Jump to content

Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'Fiction'.

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


  • Earth and Beyond Emulator Community Forums
    • Net-7 News
    • General Discussion
    • Suggestions
    • Player Knowledgebase
    • Guild Discussion Area
    • The Real World
    • PTR Discussion Area
  • Earth and Beyond Emulator Support
    • Technical Support
    • Game Master Public Support
  • Earth and Beyond Emulator Management Board
    • Public Board Announcements
  • WoodStock Day !!'s What would be the date for Woodstock day ?

Find results in...

Find results that contain...

Date Created

  • Start


Last Updated

  • Start


Filter by number of...


  • Start





Website URL








Found 12 results

  1. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Ch. I by Pakkrat I. Pakkrateus opened his eyes to pain, thirst, and a blatant desire to return to the oblivion of sleep. His head pounded to the tune of one of his occasional headaches. He rediscovered that he'd been drinking and had the urge to drink a gallon of water. Against every muscle in his body's better wisdom, the Progen sat up on the side of the large bed he found himself in. He found he did not remember choosing a sleeping quarters with such a huge bed. Looking down with his fingers rubbing his temples, Pakkrateus spotted his uniform, Privateer's armor and other sundry gear that belonged to him. He pressed a button on the bedside light to have a painful look about. He needed water for this hangover from whatever it was he was drinking last night. Oh. Last night. What had he been doing? Pakkrateus ran his fingers through his graying military hair buzz. It was getting longer. Last night slowly unfolded from his memories and played itself back through the haze of the hangover. Yesterday's haul from Somerled Station in New Edinburgh sector along with the noisy tourist passengers seeking passage to the Aragoth system was less profitable than his expected payout. With most of his ship's cargo hold full of trade commodities, (Nano-bots weren't they?) and some space left over for passenger pods, Pakkrateus had taken it upon himself to make the long haul to Fenris Observatory. The passengers had complained just about the entire journey at the slow warp speeds of his vessel, the Maze Runner. The Privateer had been reduced from a Progen para-military vessel to a tour vehicle for humans and nano-bots. Well, at least the microscopic Nano-bots did not complain about the bumpy ride the Maze Runner gave them. It was a Progen ship after all, not some Glenn Commission pleasure cruiser out of Beta Hydri. Though the crates had piled high in his ship's cargo hold, Pakkrateus had failed to fill all the rented passenger pods with tourists. Pakkrateus had tried to put on his best Collegia face for the tourists. But when they beheld his Maze Runner, they balked thinking it was some weapon-bristling warship. While it was true the Progen Privateer class of vessel was originally intended as a marque-ed hunter ship with an eye for trade, Pakkrateus had never been one for heavy combat. But it was the huge, mounted missile launchers that turned a few tourists away in disgust of a warmongering vessel. If he had only mounted the smallest of weapon systems, he might not have frightened the tourists away. Hindsight. Pakkrateus' head swam with dizziness and he put his head over the side of the bed as he rubbed his scalp. What a hangover! Memories of arrival at Fenris Observatory, Fenris sector in Aragoth system were the most pleasant. His ship regurgitated the tourist passengers first upon docking at the Jenquai station. They had been very happy to see the comfortable blues and calming grays of the space station as opposed to the heavily-armored and flat black of his Maze Runner. Then came his delivery contact to off-load the huge shipment of the nano-bots crates. Monetary credits were exchanged after a little session of his favorite pastime, negotiations of commodity price. Pakkrateus was cloned and raised by the Progen Republic, more specifically the Collegia, to be a greedy son of a bitch. He'd never rival the downright market bastards of the Terran Alliance but he did okay. The payout was still less than he wanted given that he had made the mistake of taking on passengers. He could have filled those passenger pod spaces in the hold with more crates of nano-bots and had less complaints for the trip. Hindsight is a bitch. So too was his pounding headache a bitch. More memories unloaded on the Privateer as he rubbed out the crick in his neck. Where had that come from? Pakkrateus had immediately made for the prissy Jenquai lounge to see if Pro-Vod vodka was on the menu. His ship had arrived late in the evening much to the complaints to the wealthy and snobbish Terrans out of Somerled Station. He had watched the population of the lounge patrons drop as he ate a meal and watched the news with disinterest. There was his older clone brother, Dr. Pakkratius the Sabine Sentinel, running his mouth on the monitor above him. The Sentinel was a field correspondent for Net-7 News, the galaxy's widest source for keeping in the know. The Sentinel and the Privateer were never fully acquainted nor brotherly friends beyond their shared Progen heritage. Pakkrateus had learned first of his older clone brother due to the fact that the Reporter had become an expected face in the media, soon to try out for anchorman on the nightly masercom broadcast. Estranged by iteration, career, and missed opportunities to get to know each other, Pakkrateus had let his older clone brother do his thing until he someday would discover his 'younger' brother. It was a base reminder, despised by the Privateer, that he suffered a genetic one-in-a-million odds that activated a quirk in the genome from which he was iterated. He ran his hands over his face, feeling more of the wrinkles and crows feet. Pakkrateus suffered from what the geneticists told him was a very mild appearance of Methuselah's Syndrome. His body, though younger than his clone brother's, was aging slightly faster than it should have normally. This made the Privateer appear a full decade older than the Sabine Sentinel Pakkratius. It was a mild case after all. Methuselah's Syndrome was genetic in nature and inherited. No gene therapy had been found to reverse the symptoms, even with anagathic drugs. The physicians and geneticists had told Pakkrateus that it would be easier to just be Called Forward to a new life with the greater chance of the genetic flaw failing to activate, than to battle the flaw. Unwilling to be slain and Called Forward by the geneticists of the Sabine Order, Pakkrateus was stuck with looking and somewhat feeling older than his clone brother Pakkratius. It made him envious at times to see his brother on the monitors, spouting the galaxy's latest dirty laundry or lately the sunspot and radiation weather coming off Aragoth system's solar primary. He looked younger and was probably groomed to be the best Progen face on Net-7 News. Hence, Pakkrateus had never took it upon himself to befriend his clone brother. It seemed that the imagined encounter scenario would be plastic and false and the Privateer disliked masks that society put on before each other. The two were merely brothers, cloned from the same genome, the so-called Pakkrat Master Genome, (whatever the hell that meant). The Sabine would let no more about his genome out as he was a Collegiate and not given to know. The Privateer might tap his clone brother who was a Sabine Versatile, but it was a case of the chicken or the egg and Pakkrateus did not have the time to climb his family tree with the Doctor. Progen were supposed to make the best of who and what they were, here and now, for the Republic. At least that was their line of thinking. Pakkrateus reached for his vambrace, not to put it on his forearm, but merely to check the time. It was early morning. Cripes, he had not had four hours of sleep! Normally, the Privateer was given to sleeping in, especially after a long haul like yesterday's trade and passenger run. More memories unlocked when he put down the forearm personal data assistant. It had been very late and the lounge for all its round-the-clock service was good for, had emptied. The music still played, the monitors had cycled the feeds from the rest of the galaxy three times and were about to start a fourth. The Privateer had eaten and had nursed six vodkas to again drown down his mediocre career. He had looked about to try one more time at people-watching. At least they did not come sensationalised as the talking heads of the media channels. At that hour, he panned around to find himself alone in the lounge with only one other patron present. The station employees were probably asleep. It was a lull time for Fenris Observatory being so late at night. He had spotted her from the bar to the low table in the rear. She was hunched over the table and making use of its communications terminal linked to the Net terminal nearby. Pakkrateus had turned slightly to his left at the bar to watch her trying to make a connection call. She was a Progen and Centuriata by the looks of her uniform and armor. She had a lithe yet wiry frame under the light armor. Her skin was lighter than the Privateer's and there was a hint of femininity under the frustrated looks she was shooting at the table before her. Her hair was a dark chocolate brown and cut two different ways but both in the style prevalent in Progen women. The main style was of the Centuriata, trimmed to a crisp line just below the ears and such that it meant business. Then there was the gathered ponytail that streamed up and behind her that reached in a gentle helical spiral down her back almost reaching her hips. To the Privateer, the ponytail resembled the helical spiral of DNA, a statement of racial pride. She was unarmed but not untrained, thought the Privateer at the bar. Centuriata Warriors were not to be pushed. But she was not the typical brutish woman that he had come to see in most Centuriata females. She was lighter, slender and her muscles did not overpower her frame. She could definitely be a model for the latest Progen fashions if Progen indulged in fashion. The Centuriata had sparked -no, kickstart- something in the Privateer. It was quickly spoiled when in frustration she looked up from her table and scanned the lounge to spot Pakkrateus watching her with more than interest. At seeing him, this aging Progen male gawking, her frown deepened and she flashed that look. It was familiar to him so many times from his past. She gave him the Now's Not The Right Time, Boy look. It was accentuated with a slight shake of her head which was beautifully accented by her spiral ponytail. Dejected yet again, the Privateer finished his last vodka and was about to leave if only his arms and legs would move. Across the bar, the woman seemed to be stumbling to stand from her own chair. He too had tried to get up, but fell off the stool immediately. Stunned on the floor in what must look like a drunken stupor, surely in full view of her, he tried to push up from the floor. Then he saw her trip and fall just as flat. Then all went dark and sleepy with a remembered acrid aroma in the lounge. Next thing Pakkrateus knew, he was waking just now in full hangover bloom plus a sleep-deprived dehydration. Whoever she was, she at least tripped beautifully and with trained grace, unlike his drunken stupor. Now, in the sleeping quarters of Fenris Station, Pakkratius looked about the room and noticed there was someone in the bed with him. He got up and stood away from the person on the other side of the shared bed. Had he gotten somehow lucky? No. He did not bodily feel lucky just now, hazy as he was with the pounding hangover. So, he carefully and quietly rounded the bed to see who he had shared the bed with. The outline of the covers, a single thermal sheet framed a female frame. It was a woman in his bed. Or her bed. His memory was now refusing him answers. He did not want to wake her, but his better mind needed to know if and how he had scored. He tried to lightly tap the sleeping form on the shoulder as he pulled on underclothes instead of greeting her in his birthday suit. There was no answer or movement from the female form. Her clothes were on her side of the bed in an orderly and folded pattern so ingrained in the Centuriata. The light armor was also nearby and looked familiar. Pakkrateus hazarded to pull down the thermal sheet and reveal the face of his bed mate. He was greeted with red everywhere under the sheet. Blood soaked her side of the bed and she was not breathing. She was dead! The Progen almost stumbled as he backed way from the dead woman from the bar last night. Her hair was matted with dried blood. The face of the Centuriata was calm but for the huge bullet hole wound in her forehead. She looked fully asleep save for the dried lake of blood and the gaping wound in her skull. There was no hope in waking that. Panic and fear gripped the Privateer. He had never seen a dead Centuriata up close and personal before. Such was the purview of the Reclaimers of the Sabine Order and outside his worldview sphere. Just last night she was alive. Now she was dead and he had been asleep beside her dead body. Sobriety fought with hangover in Pakkrateus' head. His breathing raced as did his heart. He needed to know what happened. Against better judgement he picked up the woman's PDA vambrace computer and looked in her journal. Almost immediately, a tiny holographic image of the young woman winked into view above the forearm armor. It was her making a recording of herself. Then the tiny woman's voice came through the little speaker on the PDA. Her voice was like honey given sound, mixed with jalapeno of a Warrior's attitude. It warmed the Privateer's heart bitterly now that she was dead on the bed before him. He listened to the recording. "If you are reading this recording," the recording spoke, "then my PDA is not registering my vitals, most likely meaning that I am dead. This is a deathwatch recording and I make it a habit of updating it as often as I can. My designation is Alpha-class Centuriata Warrior Siobhan. I am a courier by occupation for the Progen Republic." The recording went on calmly, "I have every confidence in the Sabine Reclaimers and fully intend to answer the Call Forward. But there is an issue. My most recent courier package mission may be to blame. Let me explain. I was tasked with the unlikely delivery of a discovered gene-map, but not to the Sabine Genetic Repository as is customary. Instead I was ordered to deliver it directly and secretly to Endriago planet-side. I have made the messenger's faux pas in that I looked at the package I was to deliver." "The gene-map was very old and looked very important; I cannot say how important. My employer set the highest priority to its delivery. I can only assume that this mission was far more volatile than I am usually willing to accept. I will try to make contact with Centuriata Command for advice on this matter. I would have forfeited the mission had I known, but now the error is done. I, Siobhan should not have been so curious. My apologies. Yet, this mission has jeopardized my life." "I have taken steps to ensure that if killed, as I suspect I am in danger, that the package is not lost." Another pause as the woman's image looked like a confession was in order, "I have exchanged my own Centuriata gene-map with the packaged gene-map and put it in my own vambrace cryo-cartridge. Thus you, whomever you are, now hold what I was to deliver. Things may have "gone south" and I ask you, reader for your aid." The image tilted her head and smiled a little in a quiet plea then faded away. Pakkrateus needed to help her. He wanted to help her. He went back to his gear and began dressing when he stubbed his toes on the heavy pistol slightly under his side of the bed, a gun that the Privateer did not own. * * * The prismatic colors of the comet's tail flared at a refraction angle from the light of Aragoth system's sun. He watched the comet's path and spectral light show as it passed between the solar primary and his vessel. Like the ancient Earth sailors upon the oceans and seas who gazed longingly at the horizon, the Jenquai similarly appreciated the calming vista before him. On purpose, the pilot had turned his sleek black vessel away from the teeming humanity behind him. The traffic was at a lull and the communications channels were at their quietest. It was the dead of space night outside Fenris Observatory out on the furthest reaches of the galaxy thus far explored. All was calm and peaceful. It was why he had come out this far and away from the rest of civilization. It had been some time since his last active duty mission as a member of the Shinwa Defenders, but in the interim the Jenquai had found outlets of action as a secretive member of the Sev Tushnim, literally "We Who Serve In Silence". His life as a soldier, a veteran, a warrior-mystic and an unsung hero was the subject of his contemplative solitude here in Fenris sector. Time after time, in active duty as a Defender and between missions, the pilot had served without question and with dutiful humility. He had long lost count of those he had fought against, fellows trained, and those in need aided. Now, out here on the fringe, he was in rapt reflection of his career. He came this far to let down his hair and meditate on his next chapter of his life. Many Shinwa Defenders did not serve this long as a member of the Sev Tushnim, freely giving of their aid, service, and under the quiet and stealthy veil of anonymity. Most beneficiaries often never knew they had been aided from the dark. The Sev Tushnim gave their aid regardless of race, caste, class, profession, or affiliations even to the point of self-sacrifice if the need was so great. Thus, many Defenders served their term and then transferred to other callings. Never had the secretive sub-order of the Defenders asked for reward. It was their philosophy and lifestyle to singly or in very small groups to render aid to humanity selfishly and unconditionally. One might call it unconditional love for all life. As a veteran of the Gate War, the Jenquai Defender was no stranger to conflict and battle, the horrors of war and the soul-scarring loss of humanity that wrote itself upon the heart. Perhaps it was penance from war that brought this pilot out to the fringe of civilization and to this edge of the frontier. It was quiet here and it was a respite for a time. Hence, for all the peace and quiet, the Sev Tushnim Defender was blindsided by the psychic emanations of surprise, fear, remorse, and horror that brought him to full alert as he spun to face Fenris Observatory. From the bridge of his sleek Defender vessel, he felt the waves of negativity and suffering from a lone human somewhere in side the station. The emanations stank of blood and death. Someone, a male by the polarity, was in need of aid. His mind was an innocent faced with loss and panic. The Defender 'reached' with his mystical senses and pinpointed which wing of the Observatory the one in need was located. He meant to help this one, by the Sev Tushnim, for loss of innocence was metaphysically equivalent to a miniature death. He spoke to his ship. "Engines online and engage cloaking," he calmly spoke with confidence. "Impulse and warp available," answered the ship's computer with a neuter voice, neither male or female. "Cloaking engaged." The Sev Tushnim thrust his ship closer to the station. At this time of night, it was quite easy to let the traffic control ignore the comings and going of those who serve in silence. He pulled his vessel up beside the station and accessed the station's docking registry, looking at names and com-numbers. When the name and the number 'reached' synchronicity with the psychic resonance, he placed a call. * * * "This is not good," said Pakkrateus, still panic-stricken as he examined the pistol in his hands. It was an Athanor brand weapon, a top of the line gun. Its caliber seemed, to the Privateer's eyes, to match the death wound on the woman's skull. He did the causality calculations in his head. Dead and beautiful girl, aging Progen male, recently-used weapon, alcohol, shoddy career record, the list went on. He was being set up. But by who, he asked mentally to the room. Per her deathwatch plea, the Privateer snatched up the Centuriata woman's vambrace labeled Siobhan and ejected the gene-map cartridge. The recharged green diode blinked steadily as he pocketed it. Fully clothed now, Pakkrateus was stunned in fright by the station's klaxon security alarms bursting into a blaring clarion. Then his own vambrace's com-link rang. He answered the call. He did not initially speak so the caller took the initiative, "I know you are innocent of the death around you. If you wish to clear your name and make it out of there alive, you must follow my instructions exactly." It was a male voice and its accent was Jovian. A Jenquai had called him and offered to help him. Hesitatingly Pakkrateus answered, "W-what must I do?" Even in the blaring alarms and security announcements of imminent lock-down, he could hear his own blood pounding through his head, the adrenaline clearing his mind of his hangover. "Security forces are closing in on your location," said the Jenquai voice. "You must take a roundabout route through the station to make it to the hangar and your own vessel. Go when I say go. Stop when I say stop. Understand?" Pakkrateus could only nod mutely. He gathered up the last of his gear and stood at the door to the room. "I'm ready." "Put away the gun and get ready to run." Vita Theodora! He meant to have Pakkrateus run his ass off to the hangar bay. The Progen had not run since training in the Collegia. He had never had cause to move faster than a jog. He hoped his adrenaline rush would sustain him. He holstered the Athanor and unlocked the door. A short moment of doubt in this new voice on his com-link infected his gut reactions. As if to answer such hesitation, the voice spoke again, "There is no time to ride the line, Progen." Was he in Pakkrateus' head? He had heard from his training and education that the Jenquai had not eschewed the psionic disciplines distrusted by the Progen race. Was this "Jenny" reading his mind telepathically or emotions empathically? He had no further time to think when the voice spoke again. "Go now," said the Jenquai voice. "Down the hall, to the left and take the stairs down." In the hall the alarms were much louder and yellow lights mated to violet black lights flashed in time with the noise. An automatic female Jenquai voice calmly announced a security lock-down and advised patrons, staff, and visitors to shelter in place. Pakkrateus ran, his heart thumping and his breathing keeping him going. He hit the stairs and to his surprise took the steps two at a time. The was thankful to Jericho that the voice on his vambrace had said to descend the stairs. He emerged from the stair well. To the instructions from his benefactor, the Privateer crossed the station through the bowels under the main floors. Conduits and power transformers marked blocks between bulkheads as he ran past. Ahead as Pakkrateus ran was a sectional blast door marked with yellow and black stripes. It was closing slowly. "Run faster, Progen!" ordered the imperative voice on his com-link. "I only got two speeds, Jenquai!" puffed Pakkrateus in retort. "You risk much and force my hand, Progen," was the reply. The Privateer heard a beep sound over the call and a neuter voice, a computer, say "Energy Leech charging." "Fire," ordered the Jenquai male after a second to two. The station shook as one and all power left the capacitors en masse. Everything that required energy from the reactors was depleted from the station batteries. All went dark and silent. Even the life support was temporarily knocked out. The effect forced Pakkrateus to activate his vambrace's flashlight. Ahead in his beam was the blast door open just enough for the Progen to squeeze through. On the far side still more darkness reigned. There were muffled screams of panic in the halls behind him. Still he ran on. He emerged from a service stairway and into the hangar bay, but Pakkrateus was spotted by a standing guard of Sha'ha'dem Jenquai station guards. They called out to him, "Halt!" They drew pistols and one even drew a katana sword. It was after all a Sha'ha'dem Explorers-owned Observatory. "Make for your ship, Progen!" called the voice. Pakkrateus held down a smallish button on his forearm armor, and called to his own ship, the Maze Runner, "Systems start: reactor online, engines start!" He was nearly winded now from running through the station. Floating next to a glowing berth was his flat black Privateer vessel. Its lights came on and the engine's intake and vector panes flexed. The bridge lit up. "Stop that Progen!" yelled the guards' sergeant. Shots pinged off the force walls and dug into the blue, patterned carpet. "Give them pause, Progen," suggested the Jenquai voice. Pakkrateus spun and leveled the Athanor at the guards, not truly intending to hit any of the religious nuts the galaxy called the Sha'ha'dem. He fired twice and kept the gun up as if to fire again as he backed quickly to his waiting ship. The engines began to hum loudly. Guards hit the deck behind the force walls of the hangar berths for cover. However the sergeant was braver and his single shot grazed the Privateer in the leg between armor plates. The graze burned, but his adrenaline gave him a buffer from the pain just now. Then he was inside the bridge of the Maze Runner; Pakkrateus tossed the Athanor pistol on a console and sat in his pilot's chair. "Exit," he ordered his ship's computer. The huge Privateer pulled away from the berth and began to come about, making way for the hangar field. This time the Observatory was ready with manually actuated controls. The huge hangar blast doors threatened to cut off the Progen vessel's escape. There was no ramming such heavily armored doors. Instead, Procurator Pakkrateus of the Collegia armed his missile launchers, an unorthodox choice of weaponry on most if not all Progen vessels. Small arms fire continued to harass the Maze Runner's thick, Progen hull. He thumbed the safety off. Power re-routed through his ship as the Maze Runner's four launchers came online. There was no time to target the doors, so the Privateer used the targeting reticule normally reserved for projectile launchers or the rarer beam weapons. "No time to ride the line," mocked Pakkrateus as he squeezed the Volley trigger. The launchers spat their ordinances which echoed throughout the hangar loudly causing the angry guards to recoil and fall to the deck. In the air-filled hangar, the three missiles and a fat torpedo screamed across its length. The two Blacksun Ogun plasma missiles spilled their contents over the blast door and turned the metal doors into molten mess much like a fractured jigsaw puzzle along weak molecular lines. Then the smaller, explosive missile struck and its vibratory and concussive wave rattled the door. But it was the highly-illegal Evoco "Fist of the Merus Milia" torpedo that blew the doors into huge shards outward into space. The Maze Runner took a few scrapes as the door's debris shards signed mementos on the armored hull. Then the vessel was clear of the station as it passed the environmental shield which kept air inside the station and Aragoth's primary solar winds out. Not expecting an answer, Pakkrateus asked his vambrace, "What about the patrols?" "Not a concern," answered the Jenquai voice over the com-link. * * * After he had Leeched the Fenris Observatory's power and collected it in to his own capacitors, the Sev Tushnim had thrust under cloaking to the nearest stargate in silence. As the Progen battled his way through the station, he had pulled up next to the waiting gate with his free hand on the button to transmit the command to open its wormhole. Then he had waited for the launch of the fleeing Progen ship. About the Observatory, patrol ships fell into an arrayed formation to cut off all escape. Communications channels flared as the station's 'tower' called out commands to them. Then the Privateer vessel, the registered "Maze Runner" came into view. Targeting was called and weapons came online. "Summon Progen Privateer Maze Runner," ordered the Sev Tushnim calmly. Bands of pink, space-warping waves flashed before the cloaked Jenquai Defender, thus causing his ship to evidence its presence. Though his concealment was ruined for now, the pilot saw the pink ribbons yank on the Privateer and the funnelling effect took place. The huge Progen vessel merely vanished before the station much to the surprise of the patrol array and the tower. Half a sector away, the armored Privateer appeared before the Defender. "A Defender!" called the Progen whom he'd saved. "Do you have a problem with that?" answered the Shinwa. "No, let's boogie." There came a wave of energy over his hull as the Progen tasked his reactor with a shunting action to his engines. With the patrol ships wheeling around to charge up their warp cones, the two ships, Defender and Privateer gated together from Fenris sector.
  2. Departure from Humanity by Pakkrat His ship was almost safely back inside Progen space with them. While Dr. Pakkratius had gathered them whether by incurious or ignorant discard, dark purchases under the table, or by doing the dirty work himself, the collection was a worthy one. He stood in the bridge of the *Culler*, looking at the various systems, devices, and weaponry that awaited use. From various exotic locations across the frontiers of the galaxy they had come from Terrans and a few Jenquai. Some arrived out of a promise for monetary credits. A few came of the Doctor's involvement with incidents. Lastly, some were smuggled from the findings of other Factions' hard-earned efforts. The first of the changes came from the sanity-testing, maze-plowing, tedious back and forth of the Collegia Forgemasters-backed Agrippa Technologies. Imperator Agrippa at Arx Emporos in Altair III, had signed off on the final examinations that Pakkratius had taken and passed. A graduate of the R&D corporation's shields and devices program, Pakkratius now possessed the highest and most secret lab prototypes. The Sabine Sentinel had to smile at each of the long names given to the prototypes. Names like "Security Optimal Override Alpha", "Aspectus Limo Quinque", "Skirmish Omega", and "Tactical Advantage Omega" resounded their Latin language roots to the ears. Each system and device was a nightmare of gathered technologies, put together by the Architechti clones based out of Nostrand Vor City. But each final product was light years ahead of Terran systems. Next were the alien, biological, and at first seemingly cybernetic weapons of the strange, piscene space 'fish' calling themselves the "Ten-Gu". The two Ten-Gu Bile Cannons were a necromantic amalgam of flesh, ossified skeletal structures, teeth and ribs of the slain creatures, and the almost magical bile humors of the strange species. The weapons were not on the table but rather already mounted on the *Culler* in the first and second wing hard points. They pulsed with living eagerness to shoot deadly bile-infused teeth at any targets acquired. Not nearly as alien, but just as inhuman were the systems and devices inherited from errant, AI-built, master controller drones out of the blackness of Smugglers' Run. Amid the space-warping singularities and black holes, the rioting and rebelling drones had been given many systems to respond to pirate attacks. The Drone Shield Amplifier, various reactor cores, and system foci (one, the Deadly Grasp sat on the table), were just a few of the AI-designed or upgraded technologies that were not man-made. It would be a Turing nightmare to try to reverse engineer the designs of the machines in revolt. Dr. Pakkratius remembered a former system that was no longer in his repertoire of arcanoi. Man-made, but surely no longer remotely human, was the Vindis Damage Focus, a shield developed out of the outlandish Vindis. The Vindis were a failed attempt to meld Progen clones with machine out in the mad reaches of the Nifleheim Cloud. At that failure, the Republic had pulled back out of the Cloud and denied ever setting up shop there. But the abandoned Vindis had continued to grow and modify themselves to hideous mutations and cybernetic upgrades using the derelict station's equipment and the Cloud's vast resources. It was a skeleton in the Progen Republic's closet. Was it some renewable, Promethean fire that kept the odd engine system constantly aglow? The Unabating Fire it was called, sat bolted to the output jets and vector vanes of the *Culler*. The engine was a constant hum and vibration in the deck plates of the Sentinel vessel. It was, for an engine, an aberration that seemed to infect the nearby shield system, the Skirmish Omega with conduits and cables. It was an unholy union, the Doctor mused. It tried to whisper its malevolence to him as he slept in his bunk inside the ship. It was the Cube of the Leech, found in some Unknown Galaxy that the Tada-O Gate Incident had accidentally allowed into the Milky Way Galaxy. It's eerie, green vibratory emanations could only be described as "black magic" for lack of a better term. The Doctor had been forced to lock the dangerous cube in a cargo container to keep the evil thing from being seen or heard. The belted ammunition for the Fury of the Ten-Gu projectile launcher glinted. The Ten-Gu shards begged with their crystalline beauty to be shot by the multi-barrelled gun that had been used by the monstrous space fish as they entered human space to feed upon ships they had interdicted. Yes, thought the Doctor, their fury was indeed terrible to behold. Then at last, Dr. Pakkratius had come to them. Classified contraband under the label "aa" for Ancient Artifact, the crystals lay out in an ascending array before him. Smaller shards on the left lay next to progressively larger lattices to the right. The Doctor had studied long hours over the first of the crystal specimens he had been given. Some swarthy Terran Trader had dropped it in the lap of the Sentinel. The British-Earth Terran, for some reason call-signed "Dutch" just discarded the huge Ninth-Power artifact out of disgust that the crystal did not cooperate well with his own ship's systems. The crystals had to be nano-scanned to discover their strange names. They had alien names all. Only one line seemed to have a single Earth Japanese name of "Daimyo" hidden in their lattices. The smaller ones of the left were hand-sized, growing in size gently as they went from Fifth-Power to Ninth-Power. Pakkratius had no specimens of smaller size and nothing higher than Nine had been unearthed as of yet. The crystals were of varying crystal structure, partitioned off by their alien names. Some were monoclinic, others triclinic, cubic and onward up to hexagonal and even orthorhombic. Their interfaces were gold-plated electrodes attached to their polar ends or plane convergence points. These electrodes had superconducting conduits that for reasons unfathomable were compatible with space ships of varying classes. The Doctor's collection seemed most compatible with the Sabine Sentinel with perhaps a deviation to other explorer-class vessels. But the miniaturization of the technologies was the riveting detail! The mechanisms, crystal in form, were embedded and tightly packed in the lattices of the crystals. Furthermore, the programming code architecture was written into the quanta level of the devices. The Ancients had certainly mastered miniaturization to the infinitesimally small scale. Codes for the functions of the Ancient Artifacts were sub-atomic and went further into quantum activities. To this day, no human had ever deigned to delve so deeply as to reverse-translate, let alone reverse-engineer the Ancients' works. Eventually, all these inhuman additions to the *Culler* took their toll on the ship, and on the ship's pilot. The *Culler's* white, glossy hull, wings, and sail plates took on a more sinister appearance with the massive weaponry of alien design. The devices made the interior of the ship appear as if a pilot had stepped into a landscape not meant for a humans or human logic. Cables, conduits, system connections of all types were strewn about the bridge and adjoining compartments as if the deck was layered in a sea of serpents. If his younger, aging clone brother, Pakkrateus, was to see this departure from humanity, he might be further estranged from the Doctor. It would have to remain a secret for the Sabine's eyes alone. How many others would do the math and realize the span of what they had stocked the *Culler*? Each might remember their contribution, but to see them gathered might turn the stomach and shatter their sanity. While the Sentinel ship might look a clean, sterile white on the outside, the darkness was just underneath. What might other citizens of the Republic, yea the entire galaxy think of the "mad wizard-scientist" with such forbidden and arcane knowledge? Would there be the cliche of pitchforks and torches at his office door of NET-7 SOL if this nightmarish amalgam were scanned and discovered? Other than the Progen Sentinel, Dr. Pakkratius, there was one thing that anchored the bridge to humanity. Aside the data-tablet library in the aft of the compartment was a single book on the console. It was opened and its paper pages were kept by a frail red velvet bookmark. A passage was marked with underlining. It read: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Nietzsche was warning the Sabine Sentinel. The Earth and Beyond was an infinity to explore and the Doctor had better beware.
  3. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Acknowledgements by Pakkrat This section is to express my thanks to the following: To Lirethion or Reth, the player of Reacher, thank you for offering up your stories, experiences, and military take on life after service. I listened to you on Teamspeak more than you might guess. Reacher's adventures continue, so "there's no time to ride the line." My thanks goes out to ShadowWalker for his advice on how to make the first action sequence work without bending the canon too harshly. Rather than Hacking the Fenris Obervatory, Shadow pointed out the Jenquai Defender's skills of Energy Leech and Summon as a means of aiding the Privateer. He is a go-to source for the Shinwa Defender's crunch (game mechanics). To Stanig and Freak, thanks for hearing out my outline synopsis and your encouragement to write this space opera. I hope I did not snatch any aspects of your own projects out from under your repertoire. A note of thanks goes to Magoo, who provided my ship's porny rat-girl ship decal that only he and I can see, (unless he's distributed it elsewhere). Though the Net-7 News decal must go on the Sentinel, the she-rat will adorn the Privateer eternally. A rat's gotta dream, right? Thanks to Shaddex, Ryle, and the rest of the Emulator teams for taking me on as a Net-7 Reporter. The job's been entertaining, fun, and was probably the crack in the dam that allowed this work to channel through. Zyrith needs mentioning as she was partly responsible for logical, believable responses from Siobhan. Though Zyrith came to me mid-way through the novel, her own request for idea-bouncing gave me some insight to the mind of the Progen female. I look forward to see what she will write or share in the adventures of Zyrith Sky, Valeriya, and Serendipity. Thanks to the Builders Inc, and the entirety of the player-base of the Earth & Beyond Emulator Sunrise server for their comments, critique, and compliments for this space opera opus. 30
  4. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Ch. IX by Pakkrat IX. "Tonight on Net-7 News, we have a Special Extended Report from our very own Dr. Pakkratius, NET-7 SOL's Progen Reporter and field correspondent. We take you to an alcove of our station lounge where the two will clarify the epic and stunning events that have taken place these past few days. Doctor?" Zona Mason fingered her glasses back into their proper place on her nose with her middle finger. The gesture was hard to miss and obvious to whom it was intended. The cameras cut to a remote camera stationed in the lounge of NET-7 SOL for the interview. "Thank you, Zona. Jenquai, Progen, and Terrans, 'lend me your ears'," half-quoted the camera-clean Reporter. "Tonight I have with me my younger genome brother, the Collegia Triumvir Pakkrateus who has his story to clarify to the galaxy....." Thus, using the public sensational retelling under truth-oath and lie detection, the Pakkrateus cleared his name and confessed a few things she would have liked kept just between the two of them. * * * She continued to watch the Net-7 News feed as she recalled their last moments together as he brought Siobhan the Sabura to her new home on Porvenir Mons, Endriago planet. They had arrived at the landing platform to the high-security detail, Sabine Order's Reclaimers, Specialists, and a few interested Versatile. At the head of them was an anxious Vinda. So, it was true, Siobhan had guessed as they walked down the tarmac in the oppressive dry heat of the volcanic planet. Siobhan could very well be the first of the Sabura Project. Vinda would be champing at the bit to see what had come of the unauthorized, ultra-secret, and covered-up experiment. She had turned to the Pakkrateus as he asked her, "Is this what you want, Siobhan?" He had smiled at her and hugged her when she stepped into his arms a final time. The Privateer may look old but his hugs were vibrant and powerful as any younger Progen male. "I will forge what I want of this thing they call Sabura Warrior, Pakkrateus," she said as she smiled, plans in her mind. "I shall be a mother to the Sabura, not that egotist woman over there." He had stolen a look at Vinda across the landing pad. The Sabine leader stood with her arms crossed and her boot tapping with expectation. The two of them had Vinda's backing so long as the Sabura Project remained veiled from the public eye and a secret of the Sabine Order. It assured that no more Reclaimers would be seeking Siobhan and the Pakkrateus in the future. There was also a sizeable reward for the return of what Vinda called "Sabine property." Siobhan had smiled at that statement. She would make Vinda pay for everything Siobhan might not like coming from the Sabura Project. In his powerful arms, she stood taller and kissed the Pakkrateus before all of the Sabine. It was a Terran gesture. Vulgar to the Progen race, it meant that the male and the female still remembered their genetic origins in opposition to the vat-grown, gestated, and re-iterated copies that the Progen had become in the Crystal Age. Vinda had frowned, but kept silent. No doubt it would go into her personal journal, a musing of what being kissed might be like. It was a long, passionate kiss. A Warrior's kiss was shared with a Privateer's kiss, was the initial impression. But then as the exchange lengthened, it became Siobhan's kiss embracing the enfolding kiss of the Pakkrateus'. When the observers were well enough shocked by such a gesture, the two parted to merely holding hands. "Will I find you out there in the Beyond?" he had asked her as Vinda's impatience grew. "Earth and Beyond, Pakkrateus," she had answered. "But for now, I crave more of my kind. I need to keep that gene-witch from going hog wild with the Project." The authorities were towing her ship, the Kitten, to Endriago for an overhaul and refit to better reflect the up-and-coming skill-sets in the Sabura Warrior genome matrix. It would be good to have her baby back in her hands. "We have been given a second chance, Siobhan," the Pakkrateus had said. "Thank you for your time with me. I hope it won't be the last." He looked into her amber eyes. She smiled. "You haven't heard the last of Siobhan the Sabura, Privateer," she had said, turning to face the waiting Sabine Order. "I will forge my own destiny and you better watch over your shoulder for us." "I will be glad to contract my Collegiate services to the Sabura anytime," he promised. As the heated wind pushed on the Progen standing on the platform, Siobhan had walked calmly and with a feminine Warrior's swagger towards Vinda and her Sabine. The Pakkrateus had watched her gait with more than interest before she took her place behind the Order's leader. With a last, friendly gaze, she had nodded to Vinda. Vinda had nodded in return respectfully to the First Sabura, a ranked title in the new genome matrix. * * * Vinda stared across the tarmac that day in the heat just outside the climate controlled city-station, Porvenir Mons. She acknowledged the salutatory nod of the First Sabura, this woman, Siobhan. There was much study to be done and very little time. While her Sabine explorers were combing Aragoth system Varen's Girdle, she was going to see what this girl was made of. But right now, her attention was on the Pakkrateus who watched Vinda's pet Project concede allegiance with the Sabine. *Very well played, my Pakkrateus. You and your estranged brother, Pakkratius have served me well these past several days. More than I could hope for, you two have done two services to me without me having to lift a finger or dirty them in any way. The Sabura Project is born and another potential enemy of the Sabine Order has been forever eliminated. In addition, you have shown us that cooperation, rather than competition, will better serve humanity in the grander scheme of the implicate order. Well done. I believe I shall extole your genome from behind Andronicus Kerr as repayment for this service. For it was I, in the beginning, who left the file on the warlord where the fool Rex would find it and pour over the records with growing interest. Now re-iterated to the servant-caste, he will make an excellent ship's mechanic for this new Sabura girl to boss around and have no time nor the breeding to try to challenge me for the leadership of the Sabine Order. Again, well done, my pawns.* With a curious look at the Sabine leader, the Pakkrateus had frowned at Vinda. The rift between the Order and the Collegia Forgemasters was still wedged apart, yet she, Vinda would smile upon this one Triumvir. * * * Across the galaxy, on the rim's frontier, a Jenquai warrior breathed a sigh in quiet meditation. His half-lidded gaze took in the exotic view of Fenris once more. The ancestor ghosts of his people could smile upon his service, the unconditional love for all life of the Sev Tushnim, We Who Serve In Silence. Though he was under no oath of silence concerning the Sabura Warrior woman, Reacher nevertheless decided to honor her humility and apology for the atrocities of war committed against his people. The Jenquai Defender forgave her. He, in expansion, forgave those Progen who had no part in the Torment of Jove City during the Gate War. The emotional cauldron under his nexus of being was at a low simmer for now, though it would stay warm for the rest of his life. There was a metaphysical magic in that forgiveness, a second chance, that Reacher decided to continue with his life as a Sev Tushnim and not fall from grace into the likes of the Mordane or the nihilistic Kaojin (the Kokura). He was happy again. * * * "Welcome aboard the Maze Runner," announced Pakkrateus to his full cargo hold of tourists in their comfy passenger pods. "In your pods you will find a copy of my recent adventure. Feel free to peruse it at your leisure as we enjoy the view of Glory's Orbit and its shared memorials." The passengers chatted among each other, excited that they had the first run of the Collegia tours by the Progen man that was featured on Net-7 News. Terrans, Progen, and even a Jenquai couple rode in his vessel. They did not complain, nor did they fear his Privateer, the Maze Runner. Pakkrateus took a long gaze down the length of his ship's hull. The hull upgrade was only slightly accented by the tiny, sleek missile launchers. With his credit account, honor, reputation, and name restored, the Privateer decided on a new approach to doing business. Hindsight may be a bitch, but the second chance to move forward was key. He reached for a bottle of water and a couple of analgesics to head off his hinting headache. That last forgotten bottle of Pro-Vod vodka was still slowly emptying into the latrine of his ship as he pulled away from the berth of Friendship 7 station in Glenn sector of Beta Hydri. He'd give these tourists a run for their money. * * * It was in the Kuiper Belt of Sol System that the unmanned probe found the derelict pusher-hauler frozen in ice. Its distress beacon still flared its call over the region. The probe registered the radiations, the beacon, and a single faint life-sign. Like a shot into the night, it's sensor telemetry was signaled to Earth Station's InfinitiCorp office. A Terran was in need of rescue. De Wynter signalled her authorization with a touch of her stylus implement to a request document on a data-tablet. *The Pakkrat Master Genome continues....*
  5. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Ch.VIII by Pakkrat VIII. Pakkrateus had ridden his engines their hardest in the flight to Mars sector. If he got clear of this mess, a hull and engine upgrade at the very least was in order. Never before had he drove his ship this hard for such an extended period. Looking out at the Defender in formation beside him, he guessed this was hardly a jog for the sleek Shinwa vessel. But first a dog had to be put to sleep. Siobhan had taken the helm of the Maze Runner for the first two sectors as Pakkrateus again tended to his graze wound. Pulling on his boot for he intended to die with his boots on, the Privateer then grabbed a new bottle of Pro-Vod vodka from the mini-fridge and went forward to the bridge. Asteroids of the Gamma Belt flew by like a barrage of massive hail stones as the Maze Runner plowed along. Siobhan was leaning forward at the helm, trying to cut any corners she could in the mad dash for Mars sector. This was rather futile as the gravity wells of nearby Detention Center Onorom stood in direct line from the gate to Saturn sector and the gate to Mars sector. It forced any ships to go around the huge interdiction fields, generally encouraging the use of the line of navs. Still she was intent. Rounding the last nav before the gate to Mars sector the Warrior changed seats with the Privateer. With a kiss to his wrinkled forehead, the Sabura said "For luck in battle, Pakkrateus." Then she sat down and buckled in to monitor the ship's shields, armor, and reactor capacitors. He smiled at her and then buckled in as well at the helm in time to transmit to the gate the command to open. The gate to Mars sector opened and the unlikely duo of a Progen Privateer and a Jenquai Defender entered the space over Mars in a flash of unfolding blue light and space-time. In the distance was the Red Planet, like a hungry and hellish stone waiting to pull down anything unworthy. Before it was the capital space station, Arx Magister, home to the Progen Republic's three arms of space operations. Centuriata, Collegia, and the Sabine Order came together here when the Republic was challenged. The Factions would drop their differences and loyally served without question here. In the distance were two huge asteroids webbed with Progen structures, armor, and various other construction. On each end of Mars sector so as to not interfere with each other's action, the asteroids were named Romulus and Remus. Through the center of each asteroid were the zenith of Progen weaponry. The Romulus and Remus cannons were the singly most massive cannons ever built, powerful enough to be unstoppable once their ordinance was fired. Each weapon's damage output was so tremendous that a line of Pax capital ships could not halt their discharge. They were testament to the readiness of the Progen for any threat, human or otherwise. Pakkrateus noted their size as Remus came into scopes range first. He had seen the inactive cannons many times in his passage through Mars sector. To most Progen, it was accepted that the asteroid weapons would never see action and might as well be museum pieces for tours. Now as the formation moved further into the sector his scopes detected lights, normally dim, bright and flaring. Reacher's voice came over the communications console. "Progen, I detect energy build-up in the Remus cannon. The Tormentor means to do this." There was a crackle of static as a incoming transmission overpowered the Jenquai's connection. It was a male, Martian-accented and powerful voice. He spoke with confidence and with an edge of feral bestiality, "Puny Collegiate! You might stop one of the cannons, but you cannot stop both in time! Ha ha ha! If even one fires the Gate War continues. Fool! Welcome to your doom!" Pakkrateus swung his scopes around to target the distant Romulus cannon. It too was lighting up. "Vita Theodora." "He must have given the codes to his Centuriata escort," suggested Siobhan behind him. "They mean to fire both cannons at the same time." "I may not be able to stop both cannons, Siobhan," declared Pakkrateus who was looking out at his wingman, the Sev Tushnim Shinwa Defender Reacher, "but we can." At that the Defender broke formation and swung around to blur into invisibility as it made for the Remus cannon. The Maze Runner kept her route to the Romulus cannon. The computer voice of the Privateer spoke next, "Warning: Romulus cannon energy levels at 55%. Evacuation advised." The sensors knew that if the giant weapons were to fire, at this range any ships, no matter their size would be vaporized from the concussive discharge of the ordinance alone. Pakkrateus furrowed his brow but kept the Maze Runner on track to Romulus. Ahead, on scopes but just out of scan range, was the singular Centuriata Warrior vessel of Dahaka Khan. Pakkrateus guessed that the Khan must have commandeered one of the ships at Arx Ymir. Would the warlord still be combat capable if engaged so soon from answering the Call Forward? The vessel was remote-interfacing with the huge space cannon. The Khan was setting the commands to acquire a target: Jove's Fury in far off Jupiter. The cannon's discharge would take an unstoppable time to reach the station. But upon connecting with the unsuspecting Jenquai, the station would be obliterated. The Gate War would flame anew. Mankind would end in mere months. He had no doubt that Reacher had already intercepted the personal guard escort of the Centuriata the Khan had brought with him. There were tiny flashes seen before the Remus cannon. Over the sector broadcast channel came the voice of the Defender. Rather than some Progen battle-cry or Terran hooting, the Jenquai veteran master was calmly counting down his kills in reverse. "Six....," he called over the channel as sounds in the background of his voice were beam blasts, sustained hits on his shields, and the warnings of his vessel's computer. Pakkrateus smiled at the distant battle then faced his attention forward as his ship fell out of warp speeds. He gunned his impulse engines straight for the Khan. If the Centuriata Warrior was going to defeat the Privateer, the Procurator meant to ram his enemy. There was no kiting, no cloaking, no psychological tactics or Psi defenses against the Khan. The Centuriata Warrior was already rotating his vessel to face the incoming, bulky Collegia Privateer. This was a standoff of sheer firepower, shields attrition, nerve, and determination to go to the end. The Centuriata Warrior was already locking on it Gravity Link to capture the Privateer in its dance to the death. Pakkrateus felt his ship slam down into a crawling speed. There would be no escape from this battle. For his part, the Privateer thumbed off the safeties of his weapons. Taking the initiative first as his launchers came into range, he fired the first volley. Swarm after swarm of missiles and torpedoes cruised the gap between the two Progen ships. Then the flashing of the Khan's six projectiles started hammering. Ordinance flew by each other. There was no dodging, no dogfighting nor room for second thoughts. "Five.....," came Reachers' call. The Maze Runner was thundered by the hail of impact, plasma, chemical, and explosive rounds. The Khan liked variety in his choice of ammunition. The Privateer's fire was already clouding the Warrior with plasma and concussive explosions. The two vessels faced off as Progen fought classic toe-to-toe. As the two ships came within point blank range, the cloud of ordinance exchange grew volatile and deadlier. Then as if to make things even deadlier, both Progen unleashed their Shield Inverters upon each other. The nearby surface of Romulus was lit up with the energy storm of exchanged bolts of pure energy. The two ships were taking hits and draining their respective shields as weapons against their adversary. The storm could easily be seen from Arx Magister's scopes. Two Shield Inverters were locked in a storm of attrition! "Four.....," again counted Reacher. Siobhan heard the Pakkrateus talking to his adversary again, "Fine! Let's play chicken!" She looked at the reactor readings. Already both ships's shields were beginning to buckle as they thundered at each other. Computer warnings called out, "Warning shield matrix critical." The Pakkrateus hammered his fist on a large button at the helm. The dwindling reactor sang its shunting action to its shields a final time. "Three....." *RE-VAMP!* went the shield recharge as the Privateer again stormed the Inverter upon the Khan. The Khan was laughing maniacally over the sector broadcast channel. Both ships rocked, buckled, and shuddered at the tremendous firepower each was delivering on the other. Sparks flew in the bridge of the Maze Runner. Smoke issued from the aft of the Warrior ship. It was a dance to see who died first. And still both ships did not move or try to dodge. There was nowhere to go but to oblivion. "Two....." Then the shields on the Maze Runner failed, the last of their matrix shredded by the Khan's six projectiles' onslaught. Nothing could stand for very long under the punishing and critically targeting weaponry of a Centuriata Warrior. Smoke threatened to choke Pakkrateus and Siobhan in the bridge. But as the hull of the privateer was rippling with incoming fire, Siobhan turned her console to scan the Khan's vessel. The Warrior was already suffering hull damage. It was the thick armor of both vessels that would determine this conflict. "Fool!" yelled the warlord, "I am Khan! I cannot be defeated! I am Khaaann!" "Nice doggie," answered the Pakkrateus, "now play dead." "One...." Surprised at the Collegia's calm, Dahaka Khan looked at his ship's readings. As a Blacksun Ogun plasma missile struck the bridge to eat away at the front of the cockpit, Khan reacted. It was ingrained in the deeply-embedded training of all Centuriata. If a battle was going badly, the protocol was clear: take the enemy down with you. Thus the Khan's training took over the ego of the raging fury of the man. He absently reached for the Self-Destruct console button. He was about to lay his palm over the button when the front of his cockpit breached into molten crystal shards. He snarled once and tried to press the button. He never got the chance to fully depress the Self-Destruct. An Evoco "Fist of the Merus Milia" torpedo, the last one in the Privateer's arsenal, slid through the front of the cockpit. It caught the warlord and his chair on its front cone before exploding from inside the Centuriata Warrior ship. The explosion set off all the vessel's remaining ammunition and ruptured the central reactor. The resulting miniature nova lit up the night sky and was easily seen from the surface of Mars. The energy storm went wild and discharged any ammunition from the hull. The repeated fireworks threw the Privateer back several clicks. The Maze Runner floated away slowly from the waves of force. Blasts and explosions continued for some minutes as the Privateer was front row for the pyrotechnics. Pakkrateus rotated his chair to look at the status of his ship. The Privateer ship was sorely damaged as fire controls spewed flame retardants throughout the cargo hold, wings, engines, and the reactor. He would be lucky if she started her impulse drive after this tussle. Unbuckling his belts he went to Siobhan. She was using the ship's damaged scanners on the wreck of the Centuriata Warrior. The tractor beam thankfully still worked on the Maze Runner as Siobhan hauled in the almost-forgotten Cenuturiata gene-map cryo-cartidge of the fallen Dog Soldier and warlord-general, Dahaka Khan. The gene-maps' cartridges were designed to survive such dereliction and Siobhan was reeling in his. Pakkrateus went to the retrieval port and with a heavy gauntlet produced the still-hot cartridge. Outside the Maze Runner, the Romulus cannon had powered up fully, but never received the final command to fire. It was facing the distant planet of Jupiter, ready to unleash its hellish discharge. After the heat exchanger units on the cannon grew too hot, the fail-safes triggered and the cannon powered down slowly by numbers and sections. Without the fail-safe measures, the weapon would have self-destructed by its own ordinance. In the distance, Remus was already powering down. Reacher had done it. He had taken out six Centuriata Warriors to stop them from firing the Remus cannon at Earth Station. It was sometime later when Reacher's ship uncloaked before the drifting but still active Privateer. With some ginger and judicious use of the Defender's tractor beam, the Maze Runner's engines came online, the warp drive somewhat repaired yet ready. "The Tormentor?" asked the Jenquai. "In hand," answered Pakkrateus. "To Sirius," said Siobhan after the two men detailed their original plan to banish Dahaka Khan, the "Tormentor of Jove City", from the universe via the Continuum Wrinkle. During the journey she mounted the cryo-cartridge inside a missile. With plenty of backup batteries, the Khan's gene-map would last a very long time outside this reality, banished for what could be an eternity. The Privateer had let her do the duty as she seemed to be the one to properly send kings to their rest, like the romance novels telling tales of ancient Earth. The missile was fully readied, locked and loaded when the blue and indigo skies of Sirius were seen from the bridge of the Maze Runner.
  6. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Ch. VI by Pakkrat VI. During the night-flight, sector through sector, Pakkrateus managed a fitful nap as the Maze Runner hummed with Siobhan at the helm. He had never before slept as his own ship travelled. The Sabura woman had said she had slept what seemed an age during her deathly interim and would not rest until Rex was intercepted. Likewise the Defender next to them, in whatever psionic discipline that sustained him, refused repose as they raced again through Aragoth system. With the sunspot activity and flare storms dying down, communications lines were opening again in-system. This forced the pair of ships off every navigation buoy relay route. In order to avoid being spotted by alerted patrols and the stealthy and wary Sha'ha'dem Explorers, the two had to freewarp on the sector borders. This was time and energy consuming lest they be discovered. Thus Pakkrateus caught some badly-needed sleep. He awoke some unmeasured time later and entered the cockpit bridge. The Sabura woman was there at the helm. She was turned to the right of the console and leaned over, her head in her hands in introspection. "What am I now, Pakkrateus?" she asked having heard him coming up the steps. "I don't understand," admitted the Privateer in hopes of gleaning more context from Siobhan. "I mean, I have no means of identity even if I've been forced to eat my entire past in one table setting. What the hell am I, Pakkrateus?" He had to pick his words carefully as he saw the Athanor on the console within her reach. The Privateer did not want it pointed anywhere near him having seen what it could do to a human skull at such short range. "I can say this, Siobhan," he said with a gentle voice. "You are a warrior of the Progen race and Republic." He went on as he sat in the chair she had occupied yesterday. Stars rolled by in the forward view port as the two ships slowly crept by Odin Rex, a gas giant planet of the Aragoth system. "I am Centuriata no longer," she said. "I can never be one again." Pakkrateus stroked his gray and pepper beard which was in sore need of a sharp trimming. Seeing again the deadly pistol, he offered, "See that gun, Siobhan?" She raised her head to look at him then the Athanor, "What of it?" "Strip it," he half-ordered. "Don't ask. Just strip it." In under a minute, the Sabura woman had the gun in pieces on the console before her. Her hands had worked automatically and with precision. The weapon's components were laid out and in an impressive, organized array. "Now assemble your weapon," he ordered. Faster, as if putting the thing into cohesion were more preferred, Siobhan assembled the gun. He smiled at her, leaning forward with his chin on his fist, "Again. Strip it faster this time." With a determination as he watched her, the woman field stripped the Athanor heavy pistol in seconds. Her hands flew from the again-arrayed pieces. "Re-assemble." In seconds, the gun was again whole and ready for use. She looked up at him. He had been watching her with rapt, almost perverse curiosity before standing and approaching. "I see a Sabura Warrior, ready to do battle for the Progen Republic...." he leaned in to whisper, "..or whomever you choose to do battle, Siobhan. I once picked up one of those romance novels out of Earth Station. It was entitled *Romeo & Juliet*." He smiled as he continued in a whisper for her ears only as a hand covered his vambrace. "What's in a name?.....that which we call a rose...by any other name would smell as sweet..." He was making a parallel to Siobhan, a warrior, Centuriata or Sabura, the names be damned. "I could not have done what you did just now," he said. "Even on my best day, I bet you'd out-gun, out-fight, and I bet credits to the Codex that you can quite possibly out-love me." He smiled to her for emphasis. He finished, amazing himself with, "Overcome the partitioned worldviews, Siobhan, and forge your own." She stood up to him and looked up into his eyes full of sincerity. Her face slowly curled into an appreciative smile. "Aren't you a little old to be in the Collegia?" she asked, changing the subject with a tease. He smiled back at her seeing the change in her demeanor. Then he confessed, his hand still covering his vambrace com-link, to Siobhan about his diagnosis of mild Methuselah's Syndrome and what that meant. "I'm much younger than I look by about ten years." She kissed him, like they did in the romance novels. "Prove it, Privateer." It was some time afterwards that the two ships group-gated into Jotunheim sector of Aragoth system. Located near two other gates was the space station Arx Ymir, red and sinister even on a sector map. In order to arrive at the station, travelling vessels were forced to take one of two routes around the mineral rich Jotunheim planet and its drab rings of asteroids. This was a resource sector, contested by the Progen Republic, pirates, and the nearby Terran outpost of adjacent Ragnarok sector. Upon reaching Jotunheim, the communication channels in-sector were alive with alert signals. The local Centuriata were already warned to be watchful for a Collegia Privateer and a Jenquai Defender. Lies had been told to the Centuriata that the Privateer was packed to the bulkheads with enough explosives and concussive to destroy the space station if it managed to dock. Again the duo had to take the very edge around the sector's borders , freewarping out of active scan range of the Centuriata patrols. It took some time but eventually, the Privateer would have to come into view as Arx Ymir loomed ahead. Surely Tervanus Rex, as he had with Siobhan, was rushing the Call Forward to the warlord, Dahaka Khan. The warlord would be lethargic and suffer also the Iteration Haze of such a rush job. Given the neglected facilities at the station, some of the time had to have been taken in preparing the equipment and systems. If only the Privateer and the Defender could breach the blockade of Centuriata. It was Siobhan's verbalized concept, but Pakkrateus expanded upon a dogfight of humans against humans before an audience of Dog Soldiers somewhat incarcerated at Arx Ymir. The idea was not given too much further thought as the Centuriata spotted the two vessels and Progen fought Progen, spiced with Jenquai tactics. "Your targeting sucks, Pakkrateus," complained Siobhan as she watched from her chair behind the Privateer. "Look at that," she pointed out. "One of your missiles just missed entirely." The battle before Arx Ymir's inhabitants weaved around the station and through its superstructure. Over com-links the Dog Soldiers called out to their Centuriata brethren with cheers. The six Warriors that were on hand to meet the Privateer and the Defender pressed the two into the nearby field of hydrocarbon shard asteroids. The battle made such a glittery mess of the field! The Warriors pounded the Maze Runner with their projectiles until their pride got the best of them. It was rare, if ever that a Centuriata had to tangle with a Privateer. He may be out-gunned by firepower, but Pakkrateus again had the Progen surprised with use of missiles, a 360-degree firing arc, a faster ship and kiting out of range of the many projectile weapons. Once out of their range, the Privateer merely recharged his shields, shunting power from his reactor and then loosing volley after volley thus surprising the Warriors. They assumed, as the Sabine Order before them, that a Progen Privateer preferred the widely used front-facing guns. Missile swarms came wave upon wave over the Centuriata ships. Reacher performed his signature surgical strikes as he emerged from cloaking fields to rip into the Warriors pursuing Pakkrateus and Siobhan through the asteroid field. Soon the field was so shattered that even their targeting computers were having trouble locking onto the Privateer. This effect had caused a missile to miss in trade and prompted Siobhan's critique. Those that got too close to the Privateer either were stormed by the Inversion energies of his shields bolting to the assaulting Warrior or they were shunted far distant by the space-folding capability of the Jenquai Defender. In this way, the Warriors, lacking the variety of skills and systems levied against them were destroyed one by one over time and their derelicts were strung out in the shattered hydrocarbon field. The two were not without their own scrapes. The Maze Runner suffered a hull penetration from a sharp hydrocarbon shard when Pakkrateus failed to recharge his shields in time. The shard was ripped out of the near-empty hold by automatic repair robots when the the Privateer at last made dock. Reacher, suffering only a shattered Psi shield and a bruised ego veered off once more and into cloaking. His scanners spotted an anomaly near the sector gate to Freya. He gave chase as the larger Progen comrade docked. Dejected at the loss of their wagered credits, the inhabitants reluctantly allowed the ship to land once it was determined that the Maze Runner was actually empty of the reported suicide bombs and volatiles allegedly in its hold. The Progen man and woman were greeted with uncharacteristic warrior-like respect now that they had seen such a show outside the station. Such apparently was a rarity for the units of incarcerated Dog Soldiers that they had been given orders not to hinder the two arriving Progen. Some wanted to meet the hated Jenquai with a knife but said nothing to the pair. Thus the two raced through the station to pats on the back, offers of Yum-O-Beer, and questions of all kinds. Siobhan led Pakkrateus through the bowels of Arx Ymir to a place only she remembered. For the inhabitants, not being Sabine Order scientists had left the locked facilities alone and forgotten; the two made way to avenues empty. Siobhan pulled up short and nearly tripped the Privateer who was huffing and puffing behind her. Her sleek and wiry form, enmeshed in her hexagon-mesh jumper and light armor slid to a halt. With her newly clarified memories, the Sabura woman turned and opened a final door. The systems had been left online. The medicines and nutrients spilled on the now-slick floor. Computer monitors were still lit up and registering nothing. The slab restraint table was already vertical and empty. The scene was obvious. "We're too late," said Siobhan who still had not broken a sweat in the sprint through the station. Leaning over to catch his breath, Pakkrateus asked, "They could not have gotten far, yes?" The Call Forward normally took an ordinate amount of time according to Siobhan who had answered it quite a few times. But Tervanus was pushing the envelope by cutting corners with both Siobhan and the Progen who had awakened here in Arx Ymir. "They could have gone to Freya, Ragnarok or backtracked through greater Aragoth system," answered the Sabura warrior woman. "C'mon, old man!" she said as she yanked the Privateer upright and dragged him along behind her. With a purpose, she and Pakkrateus ran all the way back to the hangar bay, to the Maze Runner. Seated once more in his ship, Pakkrateus panted with stars in his eyes. Outside his ship, the Dog Soldiers were on the hangar deck taking more wagers and passing around crates of Tada-O's Yum-O-Beer. More Centuriata were outside itching for another fight. Exiting the station, the Centuriata hesitated to fire immediately at the Privateer. The did not want to land in hot water for shooting the station by accident. Pakkrateus took the hesitation time to break departure protocols and charge up his warp cone and dart at warp speed to the sector gate to Freya, much to the frustrated Centuriata chagrin. They had hoped he would stand and fight again with his curious missile kiting techniques they had observed from the first chase. Pakkrateus did not want to be caught in their adapted tactics, especially where the warp-interdicting Gravity Link systems of the Centuriata were concerned. He gave them no chance to power up the debilitating systems and so left them eating his warp wake. A mad minute of warp and a call to the gate to Freya permitted the two Progen egress, away from the hornet's nest of warping pursuers. In the adjacent sector of Aragoth, named Freya, the pair emerged from the gate near to the middle of the sector. There was no rhyme or reason to the Ancients' positioning of the star gates. Thus, the two had a chase after Reacher's Shinwa Defender. The Sev Tushnim had spotted a fleeting ship signature and hounded after it, through Freya and to the distant and alien Akeron's Gate. Arriving at the whispering Akeron's Gate, Siobhan received a strange tingle as she noted "someone stepping on her grave", to the tune of its opening. Then they entered the site of the greatest space battle of the Gate War, Akeron's Gate sector. Here, during the war, Jenquai Mordane battled Progen Pax battleships, and Terran EarthCorp dreadnoughts. Battles over the gates littered the entire sector prompting SolSec to spend untold funds to clear sector nav paths to route traffic between Aragoth and Sol systems. It was here they found Reacher wing-deep in a new battle. Reacher's message came over the communication console rather than Pakkrateus' vambrace this time. "No time to ride the line, Progen," he insisted. "A little help here?" Reacher was engaged with a new blockade, but not by Progen or ex-Jenquai ships. It was inevitable that the Terrans would catch wind of something ultra-valuable coming out of Aragoth system. The line of Terran trader Q-ships, merchantman vessels armed to the teeth with hidden missile launchers, looked at first glance to be no more than a convoy of transports. Then they had turned as one and assaulted Reacher with swarms of missiles. Thankfully, the Shinwa could cloak and fold space with the strange Jenquai technologies. Missiles lost their targets or found the Defender clear across the immediate battlefield. The Terrans were trying to use their signature kiting maneuvers to force Reacher to chase them while trying to stay out of range of his beam weapons. Then they could pelt him at will with their fire-and-forget weaponry. This did not work out so well against a Shinwa Defender. With his ship cloaked and performing guerilla strikes from cloaking, the Q-ships knew not which direction to try and kite Reacher. Their missiles lost their trajectories as the repeated disappearance of the sleek black Jenquai ship. Lastly, the Defender had proceeded to break up the blockade by folding space on each ship, putting them out to pasture just after draining their reactors with his Energy Leech system. Though this combination kept the Terrans at bay, the odds were still twelve against his one. In disarray, the Q-ships tried to keep erecting their shields by recharging them even with largely depleted reactor-shunts. Thus one veteran Jenquai master had the dozen ships in a chaotic disarray when the Privateer arrived on the field of battle. While Reacher kept renewing his reactor to keep this fleet at bay and in disorder, he could not keep it up indefinitely. His lasers, plasma beams, and disruptors were powerful and could easily assault the Terrans, it was not long before the Q-ships would effect repairs on themselves or coordinate their reactive techniques to undo Reacher's deadly attacks. The stalemate was broken as the Progen Privateer tipped the scales. "On my target, Progen," ordered the stealthy master. "I will set up your targets. Tear down their shields and I shall be their deathblows!" One by one and slowly, the Privateer's swarms of missiles shattered the shields of the InfinitiCorp traders, immediately followed by the Defender's finishing strikes with his five beams. The two rang one incapacitation after another in this fashion. Because of Pakkrateus' and Reacher's critical and exact targeting, their weapons were causing far more damage to the enemy than they could inflict in return. The Maze Runner suffered hits from InfinitiCorp missiles, but he too would renew his shields with his own shunting action from the reactor. But in difference to the Q-ships, Reacher's surplus Energy Drains were dumped back into the Maze Runner's reactor capacitors, making the duo a deadly and very unlikely combination. Ship after ship was rendered derelict. Twelve vessels went into dormancy by this tactic, the Terrans never having assumed the two could work so well together. The battlefield was a mess of Terran components, ripped hulls and smoking systems. "I saw the Sabine and Centuriata exit into Saturn sector and overheard their transmissions before the arrival of the Terrans, Progen," announced Reacher. "Where did they say they were headed?" asked Siobhan who was next to Pakkrateus in the Maze Runner. "Jupiter sector," answered the Shinwa. "Full circle," the Sabura noted out loud.
  7. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Ch. IV by Pakkrat IV. Pushing one's engines to streak again through the galaxy's politically neutral solar systems and their sectors over a dead girl seemed notoriously boyish now that Pakkrateus thought about it. Nevertheless, it was that small and short smile her deathwatch log entry gave him before it winked out. It made up for the scowl she had given him in the bar at Fenris Observatory. It more than made up. It was a smile that was worth being framed for murder and transporting the most dangerous gene-map in the galaxy. The Privateer and the Defender had back-tracked through Sirius, Beta Hydri, up through neutral Saturn sector of Sol, and returned to Aragoth system. It was quite a journey as the pair detoured from Odin's Belt in Aragoth and into one of the most curious sectors in Progen space. With its gravity wells, the collapsed and irradiated Appian Gate, and the tragic wreck of the ECS Sierpe, Lagarto sector was still a hotbed of activity on the edge of Progen territory. Gallina solar system was widely used by all races at the pleasure of Sabine Order leader Vinda, but not without its own security checkpoints. "How will you bypass the Centuriata, Progen?" asked Reacher. He was familiar with just about every Jenquai, Terran, and neutral system, but the Progen systems were too unwelcome to the Defender. Thus he yielded to ask the Privateer. "Would that we had taken a wormhole directly to Endriago sector," complained Pakkrateus. The journey felt like it had taken too long. He feared that the girl's gene-map might already sinking in lava on the planet's surface. "No, Progen," answered Reacher. "The Sha'ha'dem have lines of communication other than technology. They will without a doubt be watching the known Wefts for anyone matching your description. They will fall upon you swiftly and cripple your ship's shields and slowly tear it apart." "The Centuriata," added Pakkrateus, "will not let anyone through these sectors without a search thanks to Vinda's recent security measures concerning Endriago sector." The two vessels rounded a nav from the Aragoth star gate as Pakkrateus considered each route and found them too risky. He was about to give up and think of something outlandishly stupid, when the moons of Lagarto planet came into view. He was touched by a memory then and snapped his fingers. "Eureka, Jenquai!" exclaimed the Privateer. "There is no Eureka sector, Progen," puzzled Reacher. "No no," answered Pakkrateus. "There. See that moon? Risco Moon of Lagarto was a site of a failed colony. The dead moon of Risco is our ticket to Endriago planet, bypassing the patrols of the sector. "I do not understand, Progen, but I sense your confidence." "Trust me, this going to be exotic." In his career as a Collegia Privateer, Pakkrateus had found many a strange route in running goods for the Forgemasters of the Republic. Sometimes his cargo was sensitive, or worse hazardous and needed clandestine delivery. As the pair of vessels dove down to Risco Moon's entry orbit, Pakkrateus had a plan in mind. Perhaps it was in the genes, the aging mused. Risco Moon was a dead moon of deep canyons and deeper impact craters. It had once been the chosen site for a colony that had failed around the same time of the mysterious assault on the ECS Sierpe. Ruined towers and abandoned structures were all that was left of anything man-made there. Only a couple of space fauna species could be found in the vacuum of the Lagarto satellite and they were no threat. The duo had descended to the canyons in hopes of avoiding being seen by the nearby observatory half a sector away. The canyon walls were solid and blocked all transmissions. All seemed quiet until the proximity alarms detected a small formation of ships turning to spot them. "Sentinel ships," called Reacher. "I count six and their scanners have spotted your bulky trader, Progen." "They must have been told to look out for us," said Pakkrateus. "I'll handle them. You get us to the coordinates I had plotted on Risco." The two ships changed places in the formation with Reacher's Defender guiding them. The Sentinels gave chase as their signals called for them to heave-to and be searched. At the hard burn of the Defender and the answering Privateer, the red, sailed Sabine vessels pursued. The formation shot through and weaved around canyon walls. Risco Moon may have been solid but it was also treacherous. At full impulse burn, the engines' wakes threatened to call down rockslides and natural formation collapses. Rocketing though gulches, crevices, and defiles the formation and their followers traversed over deep craters. Freed from navigating, Pakkrateus spun his chair around to target the chasers. He armed his weapons and kicked off their safeties again. The Defender, locked in formation synchronization looked less the center and lead and more of a satellite or side car of the Maze Runner. As they rounded a bend in the canyon, their speed was threatened with the far rocky gray wall. "Your ship turns like a pregnant Nagifar, Progen!" said Reacher through his teeth as the ships leaned into the turn. "Shut up and drive," said Pakkrateus as he let fly an entire volley of his ship's missiles. He did not have a line of sight on the Sentinels yet to appear from the bend, yet he knew where they would be. The missiles took a track for the Sentinels, guided by the Privateer's targeting skills. "Why have they not put up their Repulsor Fields?" asked Reacher. "Because they know Jenquai can't fire behind them," answered Pakkrateus, "and feel the same is true about most Progen with projectiles. I however am not most Progen!" Just as the Sentinels rounded the bend, they were instantly caught by the missiles that had flown to meet them. With no time to dodge the illegal Blacksun Ogun plasma-charged missiles and the very-criminal "Fist" torpedo, the Sabine ships caught the missiles on the nose. Explosions erupted and highly-charged plasma sprayed everywhere across cockpits and forward guns. The concussions loosened huge towers of rock from the canyon sides. One Sentinel panicked and pulled up only to be slammed back down by the falling gray stone. Another red-sailed vessel was blinded by the splattered plasma eating into the cockpit and veered widly catching a third vessel and tangling sail plates locking both in plummeting death roll. Their crash into a crater lit up the darkened landscape seconds later. The fourth had strayed behind a way and fired its four projectile launchers towards the Privateer. The fifth had to dodge the first by climbing back from a dive under the falling first. By the time the first volley of missiles had done their havoc upon the Sentinels, Pakkrateus' second volley was already underway and half way down-range. The second volley caught the fifth, dodging Sentinel trying to power up its Repulsor Field as its weapons worked upon the weaving Privateer's shields. At last the sixth and final Sentinel rounded the bend and caught the "Fist" Torpedo as it too tried to power up its Repulsor Field. In two volleys, six Sentinels were sorely pressed by one Privateer being guided by a shadowed Defender. With one ship flattened by falling rock, two incapacitated at the bottom of a crater, and the last three dodging wildly, (something Sentinels do not do very well), the pursuit was cut off in favor of rushing to render aid to the casualties. The Sabine Order were not warriors and knew when to cut their losses. They left the pair alone to continue down ravines and dodge angular rock outcroppings. Through precision piloting, and innovative weapon choice the two, Pakkrateus and Reacher shook off their pursuit. Swinging his cockpit chair back around to face front, Pakkrateus saw his goal. It was the swirling natural wormhole of Ricso Moon. Rather than the greenspace, artificial and temporal wormholes created by the Sha'ha'dem to instantly traverse the galaxy, this one was black with violet to ultraviolet whorls. It sat in the middle of the final canyon, bending the space-time continuum. "Where does it lead, Progen?" asked Reacher who had never before beheld such a phenomenon not man-made. Pakkrateus explained as the formation flew to the wormhole. It had been discovered by the Sabine Explorers just before their abandonment by those who left the Order to become the Collegia, the Forgemasters. They took with them the knowledge of many Sabine secrets. This was one of them. The wormhole was still being studied and analyzed to this day. It reached through Gallina system and opened on the surface of Endriago planet's fiery lava canyons. It was an enigma and Specialists of the Order continued to observe the phenomenon. The Collegia went on with their business, but a few like Pakkrateus still made use of its 'tunnel' like a back door into Endriago, eschewing the gates and Brendan's Weft in Endriago sector. "With this back door we can bypass all the checkpoints and avoid tangling with the Centuriata," explained Pakkrateus. Reacher had listened and stared at the wormhole's beauty with wonder. The universe never failed to show the old warrior something new. As the two approached the wormhole, Reacher noted that unlike the artificial Sha'ha'dem wormholes, this one stayed open perpetually. Normally, a pilot would request a wormhole service to one of several Wefts discovered over the galaxy. The Sha'ha'dem, either altruistically or for a fee, would then activate their systems and psionically reach out to the destination Weft. There would be a cloudy, fade to green that came over the vessel and then when it cleared, the pilot would find themselves at the destination across the galaxy. It was the Jenquai Explorer's claim to fame and won them much acclaim across all humanity. Reacher had a different experience as he felt Pakkrat's confidence via his own psionic empathic senses. The Privateer had used this 'natural' wormhole before. Smiling, the Shinwa noted that he was about to be the student for once. There was always time to experience some new wonder of the universe, he thought in enrapt reflection. The violet-and-black swirl of the Risco Moon wormhole to Endriago planet welcomed the two tiny ships into its maw. Space bent and twisted and there was a small feeling of gravitational pull. Then, rather than some instantaneous green flash as was expected, the wormhole tunnelled through space and time at speeds onboard computers could not register other than 'infinity'. The two flew down a warping tunnel of violet and black, Risco Moon swiftly distant then gone entirely. The effect lasted only a minute as ahead a red-orange glow began to evidence. The pair of vessels emerged from the natural wormhole at the same speed they had entered, restoring Conservation of Momentum to normal space and Newtonian physics. The Privateer and Defender were in the skies above the fiery planet of Endriago. Lakes and rivers of molten magma separated mountain ranges of volcanic rock. It was a planet that was still forming in its early infancy. Gaseous fumes clouded the skies as the landscape was punctuated with lava spouts ejecting pyroclastic stones into the air. Pakkrateus fed the embedded message coordinates into his navigation console as Reacher broke formation, initiated his cloaking and stayed behind to watch for Sabine Sentinels they had left stranded on Risco Moon. The Privateer did not have far to travel across the planet's surface before encountering the Ancient ruins also discovered by the Sabine Explorers. It sat upon a permanent volcanic mountain and was lit and accented by a lava river. A parked black Sentinel ship with folded sails, floating adjacent to the ruins awaited Pakkrateus' arrival. Scanners revealed a single human on the grounds of the ruins. The Privateer set down opposite the Ancient ruins. The Collegiate exited his ship to stand on the hot grounds. The air was hot and very oppressive. The man, a Progen and a Sabine by his dress stood calmly and welcoming in demeanor. "Ah, Privateer, you came and I thank you," said the Reclaimer as Pakkrateus appraoched. He was armed with a slug-thrower pistol but it was kept holstered and seemingly forgotten. "The girl's gene-map," said Pakkrateus who had just about enough of Sabine today. "Let's see it." "Ah, well I thought to sweeten the deal for your timely arrival, Collegiate," said the Reclaimer. "She's already answered the Call Forward and is alive and healthy. We had to accept a few minor changes unfortunately as the facilities were quite beyond our normal parameters....." "Where is she?" demanded Pakkrateus. She was alive! He tried not to show his enthusiasm before this Sabine Order. For all the Procurator knew, this was Siobhan's murderer. "Ever to-the-point. By hook or by crook, eh?" asked the Reclaimer. Pakkrateus produced the gene-map cryo-cartridge of Dahaka Khan in his hand and showed it to the Sabine before him. Its green diode light still blinked healthily. This brought a smile to the nameless man before him. "She's just in the next canyon at Vinda's secret Sabura Compound. She will be waiting for you. My men will not interfere your retrieval of her." Pakkrateus's vambrace spoke quietly to him. It was Reacher listening in again. "He is not lying, Progen. His voice speaks the truth." Was Reacher that proficient at Jenquai psionics even over a com-link? "Who is that?" asked the Reclaimer. "You were to come alone, Privateer." "Just as you sic-ed your Sabine Sentinels on us at Risco?" "Ah, that was a misunderstanding of orders," back-tracked the man. "The gene-map please." Pakkrateus' set down the cryo-cartridge and backed away. Retreating to his ship was in order now so he could board quickly. The Reclaimer seemed unhappy that he was forced to advance and lift the gene-map but was satisfied once it was in his hands. By then, Pakkrateus was already boarding the Maze Runner. His vessel lifted from the Ancient ruins as the Reclaimer made for his own Sentinel vessel, the Apotheosis. Pakkrateus' in under a minute was descending into the next canyon. Coming into view was the grounds of a scientific compound decorated with minimal Sabine symbols. A computer voice, recorded message played on his communications console. "Attention pilot, you are entering Sabine Order controlled aerospace. Please divert now." Pakkrateus ignored the warning and descended further into a docking maneuver before the compound. There, on the docking berth, stood a woman. Her ponytail was blown by the hot winds of Endriago planet. He landed and exited the Maze Runner. She was dressed differently now as Pakkrateus approached the woman. A black mesh of tiny hexagon plates made up her jumper suit. Over this was a light warrior's armor though not in the style of the Centuriata. She was unarmed and stared at the Privateer as he approached. It was Siobhan, and yet it was not the Siobhan Pakkrateus remembered from the bar. The courier's complexion was tanned as if she had lived a lifetime under a glaring sun tanning her skin a light brown. Her hair was lighter than he remembered, being a mix of dirty blonde and light brown. Pakkrateus had the impression that coloration had been balanced somehow between her hair and her skin. Her frame, face was the same. She even had a female warrior's stance and gait as she began walking toward him. * * * Siobhan had been dressed and armored under guard by Rex' Reclaimer subordinates in this new style of Sabura dress. She hated that she was not in her remembered Centuriata armor, but there was no alternative here a the compound. Yet, there seemed to be a comforting upgrade feel to the hex-mesh jumper and the armor. She could not place it, but it felt right on her even if she had never worn it before this iteration. The heated wind whipped at her ponytail, helical hair as she saw the ship land. It was a bulky, armored, and flat black vessel that had sections for cargo between its huge engines. At least the wings gave away its Progen affiliation. Only a lewd painting of a female anthropomorphic rat-girl in a provocative pose decorated the hull. Men. The man was a Collegia Privateer, though she could not remember meeting him. Perhaps it was the Iteration Haze still affecting her. Though he stood straight, muscular and youthful, his face and hair betrayed an aged quality conflicting with his gait. He seemed to know her in some way as his facial expression seemed to be giving off a sense of familiarity. "Siobhan?" asked the Privateer. She straightened and grew formal out of self-respect. Siobhan did not know this man who knew her name. "I am, and you are?" she asked. "You don't remember me from the bar?" he asked. Of course. He was Collegia and was unaware of the Iteration Haze. "Name's Pakkrateus. Can we depart? There's an agenda and we're about out of time." Rather than staying on the surface of Endriago planet, Siobhan reluctantly agreed to go with this stranger who knew her. As they walked to his ship, she saw the name on the hull. "Maze Runner". How fitting, given the traders of the Progen Republic. She missed her own ship, the Kitten. "At least it's a Progen ship though it looks like a scrap heap," she said more to herself than to the pilot. "She's not much on the outside but she can take a beating and give one out too," answered the Pakkrateus. She decided to call him that as if he were unique and singular, using "the Pakkrateus". The two were soon seated in the cockpit bridge of the Privateer. Yes, it looked to Siobhan like a man flew this space jalopy. The ship's interior even smelled boyish. She sat down and looked out the forward view in silence as the Pakkrateus boosted the vessel up from the fiery surface. The ship was slow and not as maneuverable as the Centuriata Warrior. Siobhan was unimpressed with the ship and the pilot. Much like other pilots in the Centuriata, a Progen's ship was an extension of the pilot. It spoke its and the pilot's personality, system choices, weaponry, and lifestyle. This Privateer was nigh a slob in comparison to the sterile Sabine and not very patriotic as the proud Centuriata. Seeing the rather illegal missile launchers, likely gutted from pirates, (the Pakkrateus was a Privateer after all), she began to piece his ship's logic together. The Maze Runner was a missile boat similar to the Terran merchant trader vessels. She wondered if he drove like Terrans. "I have her," said the Pakkrateus as he spoke into his communication console. "Were on our way back to you." A Jenquai-accented and male voice answered the Privateer, "You have been betrayed, Progen. While you were playing nice with the girl, the Sabine witch has called for reinforcements." "I saw that coming a thousand clicks away," said Siobhan to the Pakkrateus. "It was the only way," answered the Privateer. Ahead, a swarm of six Sentinels challenged the Pakkrateus. Their Repulsor Fields were active as greenish-yellow bubbles about their sailed vessels. Any attack upon them would bring swift and unavoidable retribution. The Collegiate did not seem to care. Siobhan watched the pilot work. Six against one was how a warrior liked it. Was this Pakkrateus up to a good brawl? "Six more here, Progen," said the Jenquai voice. "Deal with it, Defender," answered the Privateer. An aerospace battle ensued as a chase through the superheated mountain ranges of Endriago. The Pakkrateus dodged only minimally as volley after volley flew from the pirated weapon mounts. Rather than making for the star gate to Endriago space from the planet surface, Siobhan noted that the ship was bound else where on the planet. "Where are we going, Privateer?" she asked, watching the battle over his shoulder. "A rat-hole, Warrior," answered the Pakkrateus. "Hand me that bottle on the console." He pointed to a nearly empty bottle of Pro-Vod vodka. She reached over to grasp the bottle. That was when she saw the Athanor heavy pistol sitting freely on the console. Handing him the bottle, she marked the weapon's location. The Pakkrateus tilted the bottle back to slug down the last of the alcoholic liquid as he fought. Drinking and fighting? This Pakkrateus was surely a maverick to take such chances. Outside, the Sentinels pounded their projectile ammunition upon the shields of the Maze Runner as it weaved through the mountains and over lakes of fire. Every time the computer warned the Pakkrateus of buckling shields, he would thumb a button on his helm. *Re-vamp!* went his shields as they recharged from the shunting action of the Maze Runner's reactor. Siobhan studied this form of combat with interest though it would not be how she chose to do battle in a Centuriata Warrior vessel. With the Privateer's 360-degree missile firing arc, the ship could do battle while forcing the Sabine Order to chase through the region. Often their targeting line of sight was spoiled by the volcanoes and sulfuric clouds, allowing the Privateer time to renew his bulwark defenses. The fire-and-forget missiles were not forgotten by the pilot. He, true to all Progen, used superior critical targeting skills to guide the trajectories of the weapons to the Sabine Sentinel ships. The one thing she found curiously familiar and similar between Siobhan and the Pakkrateus was that he talked to his targets rhetorically. "Oh, you want some more?" he asked to a Sentinel trying to close the gap between them and into range. The Maze Runner was out ranging the Sentinels' guns in a Terran combat maneuver called *kiting*. Forcing the Sabine to chase him, they closed the range gap, but only so his missiles could concuss them repeatedly. The only true damage taken by the Pakkrateus was from the retribution of the Sabine Sentinel Repulsor Fields and that was almost trivial given the sizeable shields the huge Collegiate trader mounted. Siobhan found it humorous and familiar at the same time. In that, she found the Pakkrateus interesting in their shared parallel monologue. She decided to study him, given she had not much else to do besides watch his ship's shield matrix integrity rise and fall. Siobhan watched as Sentinel after Sentinel fall to this kiting maneuver as their tenacious and stubborn pursuit was futile. Sabine were, after all not Warriors. She also grew to respect the Pakkrateus in that he was merciful. As a hostile ship fell to incapacitation in the skies over the planet, he did not try to finish it off. Instead he systematically progressed on to the next active threat. Like the Centuriata, (and whatever she was now...this Sabura-thing), the Pakkrateus was honorable in combat. This intrigued Siobhan to learn more about the Privateer at the helm. Soon a large black-and-violet, swirling hole in the valley space of a canyon came into view. It was some sort of space-time phenomenon, Siobhan guessed. Slowly descending to the surface were burning Sentinel ships. She then assumed it was a Jenquai Defender, presumably cloaked and invisible, that had made short work of this squad. But it was the huge spatial vortex that captivated her attention. Shiobhan had never known in her travels that this phenomenon existed here on Endriago. And the Pakkrateus was flying straight for it. "Um, what are you doing?" she asked the seemingly middle-aged Progen Privateer. "You're not actually going in there are you?" She had no idea what the vortex was and it did not initially look welcoming. "Yes," was all the Pakkrateus said. Siobhan was wide-eyed the entire minute-long ride through the natural wormhole from Endriago planet to Risco Moon.
  8. [attachment=2478:SiobhanSabura.jpg]Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Prologue by Pakkrat Prologue If it could be termed such, it was midnight in the Ruins of Jove City. The Reclaimer time-marked his entry through a forgotten airlock that was so aged and disused that he had been forced to use a handheld hydraulic spreader to shift open the outer doors after manually releasing the outer lock. Thankfully the airlock had a manual system of actuating the airlock as there was no power flowing to this wing of the Ruins. Just outside the superstructure, quiet amongst other debris, free-floating cable lines and conduits, was his Sentinel ship, the "Apotheosis". All the docking facilities were either destroyed many years ago, were watched by system patrols or guarded by the low-life squatters that had infested the Ruins. The Reclaimer had been forced to pull up to this section and power down his vessel. It was a useful trick of the Sabine Order Sentinels to make use of their Powerdown holographics systems in order to disguise their vessels to appear as a destroyed hulk or floating hunk of debris, anything to feign incapacitation and thus be overlooked by anyone taking interest in a Sentinel's doings. The ship was flat black in color with only the red-tipped vanes and fins. The holgraphics projectors worked on their own power to make the ship look destroyed and long decayed over time. It would take some serious interest in the 'hulk' and a concentrated scan to detect that the derelict was really a powered-down vessel hiding in the wreckage of the Ruins of Jove City. The Sabine Order Reclaimer had exited his craft in a space suit and strung a line from it to the airlock. There he had forced his entry into the Ruins. The superstructures floated in eternal free-fall orbit about Jupiter whose 'eye' storm watched silently over the abandoned city-now-memorial. The local Jenquai authorities and citizenry of Jupiter sector refused to enter their memorial, the Ruins, in respect for the dead of the Gate War. The once-grand and spectacular space station city was eerily silent from the outside as the ancient Earth graveyards where the deceased were laid to rest. The Gate War had been long over, the three races of Jenquai, Progen, and Terran having come to armistice and then peace treaty lest humanity set itself back millennia with mutually assured destruction. Jove City was a reminder now of the horrors of war. Only occasionally did pilots come near to the Ruins to pay their respects and be reminded of sacrifice and atrocity that war brings. The wrecks of huge capital ships, both sleek Jenquai Maru vessels and the bulky, armored hulks of Progen Pax warships lay dark and silent further out from the Ruins of Jove City. The Reclaimer set his forearm vambrace's journal to record his passage into the Ruins. He glossed over his own name on the tiny screen of the device. Tervanus "Wrecks" Rex, First Charge Reclaimer stepped from the second door of the airlock as quietly as he could. He left the inner door open for he planned on only being here for a short while. He knew where he wanted to explore after having clandestinely perused the Jenquai archives at the newer, nearby space station Jove's Fury in the same sector of space. Acting as some Progen explorer historian, Tervanus Rex had asked to contemplate the Ruins by looking into the deck plans of the old City. Not very alerted to a Progen who was respectful and inquisitive, the Jenquai archival staff permitted him to study the pre-Gate War blueprints. Perhaps he was appreciating the beauty and aesthetic of Jove City before the destruction had forever marred it. Thus the Sabine Reclaimer illegally stole into the Ruins with a clear route in mind and guided by his copied deck plans. He did not intend to use it, but his utility belt was home to his impact slug-thrower pistol. There were rumors that the Ruins had become an unauthorized hovel shantytown for Terran vagrants, looters, and squatters. The Ruins were ever-so-slowly being picked clean by the Terran rats looking for anything that would purchase them another meal. If one came too close to the Reclaimer, well he had a silencer attached to the gun barrel to keep such close encounters private. Rex looked about at the avenues, long-dead buildings, shattered superstructures, and wreckage that none had cleaned or repaired in all this time since the Gate War. The Ruins were still ruins even if they were scantily inhabited. He checked his map again as he turned a corner. Still his entry had not been detected. Though darkness reigned here in the Ruins, silence had yet to win over the lamenting creak and scrape of the bulkheads. The Ruins was still singing its woeful death-throes to this day and a metal-on-metal screech like a ghostly wail heralded his view of the Jenquarum Council Chamber building ahead. The sound sent a chilling warning up the Reclaimer's spine as he gazed at the sacrilege inflicted upon the once-holy site. The symbol of the Jenquai race was long blasted by artillery and was in pieces on the steps of the building's entry way. Huge holes penetrated its walls. Not one pane of its crystal windows was intact. Their colors were mere glints of shards on the grounds outside the building. They sparkled feebly at the touch of the Reclaimer's flashlight beam as he panned it about in the dark. Another squeal of metal sung another lament as the Reclaimer entered the destroyed Council Chamber. It was here that the then-Primarch of the Progen Republic had entered after seeing the brutality, savagery, barbarism, and dishonor of the Progen Dog Soldiers, warriors bred for sheer combat, levied against the peaceful citizenry of the City after its siege. The Primarch, leader of the entire Progen race, had entered alone and re-emerged with his ceremonial sword still wet with the blood of his own general still dripping. He had executed his own warlord in disgust for what had happened here. The warlord's head was rumored to be left on a pile of other heads of the Jenquai victims of the occupation. None knew what had transpired between the Primarch Tyr and Dahaka Khan "the Tormentor", warlord general of the siege of Jove City. Tervanus Rex was the first Sabine Sentinel in all that time to enter the shattered Council Chamber. He swung his light about to confirm his solitude there. He was on edge as the Ruins continued to protest with its creaking and scrapings, a noise to set one's nerves to full alert. Hence it was a shock when his beam found the piles of dead and decaying heads and skulls in the dark of the inner chamber. Khan must have decorated his throne room during the occupation. There were too many to count! Truly this was a memorial of horror. The Reclaimer steeled himself from his emotions in the mantle of his duty in the First Charge. The body of the warlord was soon found some distance away from the final resting apex of a mountain of heads of Jenquai heads of men, women, and children. The Dog Soldiers under Khan's command had spared none in their feast upon the City. Rex studied the scene about him. There was some action here. His training as a Reclaimer helped him dismantle and reverse the actions through the room at the last moments before the execution of the Tormentor of Jove City. Primarch Tyr had entered through the front and had barely moved as he spoke to his subordinate general. Words lost to time and in the echoes of the death song of the Ruins, Rex puzzled through the actions. There seemed to have been a duel, a melee, of hand weapons. Tyr had moved very little as the general employed his signature glaive, a wicked and brutal polearm, about the Primarch. Khan had circled the leader and there were blows as the Reclaimer found blade fragments and torn armor and uniform in the immediate area. Near the body was the deadly weapon of the Khan. Irreverently, Rex lifted its heavy shaft and played his flashlight beam over it. The serrated blade was still sharp and every bit deadly. Then he knelt down next to the body, specifically searching for the general's own armored forearm vambrace personal data assistant computer. The battery in it was long dead, so the Reclaimer produced a new one from his utility belt and tool kit. It required an adaptor and some minor adjustments, but the Reclaimer soon had the PDA functional again despite the two wicked blade cuts on its housing. The tiny display soon lit up and rebooted. The general, Rex determined by the vambrace's lack of entries, did not keep good records of his life. There were no log entries other than telemetry codes of actions that the log kept automatically, a daemon program that ran constantly in the background of the unused PDA. In that log, Tervanus Rex saw the code with which his Sabine Order was concerned. It was a confirmation that the Khan's gene-map, a complete copy of the general's genetic code along with his personality and even his memories were perfectly preserved some hours before his execution by the Primarch. The gene-map was then ejected from the armor and set aside, according to the log. Khan had absently followed practiced and ingrained training to the preservation of his gene-map, true to Centuriata mandates. His gene-map was somewhere here in the Ruins! Rex nearly jumped at this realization. Such a find was far more valuable than any Proconsul Warrior he had ever reclaimed in his career. It was also the most volatile artifact in this unholy graveyard. He merely had to find where Khan had ejected it and see if the small cryo-canister had preserved the gene-map's integrity through the years. Rex' cybernetic-enhanced hearing startled him from his revelation. There were sounds of human voices and many footfalls outside the Jenquai Council Chamber and they were approaching slowly. Pilfering Terran looters or perhaps treasure-hunting squatters forced to find something among the Ruins to sell for food, the Reclaimer guessed. He had to search quickly if he wanted out of this place undiscovered. He rose with the dead general's weapon and moved about quietly in the Chambers to search for the ejected cryo-canister. The Ruins once again cried out its metallic screech into the night. It was set behind the chair of the Jenquarum Council chairman. The First Sephira's seat was still draped with the Khan's now-ratty cloak. He seemed to have claimed the furniture as his personal throne as he set his Dog Soldiers upon the citizenry. Just under a fold of the Progen red cloak's material was the hand-sized cryo-canister. Rex lifted it immediately to the protest of the whining cry of the Ruins. Did the squatters here ever have a quiet night here, asked Rex to himself. Turning the canister over, Rex beheld a half-shock. The single, green diode light still slowly blinked though weakly. It meant that the cryogenics in the canister were still preserving the gene-map inside after so many years. Tervanus Rex recalled how the design of the gene-map cryo-canisters were designed to resist the rigors of deep space for many years in hopes of being reclaimed by the Sabine Order. This was so the Reclaimers could return the gene-map to the Sabine Order and have the Warrior re-iterated in hopes the fallen Progen would answer the Call Forward. Then he could be 're-born' with all his memories and personality intact up until the time the gene-map was ejected from the previous iteration's fall in battle. The Call Forward was the process of this re-iteration and gene immortality of the Warrior caste of the Progen race. Traditionally it was reserved for the Centuriata, the Warriors, but technically the secrets of re-iteration were useable on any lifeform, but that was a secret kept by the Sabine Order as a stop-gap and chip to their own rise to power in the Progen Republic. So long as a gene-map was recovered, a Warrior could "answer the Call Forward" and live again to fight. It was the First Charge, the mandate of the Sabine Order to find, return and re-iterate the fallen heroes. It was seen as a scientific and almost religious duty in the Order. Immortality was virtually assured given the gene-map was viable and restored to a new life. Thus, the Reclaimers were charged with this duty. And now Tervanus Rex had reclaimed quite possibly the most dangerous gene-map in recent history. That is, if he could exit the Ruins of Jove City without being discovered by the scavengers outside or any Jenquai authorities patrolling the Ruins' memorial. He quickly tucked the cryo-canister into a pouch for just such a find on his utility belt. Then he made haste for the entrance of Khan's "throne room". Lastly, he drew his pistol in one hand as he hefted the heavy glaive in his other hand. The sounds of the vagrants were coming closer. Though Rex had deactivated his flashlight and tried to be stealthy, his exit was noted as a human voice questioned, "Ay, whooz dat?" It was a male voice and of an accent typical of humans that had been removed from galactic society for too long. Another voice answered immediately, "Look, heez ah Progin. Hay, Progin!" A female continued to ask of her fellows, "Wotz he got der?" Rex tried to ignore the group that had spotted him and increased his pace, walking faster. But he could hear the drawing of makeshift weapons such as knives and sharpened metal shards vaguely resembling swords. "Hay, Progin! Yooz not serpoozed ter be here. Diz our terf. Drop dat shiny and be off." The vagrant scavengers were almost upon him when Rex spun and pointed his pistol at the nearest Terran even as he kept backing away from the group. Though it was a superior weapon to their blades and even the woman's bow and arrows, he did not have enough ammunition to gun down the entire group even if each of his shots were lethal. Even in the dark, Rex could see that these haggard and poorly dressed squatters were cohesive enough to be a serious threat. "Dat sharpie be wort' sumfin', Reez," said the woman who was already drawing an arrow seemingly unafraid of the gun Rex was brandishing. "Aw hell," answered the gang's leader, "His 'hol' rig be worf taxin'." Two large searchlight beams, powerful enough to stun the eyes lit the Reclaimer and spoiled any hope of an accurate shot. Bodies were heard dodging as his first round spat and missed. With a panic in him, Rex ran. The chase went its way over piles of debris and wreckage. The gang's calls tried to herd the Reclaimer, but his superior health and training refused the wolf pack tactics. He was in far better shape due to good genetics and he easily started to out pace and outlast the pursuers. Twice, the woman lithe and nimble, tried a bow shot but missed only a scant foot from his backside. Rex assumed the scavengers did not want to damage any items he carried. In a macabre flash, he feared that the Terrans did not mind selling off organs which at his health would fetch a good price. That was Freespacer thought and the Reclaimer hoped as he ran that these Terrans had not degenerated that far. Through skeletal buildings and under bridges the Ruins gang hounded the Sabine. Aided as he was by his vambrace, Rex made the airlock just as the group gathered outside, trying to decide who was coming in after the Progen first. He kept his gun trained on the bottleneck of the doorway as he tucked the glaive under his free arm to work the manual control. As the door slid halfway open, Rex emptied his silenced pistol in the general direction of the door, even as the burliest of the gang tried to enter it. Impact rounds went wild, but a single shot dropped the Terran purely by luck. Sounds of anger and arguments of tactics came from outside. Rex stepped into the airlock and using the glaive weapon levered the door closed as it tried to jam. Sounds of a gang rush came as he pulled the lever to evacuate the air as he closed his space suit's helmet. Without suits of their own, the gang of squatters dared not open the door to the airlock. Un-pinning the hydraulic spreader, the outer was closed as he pulled his way along the line to the Apotheosis. "Computer, return to full active status," commanded Rex to the ship. The power returned and ship lights lit as the holographic disguise outside was foiled and cut off. Seating in his bridge cockpit, the Reclaimer wheeled the Sentinel ship around and leaned on his impulse drive in a hard burn from the airlock. "By hook or by crook," he said to no one. Warping at this point would alert any nearby ships to his vessel's warp cone and wake. On impulse drive, the Apotheosis made for the Progen capital ship hulk that records named Pax Altrox. At these low speeds, Rex could only pray to Jericho, the "father figure" of the Progen race that he made it to the Pax wreck undiscovered. * * * Her orders were to wait here, her Centuriata vessel concealed -as best as a menacing Warrior ship could be- inside the wreck of the Pax Altrox. It was not illegal in Jenquai space for Warriors to pluck trophy mementos from the huge derelicts, but such was looked down upon by the Centuriata Warriors. Let the Reclaimers do their job, she thought. She was thoroughly bored by the time the Reclaimer's Sentinel ship thrust into scan range of her ship. The reading that Rex' burners were on told her that he was in a hurry. Powering up her ship's engines, the Centuriata courier checked her systems as the Apotheosis approached. The comm system registered a tight beam meant for her and its source. She thumbed a control on her left stick and listened. "Courier, " began Tervanus Rex, the Sabine Sentinel who had hired her, "I have a package of the highest priority. Name your price and take it to the rendezvous point as fast as you can." This alarmed the courier. Her vessel was not the fastest and certainly did not have the cargo capacity as just about every known vessel in the galaxy, so what was so small and yet had the Sabine so nervous as to need her? "I'm sending it over via tractor beam," Rex declared. "Don't lose it, by hook or by crook. Understand?" "Understood," she answered. Then the item, a small cryo-canister arrived and was shunted up to her in the cockpit. "Then go and go fast," Rex commanded. She burned her engine's impulse to make clear of the Pax Altrox. Her Centuriata vessel looked intimidating, but she had stripped it down for speed under the guise of a fully-armed and dangerous Warrior caste. With the star gate to Saturn sector plotted in her navigation console, she gripped the handle to engage her warp drive. As the wings of her craft folded under the hull, her ship, the "Kitten", formed its own warp cone and then shot from the area with a blast of its engines. In her rear monitor, Rex' Apotheosis folded its sails, revved up and made for the Jenquai checkpoint just outside Jove's Fury station. She was to freewarp straight to the gate behind a long stream of low-Jovian orbit gas clouds that concealed her warp cone and wake. His ship quietly rejoined the swarm about the station and back into the busy society of the Crystal Age. The Kitten burst forth from the last gas field's clouds and shot straight at maximum warp for the star gate. With a quick transmission to its rings, it opened and before anyone could notice, hail, or stop her, she was gone from Jupiter sector.
  9. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel, Ch.III by Pakkrat III. Many gates later and crossing a great expanse of the galaxy into Jenquai space was a full spectrum of colors and vistas to Pakkrateus. The Maze Runner and Reacher's Defender entered at last the exotic sector named Xipe Totec in the Sirius system. Immediately noticeable across a vast expanse was the Inztlan Line, a shield that bisected this sector of space. It had been erected by Jenquai technology to protect Jenquai territory and assets. Though passable, the hazardous radiations from beyond towards the bright white Sirius sun was ruination and dangerous frontier. On arriving through the sector gate, the Procurator and the Ken'shao, (he had asked finally), registered a state of alarm on the communications channels. The Shinwa space station, named Prasad Station, was on full alert and using coded battle-language. Reacher translated for Pakkrateus as they turned towards the Inztlan Line. "They are on defensive from a Mordana forward raid group, Progen," said Reacher. "We will not be welcome at Prasad for some time until the excommunicated retreat from this sector." Pakkrateus listened, but was more focused on the cryo-cartridge in his hand. Internecine conflicts of Jenquai were of no consequence to the Progen and only a mild interest to the Privateer. He gunned his vessel's warp drive as the two sped past navs and onward to the looming space shield. The pair of vessels penetrated at Inztlan Line One, a nav that monitored the state of the sector barrier. Passing through the seemingly infinite border, sensor alarms went noisy. "Warning: Extreme Radiation detected," said the onboard computer of the Maze Runner. It immediately followed with "Warning: EMP drain occurring." The solar radiations of Sirius were slowly draining the shield and reactor power of the formation. It was a slow burn but given the two would only be across the Line long enough to banish Dahaka Khan's gene-map, neither said anything. Reacher saw them first as his scan range far outreached the Progen's. Ahead was a squadron of Mordana. Their ships registered on his scopes. Sleek, arrow-like and almost alien were they. The excommunicated Jenquai Mordana had promised just after the Gate War that they would return and commit jihad up on their own people who had shunned their blood-fueled xenophobia and hatred of the Progen and Terrans. Now the Mordana had added the Jenquarum to their list of vendettas. Once hailed as heroes of the Gate War, the Mordana had been on the verge of pulling the trigger to decimate Mars from behind Progen warship lines when the call for armistice came. With the unsuspecting Progen homeworld in their sights, the followers of Mordane were denied righteous retribution against the genetic aberrations known as the Progen and their rigid and warlike Republic. Now the Mordana threatened to return with the modified and darkened fleets they had taken with them into excommunication to the depths of space. Ahead, a small squadron of advance ships was probing the Inztlan Line. Their position was before the coordinates of the Continuum Wrinkle, the destination of the duo. "They will not merely let us pass, Progen," said Reacher who alerted Pakkrateus of their presence. "The Mordana will see us as opportunity for glory to their jihad." Pakkrateus looked up from his scanner which he had linked to Reacher's detections. "Let them come at us if they wish," he said, "but we have work to do." Weapons were charged and safeties came off. Reacher then performed another strange Jenquai miracle. Focused through the magnifiers of his Defender ship, his psionics came into play again as two barriers, called Psi Shields, erected themselves in geodesic shells about each ship. Added to the shielding compliment of the duo, the defenses were set as they raced for the Continuum Wrinkle ahead. The Continuum Wrinkle looked like a cross between a black hole singularity and a created wormhole similar to the Ancient gates. There were no structures to mark where it began its event horizon. It swirled and ate all forms of energy, emitting only detected x-ray radiation in two cones shooting forth like a black hole. Sensors that swept the Wrinkle did not bounce back and could only be registered as bending to empty down the Wrinkle's infinite iris. Where anything entering the Continuum Wrinkle went was a given unknown. Then the Mordana spotted the two racing ships. Battle cries over the communications channels erupted as the ex-Jenquai ships turned to intercept a hated Progen and a despised Shinwa vessel pair. There were no words. There was only action at this point. A space battle occurred. It was full of miraculous maneuvers, space slicing beam weapons, cloud bursts of charged plasma, concussive explosions, and energy storms of shields deflecting and splattering ordinance over their fields. Maneuvers of every style were tried. Acrobatics were the purview of the Jenquai Defender and the Mordana as Pakkrateus' Maze Runner calmly made directly for the Continuum Wrinkle. His vessel returned fire with swarm after swarm of missiles, unorthodox to normal Progen armaments. Any Mordana that came too close felt the storm of his shields' inversion for the Progen had their own technology that turned a defensive shield inside-out and into a short-range weapon in its own right. The battle raged as the Wrinkle came closer. Pakkrat's Maze Runner took hit after hit upon its shields. But each time his computer warned him that they were buckling, he pulled another trick of the Collegia Privateers. With a surge of power from his reactors barely touched by the autonomous volleys of missiles, Pakkrateus recharged his shields. It was a reverse-shunting action that his Privateer class had gleaned from Terran tactics long ago. With a loud *Re-Vamp!*, his shields were a strong bulwark again. Thus, in this way he powered through the squadron of Mordana, determined to make the Wrinkle ahead. Reacher's Defender glided smoothly as he danced with the Mordana. Both the Defender's and the Mordana came from the same technologies of the Jenquai race. So it was a swirl of cloakings and de-cloakings with screaming beams. The acrobatics of the veteran master Reacher kept most beams from testing his Psi shield. To any other race, it might have looked like the Shinwa Defender was madly out of control of his careening and dodging vessel. Those beams that did connect were glancing blows at best. Whirling and twisting through space, the Defender laced the night before the Wrinkle with his own beams. It was a multi-colored light show and a dance to the death. Soon, wounds began to show. It was inevitable as the pair fought the Mordana. Coupled with the harsh radiations from the Sirius primary and the space battle, ships' shields began to fail or were sorely tested. But soon the Mordana lost heart and either turned tail or were left as derelicts on the field of battle. Pakkrateus was sweating as his ship's reactor and shields slowly regenerated. He had castled with Reacher once to give the Defender time to re-erect a new Psi shield in time to allow his normal shielding a respite. With Modana derelicts slowly falling to the pull of the Wrinkle, the two rallied before its event horizon. The aging Privateer was about to load the cryo-cartridge into a missile to be fired into the Continuum Wrinkle when a masercom beam was received by his communications system. It was an interstellar call synced to his Information Friend or Foe transponder. Someone was calling him. Was it his older clone brother Pakkratius, he asked himself. Pausing to load the missile, Pakkrateus answered the buzzing console. The transmission was voice-only and thus had no visual component. Only a static field on the monitor lent identity to the voice that spoke. It was a Progen voice, male and Mars-inflected. It addressed Pakkrateus as a recording instead of a direct call. Rhetorically it gave terms: "This message is hopefully being received by the one Progen in the galaxy who has our property. Know that the Sabine do not normally allow gene-maps to become bargaining chips, but the courier regrettably forced our hand. You, Collegiate have what is rightfully the jurisdiction of the Reclaimers. We offer a trade. Your stolen gene-map for the courier's. Yes, if she is restored, she can clear the air concerning her death and your besmirched name. Being hunted by the galaxy is no small thing, Privateer. There are worse fates. Bring us the stolen gene-map to Endriago planet or else hers goes into the fiery lava right outside Porevenir Mons. Rendezvous coordinates are embedded in this message. Do not fail to show alone or your life will become far more interesting, Privateer. End transmission." There it was. The conundrum of justice versus humanity. When it hit Pakkrateus' heart, he could only think of her, the girl from the bar. It was akin to murder to destroy a gene-map and these Reclaimers were willing to forever destroy the girl for a gene-map. "I feel your heart weight, Progen," offered Reacher. The Defender went silent again as Pakkrateus took the hard road. To elect for life over justice or revenge, tugged on Reacher. This was the only way to save the girl, clear Pakkrateus's name, and only then could justice be done upon the Tormentor. Seeing this in the dilemma of the Progen he was aiding, it renewed Reacher's faith in the Sev Tushnim over the racial anger of the Jenquai. Even he could step back from the abyss, having seen so much of war. It was a hard road the Privateer was taking. The Defender respected that. This Progen had honor. Forming up once more the unlikely pair shot again into the azure painted night of Sirius system.
  10. Second Chances - An Earth & Beyond Emulator Novel Ch.II by Pakkrat II. "I'm pushing her as fast as I can, Jenquai," protested Pakkrateus over his com-link with the still-nameless pilot in the Defender vessel in formation beside his Privateer. As the two raced their ships sector after sector across Aragoth system, the Jenquai had become insistent. "You wish, Progen to arrive ahead of the news and security bulletins," warned the Jenquai pilot, "then you must push with all your so-called genetic might." It was true that Progen ships were not known for their warp speeds. The Maze Runner, Pakkrateus' home in space, was just under 5000 warp, her engines pressed and boosted by his shunting reactor and the turbo-warp device, the "Roadrunner Plus". And still the Shinwa complained. "News travels fast," said Pakkrateus. "And you have no time to ride the line," answered the Jenquai. As the gates permitted them entry and egress into the next sector, Pakkrateus looked out his starboard view port. He saw the mysterious Defender's ship. It was a sleek vessel, aerodynamic and dart-like. It's swept and curving wings were like a ceremonial knife in the dark. Its hull was flat black for stealth and there were no external lights. It made the Privateer think of the stories he had read of ancient Earth assassins of the Eastern Hemisphere, 'ninja' they were called. Though it was known that Defenders were to defend Jenquai interests and their star systems, this Defender ship looked more like an assassin out of the blackness of space. There was nothing to identify the ship, not even a name anywhere on its hull. It was an enigma, a cypher on purpose. It was assumed that a pilot's vessel was an extension of the pilot, so Pakkrateus decided that this Defender, whomever he was, was not going to answer questions of who, why and how over his aid to the Privateer. In turn, Pakkrateus did likewise with the Shinwa beside him. There was much bad blood between the Progen race and the Jenquai. Too much war. Too many unforgivable atrocities. When the pain in his leg had become too much to bear, the aging Privateer finally lifted his medical kit, a cheap version, and performed some wound care on the graze he'd taken as a souvenir from Fenris Observatory. Every Progen was expected to be trained in battlefield first aid and Pakkrateus was no exception. He had never been shot before personally. He unstrapped his leg armor and unbuckled his boot to better access the burning wound. Then the anesthetic foam hit his shallow wound and he sighed a relieved breath. A quick bandaging would keep the wound clean. Ahead was Akeron's Gate sector, this was the site of one of the most fiercest space battles of the Gate War. Akeron's Gate was the first discovered star gate and heralded humanity's exploration of the galaxy and humanity's battle for control of the "Ancient" gates. Man had learned to give commands to the gates via transmitting signals in certain frequencies and using harmonics to 'sing' the gate open permitting passage through their created wormholes to the connecting sector. Humanity, in its partitioned worldviews battled with itself over the proper use or restraint over the gates. It had escalated into the Gate War with Jenquai suffering the worst of it. Upon armistice and the peace treaty called Sol Security or "SolSec", the three races: Jenquai, Progen, and Terrans agreed to share the use of the gates under the joint buffer of SolSec, a peacekeeping force funded, supplied and equipped by all three superpowers. Pakkrateus hoped, somewhat a long-shot in his reckoning, that the seasonal sunspot and radiation storms of Aragoth system's bright white star would garble any masercom beam transmissions. Thus he had to race to Sol system and into Saturn sector, the home of NET-7 SOL and headquarters of Net-7 News. If he could persuade his estranged clone brother to help him, the news could be given a supplementary data dump, never to be transmitted and the Doctor could provide other answers the Privateer badly needed. The Procurator, his rank-title in the Collegia, picked up the cryo-cartridge from the console next to the half-empty Athanor heavy pistol. Gene-map preservation had come quite a long way from when the Sabine Order first assured the Centuriata iteration immortality. Back then, gene-maps were kept in larger pouch-sized cryo-canisters and had larger components. Over time the preservation technology had miniaturized somewhat to the fist-sized cartridge he now held in his hand. As a Collegiate, Pakkrateus was not given to know the secret techniques the Sabine Order kept in order to perform the Call Forward. He turned the cartridge over in his hand. The happily blinking green diode assured the viability of the gene-map inside. *Who was this?*, asked the Privateer. What was so important about this gene-map that a curious Centuriata Warrior had to be killed? His brother could tell him. It was a widely-advertised service played over the Net-7 News commercial blurbs and his clone brother took advantage of his news correspondent position to make it known that he had graduated the Sabine academy and was then a Doctor of the Call Forward. At first, he had kept it exclusive to the Centuriata as per the Progen mandates and privilege of the Alpha class Warriors. It was they who fought for the Republic and they who died, repeatedly. This repeating cycle of reiteration had inflated the egos of the Centuriata into believing themselves immortal so long as a Reclaimer of the Sabine Order performed his duties and recovered a fallen gene-map. Beyond that, Pakkrateus knew not how the process was undertaken to restore a fallen Warrior. But his older clone brother had moved out to Saturn and started his own business on the side of his employment with Net-7 News. The income was enough to set up an office there in the station, a flight above their lounge and tucked away like a dirty little secret of a newscorp known for exposing others' closet skeletons. Was it a function of their powerful transmitters that NET-7 SOL's transmissions were the loudest and most easily-receptive in Saturn sector? When the two ships gated into Saturn space, the news was already blaring across the communications channels. Still nothing out of Aragoth but solar weather blackout, explained the news blurbs. News from other systems of the galaxy was coming in normally. As the Privateer and the Defender rounded a navigation beacon, a 'nav', Pakkrateus saw the face of Dr. Pakkratius once again on his monitor. Slowing to approach the station, the Procurator felt a shivery twinge climb up the left side of his spine. The Collegiate was never one for metaphysics or other such mumbo-jumbo. Nor was he a reader of genetic sciences and abnormal psychology. The closest thing he had picked up on this sensation whenever he came into proximity of his older clone brother, Pakkratius, came from ancient Terran lore. And that was because he had been only mildly curious to see what Terrans thought of twins interactions. They had called it 'twinness'. It was rumored that identical birth twins (birth?), could sense each other when near. Some Terran studies in the realm of psionics claimed that there was some unseen connection between birth twins. Tests on Psionics who were born as twins were run. The same tests were given to non-psionic twins. Nothing conclusive was discovered, save that Psionics went on to further develop their talents and to be unjustly be segregated from mainstream Terran society. Non-Psi twins just shrugged and went on with the lore-based explanation and called it 'twinness'. How this phenomenon managed to infiltrate the Progen Pakkrateus and Pakkratius was an unanswered quirk that perhaps genetics could answer if only the Privateer could get a Sabine to open up about it. The Progen race had long ago and on purpose bred out any psionic talents as distrusted and unwanted traits. It was a testament to purging impurity from the Progen of Mars Colony and the eventual Republic. The Progen it seemed compensated instead with cybernetics and genetic engineering, topics and education forbidden outside the Sabine Order. It was their version of a monopoly on genetic immortality. The Defender veered off before the two could dock and wavered into invisibility under its cloaking capabilities. Pakkrateus guessed that he might never see the strange Defender again. It seemed unfair to be the beneficiary of such aid and not know who the Shinwa was. "You got a name, Jenquai?" asked Pakkrateus over his vambrace's com-link. It was still in connection to the benefactor. "I am but a voice in the dark, Progen," replied the voice. "'Reacher' will suffice. Yes, you may call me Reacher." It was punctuated with a fatalistic silence too thick to breach even as the news station blared its transmissions to the galaxy above them. "Well met then, 'Reacher'," said Pakkrateus. "My name's Pakkrateus-" he was cut off by the Jenquai's answer. "Collegiate Procurator Pakkrateus, captain pilot of the Privateer Maze Runner," named the Defender Reacher. "Your ship class mounts five (currently four) weapon hard points, extensive shields, heavy armor, sluggish engines, poor maneuverability, and is aging." Pakkrateus bristled at the run-down of his identity and his ship's specifications. This Reacher, in such a short time had studied his beneficiary. His voice was not judgemental, but rather matter-of-fact. A vessel could truly be an extension of the pilot. "However," continued Reacher over the tight connection, "your heart and mind is young and vibrant. What has aged you so physically?" This Jenquai was very perceptive of the Privateer. Almost nosy in fact. "That is none of your business, Shinwa Defender Reacher," answered Pakkrateus in his turn to be cryptic and mystique. Two could play at that game. He did not know the Jenquai's rank-title as they came in "Shou-something-or-other". Most times, the Privateer glossed over such entitlements. He did not like his own rank, uncaring what others thought of him. Until her. And now she was dead and he was the most wanted person of interest in this mess. The Maze Runner pulled into the hangar of NET-7 SOL and docked, the hangar robots attaching umbilical power and air conduits to the Privateer vessel. Exiting his ship, Pakkrateus felt the cryo-cartridge in his pocket as he walked swiftly towards the media lobby of the newscorp. As he went inside, he tried to turn his face from studio cameras and avoid eye contact with all present. In the main lobby he tried to bypass quickly was some of Net-7 News most prominent reporters, anchors, and a small horde of production crew. Here was Zona Mason already coaching an interviewee as the two made ready to be on camera. The Privateer was thankful that his clone brother was not present here. He wanted to meet Dr. Pakkratius in private. Turning left and through some hissing airlock doors, Pakkrateus walked quickly down the tubular corridor to the smallish and spartan bar in the station. Hoping for another drink, the Procurator was foiled by colliding with another Progen who was not looking where he was going. The Privateer had only split second of clue to whom he was about to stumble at the door with. Sabine uniform of black cargo jumper accentuated with an orange-gold light armor. When Pakkrateus looked up to the face of the Progen, he saw a younger version of himself. When the two bounced off each other equally repulsed, the Privateer recognized his older clone brother, the one that was to eternally look younger than he. Surprised and yet inwardly disappointed at his own plight, the Privateer thrust out his hands and caught two data-tablets that he had dislodged from the Doctor's grasp. "Apologies, Sentinel," said Pakkrateus to his clone brother. He had seen him before in this very bar, but never this close. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing his own youthful past. "May fault-...," answered the Sentinel Pakkratius who now studied the Privateer's face. Fast conclusions ran through his eyes as he did the causal math. The Sabine took the initiative to break the ice. "You must be my rumored clone brother." "Yes, older brother, I am," answered the Privateer. "I had heard whispers that there was another me out there." "I am not you, Doctor." Picking his physician's kit he had dropped in the collision, the Sabine Order Sentinel said, "I doubt somehow this is a coincidence that we have come together finally." "I need your help," admitted Pakkrateus. "How bad is it?" asked Pakkratius. The Privateer produced the cryo-cartridge in his free hand and held it up for the Sentinel to see. "It could potentially go to the top." Dr. Pakkratius immediately recognized the cartridge and lowered his voice, "In my office." The two Progen then went back into the bar and up a side ramp to the next deck up. They entered a door that was labeled with the Sentinel's name: DR. PAKKRATIUS, NET-7 SOL REPORTER The Privateer noted the proud capital letters of his older clone brother's positions as he entered behind him. Inside the Doctor's domicile was clean, orderly and in the mini-lab, sterile. Despite the naysayers of protesting physicians and public safety interest groups malingering the Call Forward process, his older brother's equipment was immaculate. Pakkratius did well for himself. The two clone brothers entered the lab's work area. Though the Doctor lacked the funds to have his own re-iteration chamber for the full Call Forward of fallen Progen, his lab did come equipped with a scanner. With the Reporter's connections with Net-7 News, he could easily compare the scanned gene-map with Progen databases and produce an identity for it. As the Sabine went to work on scanning the gene-map, Pakkrateus spoke up, "I need a favor as well." The Sentinel continued working on calibrating the scanner upon the contained gene-map. "Oh?" he asked, more interested in the scan results. "I need you to squelch any news coming out of Aragoth system for as long as you can," requested the Privateer, worry in his voice that the Reporter might turn him down. "In finding this gene-map, I was set up as the killer of a Centuriata courier." Surprised, Pakkratius let the scanner continue working autonomously as he looked back to the aging clone brother. He had to hear this story and how it connected with the gene-map. Pakkrateus told his story of his encounter with the woman in the lounge at Fenris Observatory, omitting nothing and making sure he was clear that no indecency was perpetrated on the victim woman. Pakkratius listened with scientific analysis, withholding his judgement until the Privateer finished. But before the Sentinel could give his take on the events put to him, the scanner ringed its results and displayed them on the smallish screen to be read. "Mother of Progen Vita Theodora!" swore the Sentinel. "Who is it?" asked Pakkrateus his nerves ramping up. This was confirming how deeply he was in hot water to say nothing of the murder for which he had been framed. Pakkratius ejected the gene-map cartridge from the scanner and held it up almost reverently. "This was the warlord general Dahaka Khan, brother to our former Primarch Anjuren Khan, the very "Tormentor of Jove City" himself. How was this Reclaimed after these many years?" "Somebody other than I knows and killed a Centuriata courier for her curiosity, but she got them first." "Then, brother Privateer, you are now that hunted man." There was a silence. The Doctor looked again at the cartridge holding the gene-map of the most heinous Progen warlord in recent history. "Credits to the Codex," offered the Sabine Sentinel, "says that whomever reclaimed this gene-map wants to see if the warlord will answer the Call Forward. Do you know what that will mean?" The younger but aging Privateer stepped forward and snatched the gene-map cartridge from his brother's hand and said, "Worth billions of credits, billions of lives, and billions of survivors' hatred should what's in here be Called Forward, brother." Pakkratius, made the causal calculations instantly and nodded grimly. There it was. His Collegiate younger brother was wiser than most of his Faction. The return of the savage warlord would re-ignite the Gate War. Governments would want him for any number of reasons and would kill for this gene-map. No amount of money was worth the terror and horror the warlord's return could bring. "You are a hunted man, brother," declared Pakkratius. "It must be destroyed," answered Pakkrateus. "That was the will of then-Primarch Tyr," recalled the Doctor. "So be it," decided the Privateer. He would see to its permanent destruction. But how to do so with zero-failure, absolute certainty? Pakkratius assured his aging brother, "I'll do what I can, but this could put me at risk too, brother. This is a big favor." "Name your price." "An exclusive." Puzzled, the Privateer wrinkled his brow inquisitively at his brother. The Reporter answered the unspoken question, "Since this favor you need from me could get me fired and ruin my accreditation and integrity, I want an exclusive interview, on camera, on record after you have dealt with this mess." "If you'd have simply asked for bribe credits, Sabine, I'd have been disappointed," said Pakkrateus. "Done." It was uncharacteristic between the Sabine Order and the Collegia, but the two estranged clone brothers clasped forearms on the deal. The Privateer then turned and left his brother planning how to sabotage the feeds to NET-7 SOL's reception of Aragoth's news. Shortly afterwards, the Maze Runner pulled out from the hangar of NET-7 SOL and into Saturn sector. Pakkrateus had no clue where to go next. Then his vambrace again spoke. Rats! In all this time he had left it the connection to Reacher active while inside speaking to his clone brother. He was about to cut the damned device off when it spoke with Reacher's voice. He was still nearby! "I have an idea how to help you with the final destruction of the vile Tormentor, Progen," offered Reacher's voice of the com-link. So, he had been listening, thought Pakkrateus. When was he, Pakkrateus going to learn? "Yeah?" asked Pakkrateus guiltily. "Though I would love to see the Tormentor suffer eternally in pain for what he did to my people," admitted Reacher, "I can think of a way to get final justice upon the warlord." "I'm listening," answered the Privateer. In truth, he wanted Reacher's input now that he had confirmed his eavesdropping on the encounter with Pakkratius. Dahaka Khan was both an infamous general and hero, but also reviled villain of the Gate War. Progen were not savages as the Dog Soldier units had led the galaxy to believe of all Progen Republic citizens. If the brutal Khan were re-iterated by the Call Forward, it would only paint the Progen in more negative colors once more. History might repeat itself. There was an uncomfortable pause before Reacher spoke, almost as if the Jenquai Defender was weighing the same thoughts as Pakkrateus. "There is a one-way exit from this time-space continuum, Progen. Banish the Khan's gene-map forever from our universe through the Continuum Wrinkle in Xipe Totec." "Sounds poetic, Jenquai," described Pakkrateus. "Never heard of it." Reacher explained, "The Continuum Wrinkle was discovered in the Sirius system shortly after Prasad Station was completed and was partially responsible for the erection of the Inztlan Line, the shield that holds the radiations of Sirius at bay. It is a natural wormhole, Progen, but it does not open up to any known point in our galaxy or our universe as far as the Sha'ha'dem have discovered." "So, we toss the gene-map of Dahaka Khan down the deepest garbage chute in the known universe forever, right Jenquai?" "It is a fitting and immortal punishment for an immortal Centuriata fiend such as Da-....for the villain," explained Reacher with an edge of impending justice to his voice. "Form up," said Pakkrateus. "Let's boogie." The two ships, one huge and armored and the other black and almost invisibly sleek came together and shot into the night bisected by the rings of Saturn. * * * Across half the known galaxy, on Endriago planet, Tervanus Rex pounded a console for the fifth time in frustrated anger. Five times he had scanned the gene-map that his Reclaimer subordinates had brought him. Five times the scanner had told him that he had the gene-map of the Centuriata courier, Siobhan. He had been betrayed by the Centuriata woman! He needed to know what happened. Thus, the Reclaimer, Tervanus Rex had to delay the resurrection of the Khan for the revival of the woman. He had questions to ask her. Here on the superheated lava planet Endriago, he had found Vinda's ultra-secret compound for her project that was under the strictest of security to non-Sabine. But Rex was a Reclaimer and had found it from within the Sabine Order. He and his men had stolen into the Sabura Project Compound in hopes of receiving the Khan's gene-map here and in secret. The newer techniques of Sabine Order leader Vinda were unknown to Rex, but her equipment and supplies for initiating the Call Forward were already here. He meant to resurrect the warlord locally and away from the public eye. He would have the most valuable Progen in the galaxy to himself and see where such fame and power would take him. No longer would he be just another repulsive grave robber of the galaxy. Lava plumes punctuated his anger and frustration at the scanner's news. Rex' assistant, a subordinate Reclaimer asked cautiously, "What now, sir?" Rex lifted the cryo-canister that had disguised Siobhan's gene-map. With a grim and ominous determination, he answered, "We ask her." "You mean to Call her Forward, sir?" asked the subordinate. "What if she doesn't answer the Call?" "Oh, I believe she wants to answer it," answered Tervanus Rex. "She was murdered by us. She'll want revenge. Centuriata are like that. Begin the process. I'll take full authority and responsibility." Thus, as a Privateer raced across the galaxy to his brother in Saturn, the Call Forward began to beckon to the gene-map of Siobhan the Centuriata courier. Genes, personality and memories were re-iterated slowly into the comatose mega-grown female Sabura body. Even the Reclaimers were silent about the metaphysics of the Call Forward, preferring not to think beyond scientific logic over the process. If the woman "answered the Call" the cloned body would awaken with all the memories and personality contained in the gene-map. This process of course rendered the left-behind gene-map useless and no longer viable. The Call would be a success and the Progen subject would live again. The Sabura Project Compound was the newest, most advanced collection of re-iteration systems to date. Vinda apparently had spared no expense here in secret. Rex admired the efficiency of the new techniques the class leader had developed. The minutiae aside and the schematics be damned, Rex needed those answers from the woman soon to awaken! He waited impatiently as the woman's body, forged from her genes as a Sabura, the first Sabura, accepted the answering woman's metaphysical presence again true to the Centuriata archetype. There was an electrical jolt as the body's heart was started. Every muscle in the woman's new body flexed and tensed in tetanus. Then breathing began, eyes flew open in shock, surprise, fright, pain, and myriad other reactions. She moaned through the cushioned bite gag meant to keep her from severing her tongue with her teeth at the jolt. Systems whined lower and lower as the Call Forward completed. Medicines and other nutrients flowed. The woman was stabilized even as she panted for more air. Coughing, the woman spat out the bite guard and cried in the safety restraints of the table. She struggled in fright, pulling on the bindings. Rex stepped up to the naked woman, newly Called, and spoke in a gentle but firm voice to the Sabura woman before him. "Siobbhan? Siobhan, do you understand me?" he asked her as she spotted him. The geodesic dome over the small and secret facility was not Arx Spartoi, the Place of Life. It was not the expected location for Centuriata to answer the Call Forward. She panicked for a time but focused on the man's voice. Rex. He was Tervanus Rex, the Reclaimer who had hired her to deliver..... Her memories were still piecing themselves together. "It is called Iteration Haze, my dear," Rex tried to calm her. "It will pass in hours. But I need to talk with you, Siobhan." He waved his Reclaimer assistants from the lab. Alone with her, he continued. "Siobhan, this is important. I know you are waking up from the Call Forward and suffering Iteration Haze, but please; can you tell me what you did with the gene-map package you were to deliver to the rendezvous point?" She looked about as her body still tested the restraints at her wrists and ankles. Why was she still bared before him? Normally, female Doctors and assistants were already dressing the Called patient. What was Rex up to? He was a Reclaimer by Vita Theodora! He was not a Specialist. This was an unauthorized Call Forward she realized. She suddenly felt sick and somewhat violated were it not for her experience with her fellow male soldiers of the Centuriata. Her last memories before her loss of consciousness were hazily piecing themselves still. She remembered trying to make contact with Centuriata Command. Rex had discovered the gene-map of Dahaka Khan. In a fit of curiosity, Siobhan had had the cryo-canister scanned and learned its identity. With the revelation came a marked need for orders from Command concerning the highly-illegal reclamation of the warlord-general's gene-map assumed from the Ruins of Jove City. But her call from Fenris Observatory had been foiled by the Aragoth sun's sunspot activity and radiations garbling the connection. She had broken the courier's code and was embroiled in the nature of the gene-map's political sensitivity. In fear for her life, she had swapped the gene-map with her own in case Khan's was stolen. And now, here she was alive again having answered the Call Forward, but not at the usual Arx Spartoi station, the Place of Life. Rex had Called her Forward illegally and without authorization in this strange planet-side place. Endriago! This was the fiery lava planet Endriago right under the noses of the larger Sabine Order. Such arrogance and violation! Rex read the montage of emotions across the new Siobhan's face. Did she know? He tried honey talk again. "Siobhan, please, tell me what you did with the gene-map." "Go to hell, Rex," she breathed through angry clenched teeth. "No such place," answered Rex dejected yet calm. "The gene-map, warrior." "You would raise the Tormentor again, Rex?" she asked in protest. "I had given that thought," he half-lied. In truth he had thought, a little, of selling the gene-map on the black market to the highest bidder for billions. But the prospect of seeing the warlord live again was far greater a socio-political prize. "You're mad," she seethed in frustration at her inability to throttle the Reclaimer senseless. "You should not have opened the box, Pandora," he blamed her in trade and using the ancient Earth parable. Seeing her struggle against her bonds, Rex drew a cart on rollers near to the restraint table and Siobhan. "You will not have Khan's map, madman," declared Siobhan. "I will." he answered as he picked up a charged pain-stick, an electrical prod device used in quelling rioters. "Tell me what you did with the gene-map, Siobhan." "Death first!" she screamed at him. "You had that chance, warrior," he said as he thrust the active tip to her ribs and gave her a crippling shock. Muscles tensed and she screamed in surprise, anger, and some small hidden fear. The interrogation reiterated itself again and again as Rex tortured the information from Siobhan. She had been brave and trained to resist torture, but that was in another life. The Reclaimer eventually won out after having to change the battery in the pain-stick only once. Breathing hard and in painful aftershocks, Siobhan had confessed she had swapped the gene-map with her own hours before her death and that it had been left in her vambrace disguised as her own armor's receptacle. This was bad news to the ears of the Reclaimer. "Damn you, Siobhan," he spat at her. "You have nearly ruined my plans. Thankfully not all is lost." "I am Centuriata," she seethed, recovering her wits. "You will not further dishonor us, you grave-robbing vermin." At that and out of spite as it was a touchy moniker oft-aimed at the Reclaimers, Rex shocked her again. Then he activated a control on the table's machinery to angle Siobhan upright and vertical. Moving off as she hung there weakly, he wheeled over to her a tall mirror and aimed it at her. In her reflection, Siobhan saw her naked form still restrained to the table. But then she beheld differences in the reflection she was familiar with. She had changed! Instead of dark, chocolate-brown hair and pale smooth skin, the image of her had lighter, dirty brown hair, and a tanned complexion over her entire body and was uniform in color. At first, it looked as if the Call Forward had erred by pulling hue from her hair and colored her entire skin. Her frame was the same and her face was familiar, but now there was a change in her coloration. Immediately her fear heightened as she realized she was looking at her new self and inwardly quested for any inner changes that felt different. The Iteration Haze still plagued her and she cursed Rex under her breath for this violation. "No, Siobhan," answered the Reclaimer. "You are no longer Centuriata. Let me explain." Rex detailed the Sabura Project as far has he had probed and understood personally. Vinda had plans. She meant the Sabura Compound for some future project that only she knew about. From what Rex had gleaned in the schematics and other minutiae, the Sabura were to become the new Progen breed of warriors, with a few subtle changes only Vinda was privy to. Rex was pressed for time and needed a secret facility to resurrect the warlord Khan, and the Sabura Compound was ideal except for the now-revealed changes he saw in Calling Siobhan Forward. What these changes were internally was some matrix Rex was unsure of, so he had tested the facility. On Siobhan. "You arrogant, irreverent bastard," Siobhan glared at Rex. "Laughable, since all Progen are technically bastards," he answered. "How dare you!" she was mollified by his sacrilege against the Centuriata and the Progen race. "I'll dare much more.....Sabura." He said it with a finality in his voice. "I will kill you and come back as a Centuriata once more," she tried to be brave. "That is where you are wrong, Siobhan," he explained further. "You see the Sabura Project is a one-way door. The gene-maps can only be re-iterated into equal or descending caste. The Sabine cannot make a beta-caste citizen of the Progen Republic into the higher alpha-caste. They can only be Called to beta- or lower castes. Vinda feels this bite every time she looks in her pretty mirror as well. She will re-make the warriors of the Progen from the idiot savages of the Centuriata. Welcome to the Project, Siobhan the Sabura." He walked away, leaving Siobhan with only her mirror reflection as company. Stepping outside, he left orders to his subordinates for the woman's preparations. "I have to make a long-distance call by hook or by crook," he said.
  11. Pakkrat


    Payback They say one is not supposed to feel good about getting even. That vengeance is a negative aspect of humanity, needs to be tempered with forgiveness or at least a passionless and logical mind. Fie on that, thought the Privateer Pakkrateus as his ship, The Maze Runner fell out of warp 30 clicks from Arkan in Aragoth Prime. Three days ago, he had been tasked by Anjuren Khan to take out a few misbehaving Wayward Satellites and a Wayward Drone or two. All so the Privateer could be tested for battle readiness and other warlike behaviors. With no warning, the Privateer had, on arrival been swarmed by the rogue and malfunctioning AIs that kept unleashing barrage after barrage of energy attacks upon Pakkrateus' ship. It had caused him to call for a tow...all the way back to Saturn's NET-7 SOL for he had forgotten to mark his passage into Aragoth Prime at Chernovog Station. Thus, after repairs and a few adjustments it had been a long slog back to the Aragoth solar system to finish his appointed task. Now the mission had taken on a life of its own. Rather than just jaunt out to the location near Arkhan, a moon of Aragoth Prime and down a few haywire machines, this was a lesson in payback. The Privateer meant to serve it up in on a cold dish with a side order of plasma. How could anyone fault him for a vengeful streak upon machines? They didn't care that they were being retired. They just followed their semi-autonomous territoriality and attacked any ship coming within their scan range. With not much else to do, the machines needed to be put down anyways. Now, the Maze Runner shadowed by the eclipsing passage of Aragoth Prime before the bright primary of its sun, was hidden by more than its flat black hull as Pakkrateus crept forward at impulse drive. Ahead were the swarming machines that had incapacitated his ship days ago. The tow had been expensive and the Wayward Satellites and Wayward Drones were going to retroactively foot the bill. Rather than rely on the up close and personal Musket projectiles so common to Progen of his license, this hunt was going to be very one-sided and not very sporting at all. This was no sport. This was vengeance that nobody would pat him on the back for. Nor would they condemn the Privateer for such a vengeful streak against such malfunctioning technology. Pakkrateus looked out over his shoulders, through the bridge's view ports at the weapons he had chosen for this hunt. The weapons had been collecting dust and he had long ago discounted the ordinance as something to be mapped and forgotten. Two Blacksun Petit Oguns rode the wings' edges while an Evoco Fist of the Merus Meilia sat nearer to the port side fuselage. The missile launchers were flat black and almost invisible against the starry night of space. Only the glowing purple payloads of plasma betrayed their presence on the wings. The Merus Milia torpedo, fat and packed with explosive retribution awaited the safety release command from the bridge. The Privateer's attention was brought back to the fore by the ringing range confirmation of the ships scanning target scope. And still the Satellites and Drones had not seen his shadowed and black ship. For the aging Progen had also installed another relic that was aging as much as he was in his vault. DiApoggee's protype engines were hungry reactor consumers, but they had one thing Pakkrateus needed. Their low signature exhaust was just the thing he wanted to snipe these machines and get that satisfactory payback he desired. Running silent in the shadows cast by Aragoth Prime, Pakkrateus released the safety. Power flowed again from the reactor to enable the three launchers. Just to make extra sure of himself and to spice things up, Pakkrateus also released the safety on the feedback shield inverters. If by some means the machines came too close, well the Privateer had a little friend waiting in case of close encounters of the Wayward kind. "Welcome to dinner, my friends," Pakkrateus said as his trigger finger pulled with a satisfactory click. The launchers spat their ordinance with gusts of released air as two missiles and a torpedo tore through the night sky towards the first unlucky Satellite needing retirement. The Ogun plasma missiles arced slightly as they homed in on their target while the torpedo zigged and zagged erratically towards the Wayward Satellite. While Terrans might tout the "fire-and-forget" nature of missile weapons and lazily hunt by kiting, the Progen Privateer did no such thing. He wanted his targets to come to him. Rather than just pulling the trigger and waiting, Pakkrateus used his onboard targeting skills to further guide the ordinance to critical structural locations on the first hapless Wayward Satellite. The plasma missiles, sleek and eager struck first as they spilled high energy plasma over the joints and armor of the machine to eat away at the structure. Then the fat torpedo landed squarely in the hole left by the consuming plasma. The explosive charge laid open the Satellite's hull to expose the delicate computer core piloting the machine. The AI registered the attack and spun around to reverse-track the trajectory of the attack to the shadowed area where the Maze Runner was hidden. It thrust in an automated response to threats. Close in and use its energy projector until the threat was nullified. After all, it was never designed for combat. The Maze Runner's launchers hissed again and a second volley of guided missiles and torpedo turned the Wayward Satellite to space slag after a short flight. Pakkrateus smiled as he noted that the fast-moving machines had gratefully put their hulks within the extended range of his tractor beam boosted as it was by the focusing Harpy's Grip device. Thus the looting and payback began earnest. The Roc's Velocity device also lent celerity to the stripping of gear from the Satellite, leaving Pakkrateus the happy activity of finding a new target. The Wayward Satellite had never come close enough to fire upon his ship. Satellites and Drones fell one by one by the sniping actions of the Maze Runner hidden as it was in the eclipse shadow of the planet behind him. Any that were lucky to get close enough to fire their energy projectors were met by the shield inverter which proceeded to rip apart the target even as the AI tried in vain to perform surgery on the Privateer. The retirement and salvaging continued into the night. "Revenge is best served on a cold plate with a side order of plasma," said Pakkrateus to nobody as he continued to snipe the machines one or two at a time. The spare parts would more than pay for the repair bill and tow his ship had endured. It was turning out to be profitable. Pakkrat
  12. Writer's Block The Progen Privateer, Pakkrateus stood on the hangar deck watching his vessel being towed into the dry dock of NET-7 SOL station. It was going to need repairs and was already behind schedule to be upgraded for that license 50 appointment with Tiberius Shipyards. At this rate, the Privateer ship "Maze Runner", (now where did he come up with that name again?), was going to be nearing its license 75 upgrade if he did not get back to that mission given to him by Warship Genesis' Anjuren Khan. He stroked his already gray, angular, and close-cropped beard and then ran his gauntlet through his brushy, military-cut hair. With little else to do but watch the repair bots go to work on his vessel, Pakkrateus grew bored and sought out the lounge. A stiff drink might help, he decided. As he turned to head inside, the Privateer caught sight of the gleaming white hull of the Sentinel ship "Culler" across the hangar. The presence of the Sentinel who owned and piloted that ship meant that the Reporter was in-station somewhere. Pakkrateus did not really expect to see the fellow Progen that was whispered to be the Privateer's clone brother. But if they ran into each other perhaps it was meant to be. He glossed over the Sentinel ship's folded sails, wings (they had similar wing configuration), and weaponry. Progen often compared their guns as there was not much else to distinguish them that was readily visible. His clone brother, Dr. Pakkratius, Net-7 Reporter and Agrippa Technology graduate had somehow been given a long head start in his career. Someone had to be providing momentum behind his career. Pakkrateus, the Privateer nodded in appreciation of the chemical-based weaponry mounted on the Culler. Then the airlock hissed and he went into the station proper. He too would catch up and even exceed the Sentinel's firepower to be sure. The Privateer ship, Maze Runner's weapon hard points were already begging to be filled. Passing through the media center of NET-7 SOL's lobby, Pakkrateus rubbed his aching neck. That last blast from the Wayward Satellites coupled with the side-swiping weaponry of the Wayward Drones had fully tested the inertial dampener of his ship. Its pilot had been jolted violently back and forth in his helm web harness when his ship went derelict. Now the flashing and streaming monitors threatened to give the Privateer a hammering headache. So much information and not enough action. The objectivity and neutrality of Net-7 News was the galaxy's most vocal news source. But with such assets at their disposal, why did they not do something with them besides report on other governments and Factions, sitting on the sidelines and untouchable? The Collegiate stepped into the lounge which was little more than a smallish bar with a few drab alcoves. This was one area of the station that Net-7 apparently did not fund much. Looking upwards, Pakkrateus could see the upper terrace bare of patrons. Only occasionally was the room punctuated with a young hotshot pilot entering, pilfering as many tasks from the jobs terminal as his ego could handle then bolting off to brown-nose to some Faction or Factions. A shudder up his spine interrupted his neck tension and his budding headache. Vita Theodora was he turning out to be a grumpy old man! And he was even younger than his "clone brother", the Dr. Pakkratius of the Sabine. What anagathics were the Sentinels hiding that he always looked in his prime while the Privateer was already sporting crows feet and a wrinkled forehead? Did he get the good stuff when the two were iterated, he on Olympus Mons and the Doctor on Arx Prima? Perhaps Pakkratius inherited the cleaner of the gestation chambers? But Pakkrateus had read his own medical file. Unbeknownst to all, buried deep in the genetic code of his parent gene-map was an astronomically possible susceptibility to Methuselah's Syndrome. The nasty little trait had reared its ugly little self only in his iteration and not his "older" brother's. Was it some fluke of fate that the Privateer was destined to age faster than the Sentinel? Now that they had been iterated, there was little that could be done about it now. Mild as it was, the Syndrome could not be de-interpolated as no cure had yet been discovered. Not very life threatening, it was easier to be Called Forward than to try and find a cure in the greater chance that the aging trait would not activate in the next iteration. Oh well, so much for his lot in life. The Collegia Privateer stepped up to the bar and slid in his IdentData cube and paid for a long slew of vodka. He could well afford to drown the neck pain and the headache in alcoholic oblivion. He sat down and looked over his shoulder at any other patrons of the bar. He did not truly expect it, but off in one of the alcoves was the Reporter. The Sentinel was seated at a table closest to the Net terminal. Thin docu-tablets were stacked haphazardly upon the table before him. Now he knew why he had a twinge up his spine. Some Terran lore called it "twinness", the unexplained feeling that birth twins felt when near each other. Others chalked the sensation up to an early form of Psi talent. But such traits supposedly had been eradicated from the Progen matrix by the Sabine Order long ago. He looked frustrated and overworked, the Sentinel. Cyber-linked to the terminal with an extension line, Dr. Pakkratius was obviously trying to write another one of his useless articles for the newscorp. Pakkrateus had seen them and found nothing of lasting value in them. His own goals were in line with the Collegia: Progen using the weapons and systems designed by the Forgemasters of the the Collegia, eschewing the likes of InfinitiCorp, GETCo, and the rising Hyperia. Terrans. The Reporter again hit the delete key on the terminal console and went to composing another draft while studying yet another tablet. Pakkrateus slugged down his vodka and chuckled privately to himself as he subtly watched his older "brother" suffer a bout of writer's block. Since the Sentinel had surprised the Sabine Order with a decision to pursue journalism in addition to the genetics medical arts, they had not planned on traits for such to give to the iterated Sentinel. Pakkratius was having to develop by environment rather than pre-destined gene-mapping. Well good, thought the Privateer. He hoped the Doctor's block was as bad as his headache now in full hammering bloom. Just then a station attendant came in and stepped into Pakkratius' alcove and made mention of something the Privateer could not hear from across the bar. A smile crept to his wrinkled face as he watched the Sentinel detach from the terminal, get up in a huff and grab his case from under the table. It seems the Doctor was needed more than the Reporter, Pakkrateus mused. The Sentinel left the bar to go do his Sabine duty to some pilot waiting outside. At least he got paid for it, thought Pakkrateus. Then the bill for his sixth and final helping of vodka printed out next to his inserted IdentCube. It seemed that station dues for non-essentials was again on the rise. He chuckled. "These things are true: Death, Taxes, and Iteration," he said to nobody as he hit the button to eject the small green cube. Then he went to sleep off the experience and near-miss with his older brother. Awaiting new Content, Pakkrat
  • Create New...