium”, Christopher answered and spat on the table into what started to look like a pool of blood forming on the table.

“Mr. Edge”, the interrogator sighed, “I really can't keep this up”

There was another smack after which the interrogator once again wiped his hand with a handkerchief.

Christophers vision blurred, but he did not pass out, the guy clearly had practice in his craft. “You need to come clean Mr. Edge”.

The interrogator suddenly straightened up as his earpiece buzzed.

“Sprect er nicht dann haben wir anderen metoden”, the voice in his ear said.

Von Hesse the interrogator sighed and shook his head, he had never liked that fellow but superiors were superiors, one had to follow orders.

The voice in his ear gave a few further instructions then leaving the interrogator to continue his debriefing.

“Mr. Edge, this pains me, but you really need to seriously reconsider your unwillingness to cooperate”.

He pressed a button on a remote control and lifted Christopher's chin so he could see the image on the screen.

“You recognize it?”, he asked.

Christopher blinked and tried to focus. Their house ? Kimberly was in the kitchen making pancakes for Ross.

“I really hate to drag an innocent child into this but it is not my call”

“If you hurt them so help me God, I will rip out your throat with my bare hands”, Christopher struggled with the straps holding him in the chair.

“Mr. Edge I am an father myself, if anyone was to hurt my little Emily”, he nodded “I understand your feelings”

“Mr. Edge, as of now I am the only thing standing between your family and a trained killer ready to pull the trigger, if you don't tell me what they need to know there is nothing I can do!”

On the screen red squares wrapped themselves around the faces of Kimberly and Ross and a distance gauge appeared to be tracking their every movement.

Ross smiled as he ate the pancake, Kimberly gently stroked his hair.

Tears welled up in Christopher's eyes.

“Wait stop, I will tell you everything”, Christopher pleaded with a wimper, he was ready to give up everyone to stop this nightmare unfolding.

“Hold your fire”, the interrogator said calmly into his communicator and sighed with relief, sometimes his employers were a little to drastic.

There was a mild thud and the room did seemed to shake slightly, the interrogator looked up with a mystified expression on his face, then at that very moment the door to the soundproofed interrogation room came crashing in from it's frame in an explosion.

The door struck the interrogator and threw him to the ground where he remained motionless, the feed to the sniper view on the monitor was cut leaving the screen showing nothing but static.

Suzi appeared in the smoke flanked by two TDF troopers. Her uniform was pretty banged up and she had semi dried blood on her face.

“Glad to see you”, Christopher managed to mumble gratefully.

“Likewise” Suzi answered untying him from the straps pinning him to the interrogation chair.

“My boy, my wife, they have snipers on them”, he muttered.

“I heard, we just found that out, don't worry the threat has been eliminated, they are being rushed to a safe house as of right now”

“Really sorry it took so long to get to you, but the resistance was stronger than expected”, Suzi said freeing his last leg from the straps.

“Let's go”, she said and signaled to the troopers.

They grabbed Christopher under his arms and helped him out through a gaping hole in the side of the building it seemed a rouge and mangled tank had plowed its way into the building.

The truck was waiting for them, the troopers helped Christopher into the back and Suzi gave him a helping hand in support.

“Thank you”, he managed to mutter.

“My pleasure”, Suzi said with a hint of a smile as she closed the door, the trooper banged on the side of the car on his way to the front. The truck rewed up and began moving. A clank told the silent passengers in the back the last man was on the truck that started speeding away from a smouldering base in complete disarray.

Dump explosions in the opposite direction flared as the truck passed past a couple of smouldering heaps that had once been a couple of guard towers at the front gate and they sped away from what had once been Facility 9 as a gaping hole in the ground seemed to open up pulling in cascades of earth advancing towards adjacent buildings before it stopped.

Lights flickered across the skies as craft took off in search of the attackers but the truck was long gone employing both stealth and adaptive camouflage.

For the next couple of weeks the Avians should be able to come in with at least two or three supply ships and possibly a small troop contingent as things would very likely heat up as a result of this escapade.

Part Five - Operation Vermin

Click here to see the storyboard for the comicbook conversion of chapter 5 on Patreon

Tax Commissionaire Luigi Giordano arrived at Café Destin with a blaring headache. His time in Brussels had been excruciatingly hard on him.

He had a nagging conscience about what he had endured these last few years and what he had turned his blind eye on, Brussels was a cesspool of intrigue, corruption and bad Karma, but after today it would be over, a new chapter about to start, selling out had never been a strong trait of his he thanked his saints that it was finally over.

“May I take your order Sir”, the waiter asked moments after Luigi had found a table to his liking.

“Espresso”

“Si Commissionaire”, the waiter responded, “Anything else ?”.

“No I'm good, thanks”. The waiter nodded and scurried off into the café to fetch the Commissionaire order.

The cup had barely arrived at the table and Luigi had all but sipped it when two impeccably clad gentlemen arrived.

Their stylish suits bore the traits of lobbyists but these were no ordinary lobbyists, the EUgenoCorp employees were more akin to mercenaries than lobbyists, they were fixers, what EUgenoCorp needed they made possible, bribe or murder, nothing was off the table for them and Commissionaire Giordano knew this.

The coffee and pleasantries routine was over in a brief moment, neither man touched the cup brought by the servile waiter who knew better than to hover around at the table quickly scurrying off to serve a young couple sitting in the corner giggling and ordering a romantic breakfast.

An envelope slid across the table, a small tablet inside was pulled out by a gloved hand.

“Proposal 20.666-B, as per your request”

The two EUgenoCorp types studied the contents briefly, the law proposal before them explicitly permitting substance E-3421.23 to be used as food additive in the entire Union and by proxy in the rest of the world as per Global Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific trade pacts was exactly as they had requested.

“As you can see the proposal is ready for ratification”, Commissionaire Giordano said hiding the disgust in his voice and body language with great efforts, he had been over this moment in his head a million times so as not to give anything away, the surveillance bubble defense screen had been deactivated earlier around the table and the recording device across the street was logging every moment quickly dispatching a copy to a secure server known only to Luigi Giordano and his aide through encrypted onion routing.

The men did not say anything; the tablet was slid back into the envelope and back across the table.

A nod by one of the EUgenoCorp types told Luigi he had pulled it off and they left the table cups still untouched.

The Commissionaire kept sitting at table sipping his espresso when a bicycle messenger arrived at the café

“Luigi Giordani?”, the messenger asked standing at the Commissionaires table.

Luigi nodded, “Si”.

The Bicycle messenger handed him a bag, got a signature and left.

Moments later a sleek black car drove up wearing official Union insignia.

The Commissionaires personal aide, Jennifer Billings got out and walked up to his table.

She looked at Luigi who nodded, she drew a sigh of relief, sitting on a secret of such dimensions had not been easy. She took the bag the bicycle messenger had brought and headed for the car.

The Commissionaire quickly followed her to the car. Once in the backseat he opened the bag, Jennifer's eyes opened wide. The golden bouillons glistened in the sunlight coming through the windows.

Luigi handed one of the bouillons to his aide.

“I need you to go to Oscar's lab and have the origins of this bouillon verified. If we're lucky we can even get them on laundry as well.

Jennifer nodded silently and pocketed the bouillon.

“I will meet up with you as soon as they have done the verification, shouldn't take them too long”, Jennifer said and opened the door.

She got out, closed the door and started walking. The car set into motions so she was some distance away when the inside of the car exploded and the subsequent pressure wave threw her to the ground.

For a moment everything was completely silent, the sound of the explosion had torn through the cityscape and brought everything to a standstill, only the slight breeze moved a few leaves blown off the nearby trees by the blast.

As she was lying there on the ground Jennifer realized she was supposed to have been inside the car, the epiphany brought a sudden unreal clarity to her.

As the silence subsided people starting to gather by the car and the couple from the café were by her side.

She shook her head, her ears were ringing. Sirens in the distance started approaching.

“I'm OK, nothing wrong”, Jennifer said staggering onto her feet, her best chance would be getting out of there before any law enforcement arrived, if she didn't then they would have her pinned down and likely eventually disappeared.

The couple seemingly satisfied with her response turned their attention towards the burning car - Jennifer calmly walked off the scene and after turning the nearest corner set herself into a run.

Later that night from a safe house she made a call and Operation Vermin was initiated.

The explosion threw piles of earth into the air, two of the three running soldiers were thrown into the air, the third was sent forwards into the ground by the pressure.

For a moment everything was dead silent, the soldier came back to his senses and tried to stagger back onto his feet, he turned around still wobbling.

“Sasha, Boris, what tha fuck ?”, he shouted only to be cut short by the tat tat tat from multiple automatic rifles sending projectiles whistling in his direction as the smoke started to clear.

He reached the two other soldiers lying mangled on the ground and threw himself down as the bullets came in closer.

He crawled first to the nearest man, but there was no hope, a large gashing opening in his chest.

The tat tat tat stopped for a moment, Vladimir tried to eek his way across the ground to his other wounded comrade Sasha was still alive but badly wounded, he was not going to make it. Fuck fuck fuck, they had been doing tours for 8 years now, had become known as the invincible three, mission after mission now everything was a complete and total goat fuck.

“Vlad”, Sasha stuttered “Get the samples to them, don't let those sons of swines and harlots get away with it”, he groped in his pocket and drew out 3 metallic holsters wearing bright yellow bio-hazard emblems, he coughed “I'm not going to make it… you need to go, I will delay them any way I can”.

Vladimir held back a tear and swallowed a lump; he knew exactly what that meant.

“Vlad the Invincible!”, Sasha said clutching Vladimir's arm and hand. For a moment neither of them said anything, then Sasha uttered his final command “Go Zhukov, like a crushing storm. That is a direct order, give them nor peace nor rest, be the storm and make them pay dearly”, Sasha coughed and released his grip on Vladimir. The theatrics of Sasha struck Vladimir as odd, he had never heard Alexander say anything remotely like this before.

Sasha smiled and blinked “Like movie huh?”, he did not get further as he was stopped by a cough. The son of a gun lay there and still making jokes, incredible Vladimir thought as Sasha spat out some blood and hinted with his head that it was time to go.

Another mortar struck down nearby and Vladimir sprinted away. The tat tat tat followed him to within an inch of his feet as bullets tore up the ground then there was a sudden blast.

“FUUUUUCK!……”, a voice tore the night, “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!?” another voice exclaimed.

“Did anyone see where the fuck that came from!!!?”, the confusion was total. Sasha's booby trap had gone off and taken several of the pursuers with him into the night sowing the seeds of confusion among the pursuers.

Vladimir had completely lost track of time, he was running on pure willpower now, each muscle in his body ached and his heart was pushed to its limits when he reached the extraction zone, there was nobody there.

“He grabbed a com unit, they had been completely dark in order to reach their objective and penetrate the defenses of the remote lab.

“WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU !?!?”, he yelled into the com.

His answer came but a second later as a craft; turbines whining came over the nearest hill spewing out deadly fire at the pursuers

There was an excess of TAT TAT TATs'…. as they fired into the air trying to defend themselves from the angry punisher.

There was a random row of exclamations ranging from “FFFUUUUUUUUCCCCKKK!”, “TAKE COVER!!!” and “GET DOWN” flew through the darkness, until there was nothing but the roaring of turbines in the air.

An Evac Transport hovered down close to Vladimir and ground support poured out of it as soon as it had touched down they quickly flanked Vladimir all while two Evac specialists ran towards and halfway pushed and pulled him onto the waiting craft.

The Punisher was still in the air and mowing down any resistance till everyone was safely back in the transport that then whooshed away with a roar.

The forward scout craft still buzzing the theater laid down a carpet of explosive fire before it too disappeared into the night.

Later that night an emergency meeting was in progress at TDF Western HQ.

“SARS and Zika of the past were only the beginning steps, small scale testing if you will”, Rear Admiral Rasmussen said and sighed.

“We knew something like this was being developed and ever since the Guide Stones were raised, they have redoubled their efforts to find an efficient way to do away with the larger population centers as they are having trouble maintaining control. An ever growing educated population and communication technology spread unheard of that has enabled communication across countries and cultures in seconds is severely working to their disadvantage”.

“Guess there is nothing like enlightened people to put a cog in the machinery of control eh?”, Terrence Johnson of the Australian High Command said with a smirk.

“True they fear knowledge and independence so they sow fear and despair and this time it is no mere psyops I am sorry to say, this time the bastards have taken it up a notch, forget Spanish flu, forget the latest SARS epidemic, this will make everything we have previously seen look like a siblings quarrel about whose turn it is to take out the trash”.

The Rear Admiral flicked on a briefing screen, a woman was lying on a medical bed strapped in tightly.

She was screaming in agony, luckily the sound was muted; two doctors and a nurse wearing protective environmental suits were standing beside the bed.

“This is the patient after having been exposed both to the chimera additive and the subsequent trigger compound”, Rasmussen said.

One of the doctors on the screen shook his head and left the room, the other one and the nurse adjusted some dosage on the infusion bags and the woman fell calmed down and then finally fell into a medically induced sleep.

They then followed their colleague out through the decontamination unit.

Rear Admiral Rasmussen flicked a button skipping ahead, “Death occurred only hours later, I will spare you the excruciating graphics, I can just say it was not nice”.

“We have acquired this evidence as part of Operation Vermin a direct offspring of Tax Commissioner Luigi Giordino's corruption investigation into EUgenoCorp, an investigation that unfortunately cost him his life and it would have disappeared into thin air if not for Jennifer Billings, Luigi Giordino's personal aide that by great fortune escaped assassination at the behest of EUgenoCorp.

Commissioner Giordino had long suspected that additives companies were attempting to lobby so that sugar taxation and fat taxation actually intended to be funneled into public health research and direct health intervention projects would instead be funneled into the pockets of the additives business, primarily EUgenoCorp who are sitting on not only 98% of the global additives market but also on 76% of the prefabricated food marked through market penetration incentives. He had never fathomed that the heads of EUgenoCorp could be involved in genocidal operations as well, he looked at the issue from a pure greed perspective”.

“Mrs. Billings information and situation and subsequent findings leading to the revelations before you that show us we are indeed at a dire junction”.

“In just 3 days EUgenoCorp officials from each Global Regional HQ will be converging in Shanghai, we have every reason to believe that at least 3 of them are top members of a Death Cult called the Brethren of Apophis whose prominent members in the past have uttered insane wishes for the demise of mankind”.

“Cmdr. Áo Fei is already enroute to Shanghai with a small team and so is Xia Wen, they will be working to instate an operative at the Hotel eXelsior where we will be arranging a very special buffet for them”.

Shanghai was at its usual melting pot charm, the streets were bathed in sunlight and a quirky mix of expensive luxury automobiles blended with worn out minivans, pickups and lorries with a thrown in sprinkle of electric bikes and trikes.

Cmdr. Áo Fei was driving towards the Dicos where he had agreed to meet up with Zhāng Biming and Yi Fei, his nephew named very untraditionally after him, the meeting would ensure Zhāng Biming could take a permanent vacation from his job at the eXelsior as a consultant for a TDF subcontractor in the service sector, the guy was sharp and seemed like a good match for a future in the organization, given he could be fully vetted, so far everything had checked out and being in charge of security he likely was trustworthy and his financial situation having children and a wife to support and parents and in-laws on top of it that were on the verge of pension it was nearly a given that he would accept the job offer as Trainee Chief Security for WeCU2™ a company specializing in monitoring political officials and uncovering undue corporate influence to the political system.

The vehicles swerved among each other in a seemingly chaotic pattern and while certain rules were observed it was very clear it was far from every vehicle which was running on automation, there was still a long way to go before full automobile automation had occurred and in this city of towering glistening skyscrapers it was hard not to think about ants in a glossed over giant ant-farm all hustling and bustling with their preordained tasks.

Cmdr. Áo Fei had not been home to see his parents for a long time and felt strangely queasy being back in Shanghai not to see them, but actually to save potentially billions; he tried to shake the feeling. There was a job to do, it was reckoning time.

The lobby of the Hotel eXelsior was opulently flaunting that here no beggars were allowed, it was clearly the playground for the Ultra Rich and powerful elites of the world and here they were going to face off against one of the most evil cabal Yi Fei had ever heard of in his entire life, he looked out of place in his Jeans Jacket and Cowboy Jeans as he strolled in through the lobby, the doormen had been giving him baffling looks as he strode by as if he was some kind of famous rock star, or something like that, for no locals would dare to enter the hotel so nonchalantly.

His boyish features slightly red tinted hair and sneakers were so completely out of place that he was immediately noticed.

A concierge almost hovered over to him, may I help you sir he said eying the young man suspiciously, Yi Fei flicked out his newly acquired PLF Special Task Force Credentials and the concierge quickly waved the security guards that were silently sliding in from all sides.

“Mr. Yi accept my sincere apologies, please follow me so we can get you fitted with a suitable outfit, we were not expecting you this early, you must be exhausted from the trip”, the concierge in his most buttered up voice.

“Nah not too bad, the Musk Shanghai Peace and Prosperity Express only takes about 5 hrs. from Copenhagen to Shanghai and refreshments and comforts are aplenty aboard. Thanks, I'm good!”, Fei answered with an endearing smile, he was in.

“Mr. Yi may we have a word”, the EUgenoCorp security officer did not seem particularly pleased.

“Naturally”, Fei answered smiling; his stature was not especially small, but compared to the man in front of him, the EUgenoCorp officer still looked like a giant.

“We have noticed some shifting around of hotel personnel, could you please explain?”

Fei held it together; success depended upon him being able to keep a straight face.

“I found some bad apples, I checked up on their phone behavior as allowed per their employment contract, people won't believe what is kept even if they think they delete it from their phones nor do they suspect how powerful commercial profiling can be in conjunction with just a tiny amount of data, the intelligence services have never really realized how easily they could do their job with targeted work rather than the blanket bullshit they've been peddling for years”.

The EUgenoCorp security chief nodded with a smile he knew only too well, “May I peruse the records?”, he asked.

“Sure”, Fei said with a smile while adding, “As soon as it has been cleared by internal security and legal”

Fei knew the Security Officer would already be deploying his own team to investigate the claims through his neural implants. The big question would be if Kim's Cyber Security team had been able to insert proficiently convincing data, into the employee records, to satisfy the EUgenoCorp security researchers.

While the records would eventually be cleared for the false data Fei still felt bad about having to resort to manipulating search and contact histories of employees. A bad digital record could destroy someone's life entirely, but he trusted his uncle's reassurements that no life would be damaged, except those who were guilty of plotting the most heinous crime of human history.

An hour later the EUgenoCorp officer got a message from his researchers, the information looked valid.

He contacted Yi Fei, “We have decided to trust your judgement with regards to your little employee switcharoo, there is sufficient grounds for their dismissal as it is right now”.

“We will however be placing additional security in the lobby and in key locations we expect this to be honored as per our standard agreement with the hotel owner”, the officer added much to Fei's dismay.

Yi Fei could do nothing but agree, Commander Áo Fei's troops would be facing a very difficult task in containing the additional EUgenoCorp security detail, although knowing his uncle it would not to be an impossible task for him.

Yi Fei was escorting a group of executives along with EUgenoCorp security guards through the hotel to their designated meeting room.

He was listening only with half an ear to discussions about what stocks were worth watching and hearing how this or that stock was on a short term down trend forming bullish candlestick patterns indicating possible reversals coming. These people were a piece of work.

“Definitely, worth watching once it drops a little bit more”, one of the executives agreed.

“Haha”, another one laughed out loud “I do not recall this recommendation or suggestion from you before, you need a good filter before taking Richards advice on finding solid pharma companies to invest in, especially if you want to buy that Sprintster, and that is even though the brand has never really recovered from the great debacle of 05 or 15 if you ask me”

The two executives in front giggled and one of them added “Personally, given the choice of a company car, I would prefer a Madrigal. Better records of dependability a more durable vehicle. The Sprintster may perform well, but seriously… I mean in a Maddi, you can truly “feel” the road when you driving, I don't mean in a bad way. But speed… Nah never been selling point for me and seriously at your age, heh you're unlikely to drive a car faster than a 100 miles an hour unless it were some kind of emergency.

They arrived at the meeting room. Yi Fei pointed to the door.

“Gentlemen if you please, someone will be there right away to take care of the refreshments”.

The last thing he heard before the door closed was a sick twisted joke about replacing a used up girlfriend for a new model

Yi Fei held his composure and exhaled heavily; he quickly instructed the arriving waiters and went about his way.

The meeting had been going on for the better part of an hour, many plans had been discussed and Inger Steinberger felt it was time to pound somewhat into the proverbial table.

“You know you really are a bunch of shits, how you got to where you are today; is a mystery”, she said.

“Well we all know how you got to where you are; nothing like good old digitalis to pave the way… they all laughed.

Topside a squad of PLF specialists was getting ready to deploy the Mylar shielding that would envelop the entire building in an electromagnetic blanket thus blocking any mobile signals from coming through.

A squaddie knelt down and armed the ejection mechanism.

“All clear”, he said and looked around at the men.

He got the all clear from the rest of the topside crew.

“Topside clear, below deck?”, he inquired.

“1 minute, nearly there”, a trooper replied while frantically picking a rack lock. Luckily it was not particularly advanced and the installation depended on perimeter security rather than an onion structure that would have meant security down to both egress and ingress points.

The lock came open; he wiped some sweat of his forehead, now to choose the correct 100G transceivers so as to not pull the entire hotel infrastructure offline.

“Okay, Bob is your uncle”, the Tech Specialist said as he found ports 3/47 and 3/48.

Topside the crew fired off the Mylar web, the fire complete signal beeped in his earpiece, he followed it with a 10 second countdown; after which he pressed the ejection levers and the switch LED's went from green to yellow, then the ports turned dark, blackout was in effect.

The Mylar web had passed by and was now well below the level of the meeting room, the spider like shimmering that could be seen from the outside was not visible to the people on the inside as light passed through nearly unhindered, but already signal loss was occurring; the plan was working perfectly.

On the street troops started surrounding the hotel, blocking traffic. A EUgenoCorp lookout outside the hotel was taken out before realizing what was going on, his life-signs monitor alarmed the rest of them to the fact that something might be going on.

The PLF Special forces entered the lobby running, the EUgenoCorp guards in the lobby were quickly neutralized as well placed insiders zapped them before they had a chance to attack the troops storming the hotel.

Outside the meeting room the EUgenoCorp goons took up strategic positions in the hallway, on the inside of the meeting room the execs antagonized by EUgenoCorp Security asking them to cut their meal short suddenly understood something serious was afoot.

“Don't you f…ing move”, a EUgenoCorp guard said and pointed a gun menacingly at Yi Fei, who was just coming out of the elevator by the dining room being used by the EUgenoCorp meeting.

“Woah there, Hotel Security”, he said catching their attention.

At the same moment a PLF trooper tossed in a grenade looking device across the floor from inside the elevator.

The guards looked at it anxiously expecting an explosion, instead of a giant explosion however the grenade splintered in a spray of tiny fragments, that when coming into contact with the guards by the door gave off an electrical charge neutralizing their weapons, the critterbots then proceeded to lock themselves around the guards rendering them completely immobile.

The PLF troopers were quick to follow and Yi Fei walked all the way up to the door, he knocked softly. A voice replied bidding him to enter.

The situation at the table was tense, the EUgenoCorp guards were clearly quite upset in response to the absence of communication with headquarters, Yi Fei had multiple targets painted to his chest.

“Please calm yourself gentlemen, the situation is under control, there has been a disruption to communications probably due to solar flare activity, did'nt you hear the news this morning, they were expecting a severity 6 storm”.

“Landlines too?”, the EUgenoCorp head security officer asked suspiciously.

Yi Fei, paused for a second but not long enough to arouse suspicion, Amazing coincidence, cable cut due to construction work almost at the exact time, if only the workers had gone to lunch instead of pressing on with their work, I suppose that is the price you pay for financial progress”, Yi Fei said and laughed.

The EUgenoCorp goons did not share his amusement, but lowered their guns enough to calm Yi Fei somewhat. The PLF Special Squad members were right outside; ready to burst in on his signal.

“I hope your meal was pleasant?”, he said reaching in his pocket very slowly so as to not raise tension.

“What?”, one of the executives snapped, it was the one that had been joking about exchanging the old model.

“I said, I hope your meal was pleasant!”, Yi Fei snapped right back at him.

“What kind of question is that to ask in a situation like this”, Inger Steinberger burst in thoroughly angered.

Yi Fei turned towards her, “Do you recognize this?”, he said drawing a silvery canister from his pocket.

Inger was silent, she knew exactly what the Hotel Security officer was holding in is hand.

A couple of the other executives turned pale as the realization dawned upon them, the food… had they all been infected?

Yi Fei gauged the room and gave the PLF troops the signal, he threw himself to the ground as they burst in; stun guns blazing, sending the EUgenoCorp security detail to the ground; but not without first taking heavy fire.

The two PLF troops remaining standing held the stunned executives at gunpoint, while others pouring in quickly tended to their fallen comrades, luckily there were no fatal casualties yet, med kits were brought out and a trooper ran off to bring in medical personnel waiting while letting the troops in position; know that the situation was under control.

“You know, one of you is not going to die, she already made sure she was safe”, Yi Fei said looking at Inger Steinberger.

Inger turned pale as the other executives turned their gaze upon her.

“You filthy bitch”, one of the executives began launching towards Inger, he was stopped dead in his tracks by Yi Fei; who sent him to the ground using almost no force but turning the man's forward inertia upon the attacker himself.

“I had nothing to do with this”, she pleaded. The other executives were not particularly convinced by her words.

“You lying sack of shit, you know we'll be dead if we don't get the antidote within the next 72 hours if we are going to have a chance to survive. What kind of person are you… you turn upon you own ?”, another of the executives began.

“You knew the internal inoculation program is still in preparation, you knew some of the guinea pigs supposedly were the only ones inoculated… and you just set things off like that, what was your plan, total domination of EUgenoCorp resources, or more perhaps? What is enough for you Inger ?”

Inger was furious now, “Shut your mouths we'll be extracted you blistering idiots”.

Yi Fei smiled, “The hell you will, this place is in total lockdown. Feel free to attempt to contact your security forces with those smart implants of yours as if you have not already and trust me, ain't nobody going to send in any two bit rentacop outfits here to take you home, you are on your own”.

Inger suddenly went for a weapon, Yi Fei managed to lurch to the side, while pulling a stunner sending darts searing with electricity into the woman's body. She became rigid and fell to the ground paralyzed.

The remaining executives realized they were alone with no hope of extraction. It did not take long before Yi Fei got directions to where TDF forces could retrieve the only antidote.

… The facility was a few kilometers outside a small backwater town in the Arizona desert; it was the perfect place, lots of free energy for the production facility and sparsely populated, no neighbors within a reasonable distance.

The assault craft carrying the TDF team sped towards the plant at a downward angle that would have made any non-initiated think that the descent would not end well for those on board.

At the last possible moment the craft leveled out whirling dust and sand off the ground as it locked in and headed straight on in towards the facility grounds.

Vladimir itched. He had been checked out from medbay quickly and after the debriefing he'd gone straight back into combat training mode, keeping sharp was his way to combat the itch, and he itched, badly, this time he had been very fortunate indeed, straight into the thick of it and he was going to make those bastards pay dearly for what they had done to his comrades in arms.

The assault ship came to a halt in the middle of the facility, its ramp dropped and aboard members of the team wondered if their gear was tight and a million other things as Vladimir's voice cut through the air like a knife.

“The ramp's down, go go go”, sending the troops left and right.

All hell broke loose there was no whistling of bullets streaking by like in the movies, just the TAT TAT TAT followed by the immediate klank klank klank from bullets of a heavy automatic weapon slamming into the side of the craft; then tearing into the torso of one of the squaddies.

“Get your arse twitching you sorry sons of bitches”, Vladimir shouted throwing himself forward; heart racing and brain analyzing everything he could about the scenery, the position of the shooter and potential cover. Small drones whisked into the air to provide them with a situational overview.

As he sped towards the wounded man he made the position of the shooter, dove forwards and rolled into a sitting position, he pulled the trigger and his weapon spewed a deadly round of explosive tip bullets at the shooter who was standing behind the turret mounted machine gun of an APC.

The bullets slammed into the vehicle and the lid behind the shooter sending a blast of heat and shrapnel in all directions tearing the shooter to shreds.

“WHY THE FUCK ARE ARE YOU SO FAR BACK!?!?”, Vladimir shouted to the medic who was rushing up to them.

“Jacobson”, the medic retorted mentioning the name only pointed to a figure on the ground further behind, Vladimir gave him a slight nod.

There was another TAT TAT TAT, this time however nobody was hurt, this shooter clearly had no formal training and overshot due to recoil.

“FUUUUCK!”, the medic shouted in terror, Vladimir however was already on the case and silenced the assailant very quickly and efficiently.

“HEY ASSHOLE, help Evans getting those fucking goats into the ship”. Vladimir was shouting at a squaddie encroached by a wall, the soldier immediately ran over to the Medic and they began pulling the wounded to the safety of the dropship.

Meanwhile Vladimir and the rest of the team were moving towards entrances, cutting down resistance as it emerged. It was obvious that there had never been any consideration of a raid on the facility or it would have been harder to take, in a way Vladimir felt unsatisfied it was too easy, like a shooting gallery.

Suddenly drones whirred out of the buildings and started firing, both at them and at their own aerial recon units that started falling out of the sky, now this is a pickle Vladimir though as he in turn began picking the armed defender drones out of the sky; one by one.

Half an hour later a very exhausted Vladimir was outside an office, he kicked in the door.

A heavy set, bald and very sweaty man, panickly raised his weapon in order to fire.

Vladimir's shot was planted firmly in his forehead and the bald man swiveled out of his chair and landed on the floor before his finger could even twitch.

“Everything secured?”, Vladimir said into his communicator.

“Everything secure”, a tired voice answered him back.

Vladimir, sat down in the now empty chair and picked up the phone.

A few seconds later a voice in the other end answered cheerfully, “Sheriff's Office, this is Deputy West speaking, may I help you?”

“Yes”, Vladimir said heavily and took a deep breath.

“Deputy West, who I am, is of no consequence, but if you listen very carefully to what I have to tell you! You will become a genuine all American hero, yes, how does that sound?”, before the deputy could answer he continued “To hell… You Deputy West, you will be the goddamn hero of the whole world, better no?”, Vladimir added and paused. Deputy West swallowed a lump, he was all ears.

On screen they could see multiple EUgenoCorp Executives being led into cells, the Morning Show was rolling across the screen and the news anchors; all too smug, all too picture perfect; were commenting the imagery.

“What an amazing morning, 7 EUgenoCorp top executives have been faced with tax evasion charges and more amazingly a conspiracy to decimate mankind to a fraction of it's size, however good old fashioned police work, thanks to an all American Hero, Deputy West who has uncovered a conspiracy tracing back to a little known Death Cult, Brethren of Apophis and ties to a multinational company have saved the day”.

“What do you say Frank, it seems the Tin Foil Hat Brigade at least got that one right eh?”, the news anchor said as the cameras swerved onto another well groomed face.

“That's right, next we'll probably learn that UFO's are actually spaceships and aliens are not only interacting with humanity, but actively trying to manipulate and control the world”.

The anchors all laughed “Yeah wouldn't that just be the one to top this one off”.

In the dimly lit meeting room Von Hesse pushed a button and the screens showing the broadcast faded to black.

He turned towards the camera feeding the meeting to the other participants with a serious grimace on his already furrowed face.

“Yes, this is a definite blow-back”, he said and stared at his screen with a thoughtful look on his face.

“But we will move past it, this is merely a setback of the inevitable”, a smile came upon his face as he recalled perusing the latest progress reports.

“We managed to cash out before the EUgenoCorp stock tanked, so financial losses are at a minimum”, his eyes scrolled down his screen, 7 out of the 10 remaining programs aimed directly towards lowering the overall IQ and health of the general population were still on track.

He took a deep breath, yes they would prevail and the eaters of the world would finally be under control again.

With a confident look upon his face he continued the meeting “For the next point of the agenda I would like you to peruse article 9…”

Part Six - Plight of the Takyüddin

Click here to see the storyboard for the comicbook conversion of chapter 6 on Patreon

The Takyüddin was flying as fast as the generators allowed it, the ship was heaving and grinding sounds emanated from the stressed out hull barely holding together as space bent and warped stressing the bubble encapsulating the vessel.

Captain Dunbar cursed himself, he had warned the higher up brass that the TDF were about to enter into an unholy alliance with the Janesians and the fallacy in thinking that if there was not enough firepower to stop the incoming Melajjin attack fleet, that the Janesians would somehow benevolently help was beyond his comprehension.

Taking their help Earth would have to pay a heavy price, nobody dealing with the Janesians had ever indicated anything else, but this, this was beyond comprehension, humans betraying their own kind and now the remaining crew of the Takyüddin was running for their lives to prove this point.

The Janesian ships, mere fractions of a parsec behind the Takyüddin in hot pursuit, intended to ensure that the double-cross would never be discovered, it had been a Janesian plot from day one and Captain Dunbar knew that if those ships caught up to them before they reached earth to warn the CIC of the TDF about the trap that they were walking into and that there was no Janesian Peace wielding faction, then Earth would cease to exist as anything else that a mining colony of the Janesians.

Captain Dunbar repeatedly berated himself. How stupid to have even entertained the thought, the curse of the gullible humans, blind trust, fool me once… it would be a slaughter unlike any humanity had ever experienced and he himself had been the force that had ensured contact was possible between the TDF and the Janesians.

They had been very clever about it, Captain Dunbar had to give them that as he reviewed the information on the crystal device.

First framing the humans for the incident at Datorviix and then rescuing Human Offworld Colony 767 before it was destroyed by a Melajjin fighter battalion crying out for revenge and then coasting up to Valhalla station where the Takyüddin had been moored, offloading thousands of human refugees driven off the colony.

The subsequent destruction of the entire primary knowledge collection of the Melajjin was an act of immense sacrilege against everything the Melajjin stood for, while they had advanced technology the living memory of the Melajjin had been kept alive in 5 systems to ensure against destruction and a living memory it was the only memory of the species and when the Melajjin had realized the foul human plot to decimate all 5 primary systems simply because the humans wanted the resources of these systems, their proverbial cup had overflowed, an enraged race without history was a dangerous one to any they would encounter, not just the human race so the Janesians had proposed an alliance of sorts.

Captain Dunbar looked at the small black cube encapsulated in crystal, inside it lay all the information to reveal the Janesian plot.

His fingers drummed impatiently on the instrument panel, the mission had been a longshot and totally unsanctioned, he had no idea of how he would be met when the Takyüddin re-entered Terran space, if they were not blown out the airlock a court-martial was in the charts, but he had already paid the price, nothing that happened to him could change what had happened and nothing anyone could think of doing to him could hurt him any more.

Sarah… as the thought of his daughter swept his mind, Captain Dunbar fought to keep his tears back, those swine bastards… They were going to pay.

2 weeks earlier.

The Janesian Commander stood in front of XXXXXXXXX the SecureForze officer representing the security firm commissioned to liaise with the brass of the Janesian.

The SecureForze officer was uneasy, while it was not his first meeting with an extraterrestrial the fact that it was the emissary of an invasion force made him question where his loyalties lay, with the firm and the people who had given him everything, or with the peoples of Earth. What is the price of a man he thought to himself and addressed the Commander.

“How do you know that your ships will be allowed in Terran space ?”, he asked the Commander.

“Leave that to us, when the time comes we will be appreciative for the courtesy you have shown us”, the Commander replied not willing to delve any further into the matter.

“We will assure safety and privileges for those appointed by your superiors and as one who has experienced Janeisian privileges you understand what that entails?”, the Commander emphasized looking strictly at the SecureForze.

The officer nodded silently, he knew exactly the lavishments and extravagances the Janesian had to offer, endless pleasure and comforts beyond anything most people could ever dream of and to those who were against them… The SecureForze officer shuddered by the thought.

Sarah Dunbar held her breath, as she listened in through the grate of an exhaust.

She had been unable to plant any surveillance devices in the room itself, but they had not though to sweep the perimeter an additional time while the meeting was going on.

That was when she had seen her opportunity to gain further intelligence. She listened intensely, everything she had snickered at being floated online seemed to be on the table, she could not believe her own ears.

Her horror grew about hearing how everything was in place, how there were sufficient loyal forced trained in military techniques, crowd control, asymmetrical warfare, population control psy ops. the likes even the most outrageous tin foil hatter could never have imagined.

It was all real and happening, right here in her own country, her emotions were all over the place and she had a hard time resisting bursting into the room and let God sort them out.

Her heart became heavy as the discussing turned in the direction of how the general public had already accepted or was unable to protest the 24x7x365 surveillance.

Sarah knew her agency and their sister and brethren agencies were to blame for buying into the lie of big data and meta-analysis, it has been nothing but a means to an end, she had come to realize that by now, but what could she do, she was just one person.

Dirty politicians and their business associate lobbyists had been able to establish a near airtight reign of iron by offering the general public naught but trinkets and glass beads all in the form of flashy mobiles and free applications.

Users had for years happily just pressed OK to any APP that needed access to every bit of their personal lives, hey it was free and shiny and all the cool kids did it.

Deep down she had always known her government had gone too far, but she had bought into the terrorist lie as well, anyone experiencing the horrors on TV and on the live web streams at a young enough age had been conditioned to this. Anyone old enough to remember fallen regimes of the past indulging in similar activities had been branded nutters, tinfoil hatters as well as conspiracy theorists, or dealt with on one charge or another, it had been all too easy, she understood that now.

A suit-clad business type was now addressing the attendees “Trust me, it will be all thanks and amen to our Janesian friends sending in their rapid deployment fleet to defend earth from the vile attackers, the Janesian shall declare themselves an ally of humanity”, he gave a nod to the Janesian representative who nodded back.

“The financial collapse due to the great destruction wielded on the planet will make The Great Depression and any subsequent crisis look like something of a picnic, trust me. There will be massive damage to deal with in the aftermath, but once the initial attack has been repelled business will be good!”.

Several of the men chuckled, this was going to be glorious. Personal profits would be astronomical and the sheeple… well, the sheeple would toil even harder for them from now on.

“But like I have explained previously, you personally will have nothing to fear from the great financial panic that will erupt worldwide. You will have all the means to take care of yourself and your family all thanks to our operatives in the financial sector who have been hoarding precious metals and necessities that are stashed away in deep underground complexes built using the taxpayer's money”.

There was further snickering but the SecureForze operative seemed less uneasy now but as the Janesian continued explaining about the outrage and anger in the remaining population, about the military takeover, how governments would declare states of emergency and how martial law globally would be declared and all to make certain the remaining populace pliable and obedient as they looked for strong leadership in the wake of a disaster that would grow even worse very quickly, he started feeling quite uneasy again.

The Janesian explained in detail of how they would be assisting governments worldwide with the implementation of a chipping system, where everyone was to be chipped to ensure their safety and well-being.

The chips would be delivered by personnel within the public health system and so as to overcome any objections, a minor plague and an effective cure given it was discovered in time was going to see to everyone accepting the chip as their own idea this to ensure the well-being of their loved ones and family, the playbook was very similar to a previously derailed effort of a culling and subsequent control system and the SecureForze officer again began questioning himself and his motives.

Sarah did not dare to wait any longer, she'd have to report this, but to whom? They would think her insane, it was against all protocol but she would have to discuss it with someone she trusted, she would have to call her father.

The phone rang and Captain Dunbar who was still home ending his 48 hour fur-low later in the day, picked up the phone

“Sarah is that you ?”, he asked seeing the number was masked and location unknown.

“Yes dad”, Sarah replied.

“It has been ages since your mother and I heard from you, is everything alright?”, the Captain asked with worry in his voice, Sarah would not call his personal device unless there was something serious going on.

“I am a big girl dad, I can take care of myself”, she hesitated before she continued in a very serious voice, “I have to talk to you off the record!”.

Captain Dunbar pondered for a moment “Seriously?”, he then asked.

“Seriously!”, Sarah replied confirming Captain Dunbar's gnawing gut feelings that had been growing ever since he had heard about the emissaries.

“There is something going on, something big, something very very serious, but I can't talk on the line”.

Captain Dunbar took a deep breath, “Okay honey, don't say anything, just confirm”, “Do you remember the place where you snook down to have ice-cream despite being explicitly told you could couldn't have any that time you ended up in the hospital being operated for your appendix ?”

“Yes”, Sarah responded quickly.

“Okay, you go there and then go across the street”, “Someone will be there and direct you further, make sure you are not followed”, Captain Dunbar emphasized.

“Yes dad!”, Sarah answered relieved that she would not have to face this without proper council.

“I love you Sarah, and you know your mother does too, but be careful okay, I will leave from here immediately”.

“I will don't worry daddy”

45 minutes later Sarah got out of the autocab, for a moment she regretted having taken a licensed cab, but on the other hand, she was quite sure nobody had followed her so far.

She looked at the ice-cream store, today was a hot day and it was still there, so far it looked quite legit. She glanced around was anyone following her ? Nobody!

She walked up to the counter and bought a triple squiggly. “A classic eh?”, the clerk inquired more as a statement. Sarah smiled “Yeah”, she answered and paid the ice-cream.

She licked the chocolate topping that melted in her mouth with a slight tingle, she then took a deep breath and walked across the street.

She noticed a young punk approaching her, there was something familiar about him, she just couldn't pinpoint it, he reminded her of someone she knew, someone from her childhood “You want some wheezies ?”, the punk offered.

“Uhm no thanks Sarah”, said evasively and tried to pass him without further interaction, the punk then looked her straight in the eyes and in a muffled but a reassuring voice gave her the instructions she had expected.

“Go to Heinemanns Pawn shop on third”, “Ask for the whistle of a football judge, Bus 451 leaves in a moment from the stop right around the corner”.

“Sorry Mam”, the punk said, “Didn't mean to bother you!”, then he quickly walked off as a police car came rolling by. Sarah swallowed and headed toward the corner. The police car turned to follow the young punk who burst into a run prompting the police car to speed up however as it cruised around the corner he just seemed to have disappeared into thin air. God damn drug dealers were the only words the two officers exchanged before a radio transmission interrupted what would have been another rant of obscenities about the state of things from Detective Carson.

Line 451 was on time and Sarah got on board. It was a long time since she had used any form of public transport and she felt quaint, the taste of ice-cream was still lingering in her mouth and memories of childhood flowed over her as the bus chugged along the streets.

She got off at third only to find the pawn shop closed.

Out for lunch the sign said. Sarah looked around, the street was empty, the only hustle and bustle reaching her ears came from the streets one level below the overpass.

She tried the door but it was locked. There was a number on the sign, jotted down in hand but no atypical for a store like this.

Sarah took out her phone and called as she made the call she sealed her fate.

The phone was ripped from her hand as her attacker came at her, she tried to scream but nobody heard her over the noise from a truck coming roaring up the street.

The assailant kicked the phone into the street in front of the truck.

“Sarah Sarah”, a voice shouted from the speaker right before the phone was crushed.

“I had my doubts about you”, the goon said as he twisted Sarah's arm, while another held her at gunpoint.

“I don't know what you mean?”, Sarah tried. The streets were still empty and the truck had simply sped on, the driver unwilling to get into any trouble, it was not the kind of neighborhood one stopped in, and he was not about to fall for a ruse like that only to be robbed of his truck and cargo like Jimmy Jones last week the driver had thought to himself as he stepped a little extra on the gas pedal.

A white van pulled up and inside that van, Sarah Dunbar's life ended. A drug overdose the police said as they found her body in the alley behind the pawn shop. Unbeknown to them a small drone that had been tagging Sarah was recording the incident.

Captain Dunbar cursed himself for not having arrived more quickly as he went through the recordings from the drone. He pulled some strings and quickly tracked down the white van and its occupants. They screamed in agony as the Captain interrogated them one after another till he had a string of clues leading to a SecureForze officer who had been surprisingly willing to talk.

Back at HQ the brass had been up in the air about his rogue investigation, and him of all who had been instrumental in establishing peaceful interactions, but it was when he saw the smug grin on the Janesian emissary as a delegation passed him by that he formulated his further plans

Captain Dunbar knew those bastards were behind it all and he also knew where the proof would be, a stronghold thought impenetrable. But with the stealth of the Takyüddin he would be able to get a crew there, that would not be too hard, the Takyüddin had the best stealth tech of the entire TDF fleet, the tough thing would be accessing the deep underground Janesian archives, those fuckers loved keeping records of everything so they could recreate every glorious moment of every cunning plan and deed and use it to run endless simulations extrapolating from already played out scenarios when planning new conquests. They had learned that much from earlier skirmishes and allies.

72 hours earlier

Takyüddin - in orbit over Planet M'ah Uradin - status Cloaked.

“You understand that you are going to do the impossible, nobody has made it into D'iva Porte for 357 years without Janesian permission, the fact that we have managed to bypass their detection grid is solely due to Avian cloaking technology”.

Captain Dunbar pondered upon the sanity of him not having divulged, that he had not been sanctioned to engage in the mission, in fact, that he had been explicitly denied to anyone except Sgt. Jasperson, he felt he owed his old friend that much, though it would mean Jasperson would not have plausible deniability if anyone ever found out.

“Sir, you can count on us”, Sgt. Jasperson said and saluted, he had personally picked the squad after Captain Dunbar had filled him in, it was a stroke of luck that the SecureForze people had talked.

Hatred was sizzling in his the sergeant's heart, having lost his own daughter just a few years earlier and having followed Sarah Dunbar grow from a small girl to a young law enforcement officer he understood perfectly what the Captain was going through.

Captain Dunbar straightened up and saluted his squad who had all joined in Jasperson's salute, they were good men, each and every one of them, loyal to the core.

“Dismissed”, Captain Dunbar managed to utter swallowing another lump. The squad disbanded entering the airlock to the dropdeck.

Outside Capitol D'iva Porte.

The wind blew harshly through the barren and rocky landscape that surrounded D'iva Porte as the small band of soldiers snook forward clinging to the dark.

They had dived in from high orbit wearing pressurized wing-suits and had glided towards the Capitol, para-foils had been deployed a few hundred meters above the ground cushioning the worst fall.

They were moving ahead towards their objective, the central data hub that would be located in some sort of data-center buried far underground once inside they would extract a data chunk containing damning evidence that TDF and humanity were being set up to fall.

It would not be a pretty mission and there would be nothing stealthy about it once it got going, but for now they kept a low profile.

Suddenly the point guard froze, the others quickly froze to assess the situation.

Christiansen looked at the venomous creature slithering in front of him akin to a giant cobra, he knew if he moved he would be dead as the reptilian would latch on to him driving it's fangs into his body and the enzymes sprayed into his body would make being bit by the recluse spiders look like a joyride in a theme-park, a bite would cause a condition of necrosis of the entire body leading to a complete cellular breakdown. Not exactly a tempting proposition.

Sgt. Jasperson glanced up on his HUD and as he glanced upward to the CamShare on his HUD UI, he quickly flicked over to a full shot of PFC Christiansen's CAMView and was now heading in extreme slow motion towards the PFC who had frozen in front of the snake-like reptilian lifeform.

Weapons were still in full stealth mode as they could not afford to break cover, but the PlasmaBlade would likely not be showing up on any scans due to its weak signature.

Sgt. Jasperson slowly pulled out the blade and flicked the switch, it let out a little hum as it lit and charged. The shimmering was barely visible in the darkness.

Hopefully, even though likely undetectable to the Janesian sensors the frequency of the blade would not be something the animal would be attracted to.

Christiansen on my mark I need you to fall back, no correction I need you to launch backward as quickly as you can, use HUD and blink slowly twice if you understand.

A drop of sweat ran down Christiansen's forehead, the reptile slithered a bit and closed in, not quite sure what to make of the unusual intruder.

PFC Christiansen blinked twice and bit down on his lip. This would be all or nothing.

“Ready, on my mark i.e. on 1”, Sgt. Jasperson said waiting for Christiansen to blink him a confirmation.

“Okay, 3”, the Sgt began.

“2”, he continued as Christiansen swallowed a lump tightening all his muscles.

“1”, Sgt Jasperson shouted. Christiansen leapt backward and the Sgt. leaped forward, blade first.

The reptile lunged ahead as well, intending to put its razor sharp fangs into Christiansen's arm, only to find Sgt. Jasperson's blade instead.

The ominous reptilian head fell, it was cleaved clean off the snakelike body, that lumped down onto the ground all twitching and rolling. For a while it kept wiggling, until it finally stayed still.

“Close one”, Jasperson said and released the switch on his blade.

He was glad he had thoroughly briefed the small crew on the fauna they could expect to come across on their way to the compound. But there was no time to waste, the band of soldiers would have to hurry on, as one of these dead reptile beast, soon would attract others, Jasperson shivered, those things were behaving like some sort of interstellar cockroaches.

The entrance like the rest of the compound was simply carved into the rock, a flight of stairs leading into the underground maze.

The Janesian Capitol was not a boastful cry to the heavens, not by far, au contraire, it was the result of a culture entertaining centuries upon centuries of relentless warfare. First among themselves and now against near everyone in the known star systems of the galaxy that they found to be a sporting and entertaining adversary.

Any protrusion that had ever existed above ground were been long obliterated, hence the Janesian saying, “He who stays low stays safe”, had emerged and so digging into the rock had become the norm for the paranoid and bestial rulers.

It was almost unthinkable that the troopers of the TDF had knowledge of the Capitol, a closely guarded secret but the Temporans had talked.

Jasperson formed a fist and halted the approach. He checked his HUD and sent off a ready when you are signal to the cloaked vessel in the skies above.

Meanwhile the troops quickly laid out a slew of matter destabilization charges.

Moments later a bombardment began lighting up the far side of the city The Janesians would be scurrying about to the edges of the perimeter, it would not be expected that such a small number of fighters could venture so far into the city circles.

The Matter destabilization charges went off and began burning down deep into the lower levels of the complex.

“Okay, Pre-rigging, are you ready?”

The men responded by pulling out DriveMotor Anchors, lowering the harpoon like muzzle towards the surface.

“Safety is the solution ladies and gentlemen, secure your Drives”, the seargent massed drilling the team amidst the barrage raininf down.

A series of thuds indicated the DriveMotors were securely anchored to the ground with hardened composite bolts.

“Secure rapelling lines”, he continued. The team complied.

“Okay then, cast your lines and clip in harness”, he ordered, “Check your partner, confirm DarkVision working. Christiansen take a peek, are we sure lines have ground contact”.

“Check Sarge”, PFC Christiansen replied after peering into the darkness looming below”

“OK monkeys off we go”, Sgt. Jaspersen said and leapt into the darkness, he kept the brake loose and sailed down the line rapidly.

Here and there the team had to pushed back a bit extra to steer clear of rooms that had been bared, most of them looked sealed but an odd door or two were still open, clear evidence of power issues throughout the underground complex, either caused by the matter destabilization charges, or the low orbit bombardment that had been initiated by the Takyüddinn.

Fighters whisked into the air and scanning equipment swept the skies for the attackers but seemed to find nothing but static. The cloak was working perfectly.

The crew made their way through a locked door placing direction charges that cut a nice big hole in the barrier.

The Janisans inside were scattering towards the exits screaming in confusion. Then the intruder alarms went off.

They had advanced quite far through the facility courtesy of a good map layout provided by a deep cover spy, the Janesians had stayed off earth so no hostilities say a few minor skirmishes had occurred here and there to peak the interest of TDF command.

As the TDF troops advanced the Janesian security details that had been dispatched met them with heavy fire. Charges flew through the air charring the walls on impact leaving holes and scorch-marks. It was only a matter of time before the troopers would take a direct hit, Jasperson charged ahead while directing his men to attempt to outflank the enemy, but the battle hardened Janesians of the Citadel Defense Force had his strategy worked out before he even had thought it up.

There was a huge explosion and several men died on the spot, their suited body-parts flying in all directions.

Jasperson stopped dead as a mutilated twitching limb landed in front of him. The Janesian gunner took aim, this was going to be easy pickings. His smug thinking was interrupted by a micro drone delivering an explosive attachment fastned itself on the Janesians neck and went off with a bang, disappearing the gunners head in a mist of bodily fluids.

The remaining Janesians were startled, where the hell had that come from. Jasperson lunged forward his weapon spewing fiery and angry explosive pellets at the entrenched security detail.

A swarm of micro drones finished off the rest of them.

Christiansen picked up one of the Janesian weapons slinging it on his back.

Jasperson wanted to interject, but stopped himself, spoils of war.

They advanced forward again, numbers more than halved, suddenly electrostatic charges were again zinging trough the air, the Janesian weapons were earily silent till impact, then doing great damage. Sgt Jaspersons left arm was shredded off by the elbow, sending him spinning onto the deck.

Caroline White, team medic, a small black woman in her mid twenties opened up and returned fire.

She blasted three Janesian security guards before the rest of the TDF team even managed to let their weapons reply to the attack.

The remainder of the Janesian security detail fell silent and Caroline knelt down by the sergeants side.

His suit was attempting to seal itself and presure could be seen growing around the stump still covered by the suits protective skin.

Caroline had to be fast, she quickly grabbed a capsule from her utility belt and held it up to the gaping wound of the stump and pressed a button.

The seal on the container sprung open and a cuff like ring firmly closed around the seargants arm all while the cover of the capsule quickly covered and thus plugged the hole in the environmental suit.

The device then clicked and released an expansion like foam powder, filled with what popularly was referred to as crushed shrimp.

The compound released caused instant “cauterization” and contained stem-cell infused growth-media.

It was imperative for the sergeant to get medical care fast if limb restoration or regrowth should be possible, but for now in any case the seal would plug the bleeding.

The sergeant rolled his eyes, luckily it seemed he had not lost too much blood “Hang in there sarge, you're going to be good” Caroline said firmly but in a reassuring manner.

She administered a slew of drugs through one of the suit ports in order to take the worst pain and help sergeant Jasperson overcome the trauma.

“Get on your feet sarge”, she ordered and helped him to his feet..

They moved on with the sergeant limping along, he had been hurt badly but with a little help he managed to keep up.

Ahead lay the Central Computational Facility, as they arrived at the door it opened, the team stopped dead. This was unexpected.

“Come in quickly it's safe”, a voice said in English, then continued “Dormant big-mouthed bears are most dangerous in winter”.

It was an agreed upon passphrase, “Don't shoot I am coming out”, the Janesian servant, a human in his early twenties said coming into view holding a crystal with an embedded device, in his hand

“They're edgy, quickly follow me”, the servant said beckoning the team to follow.

He handed the device towards the sergeant, Caroline grabbed it and stuffed it in her satchel.

They had arrived at the entry point and quickly scaled upward Caroline a bit slower due to the extra weight of the sergeant who needed assistance to ascend.

Barely a few meters from the edge after having climbed the wall the Janesian servant stopped in his tracks, a glowing bolt of energy passed through his chest, he fell to his knees there was no hope of recovery, an odd smile streaked across his face as he was liberated from the burden of life.

A repeated tzat tzat tzat of energy bolts tracked closer and closer towards the team as they ran.

Had it not been for a shuttle craft from the Takyüddin coming whizzing in out of nowhere the remaining three troopers would not have managed to enter the shuttle.

“Get us the fuck out of here Christiansen yelled as the co-pilot secured the hatch.

“Roger that”, the Captain replied and thrust the lever to full throttle.

The engines roared and Caroline had not more than managed to strap the sergeant and herself in when the shuttle craft streaked skyward, sharply followed by glowing anti aircraft fire all around it.

From the distance sleek Janesian fighters were moving in on the shuttle that veered from side to side to evade the charged bolts exploding around it. Suddenly the feeling of weightlessness set in.

Streaks of lightning and missiles flew from the incoming fighters locking onto the running shuttle-craft.

An invisible giant suddenly revealed itself, it was the Takyüddin putting itself in harms way. The big ship took a heavy pounding from the missiles intercepted but the shuttle craft survived and headed to the docking bay making a highly unregulated landing.

“Take us out of here”, Captain Dunbar ordered as soon as he had confirmation that the docking was complete.

Alarms wailed throughout the ship, “Prepare for bubble”, the loudspeakers announced.

Moments later the Warp Bubble formed and the Takyüddin disappeared in a flicker of electrostatic charged particles.

The Janesians quickly plotted their course based on exit vector and Seekers began their pursuit.

Commander Kryllic almost felt sorry for the Eartlings running off like scared younglings, but only almost. He smiled as he leaned back in the Command Chair of the Sarlacan ship and let his eyes take in the detail, a rowdy bunch those Sarlacans, the Seeker had not been easy to take… Good thing they were busy fighting the Councilors, once that fighting stopped the Janesians might find themselves an entertaining adversary for sure.

“Commander the Earth vessel is making additional course corections”, a sensor operations manager informed.

Commander Kryllic sighed, as expected. “Understoold, Drop a buoy in 3,2,1”

“Buoy away Commander, drone release in 5”, one of the Janesian operators reported.

Kryllic stroked his chin sending the most delightful tickles into his skull through his chinbones, in a few moments the buoy would break bubble in a flash and moments later a messenger drone would be separated from the buoy speed away from the marker instantly homing in on the Fast Attack Cruisers.

The buoy would most likely remain where dropped, as a back up marker in case the messenger drone failed.

“Separation confirmed Commander”, the operations officer reported.

“Very well”, Kryllic mused and continued stroking his chin, lets see if we can anticipate his next move the Commander thought to himself as he started punching in potential coordinates for the next course alteration the Takyüddin was bound to be making very soon if the projections were correct.

The Present…

“I'm sorry captain, none of the evasive maneuvers have worked they're still with us and we can't try anything else or we'll be ending up stranded in the middle of nowhere like sitting ducks, the only thing we can do at this point is press on home, they keep gaining on us and I am not sure if the tub can take any further punishment while in bubble.

Captain Dunbar's fingers drummed impatiently on the instrument panel, those Janesian ships were on them like fleas on a dog, the Avian cloak being damaged beyond immediate repair was a karmic cockup of unheard dimensions, “So karma, what did I do to you, to make you this pissed?”, he mumbled through his teeth.

“Sorry Sir I didn't quite catch that”

“Nothing Mr. Christian, nothing, you are quite right, plot a direct course, and generators to the max, we're going red”

The First Officer turned to look at the Captain, he gave a slight nod, “Very well sir, maxing bubble generators, safeties off, going red”.

The ship creaked and screached, as if in pain as the bubble adjusted, then came an in warp course adjustment that only a madman would attempt.

Commander Kryllic stopped stroking his chin, now that was unexpected. Then he plotted a pursuit course taking the Seeker crew completely by surprise.

Only a few hours later the Takyüddin broke bubble - Highly energetic particles released a spectacle of luminous raw force frying or distorting any normal matter finding itself within a radius of a thousand kilometers from the ship.

Captain Dunbar did not like to break the bubble so close to Earth or Valhalla station, but he had no choice.

A voice thundered through on the com.

“Captain Dunbar are you compeletly insane, hove your ship by and cast the anchor, prepare to be boarded”.

At that very moment 10 Melajjin ships broke bubble, moments later a Seeker broke bubble and a split second later a contingent of Janesian Fast Attack Cruisers appeared as well with the Takyüddin laying smack in between the Janesians and the Melajjin.

Onboard Valhalla station alarms were blaring and the small fighter contingency crew were running towards their fighter craft.

Then an small EMP weapon fired from one of the smaller Melajjin ships hit the station central launch bay, jamming shut the doors. They were trapped.

He smiled, Commander Kryllic's task was complete, having served 10 rounds of service he saw no need to stay in order to witness this little spectacle that was about to ensue, he would leave that to men needing to grow their tusks a bit more. Kryllic's Seeker disappeared in a flash as fighters launched from the capitol ships on both sides.

The Janesian Commanders of the Fast Attack Cruisers were barking out their orders. The Melajjin ships were big but nothing too menacing, but first things first, The Takyüddin needed to be taken out, hopefully the communications array had been damaged in the previous engagement as the Takyüddin did not seem to be sending out any form of radio communication.

The Janesian fighters started shooting and as the shields began loosing coherence the Takyüddin looked like it was slowly being pulled apart by the incoming barrage.

A voice boomed through the vacum carried by electrostatics, “Valhalla station here, Janesian fighters stop firing on TDF ship, repeat stop firing at TDF ship, the Takyüddin, cease fire immediatly”

The Janesian fighters continued grinding away relentlessly and at the same time fighters released by one of the Melajjin fleet carriers in turn also began firing at both the Takyüddin and the Janesian fighters.

Suddenly a ship of immense proportions broke bubble, sending ripples through the very fabric of space, ripples so strong that gravitational measuring stations across earth went bananas.

A direct hit sent shockwaves through Takyüddin and an electrostatic blast took out half the bridge crew.

Captain Dunbar rubbed his forehead and lifted the first mate from his station where he sat slumped in over the controls.

“Don't let me down now old friend”, he said to the ship almost wanting to give a padding to the metal dashboard, as the thrusters came on full force swinging the Takyüddin towards the newly arrived Melajjin ship.

The newcomer had to be a Central Command Vessel of the Melajjin, if he was right there was still a chance they might live, but it would mean running the gauntlet, it was not like they had many other options now with 90% of the ship's systems incapacitated, they were lucky to have any control of thrusters as it was.

“Captain Dunbar stand down, let the Janesian ships deal with the Melajjin fleet”, the Valhalla station Commander said in another attempt to regain some inkling of control of the situation. Meanwhile his crews were frantically working to get the fighters launched by manually opening the huge landing deck doors of the station.

The bigger Melajjin ships began maneuvers to evade kinetic weapons fire from the Janesian side, all while launching a wave of such weapons towards their opponents.

The Takyüddin had managd to approach the Central Melajjin Carrier which pounded away on the ship with kinetic weapons, for some reason they were holding back on a more powerful approach and like a wounded animal with sirens wailing and air guzzling from the hull the Takyüddin plowed forward.

Suddely the kinetic assault stopped as the Takyüddin came close enough to begin docking maneuvers, Captain Dunbar's calculated risk seemed to have paid off, they had run the gauntlet and survived, the Melajjin would grant them permission to land as per rules of engagement.

One does not kill a non firing nearly incapacitated foe in the heat of battle if they are brave enough to run the gauntlet, Captain Dunbar reverse thrusting to avoid ramming, the Melajjin would likely have held their fire even if he had not reversed as the effect would have been little or negligible for a ship the size of the Takyüddin, keeping damage localized instead of spreading it out over a larger area seemed like the logical choice.

Moments later the Takyüddin had been moored and the ship was brought inside a giant hall.

Inside the Takyüddin a small crew had suited up in light breathers and goggles ready to go off ship. Unless they opened the airlock and debarked the Melajjin would board the ship.

Captain Dunbar himself took position in the airlock together with his small squad then he opened the outer hatch.

The Melajjin soldiers were nervous, none of them had seen an alien before, the human contingient stepping down the hatch felt equally uneasy.

Melajjin soldiers had surrounded the gangway, Captain Dunbar stepped forward raising his open palms to the Melajjin, the higest ranking officer of the Melajjin squad gestured towards a hallway.

Captain Dunbar took the lead and was followed by his squad who in turn were flanked by the Melajjin guard squad. Moments later they were inside a transport tube that led them to one of the Central Command bridge areas.

The silence on the bridge was erie as the party was led inside to face the Melajjin Ship's Commander, he was much taller than the rest of his crew and bore a chest armour that was translucent and gleaming with carved ornaments in metallic hue.

Captain Dunbar held out his open hand hand and spoke. Then slowly without making any quick movements gestured a PFC to move forward with a transport case.

The PFC opened up the transport case, Captain Dunbar picked up the crystal embedded cube, “This will prove how you were set up by the Janesian, as were we!”

The Melajjin officer held a hand up to his ear, then strode across the gap and picked up the data device, he looked at Captain Dunbar. The room was still completely silent.

The Melajjin fleet commander went to a data station and sat down, his fingers danced across a surface and screens flickered on as communication was opened to all commanders of the ships engaging the Janesians, the fleet began withdrawing back towards the Central Command Ship to which the Janesians had not yet put their concentration on.

Another officer also taller than the rest, but not as tall as the Commander came onto the bridge. He was pushing a floating workbench and headed toward his Commander.

The Commanderwho had taken the cube laid it to rest on top of the workbench that seemed to come alive. A piedestal seemed to grow out of the workbench lifting up the small crystal embedded cube.

Lights flickered around on the cube as something similar to a Janesian data reading device now seemed to be bonding with the cube lying on the piedestal of the floating desk. Captain Dunbar and his men were mesmerized, the fluid technology and the workbench was an indication of extreme technological development far beyond anything they had been aware about regarding the Melajjin.

The Fleet Commander looked over the data gently wobbling his head from side to side as it was safely extracted and displayed at imeasurable speed in the air in front of the Commander.

Then the lights flicked off and the piedestal sunk back into the workbench as if dissolving, the cube made a small clonk as is set down on the sleek polished surface of the workbench.

He then returned to face Dunbar, he still had doubts the data was convincing and the Melajjin were still tracking the Takyüddin energy trails back towards the Janesian Central World, a few skirmishes were in progress but they were getting closer now.

Meanwhile on the outside the Janesian ships were pounding away on the central ship that had placed itself in between Valhalla station and the Janesian Fast Attack Cruisers. The Melajjin fighters were inflicting heavy damage on the Janesian fighters that were pulling back towards their launchpads.

On the inside of the bridge the nerve racking and eerie silence still ensued, and suddenly Christiansen could'nt take it any longer, he unbagged a weapon he was carrying on his back and threw it on the floor - It was the Janesian Energy Bolt Rifle he had picked up earlier.

“This proof enough for you that we were there?”, the soldier said while being dotted down by multiple antsy Melajjin guards, who only held their fire back out of respect for the Fleet Commander who had given the word of safe passage to the aliens standing on the bridge.

One of the Melajjin officers picked up the Janesian weapon, it seemed as if there was a brief conversation between the Commander and several of the Melajjin officers it was incomprehensible to the humans and the first sound that had coma across their lips during the whole sceance.

An officer put the Janesian weapon on the workbench brought in earlier and tapped on some illuminated keys that appeared, suddenly the workbench glowed red turning into a bright white flash startling the humans.

The bridge was silent again. The officer picked up the gun from the workbench walked over to and faced PFC Christiansen.

The Melajjin officer thrust the weapon against the PFC's chest and let out a hissing sound while skewing his head slightly in respect.

PFC Christiansen grabbed onto the weapon with his hands, he was immediately dotted again with points of light. There was a gesture from the Fleet commander and the dots disappeared.

A face appeared on the screen, the officers and the rest of the personnel seemed to stand up a little more straight and the Melajjin Commander nodded.

The Fleet Commander looked at his fellow officers and nodded, then a siren whailed and told the humans on the bridge something big was happening.

The Melajjin Commander held a device up in front of his mouth, “Leave,go to your home” the artificial voice boomed out on the bridge.

“What ?”, Captain Dunbar answered dumbfunded.

“Leave now, go to your home”, the Fleet Commander repeated.

Captain Dunbar looked upon him, still not quite understanding what was going on.

“Do not enter Melajjin territory, I cannot guarantee your safety, many will remember what took place and doubt newer records, in time it will all be history and our people will understand it was not your kind who were to blame, but till then no humans are likely to survive very long in Melajjin territory, there are many deaths to be avenged, but we who are here understand and pardon you of all”.

“Now leave, go to your home, from what we can see your ship should be able to limp home given nobody attacks you, we recommend in the future you do not trust the Janesian, they have never been a species to trust”.

The Melajjin guards encircled the human contingent and they were escorted off the bridge without another word uttered.

The Central Command Ship reved up it's engines and headed straight for the Janesian fleet sending their Captains into a state of utter terror.

The result was impressive, energy bolts tore through the vacuum shredding the Janesian ships one by one, even though managing to take out a significant number of the Melajjin ships with last ditch moment of desperation attacks wielding weapons of unprecedented strength before the Janesian fleet was finally and completely decimated.

As the Takyüddin sailed away from the onslaught covered by a wing of Melajjin fighters mopping up a few straggling Janesian fighters a tear streaked down Captain Dunbar's cheek.

Captain Dunbar looked at First mate Fletcher who had been put back on his legs with a heavy dose of stims that would take him days to be weaned off from.

“Take us into moon orbit alongside Valhalla Mr. Fletcher, I think we're going to have one helluwa long debriefing”.

“Aye aye Captain”, Mr. Fletcher replied and began plotting in the course.

An asteroid collision in space has set off some spectacular fireworks in our night skies as rocky and metallic fragments are intersecting with earth orbit.

The debris is related to an event that has somehow been creating energies so high as to create gravitational waves mesurable here on Earth, Astronomers are unable to say if they can identify the type of objects that have collided producing this effect, but it is believed that a couple of Near-Earth objects (NEOs) who are in fact numbering in the range of 10.0000+ identified so far, might have collided with a miniature black hole setting off an unknown chain reaction, producing these mysterious waves.

With many NEO's still undetected and with sizes ranging from meters to multiple kilometers across, once in a while some of them are bound to produce some spectacluar fireworks for us to witness from Earth. Unfortunately at the time of the collision most of our high resolution telescopes were pointed towards other immensely interesting parts of space so no direct imagery has been recorded of the event, the amateur telescope images and claims of ships battling in our solar system have been completely and utterly dismissed by experts as compete hoaxes and the telescope that could have caught the event seems it was undergoing software upgrade servicing at the time so has no record of the event either.

Astronomers and Scientists are bound however to be looking further into the mystery of Christmas Night so that they can become better at predicting the significance of Near-Earth objects (NEOs) and the potential threat to our lives here on Earth and to ensure that we will have ample warning and be able to act should a serious collision with any NEO be near.

Part Seven - Return of the QHiliin

Relentless sounds tore through the darkness the cold air was filled with deep whirring hums intermixed with repetitive thumps, not as from a boots hitting the ground, but from something heavier, mechanical… something menacing growing louder and now it seemed to come from more than just behind him.

Across the icy soil, on a track leading towards Wyvis Lodge by Loch Glass Charlie Hoskins was running for his life.

His feet were carrying his chubby ill dressed panicked body as fast as they could but no matter how fast he ran the pack was closing in on it's prey relentlessly.

How he, an Inverness resident in his late forties wearing only jeans and T-Shirt ever had found himself in a situation like this was beyond comprehension, his body screamed for air and Charlie solemnly regretted how he had mismanaged his health.

He was going to die if the sound meant what he though it meant, that those mechanical monsters had gotten his scent and were closing in.

Nobody would ever find a trace of his body, that is if the hypothermia did not get him first, what kind of nut-job went driving in this kind of weather without winter clothing, then the absurdity of the thought struck him, Charlie Hoskins knew was a marked man no matter what.

3 days earlier

Heavy snow had been falling for a couple of days now, winter was coming. Charlie Hoskins the anchor of The Heavens Above Radio show on ConspiracyOne Radio was doing one of his better shows.

At Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, Professor Enikõ Hunter and her assistant Walter Königsberg had the show running in the background.

Ogilvy, the observatory janitor wearing his redlight lenses, a remnant he had kept from a previous posting, hummed along with the show theme barely audible.

He could not help to think how funny it was that the three of them got along, the two Astronomers supposedly to be scientific minds seemed to be utterly fascinated by this Charlie Hoskins character.

Ogilvy had never understood their fascination with conspiracy, he was a man with both feet planted firmly on the ground all while the two were constantly chattering about this and that the governments and the powers that be might be up to this evening however Ogilvy's whole belief system was about to undergo a complete katharsis.

Technically speaking he was not supposed to be working at night as his presence might interfere with the observations going on, but Fridays he liked to do his chores in the evening so he could have Saturdays off to be with his family and the two astronomers at work, Walter and Enikõ did not mind as long as he was using his redlight lenses.

Suddenly Enikõ called out.

“Walter get your butt over here something weird is going on with the data readout”.

The assistant hurriedly poured down his coffee and set the mug down, then he stood up promptly from his slouch. Finally some action!

He looked at the readout “Okay this is odd”, he mumbled fingers dancing across the keyboard.

“Exactly, what the hell is going on?”, Enikõ posed in a curious voice.

Gears whirred and the optical telescope re-centered itself on the spot the anomaly in the numbers seemed to emanate from.

“What You think - Ghost in the machine?”, the professor inquired biting her lower lip. She did not dare to hope for anything yet there had been too many disappointments along the road during her career.

“Dunno, let me get the image data before we do any alerting, there is something not quite right here”, Jimmy said tapping his finger next to the keyboard, this could be a biggie.

Ogilvy noticed the two astronomers excitement and inched a bit closer letting his curiosity get the better of him, not that he understood what they were talking about but clearly something out of the ordinary was going on, though curious as hell Ogilvy knew that each minute spent not doing the job was an additional minute before he could get on his motorcycle and an additional minute before he was able to be home with his family, not that they would be awake when he got there.

To weak for the telescope to capture, in the depths of space a minuscule point began visibly vibrating. Space was frothing and boiling away, expanding and stretching until a tear in the fabric of space appeared in a blinding flash sending energy waves pulsating from the rift.

Through the tear something black and menacing came sailing, the hull looked as if taken straight out of a Giger creation. Charged particles were sparking off the hull in bluish bolts of lightning as if they tried to keep the ship from entering realspace, behind the hulk the rift began healing till it was no longer visible then the lightning bolts finally ceased and the scarred ship was released from Riftspace.

The last ship of the QHiliin armada, a medical frigate, all but decimated limped along and in a final defiant maneuver set about heading towards earth engines finally extinct after an excruciating hunt.

When the images came on screen, neither of the astronomers dared to believe their eyes, but the reading checked out, something had just appeared out of that discharge and it was a solid object that had not been there before.

Two hours later a couple of black helicopters descended on Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park as did a number of government marked vehicles running on darklight.

Ogilvy in the boiler room worked completely unaware of what was happening above his head.

He was almost done and had it not been for the scream of the Professor and the subsequent sounds of fighting of people crashing into tables above he would have wandered straight into the thick of it.

Ogilvy's SAS training kicked in immediately, he had done 12 years in the service before a bullet in the kneecap had put a stop to his career.

He quickly peered out the window, noticing the two helicopters and the vehicles. Men were running back and forth outside and Ogilvy hurriedly placed himself behind the hot water tank he needed time to think. If they were doing building heat-scans they might not have picked him out and the noise or the furnace might be loud enough to mask his heartbeat, he began meditative breathing to calm his body hopefully further masking his signature.

He heard a voice from outside “Only these two at work?”

“Yeah Cap, Janitor does not arrive till morning according to the schedule, no other people signed in, we have plenty of time to mop up the premises”

Ogilvy praised his lucky stars that he had found a way to do a remote log in, not by the book, but they weren't paying him enough to do things by the book.

“Okay site secure then, you may stand down gentlemen. The two are in the truck already, Alfa team fall back to the Choppers, Bravo will mop up and be on their way, job well done!!!”, the Captain said.

Ogilvy was jumping mad at the sloppiness of the team and at the same time relieved beyond belief, in his days he would have been caught on the spot.

He heard the silent whisper of the choppers taking off and used the moment to peek out through the window again doing his utmost to assess the situation.

Less than thirty minutes later the last soldiers had jumped onto the cars and headed into the darkness. Ogilvy hurried upstairs finding everything completely tidy and no trace of the two astronomers having ever been at work according to the whiteboard check in ticks.

He snook out the back and got on his electric motorbike and then sped into the darkness in hot pursuit, there was something afoot that was not by the books and he intended to find out what.

A couple og hours later

It was getting late and the commercials before wrap up were running. Charlie hated this part, it felt so forced to hold people captive for this final commercial break all just to hear him babble on with nothing more than a resume of the evenings show and an appetizer for upcoming events and sometimes the odd final comment from a listener, still it was part of the contractual bond that kept the show on the air.

The phone rang, Charlie was in doubt whether he should pick up or not but the producer gave him a nod and Charlie picked up.

“Charlie Hoskins here to whom am I talking?”, he said and took a deep breath.

“Who I am is irrelevant, the information I have is not”, The metallic and distorted voice replied.

“You better be fast friend we are live again in 30 seconds”, Charlie insisted somewhat spooked by the seriousness of the caller.

“Something is coming, check out Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, the observatory. two Astronomers missing - I will be back with further information, once you confirm on air that you have instigated an investigation, be careful, intelligence and military forces involved”.

“How can I do that?”, Charlie Hoskins replied.

“Not my problem, be creative, you have 24 hours”, the voice retorted, then there was a click and the connection died.

“3,2,1 and we're live”, the producer said with a smile, he had the conversation on tape, this could be one of the better ones.

The forum inbox bleeped, there was another post on the forum for tonight's show, the subject spelled Missing Astronomers, vital information forthcoming.

The producer quickly clicked on and opened the forum board to read the message but was met by nothing but a punctuation mark.

Seconds later another bleep from the inbox, this time it was a direct email from a mail-burner service, the subject was identical but the body had the text License Plates followed by two plate numbers clearly military.

With the digits 23:57 and the word Remaining written afterwards.

The producer bit himself in the lip, then nervously started chewing a thumb, what if this was for real?

The next day

Charlie Hoskins had pulled in a couple of big favors, it had cost him, he just prayed it would be worth it.

As the show was coming to an end and the mystery caller had yet to contact them, even though Charlie on air had hinted at a mystery about two Astronomers missing from Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, a rumor vehemently denied by the managing director of the observatory.

As the last commercial break began the phone rang, a chill ran down Charlie's spine.

“Charlie Hoskins here, with whom am I speaking”, he said with a trembling voice.

“Irrelevant, a link will appear on your forum in the observatory thread, I can see you did not delete it, very wise. Also a new thread on the forum called Can You Trust Your Government will appear with a link, the link will lead to a video file accessible only to the one with the correct decryption key.

You will hurry to secure a copy of the file in question before cyber security forces block, redirect or alter the contents of the file like they've done with other whistle-blower material. You will find the decryption clues on a paper note, that will be delivered to you”, there was a click and the connection died.

The inbox bleeped, Can You Trust Your Government, the subject on the forum said and the article body contained the link as promised.

Charlie clicked on and downloaded the encrypted file to a thumb drive, the three of them jumped from their seats when there was a knock on the door.

Charlie nervously peered through the looking hole.

“It's the pizza guy from across the street, any of you order pizza?”, he asked, but before getting an answer from the sound-tech or the producer he ripped the door open, will be delivered, that was what the voice had said, genius.

“Already paid”, the pizza delivery guy said and waved off Charlie's note, he had received a huge tip from the stranger who had ordered the pizza, probably a fan of the show and he'd feel guilty taking a double tip, though it was a tempting proposition.

“Cheers”, he said and turned about crossing the street, it was getting late and he'd better hurry to wrap things up at the shop.

Charlie opened the package, the note inside said calculate hash value, solve, add then de-crypt. In bold letters it said Invalid Anagrams.

Their source sure was a man of few words and a cryptic one, “You're a Linux guy right”, Charlie said to the sound tech.

“Yeah”, the sound technician answered back feeling an additional task coming up.

“Join me for a pint with that computer of yours, we got some hashing and de-crypting to do”, Charlie said holding up his tumb drive.

At TDF HQ the AI Analyst was pinging Kim Suk Ho, it had been analyzing the chatter on the messageboards of the Heavens Above Radio show and had come across a newcomer account fitting the profile of a genuine whistleblower and it was already analyzing the encryption algorithms utilized for the file that bitwise and construction wise with a 99% probability was a video recording and the quantum computational interface had started chewing it's way through the heavily encrypted bits.

Kim sat down in front of the computer slurping up an energy drink, he knew he shouldn't but if the AI called upon him at this hour it just might be something of interest.

“Holy hell”, Billy Parks said as they we're sitting in the pub after running over the video file once more, he emptied the guinnes and waived at the waitress, “Kelly, could you bring us a proper malt, something that kicks”, Billy said as she trotted over to their booth.

“Sure thing Billy Boy”, she said with a smile nodding at Charlie while she picked up the empty mugs.

Once gone Charlie turned to Billy, “Is there anything that indicates to you the recording is fake?”

“I dunno, if fake it has taken hell of a long time to create it”, he paused “I mean all the shakes etc. It really looks very genuine. Looks like someone who had access to extreme surveillance, or combat tech and the timing track… haveto say all looks legit to me”.

Charlie took a deep breath, that was it then, he'd try to set up a meeting with the mystery man in the know.

It was getting dark, Charlie was sitting in his car on the way to the meeting with Ogilvy at Wyvis Lodge, Charlie thought it a

peculiar meeting place, but it was out in the middle of nowhere for a city boy, perfect for a cloak and dagger adventure.

The adventure however turned a bit too real for Charlie, as Charlie went for the papers he had just been jostling and subsequently dropping to the floor on the passenger side, the crashing sound from when the bot hit his windshield sending shards flying through the cabin tore through the Sonny & Cher's I got you babe, that was playing, one of Charlies absolute favorites.

The bot had miscalculated the clearing distance it's learning algorithm not being able to foresee or react swiftly enough to Charlie's terrible diving.

The car had snagged the rear end of the robot sending the robot up across the hood and the into a violent spin with parts sticking in through the windshield and robot parts flying all over the place.

This was certainly something for the algorithm to take into consideration as the fatal failure report was generated while instantly uploaded to the Central Quantum Computer Storage.

The car came to a violent stop as it smashed into a roadside barrier activating the secondary airbag. Charlie blacked out.

This is Raven 606 - Requesting permission for take off”

Control here permission granted proceed to platform and commence flight”, the airspace controller said.

Xia Wen cursed silently and rolled the aircraft onto the platform. It seemed to take forever for the platform to rise to the surface, they really had to think about some sort of rapid launch system, the craft would be sitting ducks if the base came under attack.

Finally the craft emerged onto the surface, Xia checked her instruments, then flicked the com switch.

“Okay boy's and girls, hold on to hats and glasses, we are go for launch, England in T-23 minutes”

In the rear compartment the squaddies clenched their fists and bit their teeth together as the craft took off with a deafening roar from the Sabre Reaction Engines.

Meanwhile Captain Willis Llewellyn Wilde and his SAS squad were having somewhat of a hard time, they had been forced to split up and Delta had bungled capturing the damn janitor, the Captain was far from pleased with the freshmen, fatal mistake to underestimate the abilities of a former service member, lucky that the sarge had pulled through 3 men dead already, though not to any of the Sargent's fault.

They were gaining on Charlie, the Captain just hoped they would get to him in time, loosing the radio host to a pack would look

really bad on his service record, in fact it would likely mean the end to his career. That damn Captain Fester, ther way no way that he would have missed Ogilvy at Galloway Forest.

Something like a half a kilometer ahead Charlie was plunging ahead, his lungs burning and his legs aching.

The whirr whirr and thumping got closer by the minute and now the whirring sounds and relentless thumps seemed to be coming, not just from behind any longer, he tripped over a root but forced himself up again.

I don't want to die, I don't want to die, the thought was racing through Charlie's mind as he willed himself forward despite the agonizing pain from what had to be a sprained ankle.

Moments later the eerie glowing eyes of a pack member appeared in front of Charlie, he stopped dead, then a second set appeared to the side, then another and then a fourth.

A light fixated on Charlie who was standing all but frozen in terror his body trembling all over while he desperately was trying to catch his breath aginst a chestframe that seemed to want to suffocate him. Charlie sank to his knees, with a shaking lip.

Get it done you metal bastards, Charlie muttered with a trembling voice and he bit his teeth together.

The pack closed in with no other sound than the actuators whirring away through the silece as Charlie was surrounded by a pack consisting of menacing glistening turreted hulks of metal and composite materials.

He closed his eyes and made his peace, what an odd way to go, he'd never imagined anything like this, that very instance a couple of pack members started turning about, turret tracking activating.

The stark blue light and the peculiar twirpy electronic thump was followed the sounds of seven robots sinking lifeless to the ground. Charlie opened his eyes.

“Are you allright sir?”, a voice tore through the dark silence that had followed, shortly after a flickering flashlight found Charlie still on his knees.

“Lucky we got to you!”, one of the arriving soldiers said while signalling an all clear to the remaining squad members.

“Who, who are you?”, Charlie stuttered and started struggling his way back up.

“UK military, we need you to come with us Sir”, Captain Willis said confidently and gave Charlie a hand.

Charlie got to his feet, shit shit shit he thought. If the bots were not government wanting to stop him from meeting Ogilvy, then who the hell were they and what in heavens name had he gotten himself into.

There was a hum, then the lights came on in 2 of the dormant pack robots eyes, their self healing was progressing rapidly and at the same time 3 more bots arrived on the scene and all hell broke loose.

Electric ball lightning like discharges filled the air cutting the SAS team down before they could react to the happenings.

A couple of black clad armoured military types arrived from beind the newly arrived pack members while the rest of the robottic team, rebooted systems, calibrating sensors and actuators after temporarily having being put out of comission by the EMP.

“Charlie Hoskins?”, one of the troopers asked.

“Who the hell are you”, Charlie managed to blurt out confusion now complete.

“We're here to extract you, we already have Ogilvy - We're here to help you resolve the issues you might have with your government, trust me, we're your friends”.

“Ogilvy?”, Charlie stuttered.

“Safe, we invite you to come with us. You are however free to go on your way, but with types like this on your tail”, the

Commander pointed at the stunned SAS squaddies, “Well I for one would not like to be without protection, the bot snagging the car was an accident, miscalculating distance between itself and the car, though looking for papers like that while driving is not the smartest thing to do, yup we got that through the vid feed”.

The trooper doing the taking took of her helmet, Xia Wen looked Charlie Hoskins directly in the eyes and smiled.

“We have incoming about one click out, it is this way to the craft, your choice”, she said pointing in the direction of the landing site.

Charlie looked at her, then noticed how the robots seemed to take up positions in the opposite direction.

“Okay, you lead the way”, he answered putting his faith in the newly arrived troopers.

Xia put her helmet back on and waited for Charlie to start running, noticing his limp she quickly lent her support and off they went into the night shoulder by shoulder, mission accomplished.

The rescue of the two astronomers had not been too bad, unless you saw things from the perspective of

the Security Consortium stooges who'd been responsible for safekeeping them while their fates were

being debated, from their perspective things had gone pretty grimly.

Once the rescue was confirmed and the astronomers debriefed the ship left Valhalla station.

“This Caroline White, the team medic, she any good in a fight?”, Valdimir Zhukov asked PFC

Christiansen as they went over the small arms in the storage lockers. He'd heard rumors about a badass

medic that had raised hell on the Janesian homeworld and that PFC Christiansen had served by her side

on the Takyüddin.

“Yeah she's solid”, Christiansen replied closing off the last locker.

“That's accounting for all of them”, he added tapping a confirmation on his virtual keyboard.

“Good”, Vladimir replied he would hate to get into the thick of it without prior knowledge of what his

team was capable off and

White had been the last unknown on his list her records sealed as she was still on the outside doing

things in the 'real world' as everyday life for the masses was referred to.

As expected they found the QHiliin ship in Jupiter orbit, it's features were hard to spor from the

angle they were approaching and the sensor signature was virtually undetectable, the radio noise from

the gas giant did not make things easier.

A bright flash from the side of the ship revealed a boarding attempt in progress multiple TMIC

boarding pods were enroute towards the QHiliin ship one og them had just been oblitterated by the

QHiliin defenses but above it loomed a larger craft concentrating on each defensive port and pulling

their defenses down one station at the time. Smaller fighters were actively engaging the QHiliin ship

that did not seem to be putting up too much of a fight it's defenses seemingly in tatters, a few

cannons were still swerving from side to side spewing death at everything that moved.

Eventually as expected the defenses were disabled, at the same time the Takyüddin came within weapons

range - Rapid bursts from the powerful weapons pulverized most of the small TMIC robottic fighters

whizzing about, spooking the Captain of larger craft who started revving up the drives and quickly

fleeing the scene. The approaching Taküyddin and it's roaring heavy weapons was a menacing sight

indeed.

“Let it go”, Captain Christian said to his first officer, he'd taken over command of the Takyüddin

after Captain Dunbars transfer to an off ship position as rear Admiral, an odd move, but Christian was

never one for high stakes politics, he was a navy man to the core so he'd taken the commission on the

spot.

“This is the Captain speaking, we are preparing to board unknown craft in Jupiter orbit, the craft is

currently under heavy TMIC attack. Beware of potentially fighting multiple boogies if the inhabitants

of the craft take us as additional hostiles with TMIC troopers that are making their way aboard at

this very moment, we estimate something like 15-25 marines may have made it aboard counting the number

of boarding craft currently attatched to craft. Main TMIC vessel has broken orbit so TMIC will likely

not be getting any backup, nevertheless we need to make this as quick as possible, if there is an

opportunity we will attempt to tug the vessel in for inspection at Valhalla Station.

Moments later two shuttlecraft left the Takyüddin one lining up by a big hole in the side of the alien

craft, the other came up on one of the TMIC craft, the TDF shuttlecraft initiating forced docking

manouvers latching itself onto the TMIC boarding craft, why not utilize that the boarders had already

established seal, no point in expending energy on breaching the hull if the TMIC had already done the

heavy lifting.

There was a loud clank, if there was anyone inside the capsule they would know someone had docked,

though they likely would expect it to be reinforcements.

The airlock hissed, the remaining TMIc trooper never knew what hit him, in the blink of an eye

stunguns blazed and sent him crashing to the floor while the TDF forces poured into the boarding pod.

The viziers of the TDF troopers, instantly turned almost pitch black as they entered the alien craft

itself, the surface of the walls emitted strong light, as if they glowing with sunlight.

Vladimir was up point, he rounded a corner and opened up on the TMIC troopers attempting to fix what

looked like a state of the art mobile turret. Unaffected by the stun barrage they turned about facint

the muzzle at Vladimir, he flicked the switch and went kinetic and before the turret had a chance to

begin spewing death, the protective suits of the troopers were shredded beyond recognition and their

bodies fell to the ground

“Battle intel, troopers and mobile turrets, expect heavy fire”, the BattleAssist AI was sending

information to the HUD of each TDF trooper, flashing relevant information to them as they advanced.

Up ahead a TMIC came charging at them, he sent a volley of explosive rounds raining down on Vladimir

and his group. Vladimir barely escaped the onslaught 3 of his men did not.

Amid the explosions a blaster rain ensued as the TDF forces returned fire multiple rounds burrowed

into the protective armor of the TMIC trooper who threw himself in behind a console.

There was a thud as a grenade blew away both the console and the TMIC trooper encroached behind, the

TDF were gaining a foothold.

Amid the Wreckage, fried wires and twisted machinery Vladimirs group inched forward, lights were

blinking and fluids were leaking down the walls.

Coming through an entrance Christiansen noticed a swarm of small drones attacking the TMIC boarding

party. The drones were small but tenacious, a group broke off from the main swarm and headed toward

Vladimir and his group.

Vladimir fired of a wrapper grenade that exploded right over target sending nonlethal threads down

over the TMIC troopers thin as jellyfish tendrils, the threads attatched themselves to the suits then

tightened, leaving the TMIC's in a bulky bundle unable to move.

The swarm broke off just as it was about to engage the TDF gathered wtih the main group and then

whooshed up through a hole in the ceiling, seemingly in search of further intruders hostile to the

ship.

Corridor by corridor they inched forward TDF pushing through the hallways while the QHiliin drones

used unseen pathways.

Eventually the last of QHiliin drones were taken out by TMIC troopers who'd figured out to disable the

swarms using primarely electrostatic tactics.

There was a huge blast as the intruders were finally able to concentrate on their secondary targets

the TDF and Valdimir Zhukov and PFC Christiansen were both thrown against the wall where they slumped

down feeling as is every bone in their bodies had been pounded by a giant jackhammer.

Caroline White was swift and pulled the two aside, she took a quick reading while she patched up the

shreds that had occurred using a duct tape like seal and a nano sealing applicant

She then threw herself across the hallway to the other, in the split second the crossing took she

managed to pick up on two TMIC's manning a mobile turret, they had been engaged in a heavy firefight

with someone in the far end of the room that she could not see but it was clear they were not under

drone attack, these defenders meant serious business.

A series of thuds and an ensuing silence told them either side had been successfull in subduing the

other, Caroline risked a peek, a couple of the TMIC troopers were still standing, the smoldering

remains in the far end revealed the defenders had suffered a worse fate.

She charged forward with two other TDF troopers and managed to cut down one of attackers. The

remaining TMIC trooper cut down her fellow men before she had time to train her weapon on the second.

She had no time to ponder upon why the other two had not opened up against the remaining TMIC when her

weapon jammed leaving her completely open, she was so close now that all she could do was continue her

charge.

The remaining TMIC laughed menacingly and pointed the muzzle at Caroline then found his weapon for

some reason jammed as well, he swung his weapon towards Carline as she came upon him, hitting her hard

and throwing her body to the side, Caroline was dazed her weapon flying out of her hands and she fell

to the ground.

She managed to avoid a kick and quickly got back on her feet, as her attacker was upon her grabbing

at her helmet seal, she planted a knee in his groin.

The kick had little effect other than pushing him a tad back as the bulky suit protected him.

He lurched at ther again and landed a punch in her groin that was be felt all the way through the

protective layers of the suit.

Caroline almost lost her wind as she crashed into the wall, the TMIC trooper was determined to finish

her off but approached only to find two fists of fury attempting to beat him into a pulp.

They grappled, smashing each other into the walls in turn, something appeared in a doorway blocking

the intense light emanating for a brief moment.

A series of jabs and a well placed uppercut ended the fight abruptly as the TMIC trooper was speared

on a mangled piece of metal protruding from the torn wall section.

His eyes open wide, a thin line of blood flowed from the side of the mouth followed by a red bubbling and foamy stream, then he died

Suddenly there was another barrage, this time in the other room, Caroline approached the door and released a small buzz drone.

The drone rapidly assessed the situation and returned to her arm, there were two men and another of the mobile turrets that they were turning toward one of the ship's QHiliin inhabitants now on the ground and in in clear pain.

Caroline knew time was of the essence, she quickly lobs in a micro matter destabilization grenade and the turret and a gunner are mangled into an unrecognizable heap together with the floor plating.

With a roar she launched towards the remaining trooper handgun spewing pellets at the TMIC trooper seemingly only agitating him slightly only to a mere second later to find him in a sudden jiggle from a barrage of conventional weapons fire then falling to the ground.

She looked around and saw Vlad and Jasperson both leaning up against each other, Vlad was holding a smoking submachine gun in his hand.

Always have a backup Vlad coughed and smiled, Vlad pointed his weapon toward the QHiliin

“No wait”, Caroline burst out, she had a certainty of no hostile intent manifesting in her mind. The humanoid figure on the deck had limbs much like a human, it tried to sit up, there was some sort of horn like structure embedded in the forehead.

Caroline bit her lip, her mental classification of what clearly was an intelligent thinking being as an it, was exactly the same bigotry she and so many like her had experienced so many times going back years and years, a sadnes came over her as she struggled to see beyond appearance.

The QHiliin struggled onto her feet, her mane flowing gave it a lioness like apperance, this QHiliin did not have any bt several of the figures on the

floor had something like a beard hanging from each side of the nasal holes. They all had bulky clawlike hands, that seemed oddly dexterous.

The skin if you could call it that, was of a scaly structure almost reptile like and yet not.

There was something oddly familiar about the features, then the likeness to the Chinese entrance guardians you so commonly seen on the mainland suddenly struck her. No Way, Caroline though as the wave of recognition washed upon her.

As the QHiliin stood fully erect Vladimir estimated it had to be a full 7 or 8 feet high, the creature stood steadily on hoovelike feet, a braided suit gave an impression, as if the covered parts of the body were covered in pure fire, it was an effect almost overloading the reflective shielding of their helmets.

“This is what you have evolved into?”, the voice was strange and sad as it crackled through their headset.

“What?”, Vladimir sputtered.

The QHiliin did not answer but turned about facing Caroline, Vlad still trained his weapon on her but Caroline gave him a signal to lower his weapon.

They followed carefully after the QHiliin who checked up on a couple of the figures on the deck and entered a room where several QHiliin lay on medical like tables.

“You are a doctor?”, Caroline tried.

“Of sorts the voice crackled back, but I need your help, we're all wounded”

“Woah, I have no idea of what I'd be dealing with”, Caroline began.

“I will guide you”, the QHiliin groaned and almost slipped down clinging on to one of the slabs, “Help me get onto the slab here”, the QHiliin offered.

With help from Vladimir and Christiansen she managed to get the QHiliin safely placed onto the medical slab, a set of lights lit around her body.

Then the commands began pouring into Carolines mind, it was going to be a long flight back home before the QHiliin craft was moored safely in orbit by Valhalla Station and that would only be the start.

Part Eight - Of Fire and Ice

“Okay gentlemen, sunscreen at P500, now - All radios off!!!”, Captain White said and slipped on her goggles, flipping through a number of switches on her wrist console.

If asked the Chief Engineer would have said that the goggles were the accidental child between a pair of steampunk welders glasses and a competition skiiers VR display. He had done most of the tinkering needed to adjust the visual circutry to adapt properly to the lights of the QHiliin Frigate now that the auto repair systems had restored the internal ambience of the ship to normal levels.

The glass of the slightly oversized goggles looked completely black from the outside, but aside from a sligh whiteout when the doors slid aside they were quite comfortable, White took a deep breath. The QHiliin Medical Frigate had been moored in lunar orbit by Valhalla Station for a few weeks now and TDF delegations had been going aboard the Frigate on a regular basis after figuring why the QHiliin seemingly had such an adverse reaction to being near humans.

Turned out they had some sort of extreme sensitivity to magnetic fields, something that had sent most of them tripping and not in a pleasant way when they had met with the TDF delegations attempting communication. So wifi and radio communication was strictly off limits unless the QHiliin in question had on one of their Faraday like suits and what looked like head jewelry that somehow was able to absorb most radio energy.

One spooky and for most rather uncomfortable fact was the QHiliins extreme sensitivity to magnetic fields resulted in an ncanny ability to detect the state of mind of the people they were communicating with.

If they could so accurately read emotional states, could they be able to read minds as well? After all the brain did produce magnetic fields as synapses fired.

The Chief Engineer decided to shake the feeling. After all the QHiliin had freely started sharing technology, especially the medpods seemed like breakthrough technology already implementing fully automated medical treatment. Off course they did not understand more than a mere fraction of what they had received so far and Captain White seemed to have been a very important asset in that respect as the First Contact event had pivotted around her role in saving the Chief Medical officer and the remaining crew of the Frigate.

The light inside the QHiliin frigate would be blinding to a human without protection, apparently the QHiliin homeworld was a brightly lit place.

As the doors opened to the Command Bridge. The QHiliin Captain towered above a central table like structure. He waved his hands in the air and a blue orb appeared morphing into an image of planet earth rotating and next to it the moon and in orbin around the moon Valhalla Station and the QHiliin Medical Frigate.

Chief Engineer Black studied the Unicorn/like features of the QHiliin, they were humanoid per se, two arms, two legs, upright standing. unicorn like was perhaps an overstatement the horn in forehead was seemingly folded into a skull cavity said to rise only during agitation or mating season.

Black studied the muscular body of the QHiliin Captain. The structure would be the envy of every bodybuilder back on earth, the mane, gold like shimmering and with it's upward flow seemed to defy the artificial gravity of the Frigate and was a sight to see.

The Captains hands were claw like and bulky but dexterous to a degree that surpassed human hands as he waved in the air controlling the information processing device in front of him.

“May I touch it?”, the Chief Engineer said pointing to the Captains magnificently braided suit. It gave of an impression like that of fire covering the entire body.

The QHiliin smiled and extended his scaled hand towards the Chief Engineer. Black stepped closer and touched the Captains arm. The suit seemed alive and shimmers pulsed down towards the hooved feet and back up again.

“It has full sensory capability?”, the Chief Engineer asked. The QHiliin Captain acknowledged with something akin to a nod.

Please Captain White approach there is reason for requesting your presensce as well as that of Chief engineer Black.

The two approached semi flanked by the additional members of the delegation who were still keeping their distance.

“Captain White, this ship is likely the last QHiliin vessel, we came out of the rift and did not detect any other vessels accompanying us. Off course they could have come out elsewhere but the odds are very low so it is up to us to follow up on the primary perogatives we were sent out to accomplish.

The QHiliin for as long as history goes back, to before the dark times that are not to be talked about have had no homeworld, we have been vagrants, migrating from star to star in search of a permanent place to settle, we are returning to earth where we have been before as we originally came here as it had the most similar climate to home.

The first tima around we decided to leave as there already was a promising race evolving. We tried to leave marks so you should know that we had been here but from what our probes have uncovered those sites have been stripped of all technology and defiled in the most shameful way to obscure the fact we were ever here.

The Captain took a deep breath expelling a slight mist from his nostrills.

“We want to settle on the continent you refer to as Antarktis”.

“I have no mandate to authorize a settlement”, Captain White began.

This is not really a request”, the Captain replied. Consider this more of a friendly heads up.

“This ship is carrying the Aegis, it will become an integral part of the defense of your planetary system”.

“The Aegis… Defense of our planetary system?”, Captain White asked in a curious but demanding tone.

“The Khrlaa will be coming, they are unforgiving relentless and ruthless. We see the athmosphere of Earth already contains trace elements making dimensional jumping a near impossibility, though that won't nessecearely hold the Khrlaa back from trying”

The structure at Antarctica is still operational according to readings while the structures in Egyptm, South America are stripped the KROATIA ? one seems possibly to be in a reparable state apparently lower levels have not been ravaged completely.

We want to install the Aegis in the Pyramid on Antarctica. It should be possible to link it up to both Mars and Iapetus. Once in place it wil create a spacetime disharmonic effect that will make cutting a rift extremely difficult.

“Hold it, rewind all the way back to explaining what the hell the Aegis is?”, the Chief Engineer interrupted.

The QHiliin Captain puffed letting out vapor.

“The Aegis is a construct of a hyper advanced machine civilization, they had learned to manipulate and tap into zero point energy, in reality the Aegis is the central bit of a planetary shielding construct, we had the tech to create the remaining bits and for millennia before the dark time the Aegis protected us - a pearl like construct the Aegis connecting to each pearl of a ring of defensive generators, charging spherical deflectors by basically warping spacetime coordinates for slow moving object guiding them safely away from what is behind the Aegis and anything that is pushing through the field is schredded and vaporized.

The Aegis was originally intended to be used for asteroid and comet deflection against planets and artificial bombardment, we tweakede the functionality somewhat in order to protect entire systems.

The construction of the defense network for this planetary system had already been well underway by robottic probes when we for ethical reasons pulled back from further construction in the Earth system to let it evovle on it's own.

“Why did you start construction in the first place? You must have known the system was inhabited”, Captain White inquired.

The probes did register life but at a very primitive stage, once we had the resources to do a closer inspection you were already passing through hunter gatherer stages to an agricultural civilization, seem like you had a little help there, you know your evolution has been quite rapid the latter few thousand years.

“You are saying it was not natural evolution?”, The Chief Engineer interrupted.

“No not exactly, I see the handiwork of more than a dozen species involved here”, the QHiliin Captain responded.

“I'll be damned”, Captain White exclaimed. Chief Engineer Black clicked his tongue and let out a little whistle, “You know some folks won't appreciate hearing what you have to say”.

The QHiliin Captain sighed loudly “Yes I guess the human belief that they are unique and alone, beliefs of supremacy precipitated by a swath of religious and other institutional beliefs has been the biggest roadblock to true freedom your species has endured, I can't help but wonder how many times and close you have ben brough to destruction as a species due to dogma. For sure one can only wish your leaders will take a more open and pragmatic approach from now on dealing with the unknown as well as the known, or the Khrlaa will wipe humanity from existence once and for all before you even have a chance to try and mount any form of defense”.

“The Khrlaa?”, Captain White inquired.

“A briefing is being put together for Rear Admiral Dunbar, a more imminent issue is at stake here, The White Pyramid!”, the QHiliin Captain answered.

“The what?”, Chief Engineer Black bursted out in disbelief, the webs had been flooded with tales of Antartican pyramids as far back as he could remember, the tales were real?

“The internal defense systems were activated a few days ago and intruders were repelled, but we have been tracking another contingent on their way across the ice. It is our understandingt weather conditions right now are quite severe so transport to and from the continent are limited and the number of crafts able to operating in the area even fewer, but nevertheless attempts are being made to reach the structure as we speak and they are not your people this much we understand, we need to get you down there and inside before the structure is breached in order to secure the planetary defense system”.

Elsewhere Rear Admiral Dunbar opened a drawer, he pulled out the flask and unscrewed the cork, he gulped down a a little and chased it down with another gulp before securing the flask. He packed the flask away again and popped a mint from a tin box.

His gaze flickered across the inscription. In Defense of Humanity it was engraved said under the decorated shield of the TDF.

He swiped across the surface of his handheld device. The implications of what he had in his hands was enourmous. Intruders not just from another world but from across multiple dimensions in the multiverse and intruders with no remorse or intent to negotiate or pause in their endeavours and they were already at war with humanity.

The Paladdin project be damned, who in their right mind would think a few puny nukes could stop someone like the Khrlaa, what had the world come to, guess that is the result of electing a deranged Commander in Chief more concerned by how ordinary folks responded to his musings on the webs that to actual important world concerns like weather warfare and global warming as well as the inequality driven migration patterns of the world, well fuelled by the constant hunt for increasingly rare resources artificially kept up demand and technology held back and hidden away under lock and key to enrich a tiny elite sitting on most of the worlds riches.

He reached for the drawer again when there was a beep, there was sonmeone at his door. Rear Admiral Dunbar sighed, how he hated desk jockying. A tear ran down his cheek as his gaze flickered across the table and the picture of Sarah. He carefully wiped the tear from his cheek, took a deep breath before uttering “Enter!” in a clear and commanding tone.

The blizzard tore through the vehicle, just a few hours earlier for the most of the contigent the snowmobile had felt like a safe bubble surrounding them. Now it was as if the elements toyed with the belted vehicle as it plowed forward through the snow fighting the elements.

They had left the comforts of XXXXXEXPLORERTOWNNAMExxxxx a southpole city housing the hardcore crews of the UN sanctioned mining colony and the Antarthican Independent State a few hours earlier.

The city was a large underground complex, during winter people stayed in the temperate safety of the dwellings, during summertime things changed, people would work hard and play even harder once they were able to go topside into the neverending days.

The mining of precious minerals had become a necessity to keep the gears of the world running at least so it was said.

The placement of the city underground, using geothermal heating had been a compromise with the green lobby that fought for years to keep people away from the continent, this despite the boundless riches Antartica held.

Not that the green lobby would have been able to sway much had the 1% wanted something else, Earth still was a world of stacked decks despite the valiant efforts to change things for the better.

The QHiliin technicians felt very much at unease with the darkness, the makeshift viziers flicked together by Chief Engineer Black, enhancing the light by a factor 20 did something to alleviate the feeling of desolation and abandonment the technicians had come to feel during their trip to the surface of what was to become. This was indeed a harsh world they had come to.

Captain White looked at the NavScreen they were still a fair bit out when the main battery suddenly dropped into the red.

“What the….”, the navigator said letting his mechanic arms dance across the control surface. “This is impossible!”

He had not more than uttered the words when sparks sputtered up from the control surface and the vehicle came to a dead stop in total darkness.

The silence was all encompassing, the howling of the wind was the only thing to break and underline the isolation to perfection.

The emotions crept up on the QHiliin, half the crew seemed frozen in terror thoughts whirling through their minds while the others were either composed and awaiting the next event only one seemed fully concentrated on getting the vehicle operational again, the bionic man.

There was something about him that was very different the QHiliin had known this from the onset of the journey, he had only been able to glean a partial imprint from the man, the rest was alien, almost like the feeling that one got from interacting with an Aegian Construct.

Seconds later a red light flicked on lighting the cabin in a crimson hue.

“Okay, I am not going to say we are screwed, but I can tell you this is all but good, seems we've lost power to the main drivetrain as well as most all of the instrumentation. I have no idea what the cause is but we will figure this out and get the tub moving again, it might take some time though and as there is no power it might be getting cold pretty fast. I suggest huddling up using the emergency blankets and if you can sit together under the blankets it will help keep as warm as possible”.

“I will be needing someone to assist me as we need to go outside to examine the snowmobile, it is pretty dark and I likely need to be able to use both hands once we're out there”.

He tossed a floodlight and a rope to Captain White. “Captain I believe your armor has good environmental controls, pick someone to go outside!”.

Captain White looked at him. “I'll go”, she said and before she could get any further Chief Engineer Black interjected, “Me too!”.

“Sorry No can do”, White rebutted. “If things go south for Rob here, we'll need you to try and fix things up, every one of these scientists needs to get to the target lukewarm and in one piece, deep freeze is not an option, understood”.

“But!”, Chief Engineer Black began.

“No Buts!!!”, Captain White cut him off. “Mattis, you are with me”, she said tossing the rope to the big Finn sitting in the rear.

Mattis quickly got up, grabbed his helmet from the overhead compartment then secured the rope to the clasp inside the door.

He clicked himself onto the line then handing it to Captain White who secured herself and Rob Hornby, the navigator.

“Careful about those Penguins, I hear they grow pretty big down here”, John Quimby the resident Aussie joked as he got up.

The crew snickered. In the darkness the QHiliin felt how the mood lightened among the humans at the comment. Humor an odd concept indeed.

“Okay John, once we're out keep that door closed, if you hear any knocks it means pull us in fast, the rest of you wrap yourselves up temperature is about to drop below and no saying how long it will take before this tub is operational again”.

The crew frantically unwrapped the emergency blankets, only the QHiliin remained seated. “No blanket”, one of the scientists ventured holding an unwrapped foil sheet towards the QHiliin.

“No need, the nanites in my bloodstream will allow me to endure the cold for an extended period, perhaps I should assist on the outside!”

“Negative on that, you stay in here, besides you must be nearly blind as a bat at this point, no offense”, Captain White

“None taken, you are right, this darkness is indeed dulling my sight, but my sense of touch is still functioning perfectly”, the QHiliin answered unaffected.

“Got it, nevertheless, you stay in here, see if you and Chief Engineer Black can do further troubleshooting from in here while we investigate on the outside”.

investigation - Mattis gets his hand blown off - TMIC sabotage leaving them stranded apparently a spy was with the party sabotaging their equipment bleeding most of their fuel

The savior turns out to be the semi bionic man who scavenges himself for parts to repair the electrical system and who dies to save his team, gives

a cube to a team member, give this to my mother, she will know what to do with it (a collection of memories, thought and beuroligical patterns that

can be feed into a rebirth module bringing back the prescence of the dead as artificial constructs to help grieving ones overcome their trouble and

later live on as evolving purely electronic enteties and the QHiliin powerpack that is cannibalized for the purpose leaving the QHiliin near blind

without his optical enhancement having to talk the Bionic man through interfacing the power drive of the vehicle and the bionic mans control system

that will be permanently fused with the snw transporter and will not be able to be unfused- imagine dying as human fused to a snow transporter.

The QHiliin trying to get a reading from the bionic man but it is hard, but the very thought of this humans sacrifice even if a bionic human and

even if humanity seems to have compeltely wrecked the place it looks like there is hope for them after all

TDF catch up to the TMIC team that has entered the Pyramid

Pyramid defense systems detect weapons but anti measure systems are still only partially functioning so TMIC team is able to easily overcome while

working their way inward towards the machine halls and control section of the Pyramid

As TDF enter pyramid several team members hurt by awakening defense systems, but as QHiliin enters systems halt detecting a friendly.

The TDF team advances fast due to the QHiliin's knowledge of layout and ambush the TMIC team and eventually capture a few.

The QHiliin takes full control of the Pyramid as “Acting Arbitrator of Power” fully activating automated sentries that seem to have been activated

and then subsequently deactivated and or destroyed in and around what the QHiliin figures are the years 1946–1947 - but he is unable to see who

tampered with the system or what happened as the records prior to these years have disappeared. It seems however that for some reason the visitors

to the Pyramid at that time had not been able to access the lower levels containing the bigger resonance chambers something the QHiliin is happy

about for with that kind of power the primitives could have torn the very planet apart something they seemed absolutely adamant about pulling off

with uncontrolled experiments creating mini black holes and wormholes here on earth, it was amazing they had even lasted this long.

The QHiliin ship comes in - a beam from top of the Pyramid juices the energy of the ship back up - the tip splits open and ship lands and then the

pyramid closes again leaving the ship in a big dark hangar with nothing but a bright beam of light where the QHiliin begin their disembarkation,

the QHiliin are back.

Chapter end

Here we are Leaving the readers wondering, what is this great threat the QHiliin are not telling about, why was their ship all banged up and is

that the reason the CHiliin are returning to Earth, because they think their old defense grid might stand a chance against an enemy that has

already defeated them once and how long will Earth be a semi safe spot for the CHiliin after their long and exhausting run/chase that they have

been through and might the CHiliin have brought this warth upon themselves by meddling in things they should not have meddled ?

Confused - You won't be after the next episode of…. oh wait maybe you will :)

Part xxx - River of gold

Great and wonderful People of Zambezi, this is your rightfully elected president talking.

I am addressing you today only 10 days after the election that we the Peoples Democratic Party won in an unprecedented and overwhelming landslide victory, that even the Danish election observers have not been able to find any fault with, we regret the plane carrying them back home after the election crashed and mourn their families.

As you know Denmark has a reputation for being the least corrupt country in the whole wide world and I President Theodore Mbeki II general of the Peoples Army swear I will clean up Zambezi and make it great again.

Do not listen to the evil tongues that are trying to ridicule and detriment our great achievement. Zambezi will be great again and we will prosper.

XXXXX flicked the screen off and shook his head, another dictator on the loose, just what the world needed, and poor Zambesians how many more years of hell would they have to go through and all because of a bloody stake made using micro-satellites and EM drive technology. What could have been a crowning achievement for a country grown out of the turmoil that fell upon when fake news of unimaginable and hitherto untapped gold reservoirs along the Zambesi river, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique now known as Zambesi, united by the Rainbow Commander now known to the world as President Theodore Mbeki II, the restorer of Peace and Prosperity, Benevolent Ruler of the lands, a true Hero who after civil war onslaughts had brought down the respective governments int the countries along the Zambesi had united and saved everyone from chaos.

Theodore Mbeki II was a shrewd man, he knew keeping out of the spotlight was a way to stay alive, his handlers had been quite specific about that as they supplied arms and materials to his fighters, but when he had understood that the Zambesi Micro-sattelite sent up on a ridealong just a few years earlier had found something in the Asteroid belt, a rock consisting of highly valuable ore, he knew he had to act, to hell with the handlers and their plans, once he was in control of the gold he would rebuild the country the way it was always supposed to be. To think that sorry excuse for a President had almost given it all away for trinkets and fast women was an abhorrent thought, Theodore was glad he had acted as fast as he had, that President Abimbola had to suffer an unfortunate heart attack was the price. His death came as no surprise to anyone.

Running for President had been an easy task, once in charge of the country as an elected leader he knew he could easily and effectively take measures so that he could control the destiny of his country. He could make Zambesi great never mind the despicable lies and fake news the media was spewing about him.

….

Asteroid belt

Skirmish over asteroid

in motion towards earth - micro satellite has embedded and Theodore Mbeki II officially made claim disputed by several major countries with actual space prorams protesting bringing the rock back to earth… prez furious about them calling it a rock etc.

……

TMIC interested in toppling Mbeki because they really want control over Mbeki - bring in off world assassin, cloak able to avoid nitro traps etc. MBeki has run into off worlders in the Jungle and is very security aware

……….

Cast

Should be divided into chapters of introduction and follow up information on appearance in chapters.

Rear Admiral Rasmussen, - TDF, fmr. US Space Command - In charge of operations Western hemisphere, Moon Command.

Suzi, Xia Wen, Sichuan Province, former abductee rescued by Rear Admiral Rasmussen

Christopher Edge, fmr. employee of The United Energy Consortiums

Hapter Three - Coming Home

Áo Fei - Commander, PLF Army Special OPS, being drafted into the Chinese arm of the TDF

Xiadan Wu - Name meaning “Little dawn”, boy - first born of a pair of twins - The firstborn, hence the name - One of the abducted children

Lanying Wu - Name meaning “Blue glitter, or blue quartz”, girl - was almost dead at birth hence the name, second born from a pair of twins. One of the abducted children

Chapter

Agent CowTow - Co Player in the game Christopher Edge played, actually a spotter and recruiter for the TDF

Chapter

Kimberly Edge, Christopher Edge's wife

Ross Edge, Christopher and Kimberly's son

Von Hesse - German scientist, seemingly ageless old and plump, on life extension tech

Chapter

Arnold Tlatoani - fmr. Weapons Specialist from the Freelancers

Chapter

Kim Suk Ho - North Korean white hat hacker, head of TDF Cyber OPS Division

Chapter 5 - Operation Vermin

Yi Fei - Áo Fei's nephew, trained in Denmark, security specialist. Early twenties.

Vladimir Zhukov, ex. spetznas TDF special OPS

Tax commish Luigi

Aide

EUGENCORP Handler 1 EUGENCORP Handler 2

Bicycle messenger Waiter at Café Destin

Inger Steinberger, cold callaous EUgenoCorp Exec

Exec 1,2,3,4

Chapter Six

Captain Dunbar - Captain of the Takyüddin human exploration and attack vessel

Sarah Dunbar - Government agent of Intelligence agency, one of the few who actually believe in protecting humanity and her country

Fleet Commander ØØØØØØ of the Melajjin

Janesian emmisary

Groupings and organizations

Freelancers - Group that together with the Justice Corps that attempted bringing some sanity into a corrupt and caotic world, but were pushed back to a Mars holdout where they remain.

TDF - Terran Defense Force - Military Arm

TDF Cyber OPS Division - A division in charge of electronic warfare, reconnisance and intrusion

TMIC - The Military Industrial Complex, a collection of greedy warmongering industrialist led companies - warprofiteers

TSC - The Security Consortium, collection of companies directly or inderectly affiliated and spawned as a result of TMIC's activities

Facility 9 - A facility producing the metallic pollutants for jetfuel mixing for HAARP seeding

Technology

Holopods - quadcopter like full body tactile holo emitters

ZM77 - Electromagnetic Propulsion Rifle capable of propeelling virtually any alloy as pellet ammunition.

MDC's Matter Destabilization Charge - A device for destabilizing matter in a given restricted area, works by seemingly melting away matter ending in an explosion that releases some of the energy that holds the matter together.

HAARP - (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) In reality an installation officially for high ionosphere research, in reality a defense weapon intended to destroy dimensional jump capabilities within a Earth Moon Orbit giving ample opportunity to shoot down any unauthorized visiting craft intent on bringing balance to the battle over control of Planet Earth. When activated it is called “Playing the HAARP”.

Mylar Web - Strands of ultrafine material that can block out electromagnetic communication, fired from an ejection device, can cover large areas, such as in Operation Vermin where it is used to envelop a highrise to block out mobile communication.

Critterbots, Nano Bots that can interlock and immobilize, using a combination of electric discharge and physical interlocking restraint, delivered as a grenade like device thrown, will descend on a target according to settings or target painting. Essentially a clump of nanobots capable of incapatating an opponent.


Reckoning

by

Einar Petersen

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reckoning.txt · Last modified: 2018/10/18 07:31 by einarpetersen