The Friendly Ambassador: A Gathering of Angels by David George Richards by David George Richards - Read Online

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Summary

Gusta believes that the war is over, but nothing could be further from the truth. As the Keruh fight a bloody rearguard action in an attempt to delay the advancing Androktones, Didi, Gusta and Kiki, and the other Edenite survivors in Jutlam City, at last come under the protection of the Ambassador. But the Ambassador’s representative is large, silver, with a mouth-full of teeth.

The drone, El-Quan is as confused by her charges as they are scared of her, but there are worse dangers ahead, and they aren’t all Keruh. Yan-Jai is the largest drone on Eden and she no longer cares who she kills, friend or foe. And the distinction between friend and foe is becoming decidedly blurred. Even the Ambassador himself is increasingly unsure, or so his actions would suggest.

The battle in space has also reached another phase as Aeolus tries to control the Klysanthian captains now in his ‘flock.’ And the most stubborn of these is Pantariste, Captain of the Queen of Angels. She baits Aeolus at every opportunity. But behind her shield of arrogance and obstinacy, Pantariste only wants to survive with her ship and her pride intact. To improve liaisons, Lysippe is sent aboard the Prometheus. But this brings other problems.

Peleus, the First Officer on the Prometheus, is drawn to Lysippe, and she in her grief is drawn to him. It is a love that soon burns brightly but must be short-lived. In the running battles that follow, the Prometheus receives a fatal hit, and a race begins to save the crew as the ship begins to tear itself apart.

“The Friendly Ambassador: A Gathering of Angels” is the second part of a four part galactic epic that mixes Science-Fiction with Greek Mythology and the legend of Atlantis.

Published: David George Richards on
ISBN: 9781465728555
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The Friendly Ambassador - David George Richards

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Prologue

The Beginning of the End

The Keruh needed food to feed their Hives. They were an ancient race, one bred from generations of war between the Hives. For them, victory meant food and life, while defeat brought death and extinction. But their world had grown too small, its resources drained, and the number of Hives had dwindled. Necessity had forged the surviving Hives into a truce, a truce that became a unification when the Tun-Sho-Lok brought them access to the Ring, a four-dimensional transport system that spanned the galaxy. Now through the Ring Network Portals, the combined Keruh Host could descend on any world, consuming everything in their path. The first world they choose is Lokana, the home of the Tun-Sho-Lok, and a devastating war begins.

The Tun-Sho-Lok sought help in the war from their only allies, the Atlantians and the Matriarchal Klysanthians. At first the war goes badly, but at Ephesus, the Tun-Sho-Lok scientist, Kel-Cid-An, creates a genetic masterpiece, the perfect warrior. The war begins to turn, and on the peaceful planet of Eden the final battle begins.

Gusta and Didi Albatus worked in the Tun-Sho-Lok Embassy. As private secretary to Li-Sen-Tot, the Tun-Sho-Lok Ambassador on Eden, Gusta had known how badly the war was going. She and her husband had planned to flee from Jutlam City with their children, Breda and Tipi. But they are apart when the Keruh attack. In the unimaginable savagery that follows, Gusta and Didi search for their children but are caught up in the mass evacuation from the city. Breda and Tipi are also caught in the same evacuation, but when the Keruh cut the road, escape seems impossible for all of them.

Chance brings both children into the care of the Klysanthians. Tipi finds safety aboard the Gate of Heaven, but Breda is not so fortunate. She is with Anaxilea, the Matriarch of the House Of Charity. Her ship has been shot down, and only she and a pitiful few have survived. They find more Edenites who are lost after the evacuation, but their freedom is short-lived as they are hunted down and captured by the Keruh.

The Keruh Warrior, the Seventy-Ninth of the Telen’Gal, needs his prisoners alive so that they can answer the questions of his Dominant. So until then he must keep them safe.

General Orbanta is the surviving leader of the Edenite Government. He knows that only a nuclear response will stop the Keruh. But with the evacuation failing, the detonation will catch many of the civilians in the blast.

As the time for the detonation of the nuclear bomb nears, all must find refuge. For Tipi it is in the hurried departure of the Gate of Heaven. For Breda and those with her, it is in the descent into the freshly dug tunnels of the Keruh. But their parents are not so fortunate.

Gusta and Didi have joined up with other survivors in the care of a team of Edenite soldiers led by a Corporal. But with the road to safety blocked, panic ensues as the evacuation finally breaks down in turmoil and confusion. The only route open leads back to the city, and with the detonation of the nuclear bomb imminent, the only refuge is in the underground stations of the city’s rapid transit system. But the dark and apparently abandoned stations and tunnels hold another threat, a threat that is deeply violent and hungry.

Read The Beginning of the End, the first part of The Friendly Ambassador.

Chapter One

A Gathering of Angels

The darkness was rent by a blinding flash. From space it was like a bright spot of intense white light that glowed and swirled. And at the instant that the spot burst into bright life, an expanding ring of light spread out from the centre across the planet’s surface. The expanding ring lasted less than a second, its passage across the darkened landscape a fleeting, almost magical ring of brightness. What followed in its path was much more physical.

Almost at the same time as the bright spot burst into life, the atmosphere of Eden above it jerked violently outwards. And following the same process as the expanding ring of light before it, the wave of disturbance spread out from the centre. It was slower, almost sedate, but the image was deceiving. The blast wave moved outwards across the land like a tempest, the clouds high in the atmosphere breaking and evaporating as if the air they were flying in was being rolled up. And on the ground itself, everything was torn free, incinerated, and hurled to the heavens in a violent and horrific storm.

From space, it was a gentle, almost beautiful sight as the mushroom cloud billowed silently upwards like a black blossom. On the ground it was a howling, evil monster that threw up the trees and tossed buildings at the sky. Everything was smashed and hurled to dust.

On the road to Hilbrok, people, Keruh, soldiers, trucks, buildings, armoured vehicles, even the wreck of the Furnace of Charity, all were instantly incinerated and their ashes thrown before the onrushing tide of hot air and dust. Everything was smashed and hurled together, the fragments rolling, bouncing, flying. Even the fires were blown away, the flames robbed of the oxygen that fed them. In a whirlwind that lasted mere seconds, the expanding ring of the Keruh Host disappeared, swept clean of the land.

Then the blast wave hit the outskirts of Jutlam City, causing previously undamaged buildings to explode and blow away. It was like a cloth wiping across a blackboard, sweeping everything away and leaving only fire and dust. It went further and further into the city, smashing and burning all in its path. But even this howling monster had a limit. The further it went, the more its strength ebbed.

At the College of Learning, the blast wave spent its final powers, blowing every window from the buildings in one single, violent thrust. It seemed that everything inside the building was flung out of the exploding windows. Desks, chairs, cupboards, everything just disappeared. The buildings burst into flame, the fires starting spontaneously on all floors at the same instant. But from here onwards, the sweeping wave of fire and wind left more buildings standing, left more wreckage that was distinguishable, until only the wind itself blew across the darkened city.

In the Operations Room the nuclear detonation was marked on the relief map by an expanding ring of blood red that spread out over the plane between the sea and the mountains. At the fringes the red began to turn pink, when it reached Jutlam City it faded even more, and when it finally swept over the highway to Nemen it was hardly visible.

Many in the Operations Room cried. Some broke down and had to be led away, both men and women. For them it had been the end of everything. For General Orbanta it was an even greater agony, one of his own doing, and one that he could not afford to waste time dwelling on. As the room fell almost silent around him, Orbanta raised his voice and shouted at his staff, rousing them from their grief.

Reports! Get me reports! How many of the enemy were caught in the blast? Is the portal still on line? Where are their ships? Get me those reports!

His staff responded quickly, and the bustle and urgent atmosphere in the Operations Room quickly returned to almost normal as men and women rushed back and forth to the Communications Room.

Orbanta turned back to the relief map and the red stain at its centre. A moment later and a young woman in uniform appeared next to him and held out the first report. There were tears in her eyes but her hand was steady. Orbanta took the report and nodded and she quickly moved away.

It was better this way. Better to keep them all busy and not let them stop and think about it for too long, because if he did, he might lose them forever.

The Gate of Heaven roared into the upper atmosphere, a tempest chasing after her. On the viewing screen on the bridge was a rear view image of the expanding cloud of the nuclear detonation. It was very large and very close.

Scyleia jumped up and down in her chair like an agitated child. Faster, Prothoe! Faster! We must outrun this blast wave!

Prothoe strained at the helm controls, her teeth clenched as she spat out the words. I’m at full power now, Scyleia! It’s no use! I can feel her twisting in the turbulence!

Heli glanced down at her console. Air pressure’s dropping! she called out urgently.

Scyleia spun round and screamed at Heli. Divert more power to the engines! Cut power on decks one to five! Cut all artificial gravity throughout the ship! Cut the lights! Cut anything you can! I need more power, Heli!

Heli snapped at levers and typed furiously on the various keyboards on her console. There was a sudden jolt and everyone on the bridge moaned as they felt the heavier pull of Eden. Then the lights went out. Then even as Scyleia stared at the viewing screen, it suddenly went dark.

Prothoe pulled back on the helm controls. Yes! She’s accelerating!

Scyleia jumped off her command chair and sprang at the helm console. She knelt in front of it, her long fingers curling and then gripping the top edge. She rested her chin on the top and fixed her eyes on Prothoe.

Faster! Faster! We must have more speed!

Heli looked up in alarm. We’re closing on the Defence Net!

Scyleia ignored her. She kept her eyes fixed on Prothoe. They sparkled with fire. Level out! Now, Prothoe! We have reached the roof of our cage! We can climb no further! Now we must out-run this devil on the flat! Now we must race the race of our lives! Ride her like an Atlantian horse across the open planes before Ephesus! Give her everything you have! Beat her! Whip her! Faster, Prothoe! Faster than the wind! Faster than an angel with the devil on her heels!

The engines of the Gate of Heaven turned from red, to orange to incandescent white as she surged through the stratosphere. All her lights were extinguished, all other secondary systems starved as the power was diverted to the hungry engines. And as the energy of the pursuing blast wave began to ebb, the Gate of Heaven drew further ahead, and then finally shot away, heading for Jutlam City.

Tipi was in a different world.

There are times in life when the unexpected, even when it is expected, is so different, so unusual, that it turns the mind and becomes a defining moment. From then on, life is divided into before it happened, and after it happened. For Tipi, it happened as the Gate of Heaven surged away from the crater that was once Elengrad. And like the nuclear explosion, the expanding sensory explosion that overcame his body and his senses blew everything else away.

Philippis kept her promise. The reward she gave Tipi was priceless and unforgettable. She was like a demon and an angel rolled into one, a sensual and hungry animal whose only purpose was the release of the deepest and most carnal of sensations in her victim. Throwing her clothes off she worked Tipi to the limit, squeezing every ounce of energy and life from him, taking everything he had and then taking the rest. She undressed him, licking and kissing him, biting him and caressing him. And when he was naked she rubbed herself against him, moving her body and her limbs all over him until she finally impaled herself on his enormous penis and rode him like a horse, again and again, and again. And from the scared and unsure child, the man slowly emerged. What Philippis gave him Tipi yearned for even more, and as she sat astride him, his immense power driving her to ecstasy, his own desire, his own need, grew.

Tipi didn’t know what he was doing, he didn’t know what he was supposed to do, all he knew was that it was a dream, a fantasy come true. He was making love, for the first time, and it was with a Klysanthian female. At first he was unsure, frightened and embarrassed. But Philippis worked all of that out of him. She showed him the way, extinguishing all his fears and all his inhibitions. And suddenly, she wasn’t a Klysanthian, she was every female, every girl he had ever seen and yearned for, even Kelandra. The desire burst within him obliterating all other thoughts and fears. He hugged her and kissed her, pulled her and tore at her, their mouths pressed tightly together. He was much bigger than her, his muscles and arms stronger. He pulled her closer, grasping her to him, crushing her against him, and before she could stop him, they rolled over.

Philippis wanted more of what she knew he could give, but she also knew that being beneath him gave control over to him. There was danger here. But the Klysanthian gravity made his weight bearable, and her fear slowly faded. They continued, kissing, searching and exploring, their hunger for one another unabated. Tipi now thrust down into her, causing Philippis to moan with every deep impact. It drove her to another explosion of ecstasy. And then the gravity in the ship suddenly altered with a jerk that drove the air out of Philippis’s lungs. She now felt Tipi’s full weight pressing down on her slender body in the Eden gravity, and every thrust became deeper, distorted, and immensely painful.

Philippis moaned and cried, her slender limbs flung out. He was too big for her. She had known it when she had first seen him, known it when she had sank down on him and felt the first rush of his ejaculation inside her. Then it didn’t matter, then she could control it. She had wanted him, needed him, the pain just adding to her ecstasy. But now as Tipi lay on top of her, thrusting deeply into her, that pain and ecstasy grew both unbearable and undeniable.

Tipi had lost his mind. There was nothing other than the need to be sated. He bore down on Philippis, seeing the tortured and enraptured expression on her face as she twisted and turned beneath him. It seemed that she was trying to wriggle free, but then she wrapped her long arms and legs about him, gripping him tightly. And raising her head she kissed him hungrily, her mouth and lips needing his as if her life depended on it. Everything she did, even the sight of her face, drove his need higher. He thrust harder, and she cried out, her arms flung wide once more.

As Tipi strove for his final satisfaction, Philippis reached a peak that she had never known, a peak that was born out of her fear and her lack of control. She couldn’t stop him, didn’t want to even if she could. He was killing her, her insides tearing with every thrust. But she didn’t care. She craved and needed every thrust, devoured each lunge, revelled in every violent tear deep within her abdomen until finally, it was over...

Captain Limeno looked at the viewing screen. The mushroom cloud rolled and surged angrily as it climbed into the upper atmosphere. It was like an animal, twisting and turning, growing and expanding. Above it another bright comet descended, dropping slowly into the edge of the black and grey cloud, where it was instantly swallowed up, even its white tail twisting in the suddenly turbulent air.

It is done, Keltus, Limeno remarked sadly to his First Lieutenant. Our home, our families, the fairest part of our world. We have rendered it to ash along with our enemy.

Keltus stared at the screen impassively. So long as they are all dead, Captain.

"Then we had better be sure. Contact the Kouvila and Temunus. Begin scanning the surface as soon as the EM storm has cleared. We won’t have enough time as it is, but we have to know if anything at all survived down there before we get to our next target."

Yes, Captain. I’ll get right on it.

Keltus hurried away. Limeno seemed not to notice. He had kept his eyes on the screen all the while they had talked. Even now he continued to stare at it. He couldn’t look away. As his crew busied themselves with their tasks, distracted for the moment from their recent violent act, he stared at the screen in silence, his expression torn with growing anguish until his eyes finally became wet.

Elengrad, the city of his birth.

Forgive me, Pelora, for this final gift, he whispered under his breath.

The Edenite Ships Alentin, Kouvila and Temunus sped away from the radioactive cloud and headed for the highway between Jutlam City and Nemen. Here another appointment awaited them. But this time the air above their target would not be empty.

The highway from Jutlam City to Nemen was the shortest and most direct route between the two cities. It was obvious that the Keruh at Nemen would take this route with the captured Edenite vessels at their disposal. They had no time to waste and they outnumbered the ships remaining in Edenite hands by nearly two to one. Seven of them now flew low over the highway in a long line. They were the only ships that could be seen in the night sky, but they were not alone. Behind them and to the east, ten more ships came from the landing field at Kalahar, too distant yet to be seen. In front of them, moving in to intercept them from the north and west were the nine Edenite ships. These were also still too distant to be seen. And below them, along the highway itself, the massed Warriors of the Keruh Host marched in a bobbing gait, unopposed.

Like the ships above them, the Warriors were returning to Jutlam City. But their return along the highway was very different from their departure earlier that day. This time the highway was bathed in darkness and devoid of life. Only the wrecks of crushed and burned out vehicles blocked their path, and everywhere were the craters filled with the decaying corpses of the dead. The Warriors ignored their fallen brothers as they ignored the corpses of the Edenites. They cared more for those that still lived and fought in the city. It was for them that they hurried, for them and the Host that would be at risk if they arrived too late.

The blast wave from the nuclear explosion at Elengrad was only a hot wind that blew over the Warriors. From this they had nothing to fear. But with the passing of the electro-magnetic spike caused by the detonation, the arrival of the first jets was bound to follow. They didn’t have to wait long. But it wasn’t the Warriors on the road that would be their targets this time.

The jets flew in low over the darkened land. There was over a dozen of them, their twin engines glowing in the dark with an orange heat that whitened as the jets rose up gaining height. In front of them the seven captured Edenite ships flew in a long line on the far side of the highway, their great fins like sails above them. The jets spread out, flying towards the line of ships in a single wave.

Ziti Harktus checked his instruments. This wouldn’t be the same as attacking targets on the ground. This was what the jets had been designed for, what he had been trained for: Aerial combat, one to one. But it wouldn’t be an even fight. On a small screen he could see the leading ships in a light intensified image. He switched the image to his head up display, superimposing it on the true, but dark view through his canopy. Now the images highlighted the shadows on his horizon. Large space faring vessels with heavy maser cannons for armaments. They were coming up fast, but a couple of well-placed rockets would still bring them down. Satisfied, he turned his head slightly. He could see the first of the other jets almost on his wing.

Sabatus! he said into his face microphone. Concentrate when we get close! It’s going to get hairy with all those maser cannons firing! We have to make our rockets count! We have to fire at the last possible moment or they’ll just knock them down! I’ll try for the lead ship, you go for the one right behind it!

Acknowledged, Harktus! And good luck!

Harktus glanced over his shoulder. Belomonor! Don’t miss! I don’t want to come back for this fish with only tracer shells for ammo!

Belomonor smiled in his mask. You get me close, Ziti and I’ll spike her good!

An instant later and the white beams of the maser cannons lit up the night sky. A jet was hit and exploded brightly. All the other jets began to bob and weave, twisting and turning as the white beams flashed towards them. They fired their tracer cannons in return, the heavy shells thudding into the hulls of the slow moving ships.

It was an uneven battle. The tubular ships with their great fins were heavy and ponderous in the gravity and atmosphere of Eden. This was not their environment, and they quickly began to gain height to evade their attackers. But the ships were stable platforms for the Keruh Warriors who now manned their maser cannons. The jets that flew at them were fast and manoeuvrable, but the cannon shells they fired were not effective. Only the rockets slung under each wing had the payload to give a killing blow, and there would only be one chance.

A second jet was hit and exploded, then another had one wing blown away and it dropped, spinning end over end until it hit the ground in a bright flash.

Harktus flung his jet into a tight roll as the maser beams flashed towards him. Sabatus! he bellowed into his radio. Keep it tight! Belomonor! Get ready!

Belomonor concentrated on his sights as the jet buffeted him, the cross-wires fixed on the leading ship. Nearly there!

The jets flew over the highway and the Warriors below them fired up with their laser rifles, bringing down one jet and causing another to sprout a darkened trail.

Harktus saw the smoke and debris spitting from one of the engines on Sabatus’s jet. He gritted his teeth and followed his own orders. Concentrate. A white beam flew straight at them. Harktus jerked the jet into another roll and the beam flashed under their wing. Now! he called to Belomonor.

Another jet burst into fragments, a direct hit ending its flight.

Belomonor jerked his hand. Rockets away!

Harktus pulled the jet into a steep climb and turn, the rockets streaming away on fiery plumes. Other jets in the wave also fired, all the rockets flying straight towards the broad hulls of the fast approaching line of ships. One by one the jets banked away, but even then one of them was hit and spiralled down to crash in flames.

The distance between the rockets and the ships narrowed. It seemed that all of the rockets would hit their targets, it seemed that they couldn’t miss. Then one of them was hit by a maser beam and exploded brightly, and then another was hit, and another. The explosions caught other rockets in the blasts and they also exploded. One flew out of control at a crazy angle and hit the ground in another bright blossom that scattered earth and debris over the land. It all happened in a few split seconds, and then the surviving rockets reached their targets.

Ziti Harktus watched the lone surviving rocket they had fired hit the side of the leading ship, embedding itself deep into the hull. There was a brief pause, and then the metal of the hull blew out in a massive orange ball of flames and debris. The explosion broke the ship’s back, and it dropped to the ground where it crunched into the dirt in a grinding of metal, the flames licking up around it. It sat there for a few seconds, and then the first of a multitude of explosions rent it apart.

Five other ships were also hit, two of them dropping in flames. A seventh was hit by one of the jets. Instead of banking away, it had flown straight at the side of the ship, a smoke trail behind it, and rammed it at full speed. The impact was so heavy that the smashed engines of the jet blew out of the far side, and the resulting explosion caused the stricken ship to totally disintegrate in midair, scattering burning fragments over the land.

Four of the captured vessels from Nemen had now been brought down, but those still in the air continued to fire at the jets that banked away, bursting another into fiery fragments. Both sides had suffered heavy losses, but the battle wasn’t over yet.

Harktus banked his jet into another tight turn. I’m going back in!

Belomonor looked over Harktus’s shoulder at the fast approaching ships, the maser beams already flashing towards them. But we’re out of rockets! We have to go back to base to re-arm!

No! Sabatus had the right idea! By the time we get back from Delmatra these three fish will be over Jutto! We have to stop them now!

But, Ziti!

Harktus reached back and pulled a red lever by Belomonor’s chair. There was a loud thud and the canopy blew off. Belomonor tried to grab Harktus but it was too late.

Noooo!

With blast of hot air Belomonor and his chair shot upwards out of the jet and rapidly disappeared.

Harktus fought with the controls, the air stream now buffeting him and tearing at his facemask. The jet pitched and rolled, his lack of control now adding to his luck as the maser beams missed him one after another. He kept his thumb down on the firing button of his tracer cannons, the heavy shells flashing away in the darkness as he shot towards the line of three surviving ships. The one in the centre grew bigger and bigger, closer and closer, until all he could see before him was the broad grey hull...

General Orbanta watched the lights wink out on the relief map. He was stood at the rail staring down at the map with Addi Joventa. They had watched the battle in silence, noting each light go out, both yellow and black. When it was over, Orbanta sighed.

Five.

Joventa nodded. It’s better than we expected. And the other two are damaged, one of them crippled by the looks of it.

He was right. The two remaining black lights near the highway moved a lot slower than before, and one of them lagged behind and was already beginning to stray off course. Joventa pointed at it.

Without altitude that ship will never make it to Jutlam City for a start. And I’ll wager the other one is no better.

Do you have any jets left? Orbanta suddenly asked him.

The Air Marshal lowered his arm and turned to him. A few, he said after a pause.

Good. They did well. Save them, Addi. We’ll go with your wager and gamble on your being right. Tell our captains to forget these two and concentrate on the ten coming from Kalahar. If we can break them, then we will have done all we can.

Joventa nodded but didn’t move away. "We’ve had a signal from the Alentin. Nothing’s moving on the surface and Limeno is on his way to the second target. I’ve had the photographs back from the two reconnaissance flights over the area. They confirm his report. Is it still a go for the deployment of the second device?"

Orbanta leaned on the rail and stared down at the map. He didn’t answer. Next to him, Joventa waited patiently while the General pondered on his decision.

The relief map told its story in coloured lights. The Keruh were now more than halfway back on their journey to Jutlam City and the yellow expanse at the capital was bigger than ever. It was also now apparent that the Alliance force was moving with purpose. The shape of the yellow area that represented the Alliance forces now stretched and bulged towards the east and the approaching black expanse that marked the Keruh. Soon the one would meet the other. The outcome of such a battle would be interesting, but for it to take place, the battlefield had to remain intact.

With a deep breath Orbanta said, "Belay the order. Tell Limeno that the Kouvila and Temunus are to join up with our other ships and intercept the Keruh flotilla coming from Kalahar. That should tip the engagement in our favour. He is to continue on to Jutlam City to give support to the Alliance force. Have him contact our surveillance people still on the ground there. If any of the Keruh ships should break through he is to engage them. Oh, and tell him well done."

Joventa smiled brightly. I like this part of the war! I like being proactive! I like the idea of taking the initiative away from the Keruh at last! Now it’s their turn to have a few surprises sprung on them!

Orbanta’s smile was less enthusiastic. Let’s hope they are surprises.

In space, Aeolus watched the wreck of the Keruh ship spin away, gas spiralling in its wake. It had been a clean kill.

Well done, Glaucus! Now bring us back on course! Tyro! Spot me another victim! Peleus! Where are my sheep? How do they fair?

Peleus suppressed a smile. The Klysanthians wouldn’t have been impressed by the description.

"The Queen of Angels and House of Gold have both confirmed kills, Captain. They approach from starboard with the Cause of Our Joy and Friend of the Sick. But there is no response from the rest."

Aeolus thumped the arm of his command chair in frustration. Why can my flock not keep together? Try and contact them, Peleus, ascertain their status! We must finish the enemy before they can re-group!

Since the Queen of Angels had been stirred out of her slumber, eight Klysanthian vessels had joined their small fleet. Most of the ships were damaged, some more than others, the Mirror of Holiness in particular ailed badly. But all had rallied to the call once Pantariste had given her permission. It seemed that Pantariste was higher ranked than many of the other captains, although the aloof disdain with which she looked on Aeolus was not uncommon. But not all of the Klysanthians were in fatalistic mood.

The crew of the Cause of Our Joy were still eager pursuers of the enemy, and the Prometheus had discovered her exchanging maser fire with two Keruh vessels. Melanippe, her captain, was less disdainful and more animated. Pantariste dismissed her eagerness, attributing it to her youth.

She is a child, propelled to Matriarchy by the death of her mother on Klysanthia.

Aeolus warmed to the flame haired child almost instantly,