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" Michell took a step forward, jabbing her knife, "You wouldn't know that unless you were spying on us!" "Or if my mechanical eyes could read minds." Ral said. "Your eyes can read minds?" Michell asked. "No, I am trying to learn what your crew calls humor." Ral said, "I'm afraid my people are rather boring." "You were spying on use because you were board?" Michell asked. "In a manner of speaking, yes." Ral replied. "Isn't that like joke porn or something?" Michell asked. "I'm not sure what you mean?" Ral looked puzzled. "That was a joke." Michell said. "I see," Ral said, "So, are you going to kill me? Or can we be friends?" "I'm supposed to ask you some questions." Michell said. She reached inside her coat and pulled out her PDA. "The crew is monitoring this and sending me questions to ask you." "Ok, I'll take a stab at it, I mean shoot, I mean as the ﬁrst question." Ral looked rather worried that Michell would take his words literally. Michell smiled, "Ok, what are you?" "Honestly, I just found out." Ral said. "What do you mean?" Michell asked. "I was monitoring you when you discussed the Aurora convoy." Ral said, "We have many races with nearly identical genetic codes on many planets." All evidence we have says that they did not originate on any of the planets we know of. I just now realized that we must all be descendants of the Aurora convoy." "What about the people of your planet?" Michell asked. "I have renounced my heritage, but I am a cyborg by birth." Ral said.
"What does that mean?" Michell asked. "These implants," Ral gestured at his six artiﬁcial eyes and the places on his body where small glowing purple tubes could be see under the skin, "I was born with, they are part of my species, not an addition after birth." Michell's PDA beeped and she glanced down at it. "Mikal just asked a rather disgusting question involving the anatomy of the females of your species and the implants, but I won't ask that." "Thanks." Ral said. "Ok, Terris wants to know what you do? As in are you a scientist, soldier, what?" Diana continued with questioning. Ral thought for a moment, "I think I could best be described as a mercenary but that is not quite the correct word. I am like Terris, I ﬂy around, try to average out as a positive inﬂuence in the galaxy. I do good but try and get something for me and mine as well." "Hmm... I cannot ﬁgure out if you are greedy or some sort of inter-planitary do-gooder." Michell remarked. "Neither, most people distrust my species. Most of us keep to ourselves, and refuse to help in the battle with the Swarm." Ral looked slightly embarrassed. "I am assuming by swarm you mean the Bio-Tech using aliens." Michell said, "So there is some sort of uniﬁed resistance against them?" "Organized? No, but the system you are heading to is defended by ships of many planets and species, except for my world, and a few fringe species." Ral paused for a moment, "And of course there are none from your part of the galaxy, we've never had contact with you before, even my people are unable to spare their mighty warships." "No offense," Michell glanced around Ral's ship, "but I wouldn't call your ship mighty, no computer screens, no holographic displays, I don't even see any
sensors." "While I do have some of things you listed, but it is true that your technology far outstrips anything we have." Ral said, "Your people could be our hope for victory." Michell shifted uncomfortably, "Ya, I am not sure you should expect help from our people." Ral's brow, or the part of it not covered by metal, wrinkled. "Why? Surely they would realize that once the Swarm overruns us, it will come for them." "That is the problem, we don't risk our own for others, your species might be lacking in emotion, but my species is arrogant." Michell said, "We have emotions, but we choose to not let them apply to anyone but ourselves." "You obviously don't." Ral said. "Not all of us, but that is our other ﬂaw, we are very leadership oriented, and power corrupts us." Michell replied slightly subdued. "I see." Ral said. The two remained silent. Michell's PDA buzzed and she tapped it's screen. <It's Will, I am bringing you back.> Michell tapped the PDA's screen again and replied, <Understood.> "What is––" Ral was cut off as the distortion on the controls of his ship ﬂashed blue once again. This time the light completely enveloped the ship. Ral recovered from the shock and glanced at Michell, "What was that?" "We routed a boarding beam through the distortion." Ral remained confused, "That didn't help." Michell pointed towards the front window of the ship. Ral turned his head and gasped. Michell grinned, "Welcome to the Revenant December's ﬁghter bay." "Nice place you've got here, but how are we here?" Ral asked, continuing
to stare out the view screen. "The ﬁghter bay has tons of cool gadgets, including a specialized boarding beam for disassembling ﬁghters. We used it to transport through the distortion." Michell said. "Amazing." Ral stood up, "Mind if we go outside?" Michell raised her hand, "We haven't decided if you are a friend yet." Ral picked a cylindrical handle out of his belt pouch. He tapped a button on the device and it hummed to life. A ripple ﬂew through the air from the end of the cylinder, in its wake a long slender glowing blue blade formed. The air around the blade rippled as if by heat, but the blade emitted none. "I have dimensional energy swords." "Friend." Michell grabbed the cylindrical handle and led Ral into the ﬁghter bay. She proceeded to twirl the newly acquired blade in a series of offensive moves while Ral examined the nearest ﬁghter craft. "Hey are you sure we should trust him?" Will called from the boarding beam controls. "Yep, he's totally on our side." Michell said, without looking up from the blade. "I think he just bribed you with a glowing sword." Will said. "Hmm, that too." Michell swung the sword over her head, slamming it into the side of an empty supply box. The space around the box and part of the box itself seemed to ripple, and fold back on itself. The distortion ﬂew the box across the ﬁghter bay, shattering the carbon-ﬁber frame against the far wall. Michell was frozen staring in wonder at the blade, Will just stared with his mouth open. Mikal, who had just walked in, was the ﬁrst to speak, "Ok, that was cool, I want one." "It appears to be able to fold space and multiply force." Will said, recovering from his shock.
"Like I said, a dimensional energy blade." Ral spoke up from his examinations. "Like I said, thats cool." Mikal said. "There are a few more in my ship, the Dawn Shadow." Ral said. As Mikal jogged to Ral's ship he remarked, "Nice name, Dawn Shadow. Better than having your ship named after a month." "I think Revenant December is a nice name." Ral said, "But I have no idea what a december is" "Its a month." Will said. "You name your months?" Ral asked, "Wierd." "I think you should go see Terna, Diana, and Terris. They aren't as sold on you as Michell is." Will said. "And what about you?" Ral turned to Will. "I trust Diana, if she trusts you I will trust you, but not before." Will gestured to a small conference room door in the forward hanger wall. "I've noticed you seem to have a respect for her that goes beyond rank." Ral looked at Will for a moment, and then walked into the conference room. Will considered what Ral had said. He had spent most of his life following Diana, you don't survive in the military as long as he had without having somebody covering your back. His mind strayed once again to the years past in special operations. *** Will, Diana, and Mikal slowly crouch-walked through a lunar jungle. Their hardened ﬁber-optic armor blended with the shadows as they made their way to a massive twisted hulk. The twisted bones of an ancient battle-cruiser rose from the canopy like many ribs out of a rotting carcass. Rust ﬂowed from them like blood, coating the stealth armor in a ﬁne layer of dust. As Diana sighted down the length of her A-2 Energy Carbine she swept
her eyes from side to side. Maintaining com silence she raised her ﬁst, bringing Will and Mikal to a halt behind her. She pointed to a torn engine, over 200 feet tall. Under the rust and twisted armor plates, the glint of new metal could be seen. Diana pointed to the engine once with two ﬁngers, and then repeated the gesture twice quickly towards a mostly intact titanium cross-brace that had fallen to the ground. They moved silently to the brace, crouching behind it. They made their way as silently and as low as possible along the length of the brace. It gave them a covered rout to the engine pod. Mikal moved to the front of the trio as they reached the pod and pressed his helmet against the corroded alloy. After a few silent minutes of searching he heard the faint hum of electronics. It took mikal mere moments to ﬁnd a concealed key pad in one of the coolant lines. Mikal set down his carbine and signaled for Dian and WIll to cover him. The two moved into position, sweeping the surroundings with their sights. Five minutes later Mikal had hot-wired the key pad. The casing of the engine pod glowed as an internal boarding beam kicked in. All three soldiers held their breath, waiting for an alarm to sound, or for guards to come rushing to the light. When lunar night remained still and quiet Diana risked breaking com silence, <This is too easy, something went wrong.> <I agree, suggest pull back and re-assess.> Will whispered into his mike. <Negative.> The commander's voice relayed from the stealth Inﬁltrator in orbit, <Proceed to objective.> <There should have been guards, even in a hidden facility like this.> Diana said. <Proceed, thats an order.> <Understood.> Diana pointed to the boarding beam. Will and Mikal stepped into the blue glow. Diana took one last survey to
make sure they had not been followed, and stepped into the beam. Diana experienced momentary blindness as she passed through solid metal, and then was blinking in intense light on the other side of the wall. Will and Mikal stood with their hands up, their weapons on the ground. Six heavily armed withdrawal soldiers had their guns trained on the captives. Diana's mind raced as she lowered he weapon. She wrenched the clip from her carbine and set both the weapon and the plasma battery on the ﬂoor. Diana slowly raised her hands, placing them on her head while keeping her attention on the guards. The guards, four men and to women, motioned for Diana, Will, and Mikal to move to the back of the engine pod. The three backed into the far corner of the pod, never turning their backs on the guards. One of the guards, obviously the leader, strode forward, "Tell me, how long until the Council ﬂeet comes to blast us into oblivion for wanting to be free?" Mikal and Will each glanced at Diana, but she remained silent. "Not talkative? The pipes you are standing on are ﬁlled with liquid nitrogen, if I shoot them they will freeze you, causing your ﬂesh to crack and fall off, your eyes to explode, and other things I would rather not get into." The leader said, so I ask again, how many days do we have?" "If those have liquid nitrogen then I should probably tell you that things will be getting hot in here in about ﬁve." Diana said. "Days?" The leader asked. Will caught on faster, counting down in his head. 5... 4... 3... he located a seam in one of the pipes below his feet that looked fragile 2... he noticed the clip that Diana had wrenched out of her gun begin to leak plasma out of a crack caused by her rough handling 1... Will dropped into a crouch, bringing his elbow into the seam he had selected. Diana and Mikal performed the same maneuvers, ripping the seams of the pipes that made up the makeshift ﬂooring
of the pod. Fans of liquid nitrogen shot in front of each of the council soldiers, ﬂash-freezing the capillaries in their faces. A millisecond later the plasma clip sitting on the ground by the six enemy guards exploded. The guards and pod walls were vaporized instantly. The heat from the explosion evaporated the liquid nitrogen, thawing the ﬂesh of the council soldiers and fusing the optic ﬁbers of their suits. The freeze from the nitrogen protected their ﬂesh from the worst of the heat. Mikal shook off the shock of being frozen and then burned in a few milliseconds. He stood up, and faced Diana and Will who were already on their feet. "You mustache has been burnt off." Will said, pointing at Mikal's face. "Dam, you have no idea how long it took me to grow that." Mikal said. "You have no idea how stupid it was." Will said. "That blast will show up on every sensor within ﬁve hundred kilometers." Diana said, "We need to move, now." Diana glanced around and pointed to a dense patch of jungle. The three dashed through the wreckage. As they ran a pair of atmospheric patrol craft roared overhead. Dian glanced over her shoulder as she ran, in the distance she could see the glowing exhaust trails from the patrol craft as they turned for another pass. Diana ducked as she turned back, narrowly avoiding a plasma complex manifold. The sound of the patrol craft grew closer. Red bolts of plasma slammed into the wreckage, peppering the three with fragments of metal and sending larger shrapnel ﬂying in all directions. The patrollers passed once again, disappearing into the distance. Will, Mikal, and Diana were almost to the foliage when the craft returned. They ﬁred their weapons full spread. Will and Mikal got away cleanly, but a bolt hit a rusting centrifugal power converter directly in front of Diana. It detonated, ﬂinging titanium shards in all directions. A large spinning piece of plating ﬂew straight
for Diana. She began to more to the left as she ran, raising her right arm. Before she could completely get out of the way, the metal sliced through where she had been a moment before. The edges of the plating cut gashes on the underside of her right arm and along her breast. She stumbled, breaking her fall with a roll. She pressed her right arm to her side, and stumbled into the jungle before the patrollers could return. Will helped Diana deeper into the jungle where the Patrol Vessels would be unable to target them. She sat down, wincing as her wounds brushed each other. Will helped her remove her upper armor, cleaned, and bandaged the gashes. "Those are pretty deep, you might want to let Mikal pilot our exit ship." Will said. "I know their deep, I can feel it just ﬁne. I'll be ﬁne once we get to the cellular regenerator I'll be ﬁne." Diana said, putting her armor back on. "You know using those things on non-lethal wounds can cause serious side-effects." Will said. "Ya, I know, residual healing energy messes with the brain chemicals, but its better than being condemned to Mikal's ﬂying." Diana said, chuckling, and then wincing as her armor chafed the bandages. "You're probably right, lets go." Will said, standing up. The three continued, Mikal in front, and Will and Diana taking up the rear. They made their way to a concealed stealth craft, their ticket off the jungle moon. Once inside the ship Diana removed her armor again, and used a glowing purple device to artiﬁcially heal her wounds. Once fully recovered Diana reassembled her armor and proceeded to pilot the ship into the upper atmosphere.
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