Beyond 'X' Book III finished (last post ch16 Pt I+II 7th Oct 09)

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Beyond 'X' Book III finished (last post ch16 Pt I+II 7th Oct 09)

Post by Paranoid66 » Fri, 1. May 09, 11:02

Beyond ‘X’ - Journeys within the Emissary Sphere ‘ES’.
Far Future Fiction extrapolated from an X3 foundation.

By Paranoid66.

Brief Synopses
Beyond ‘X’ space in another time another Sphere (Universe): the self altered descendents of the furthest travellers of the ‘Five ‘X’ Races’ explore a new reality within the wider Grand Creation of Paradox myth. This story follows just two: Harbinger a Paradox and his potent Living Hull ship the ‘Many Truths’ on a few more adventures.

[[The format continues on from the concept used in Book I and II.]]

Beyond ‘X’ Book III - Rogue Elements


[Location: The Many Truths, Dark Coordinate, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 10:16.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

[Harbinger with his acolytes ‘First among equals’ and ‘Fortunate’ in tow skimmed along my silver and gold glowing hull until they came to another dull ugly patch of recently treated skin. Carefully the Paradox group gathered around the final wound: scanning, prodding and taking several samples at various depths.]

[None of my Captains added precautions was strictly necessary but this form of attack tended to induce a degree of natural paranoia in the crew of any ‘Living Hull’. Besides, it was a fine excuse for Harbinger to go outside and do a space walk.]

“This one looks perfectly clean to me even under deep scan.” [Fae (First among equals) sends.]

“So you are satisfied.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Yes I would vouch the infection has been fully neutralised.” [Fae sends shedding and destroying three needle thin probes.]

[The destruction of the slender extruded instruments of course had no noticeable effect upon the overall mass of the Paradox Acolyte’s well endowed ‘Shroud Suit’.]

“No harm in making sure.” [Harbinger sends in reply while using his tri-optics to zoom in on the injury for a final once over of his own.]

[The wounds certainly seemed to be healing over nicely. It appeared we had caught the flesh eating fungal spore worms in time. If they had managed to dig in deep and spread to less easily cleansed regions I would have been laid up for some considerable time.]

“When the scans and probes register as clear, and the wound looks healthy, then I would concur. Still when ‘Flesh Eaters’ have been on your hull it’s worth triple checking everything in person.” [Fortunate sends.]

“I am happy to see you both agree with my precautions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It has been a while since anything has gotten through my Nested Shields.” [I send feeling unusually vulnerable following the unpleasant genetically engineered and exceptionally aggressive fungal attack.]

“Courage old friend we won’t let it happen again. I have decided to treat this one as a spur to greater caution. It was entirely my fault - I guessed the distress call was a ruse of some kind - I just didn’t think they had our capabilities so well measured.” [Harbinger sends.]

“These groups are proving to be well equipped.” [I send.]

“They certainly are. I am beginning to suspect some may be getting heavier external backing than I suspected which is why our intervention is especially prudent. They are looking more and more like useful future allies or a serious problem and excuse for an escalation by the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You mean external backing other than the funds we are feeding to them.” [Fortunate sends.]

“I am pretty sure we haven’t run into this particular group before.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That was a dirty trick: a radiation leak and cargo spill to confuse our sensors, a desperate distress call to bring us in quickly, Leech Mines to drop our shields and Spore Pods to keep us occupied. [Fae sends.]

“Clever using dropped refugees to prevent us from employing a ‘Living Hull’ Shockwave as a last ditch defence. Then while we had to disinfect they got on with their business of ambushing the convoy at the ‘Bore’ mining depot.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Followed by a very efficient and clean get away.” [I send.]

“Those Ion Disrupter Drop Turrets we had left at the depot certainly proved underpowered to delay or stop the Raiders.” [Harbinger sends.]

“First time I have seen the specific counter measure of ‘Recycler Ion Sinks’ (RIS) in action.” [I send.]

“War breeds innovation. I like that upgrade they pose no danger to neutrals and friendly traffic unlike our ‘Ion Disruption Reflectors’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“However those ion sinks have limits as to what they can hold. While as long as our shield stays up we can constantly reflect ion disrupter energy.” [I send.]

“The Recycler Ion Sinks certainly held out long enough against our Drop Turrets.” [Fae sends.]

“I cannot argue with that and our reflection system is problematic especially when we have drones out or allies nearby. Stripping our own weaponry is not amusing and with ‘Anomalous Matter’ ammunition exceptionally dangerous. It is a pity Ion Disruption Reflectors do not scale down very well (because it is shield based) so it is practically useless on small remote fighters with weak shielding.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The short term cascade effect can be impressive though while it lasts.” [Fae sends.]

“Recycler Ion Sinks are unpractical for mounting on drones as well too bulky. However, I agree IDR splash has its drawbacks even if it can look spectacular and traverse large areas. Good among a mass of enemies not so good around neutrals or friendly’s just like our Living Hull Shockwaves.” [I send.]

“Recycler Ion Sinks would not have saved those Raiders if we had loosed our ‘Devil Fish’ Remoras. If only the felons didn’t have prisoners onboard as living shields.” [Fortunate sends.]

“But they did and they have excellent point defences and fine Swimmer Gunners as well so we would have to take them on without restraint or expect to lose some expensive assets. They know exactly what they are doing.” [I send.]

“So do we - usually.” [Fae sends looking at Harbinger.]

“You have to consider these actions as ongoing reconnaissance duties. We learn a little more about these groups abilities and tactics every time we dance with them.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They also learn a little more about us. Judging by how well prepared this last lot was they have been sharing intelligence. I also got the feeling they are still holding back just like we are.” [I send.]

“They know our associates unofficially do not consider them to be out and out foes anymore and nor do we.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We don’t?” [Fae sends sounding surprised.]

“They are just a little bothersome.” [I send.]

“I wouldn’t consider ‘Flesh Eaters’ only a little bothersome.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Actually the Raiders could be rather useful against both the ‘Draakhaal’ and the Recyclers ambitions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If you say so.” [Fae sends.]

“It is no accident that some of them are beginning to make greater use of non-lethal force against our friends among the - treaty breaking - ‘Freelance Dwellers’. They are listening; now all we need is equal compliance with our codes when they hit illegal ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ resource harvesters - as long as they capture and ransom the crew - we will go easy on them.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose in a way their trap was a rather restrained assault, only placing us under serious threat if we had refused to stop straight away to properly treat the applied biological contaminant. I would have loved to see their faces if we had made use of a ‘Jump Lock’ on them after they fled.” [Fae sends.]

“For some reason using a Jump Drive always speeds up and spreads a ‘Flesh Eater’ contagion.” [I send.]

“I didn’t know that.” [Fae sends.]

“Any delay in treatment would have been stupid anyway, as to ‘Jump Locking’ that is a foolhardy tactic at the best of times. It is fine to latch on to a fleeing opponent so that they drag you with them, but you never know where they will take you and it is a delicate procedure. You still have to assist the leap of your own mass with your own engines: too much power and you can collide or overshoot, put in too little energy and you will drop out somewhere at random sometimes dragging your target with you sometimes not. I am very hesitant about that ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ innovation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Mostly ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ warships use Jump Locks to travel together in tight battle formations. Jump Locks save energy (a well-coordinated fleet jumping together uses less shared combined power than the total of all the same ships leaping independently). A really large wing can make truly significant energy savings.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It looks really scary too when they all appear together in tight formation and bear down on an enemy before peeling apart.” [I send.]

“Outer space is becoming truly perilous for the under equipped.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Still Jump Locking is the only way to follow somebody who does a point-to-point jump to a Dark Coordinate to escape pursuit.” [Fae sends.]

“True unless you have a spy onboard (living or mechanical) but Jump Locking really isn’t easy and you have to be pretty close as well.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Right now I am just glad my Hull is certified clean. I hate ‘Flesh Eaters’ they have to be the worst of the more successful Recycler released technologies.” [I send.]

“Sold to anyone with the credits to buy too even the ‘Free Stellar’. Of course these transactions commenced when the ‘Free Stellar’ and the ‘Conglomerate Recyclers’ were still allies.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They also passed on ‘Coil Wrecker Emitters’ and ‘Leech Mines’ to the ‘Free Stellar’ - the Recyclers live to sell.” [Fae sends.]

“If I recall right they claimed all those sciences were originally stolen and retro engineered not sold.” [I send.]

“The ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ claims a lot of things but they are the principle retro engineers in the ‘Emissary Sphere’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If Paradox Intelligence has their facts right some Recyclers are still happily selling weapons to their enemy despite being at war. They are a strange species.” [I send.]

“That is Recyclers for you even those who are now ‘one with the core’ cant resist making a quick dirty profit.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Why should they care ‘Flesh Eaters’ are no threat to their non living ships?” [Fae sends.]

“True but Leech Mines and Leech Torpedoes are a serious hazard to Recycler shipping even their heavily shielded ‘Jump Masters’. The Recyclers favour large Nested Shields as their primary defence rather than the incorporation of the new Trojan energy sinks while we Paradox now use a combination of both. Leeching systems are the bane of any ship’s shield.” [I send in reply.]

“The Recyclers have had a long love affair with heavy duty shields. I think big Nested Shields make them feel all safe and cosy.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Did they invent Nested Shields?” [Fae sends.]

“I’m not entirely sure I think that development arrived simultaneously from more than one quarter.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Actually I believe the ‘Dwellers’ may have been the first to use Nested Shields but they used the term Stacked Shields. The Recyclers renamed them and for some reason Nested Shields stuck as the preferred label giving the reptiles more glory than they deserved.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Another bit of useless information.” [Fortunate sends rippling with yellow light.]

“You’re most welcome.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I’ve noticed the ‘Conglomerate’ insist in dealing with anyone that they think they can use for whatever their current (too frequently irrational) cause of the moment is. As to average Recyclers it is well known they will trade with anyone period as long as it is profitable.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Often without fully considering the later consequences that is what makes them so problematic.” [Harbinger sends.]

[My Captain scanned around.]

“At least it is peaceful out here.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I monitor as my Captain extrudes some anchor lines before lying down with his back against my hull to interface with my primary life support systems. The others looked at their leader then followed his example. For a while, we all stared silently out through the distortion of the Nested Shields at the bright stars beyond. I could feel my Captain entering a state of shallow meditation in the end it was Fortunate who broke the silence.]

“Some combination ‘Conglomerate’ paranoid meddling combined with their assets - blind mercenary greed - I once believed becoming one with their computer cores might give them other less selfish priorities than trying to keep everyone else at each others throats so they could feast off the consequences.” [Fortunate sends.]

“The ‘Conglomerate’ are once again promoting wealth as the principle measure of Recycler status.” [I send.]

“Where did you hear that?” [Harbinger sends.]

“My source is ‘Living Hull’ gossip; it is amazing what you overhear while docked. In order to motivate their Mercenary Fleet they have instituted a new credit based rank system with special societal privileges for those with especially large assets in the higher bands.” [I send.]

“Such as?” [Harbinger sends.]

“The prime benefit is a higher reproductive status; the very best of hatcheries, guaranteed incubation of all their eggs and so on.” [I send.]

“I wonder what happens to the less successful.” [Fae sends.]

“As I recall the eggs of those deemed a disgrace get ritually eaten.” [I send.]

“Truly grotesque they actually devour their own unborn young - unbelievably horrible.” [Fae sends.]

“I guess it is just another form of recycling.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is cannibalism.” [Fae sends.]

“No I think it is culture shock.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Culture shock or not it is still cannibalism they are truly barbarians these Recyclers.” [Fae sends.]

“As to their arms dealing, the Recyclers have rarely restricted whom they trade to beyond official rhetoric that they all happily ignore whenever they wish. According to scripture even before the Pilgrimage (back in the X Universe) they often sold manufactured goods to outlaws and fenced stolen goods.” [I send.]

“Some things never change. So by making deals with these miscreants we play the Recyclers at their own dirty little game only what we are doing is barely a drop of toxin in a ‘Dead Spheres’ poisoned ocean.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Every journey begins with a single step.” [Harbinger sends.]

“When are we going back to ‘Core Alliance Space’?” [Fortunate sends.]

“I’m in no hurry.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Our actions here are becoming too predictable. The Raiders knew we could hardly refuse to answer that distress beacon. We should go away for a while or do something radically different before they view us with complete contempt.” [Fortunate sends.]

[Harbinger did not reply to Fortunate he just gazed outward, now via Companion-ship I sensed with a mild degree of disquiet.]

“I think I’ve got one.” [Fae sends excitedly.] “It’s not an unrecorded star as such Captain it is a seriously bright anomaly.” [He broadcast the coordinate.]

[We all zoomed in to gaze at a far distant pulsing multi coloured object.]

[Harbinger and I consulted some friendly astronomy Computer Core databases via an exogenous link.]

“That is truly beautiful; congratulations Fae on a seriously good find.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What a fluke.” [Fortunate sends.]

“It must be very new - being so prominent - it certainly deserves a name feel free to do the honours.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Fae registered the object as ‘Alluring Distraction’ (under the category of an unknown Anomaly subcategorised as a delta class luminary false star). Harbinger’s suit glowed with yellow amusement I could feel his pleasure at the name plus his pride in the Acolyte.]

[The conversation died again as the Paradox scanned around for other finds. In the end, I interrupted the lengthening silence although it did not feel uncomfortably stretched.]

“We would be breaking our own emergency response shipping ordinances if we ignored a call for help. Besides it wasn’t entirely faked they forced a real crisis and put civilian lives at risk.” [I send to reinvigorate the discussion on tactics. Harbinger rarely debated his wider thoughts and actions with his Acolytes so occasionally I liked to encourage him when he did. Usually my Captain spoke with me and or to total outsiders first (via exogenous link) before he considered consulting with his family except over very specific technical issues. Besides, I got the feeling Harbinger was pushing at Fortunate to see if he could get him to become a Splitter - by secret design - rather than unfortunate accident, Fortunate was clearly growing beyond being a happy follower.]

“The distress call is not an unusual ambush ploy in various forms; we have come across this sort of thing before.” [Fae sends.]

“We have, nonetheless, it wouldn’t do for us to violate the interstellar codes of conduct we are pushing the ‘Fringe Nations’, the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ and even these outlaws to honour.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It looks like there is only one new luminary.” [I send.]

“Despite new shining anomalies regularly appearing in widely spaced groups rather than as individuals.” [Harbinger sends lecturing his underlings.]

“They sacrifice one decoy ship but get away with five new fully mineral loaded ‘Dweller Living Hull’ Mega Freighters plus hostages - a better than fair exchange.” [Fae sends returning to the recent debacle and sounding very disapproving.]

“They had best make the most of it Freelancers are getting scarce around here already.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Emotionally forced ‘Living Hull’ ownership transferral - is slavery - I would die first.” [I send.]

“You will never be a virtually unarmed ‘Dweller Freighter’ trying to save the life of your captured pilot. Besides ‘Dweller Hulls’ were never bound to a genetic owner as tightly as our ‘Paradox Living Hulls’ are. They often undergo new ownership not that this excuses theft by criminals.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I heard the ‘Free Stellar’ are genetically reengineering some captured vessels converting them into odd looking but effective enough warships.” [I send.]

“If that is true some of them definitely have outside help.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do we want to know about that?” [Fae sends.]

“Maybe not, if we knew we might have to report it.” [Harbinger sends in confession.]

“What do you think it is: a Swimmer, a Paradox or a Hierophant geneticist?” [Fortunate sends.]

“Who knows? I doubt any Hierophant would get involved this far out though, Cad monitors his family very closely.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Fortunate gave the head of his family a long look. While Harbinger gazed at the stars.]

“Even if we can convince the Recyclers and the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ to do the right thing I do not honestly believe we can make the ‘Free Stellar’ the ‘Deep Raiders’ and other pure outlaws abide by restrictive rules of engagement. Such compliance seems especially unlikely during a war their allies are steadily losing.” [Fortunate sends.]

“I disagree we are succeeding already. These brigands are proving more flexible than I expected - far easier to manipulate than our own ‘Stellar Draakhaal’. Getting the ‘Draakhaal’ to behave outside ‘Core Alliance Space’ may be our hardest challenge yet.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I still think we are wasting our time. Even if we do convince one or two groups it is more profitable to fight in a non lethal manner so what?” [Fortunate sends.]

“We can hope that being adaptive others will see the benefits their fellows are getting. I am surprised you cannot see this.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It helps that Hierophant Trend has assured us that our courts can show leniency to some captured criminals.” [I send.]

“Will that work - concessions for those who adopt our shipping rules into their nefarious activities?” [Fae sends.]

“I think so, at least in relation to the preservation of sentient lives.” [I send.]

“What about those who refuse to follow this practice? Many ‘Free Stellar’ feel very bitter towards the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ for example - they feel betrayed - and have long cherished an opportunity to prosecute vendettas against those who weakened ‘Stellar Space’ by migrating to the ‘Sea Spheres’.” [Fae sends.]

“You can never save everyone when the persistent killers luck runs out - and trust me in time it will - they shall receive nothing but oblivion as their reward.” [Harbinger sends darkly.]

“Sounds like you are practicing a speech Captain.” [Fortunate sends.]

“These Outlaws though useful cannot be allowed to kill or to permanently enslave our citizenry (not even ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ citizens) it is bad for our business of controlling ‘Core Alliance’ militant ambitions. We have just survived a civil war I do not relish getting pulled into another even broader conflict.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I could feel an unsurprising surge of conflicted emotions from my Captain when he uttered those words.]

“It is also bad for the retention of simple common sense attitudes of mutual respect and cooperation. No matter how much a little part of us might occasionally want the ‘Draakhaal’ to burn for their many hidden crimes and dodgy activities.” [I send.]

“Too blatant a provocation cannot go unanswered especially by the ‘Void Skimmers’ they are almost genetically predisposed to aggression. What is acceptable is the confiscation of ships and cargo here - under these special circumstances - a little piracy could easily be legitimised but not out and out murder.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Ever since the ‘First Accord’ it has been a question of a fine balance.” [I send.]

“How can we get away with that? Most of these Raiders have no legal authority they are on the surface pure pirates robbing and killing for profit.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Trend is working to have the Raiders and other ‘Free Stellar’ shall we say combatants legally deemed as Privateers enforcing the treaty on behalf of a broad ‘Free Stellar Alliance’ - I know it is a stretch but not an impossible designation.” [I send.]

“Unless they continue to murder our citizens (yes once again I am including the ‘Draakhaal Void Skimmers’). Murders will be used as an excuse for breaking the ‘Second Accord’. We can do without cyclic retaliatory atrocities.” [Harbinger sends to hammer the facts home.]

“If the ‘Draakhaal’ are given a free licence to interfere in ‘Fringe Space’ in my opinion the ‘Free Stellar’ will be doomed. The Recycler ‘Conglomerate’ will win their war and completely domineer the raw material resource market apart from whatever small gains the ‘Draakhaal’ belatedly make in old ‘Stellar Space’.” [I send.]

“I would rather deal with the ‘Free Stellar’ the old triangle of ’Core Alliance’ ‘Free Stellar’ and ‘Conglomerate Recycler’ worked well enough until the Recyclers became greedy and decided they wanted ‘Stellar Space’ as well.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ and the ‘Conglomerate Recyclers’ end up sharing an unsupervised border mark my words that will be the beginning of another war.” [I send.]

“I do not know the Recyclers might have more sense.” [Fae sends.]

“Not when put under constant provocation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You know very high stakes are involved when the Mercenary Navy willingly works for itself.” [I send.]

“They have belatedly come to appreciate the huge power that a full monopoly on ‘Fringe Space’ mining would give them.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So luckily have we I assume in part that is why we are here doing some reconnaissance.” [Fortunate sends.]

“The ‘Draakhaal’ have long waited for an excuse to grab control of ‘Fringe Space’ mineral fields. They want to directly secure access to assets of their own despite our ‘Second Accord’ agreements only to - trade - for bulk raw resources in ‘Fringe Space’.” [I send.]

“Some among the ‘Draakhaal’ think they are ready and strong enough to try and lead us into a full blown confrontation with the Recyclers.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are not much for wasting time.” [Fortunate sends.]

“They are reproducing across the ‘Sea Sphere’ surface areas like a bacterium or a virus: Especially since the ‘Surface War’ officially ended with the general acceptance of the ‘Second Accord’. The only attrition the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ race is suffering now is from duelling and their clan feuds.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Sometimes I wonder did we end that conflict a little too soon?” [Fortunate sends.]

“The Stellar were smart keeping that war limited to ground troops.” [I send.]

“What worries me is that our allied faction’s supporters will be at a disadvantage if they obey our rules of engagement in space while everyone else continues to break them. To me self restraint is a poor strategy for winning a total war.” [Fortunate sends.]

“A total war with the ‘Draakhaal’ is exactly what we are trying desperately to avoid; whatever you choose to believe Fortunate you had best assimilate that fact.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe our refusal to risk all out war is dooming us Harbinger. Maybe we should go for it while we still have some chance of winning against the ‘Void Skimmers’.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Win a - total war - with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ you have to be joking every study shows such a conflict would spiral completely out of control. Even if we could succeed it would be a costly victory that would leave us vulnerable to outside threats like the Recyclers unless we turned the ‘Spheres’ into weapons - an even wider road to perdition.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Self control is essential if we wish to propagate decent standards of law and order - if - that is truly our intent here anything else will be anarchy.” [Fae sends.]

“It could be worse at least we Paradox and the ‘Dwellers’ also retain large populations and military forces on the ‘Sea Sphere’ surfaces now.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Our allies are still badly outnumbered Harbinger.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Perhaps but we still have ‘IF’ and the ‘Stellar Orb’ and the means to bomb them into oblivion with full ‘AM’ warheads if overly provoked.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Nonetheless the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ has a constantly growing capability. All our attempts to limit their war fleets have failed due to illicit deep space conversions and natural ‘Living Hull’ births.” [Fortunate sends.]

“In the short term it may well seem that we are disadvantaged by our rules, still waging a war is about more than military strategy Fortunate. You realise it is quite possible to win every battle you are in but still lose the actual campaign and vice versa especially when you are a democracy like the ‘Core Alliance’ is.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Are we losing to win then?” [Fortunate sends.]

“Something like that. For example the ‘Free Stellar’ can be very prickly our other approaches have failed to catch their imagination. I think this process is showing positive signs that even the Raiders are not just mindless killers and thieves if we can get these pirates to abide by some rules under their own initiative others may well follow.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If you ask me the Raiders only spared their guns because they know we are buying back captives with ‘Core Alliance’ credits at top rates. Now we are worth more to them alive than dead. In addition, they know if they did push us too far they will be very sorry - we are not a lightly armed freighter - they must be aware that we have been restraining ourselves. At least I hope they are otherwise I am afraid they will be laughing at us.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Think of the ransoms as an incentive to begin the process of reform.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Is that truly why we are here to reform these criminals?” [Fortunate sends.]

“Just a few as an inspiration to others.” [I send.]

“The best way to lead is through example. We have confronted them without resorting to destroying any of their ships or killing any of their crew. If you always treat a killer as a killer then he will always be nothing but a killer sometimes it is that simple. We are here to offer an alternative to mayhem.” [Harbinger sends.]

“When you talk like that you sound exactly like that fool Hierophant Trend we will never reform the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ they are what they are. As amusing as some of the rogues here are - on occasion - they are also recidivist lost causes as well.” [Fortunate sends.]

“You do not believe in social engineering? Trend is no fool he has many ideas worth listening to, and - you would give up on these outsiders far too easily - everybody makes mistakes would you withhold redemption from the lost and the needy Fortunate those are the very people who need it most.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Militarily we could have stopped that attack today and set a firm example to the lawbreakers on both sides.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Let go of your pride young Acolyte we have not been defeated and no one is sniggering behind our backs, no one with any sense anyway. Besides even if some do laugh at us it hardly matters.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If they think we are weak they will try to take advantage.” [Fortunate sends.]

“They are putting our Freelancers out of business and we are paying them to do it - that bothers me. What will these Freelance miners and haulers do if they cannot safely run raw material from the ‘Fringes’ to the ‘Core Alliance’ anymore.” [Fae sends.]

“You know Harbinger a few Freelancers have actually joined the same Raiders that put them out of business - they have had enough - some had already been firmly driven out of Recycler Space by the ‘Conglomerate’ and with the fracturing of the elder territories via the ‘Paradox and Dweller Secessions’ with Racial Inner Regions closed to all ‘Core Alliance’ citizens where else can they go.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Social changes even positive ones always leave some victims behind. I fully understand why some veteran freighter pilots solidly blame ‘Core Alliance’ policies for failing to protect them but they are still blatant treaty breakers they had other options.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What harm were they actually doing to the overall ‘Fringe’ economy - precious little - and you cannot blame them for refusing to join a ‘Core Alliance Corporation’ with a freight agreement. You hardly need a pilot to run a ‘Jump Master’ those things just leap from one depot dock to another that isn‘t piloting it’s…actually I don‘t know what it is beyond being tragic.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Progress is progress ‘Jump Masters’ are the new face of interstellar trade whether the old independents like it or not. I miss the old way of doing things myself but ‘Jump Masters’ are far safer and with exceptionally large cargoes far more efficient.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are soulless and despised by real pilots. As more and more corporations use them, the number of pilot redundancies will escalate to epic proportions. It is no wonder the Freelancers are fighting back by doing direct mining operations especially for the rarer ores not to mention smuggling and blockade running high value and illegal goods.” [Fortunate sends.]

“I know - I do understand - but that cannot prevail. I even appreciate that kidnap victims often develop sympathy with their captors. ‘Free Stellar’ Raiders are highly political they can be quite persuasive while the haulers are mostly outgoing and bold Swimmers or Paradox of a particularly independent mindset that is far from alien to the ‘Free Stellar’ way of thinking. Nonetheless if they stay in business unopposed more and more ‘Core Alliance’ opportunists could begin mining and shipping in the fringes instead of trading officially. I know for a fact the ‘Free Stellar’ cannot afford to lose control of their trade profits during this war. The fragile balance of power as it stands could collapse.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Have we also fallen under the sway of ‘Free Stellar’ charisma?” [Fortunate sends.]

“No, we are serving the ‘CA’ and our own people dwelling there.” [Harbinger sends bluntly.]

“That is fine then, obviously our targets will soon be stunned into compliance by our many victories.” [Fortunate sends with sarcasm.]. “I cannot help but think that paying out ransoms is just encouraging more Piracy. This idea of instilling codes of conduct for thieves simply legitimises larceny as an occupation.”

“It is a dying occupation Fortunate but like a drug they need to be carefully weaned off it.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I’m all for a bit of well directed larceny.” [Fae sends with a ripple of yellow.]

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you assist Efficient and Unholy.” [Harbinger sends with a yellow glow of his own.]

“I think the Recycler ‘Conglomerate’ and some of the ‘Core Alliance Corporations’ legitimised larceny a long time ago.” [I send.]

“Piracy encouraged the development of the ‘Jump Masters’. ‘Fringe’ based outlaws started the chemical reaction of their own demise by being too successful.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Well you have yet to convince me that what we are doing will be effective or make the right difference even if it does work and if they are a dying breed why should we bother at all?” [Fortunate sends.]

“I’m watching you Fortunate when did you get so opinionated? Trust me I know what I am doing; we are just one small cog in a much bigger mechanism and as I keep saying, they are useful. This way in the long term we might be able to save pilots from both factions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Have a little faith Acolyte.” [I send.]

“Have you noticed how very much more beautiful the stars seem now we are not cocooned by that dark nebula.” [Fae sends changing the subject.]

“Why are - we in particular - really doing this Captain?” [Fortunate sends in reply although he could not resist looking out from the sleek curves of my slowly repairing hull to also view the Sea of Stars in all their splendour. In fact the thin atmosphere created by my nested shields helped to magnify their glow. In particular, Fortunate studied First’s well-named ‘Alluring Distraction’.]

“If not us then who else would do it?” [Harbinger sends casting more yellow light.] “Don’t you like doing this?”

“I am always happy to serve, but all our recent activity seems; I hope you will forgive my bluntness - a bit trivial and ineffective - in relation to the grand scheme. So much is happening now and we are playing with a few pirates in a backwater nebula. We should be at the hub of events not on its fringe - pardon the pun.” [Fortunate sends.]

“Fortunate you are coming down with a severe case of ‘Stellar Orb’ fever. Bigger isn‘t always better.” [Harbinger sends with another amber glimmer.]

“People are forgetting about us Harbinger, we deserve better than that after all we have been through during the so called limited ‘Surface War’ that followed ‘Draakhaal’s Accord’. We could make a real difference what are we doing out here? Seriously this is a waste of our potential.” [Fortunate sends.]

“We will be forgotten about in my dreams, have you ever considered that sometimes it is the smallest things that make for the kindest most sympathetic changes? Anyway, I am glad to escape the entanglements of the ‘Core Alliance’ for a while. You should also ask yourself this: What has fame or effectiveness got to do with doing the right thing?” [Harbinger sends.]

“What is the point in undertaking a senseless task for little or no reward? I fear bribing these Pirates will just result in losing their respect and staying out here could well tarnish our own reputation I can already hear some rival ‘Core Alliance’ politicians accusing us of going native.” [Fortunate sends.]

“I am no demagogue, and right now you sound like a Recycler. We are saving people here such activities are never futile or unrewarding even if those we save fail to appreciate us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We save them today only for them to suffer the same fate tomorrow. Some we are leaving with nothing. How does an owner pilot support himself without a ship?” [Fortunate sends.]

“An interesting question speak with me again when you have figured out the answer.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Fortunate regarded my Captain while Harbinger looked out to the stars and I basked for a while.]

“Enough this star gazing break is over, it is time to get up and go back to ‘Koordaann’s Reef’. We have to arrange the release of the latest captives.” [Harbinger sends whilst tapping Fortunate with a friendly extruded appendage.]

[They all detached from my hull then stood up although the standing up bit was not strictly necessary.]

‘Many Truths’ please warp us inside.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I readily complied having my Captain on the outside of my hull always made me a little bit nervous - accidents can happen to even the most experienced space farers - especially when they are just protected by a suit.]

[Location: The Many Truths, Koordaann’s Reef, Haemal’s Shroud, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 11:22.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

[As usual, we had to jump in well back from the base then flew in through ‘Exit Destabilise Pulse Generator’ flares that lit up the dark nebula of ‘Haemal’s Shroud’ like sheet lightning. The effect reminded me of fantastic weather in the - virtual reality - ‘X planet’ immersive game popular with some ‘Dwellers’ even our friend Tleeboosuu. Each flash here however revealed large jagged rocky asteroid silhouettes and smoky curling dusty particles not exotic islands rising up from a stormy sea.]

[‘Koordaann’s Reef’ had been around long before ‘First Accord’ and the creation of ‘Fringe Space’ although few back then had known of its existence. The spotlight on the Recycler war and the discovery of the creature named Koordaann by the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ had more recently made the Reef rightly famous in many quarters.]

[‘Koordaann’s Reef’ had once been a Trojan Professors lair that explained the regions terrifying and wicked defences. The specific Professor even had a known name Haemal Pentaprism and before he departed (to no one knew exactly where) he apparently bequeathed his base of operations almost intact to the ‘Stellar’ rogues he had captured and employed in his genetic research, or so they at least claimed as the only recorders of this particular history.]

[Now ‘Koordaann’s’ Reef was named after the most monstrous of Haemal’s creations that just happened to be the regions nominal ruler. According to some legends Koordaann had ate Haemal and his ship whole but Koordaann emphatically denied that he had chomped down on his maker. At any rate the area was now designated as a neutral Freeport owned and occupied by the ‘Altered Stellar’.]

[In truth ’Koordaann’s Reef’ had become the largest and safest gathering site for Pirates in known Space. The Reef itself was an asteroid studded dark nebula the substance of which had formed the Trojan Professors Lair in the truest of senses. Long ago, Haemal hollowed out every substantive asteroid to make his sprawling laboratory complex. Each bolder linked together by permanent warp gates so that when inside the structure seemed almost contiguous rather than a fractured amalgamation of disparate pieces like the broken three-dimensional puzzle it appeared to be from the outside or on a map.]

[Smaller asteroids generally hid automated equipment including passive and aggressive defensive systems that probably rivalled anything Hierophant used discounting the ‘Stellar Orb’. If the hidden technology was not enough protection, the deadly void dwelling Monstrous Kraken that was Koordaann and his lesser spawn constantly patrolled the gaps between the huge asteroids like oddly animated ‘Living Hulls’. Luckily, the ‘Altered’ ruler of the Reef and its drone like children were surprisingly peaceful. Koordaann only acted when his/her/its domain suffered an attack or when the peace between guests required lethal enforcement. The ‘Altered’ did not tolerate fighting here beyond immediate demonstrable self-defence the penalty for breaking the peace being a quick death.]

[We parked among an eclectic mix of spacecraft including several ‘Draakhaal Void Master ‘Living Hulls’ sprouting ‘Raw Energy Siphons’. Both Koordaann and his kin fascinated the ‘Draakhaal’. They perceived in the giant beast an alternative path for their space swimming future. Koordaann’s impressive physicality was perhaps the only rival vision they openly honoured although the genetically created Space Kraken constantly snubbed their advances and refused to permit genetic sampling, the ‘Draakhaal’ in turn refused to go away. Koordaann simply ignored the ‘Void Skimmers’ to their deep frustration.]

[We warped directly over to the loud crowded inner port city known simply as ‘Home’. The habitat felt like a bright jewel of settlement hidden in an inky well of sinister darkness. Among the asteroids, occasional glimpses of Koordaann and his spawn also contributed to any inexperienced visitor’s nervousness - Koordaann would be an intimidating presence anywhere but here in the dark... By contrast inside what had been Haemal’s laboratory you could almost taste the people’s raw lust for life and freedom a flavour enhanced by the ephemeral nature of many of its visitor’s career stunted longevity as brigands.]

[Harbinger and I had fallen in love with this habitat almost at first sight it was unique and had helped save us from a degree of despair. It had not been our first port of call we had trouble settling after leaving ‘Core Alliance Space’. It had also given us a deeper appreciation for outlaws and we were not alone in that. Travelling to the ‘Mix’ for example, we passed a lone Paradox pilgrim Priest Splitter famous for his wrestling who had happily accepted the name of Cries Havoc. Cries had become a permanent resident he waved a Shroud Suit tentacle to us in frantic salute while entertaining a group of ‘Stellar’ fans with various poses and manipulation field enhanced acrobatics.]

[Only the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ seemed immune to ’Homes’ vivacious spirit as they glided through the busy crowds using anti gravity suspensor modules. The ‘Draakhaal’ naturally seemed to form dark sinister obstacles about which brighter eddy flowed. To me the ‘Draakhaal’ were dull rocks rolling through a sea of brash colour.]

[Most of the traffic here consisted of ‘Free Stellar’ wearing multicoloured dry suits among these those who considered themselves pirates in particular displayed added physical and virtual trophies and honour badges indicating: past victories, clan affiliation and even temporary alliances. Weapons though worn acted mostly as symbols due to the strict law level of the facility.]

[‘Home’ was the one place where Renegades could be loud and proud about their life choices without having to fight. Surprisingly the second largest group consisted of Renegade ‘Free Recyclers’ also showing clan colours. Members of the ‘Recycler Conglomerate’ were much thinner on the ground and often haunted by mottled uniformed ‘Altered’ security guards. Most people here barely tolerated any ‘Conglomerate’ Recyclers presence even the ‘Draakhaal’ were preferred to ‘Machine Heads’.]

[Surprisingly the ‘Altered’ also made up a minority here. Although they took many forms those most commonly interacted with were largely descendant from Haemal’s co-opted laboratory assistants. Atmospheric breathing Swimmers who employed sophisticated anti gravity fields for transit purposes this subgroup included the stations security forces, traders and property owners.]

“Home is beginning to feel like a home from home.” [I send to Harbinger.]

“When you travel extensively you never know where you may - find - yourself.” [Harbinger replied glowing brightly yellow.]

[I often thought finding this place had saved both of us from the horrid grip of despair. We entered the ‘Mix’ as three among a constant stream of two-way traffic. The Casino and Cantina spawned numberless: plots, deals, schemes, frauds, and transactions. The ‘Mix’ was populated by infamous gamblers, pirates, thieves, killers, freedom fighters, traitors, non governmental charitable organisation members, refugees, explorers, security forces, spies, wrestlers, entertainers, agents, entrepreneurs, moguls, engineers, technicians, ship captains, crew, and even a scattering of official ambassadors and envoys with most people here being a combination of several of these titles in one package.]

[We ordered some Trojan Alcohol claimed a table to stand around and waited an approach. Our business here was already well known. We didn‘t have to wait long due to the power of increasingly widespread exogenous communications.]

“Harbinger so good to see you.” [Enthused Isshhuu with smiling stalks from inside the protection of a fancy dry suit.]

[It is an interesting fact that most scoundrels still liked to do deals in person despite all the ‘Emissary Spheres’ sophisticated communications technologies. I put this down to a certain criminal mindset which tended to go along with an over inflated ego.]

“I should have guessed members of your lot where responsible.” [Harbinger sends.]

“My lot, please Harbinger remember my position here. I am merely a broker of deals a facilitator of transactions. I have no need or desire of firm affiliations; to such as I that would be a self-administered elixir of poison. What I do have is a great many clients who prefer to remain largely anonymous.” [Isshhuu sends.]

“Who am I to argue if such deceptions make you happy. So what is the damage this time for the release of the intercepted packages.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I regret the price has gone up by approximately one fifth. My clients said to tell you that you almost caught them that time. They say doing business with you around is getting expensive. They say it is your actions that are driving up the cost to your clients they say you should cease trying to avoid paying by chasing after them and simply broker these deals after the conclusion of their business is complete. They say that would be much cheaper and involve a lot less personal risk for everyone concerned.” [Isshhuu sends.]

“They say a lot. I have my position to maintain, they have theirs.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Your position is beginning to make them nervous Harbinger. They said to tell you nervous people make regrettable mistakes.” [Isshhuu sends.]

“Perhaps we are pushing too hard too fast.” [I privately send to Harbinger.]

“Greedy people make mistakes as well. I am not an unreasonable person Isshhuu; I am always open to other suggestions you know what I want.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am not sure I do know what you want anymore, would you care to tell me?” [Isshhuu sends.]

“I want to stop this constant predation on innocent ‘Core Alliance’ ships.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Isshhuu nodded at the half-truth.]

“Innocent? Still I will pass on your words even though I imagine what you ask is impossible. Now about the payment these are the precise figures per item and in total, coordinates will be issued upon receipt of the funds.” [Isshhuu sends transmitting the price data.]

“Fine, you can remind them I expect all items to be in good condition at the drop.” [Harbinger sends.]

“My clients are not ‘Draakhaal barbarians’.” [Isshhuu sends before getting up and leaving.]

“You know since I became involved with the ‘Stellar Orb’ and the Arch Chancellor I have told a shocking number of lies even to my own family.” [Harbinger privately sends to me.]

“You are too hard on yourself Harbinger you think you are running away but I think of it more as a sensible strategic withdrawal and so do the Hierophants and most of our other friends that know the facts. If we stayed in ‘Core Alliance’ space sooner or later some avenging ‘Stellar’ would have murdered you for killing Draakhaal and refusing to accept the banishment order.” [I send.]

“Much good that action did our cause, though I confess (and I’m not proud of this) it did feel awesomely good at the time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I was stunned when they simply replaced him and didn’t even acknowledge the fact that he had been assassinated.” [I send.]

“Being recently reborn would have weakened Draakhaal’s position even if his captured memories were very much up to date their desire to retain a full tenure of continuity for their leader among the masses was all that saved me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose it is too late to expose his replacement now even if we wanted to.” [I send.]

“I cannot believe I agreed to submit to a period of voluntary banishment for my crime.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“You have a very strong following among the more militant ‘Dwellers’ Harbinger it was the only way to prevent the resumption of the ‘Surface War’.” [I send.]

“I know but it still rankles that I had to give my word to the ‘Core Alliance Stellar Court’ and slink off quietly.” [Harbinger sends.]

“By leaping in first and cutting Draakhaal down you saved Unholy. His rage would not have been so restrained - it was a noble sacrifice - they would have done more than banish our friend if he had attempted what you succeeded in doing. What you did took everyone by surprise.” [I send.]

“It took me by surprise. It all happened so quickly I knew nothing lesser would have stopped Unholy and his Acolytes wouldn’t have stood aside either. In a flash of insight I saw the whole situation erupting into a senseless bloody battle that I would have been dragged into anyway. I couldn’t stand aside and watch all our hard work being undone by one deliberate provocation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I’ll always remember how the Tyrant died with a sharp shaped shield reinforced Shroud Suit extruded spike in his face. Then to make sure you instantly pumped an obscene amount of suit substance into his skull.” [I send.]

“His head exploded apart rather messily in an incredibly satisfying manner.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I thought Draakhaal’s bodyguards would rip you to pieces before the Arch Chancellors almost headless remains floated to the floor.” [I send.]

“I think they were stunned. It was not what they expected to happen, the Void Skimmers where all well placed to counter Unholy and his Acolytes not me, when I leapt in using my manipulation field to them it was almost as if I warped in from nowhere.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Unholy Terror was set up for the fall Harbinger; you were just supposed to be the witness that was how they planned to punish you to make you watch your friend die. Instead, the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ witnessed you butchering their esteemed Arch Chancellor. Do you regret what you did?” [I send.]

“No, given the same choices I would do exactly the same thing all over again. I‘ll abide by my word, but I swear the new Arch Chancellor will get little profit and much woe out of my banishment.” [Harbinger sends drawing a large quantity of alcohol into his suit.]

[Harbinger looked around at the other clientele of the premises.]

“All the archetypes are present here. Sometimes the more you travel the more it appears some things stay the same. Cultures vary shapes diverge but people with a few exceptions are people and places are places. This is a good spot but sometimes it feels a little crowded. You know it is almost as if our Universe has only so many building blocks that are simply rearranged and even then they often seem to habitually fall into certain rigid patterns.” [Harbinger sends to me whilst drawing in some more Trojan alcohol.]

“Are you feeling alright?” [I send.]

“I think I have allowed myself to get a little drunk. Does that bother you?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not if it doesn’t bother you.” [I send.]

“That it does is a very astute observation.” [Harbinger sends I could sense he was troubled.]

“So what is the matter?” [I send.]

“Nothing important.” [Harbinger sends drinking some more.]

“Tell me if you cannot tell me - in the privacy of your own head - who can you tell?” [I send.]

[Harbinger paused to consider that truth.]

“Just remember you asked. Where to begin: when I… when I was killing Draakhaal I was sure it would have fatal consequences for me and I - I did not care. Can you believe that? It meant nothing to me if I died and instead of this lack of emotion feeling terrible and negative - it actually felt wonderful - invigorating. I felt liberated from all my other obligations from every burden and responsibility beyond saving Unholy and murdering that ‘Stellar’ nightmare. The future lost all consequence - nothing mattered - I just accepted the inevitable. It was triple cursed strange even though it all happened in an instant it gave me an empathy and sympathy with / for the fanatical; that is something I never thought I would share.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I see, let me guess you are wrongly feeling guilty for having those inclinations. You worry it was some kind of cowardly surrender as well - an act of self immolation - rather than a selfless act of friendship and a just execution of someone we know is a devious and despicable felon even if we cannot prove it?” [I send.]

“All action is selfish - we always choose to do what we want - I knew killing Draakhaal wouldn‘t be the end of him or his policies. As to Unholy I could have chosen to step aside what he did was on his own conscience, or I could have tried to restrain him in some manner, but I did not, now I ask myself why?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Restrain Unholy he is a very skilled wrestler - when he focuses - good as you are he would have sent you flying Harbinger.” [I send.]

[Harbinger’s Shroud Suit rippled with yellow light.]

“You know you are probably right.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What is so funny?” [Fortunate sends to his mentor.]

“Nothing, just a private joke with MT.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You have been under a lot of stress lately Harbinger. I am no expert but I am sure your feelings were natural enough given the remarkable circumstances of the time, certainly they are nothing to be ashamed of.” [I send.]

“I have come close to death on several occasions but never to my recollection have I ever felt anything quite like that. I admit it shook me up a bit afterwards.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You should take some time to properly recuperate from your travails soon.” [I send.]

“Keeping busy seemed like the best coping strategy - it still does. I really do not want to think about it. I should not be thinking about it now; it is an unwanted distraction. How did we get onto this topic of conversation anyway?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Wallowing is bad news but ignoring can be dangerous too. Untreated wounds often fester.” [I send recalling my own recent experience with the ‘Flesh Eaters’.]

“I’m not so sure this time, please kindly forget I mentioned it.” [Harbinger sends embarrassed.]

[I spoke no more words I just embraced my Priest Captain with projected feelings of love and support via our Companion-ship link.]

“Cursed Trojan alcohol must be making me maudlin, enough of this nonsense we still have some important work to do.” [Harbinger sends.]

“There is no need for you to go back onboard immediately. I can do the pick up with the rest of the family if you wish.” [I send.]

“No like I said - forget it - I‘m fine, I don‘t want a big issue made of a little chemically induced emotional wobble. I like to be onboard when we collect the captives. For a start they are sometimes a bit nervous about going temporarily into our Paradox sleeper stasis modules.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I decided to let it go; lest pushing too hard stopped my Captain from confiding in me.]

[I was sure banishment was on Harbinger’s mind too. While our quietly imposed sentence only covered the environs of the ‘Core Alliance’ that was the principle area we had lately expended so much of our effort in. The new Draakhaal was sure to take advantage of our absence in some manner; our resistance had been a constant nuisance to his regime.]

[Harbinger was also bound to be missing some of our friends and associates. Directly prior to our banishment we had spent an awful lot of time at ‘Green Orb Alpha’ discussing political, technological, economic and social development policies among other things at Hierophant Cad’s well appointed ‘Trojan Dock’ with a coterie of intellectuals including several Hierophants with similar views on the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’. Even I missed those dynamic discussions. Of course we were still in touch with everyone by exogenous communications but it wasn‘t the same as physically meeting in places like the ‘Trojan Spires Garden’. We usually drank Trojan Tea there not alcohol. Although some of our old associates had promised to visit us (the few who knew the truth behind our exodus), when that would occur was anybodies guess.]

[Of course we had been lucky in finding ‘Koordaann’s Reef’. This place had become a fascinating new home to us, and had up until now assisted in keeping our morale up with its many eccentricities. Nonetheless, helping in our own small way to keep the ‘Core Alliance’ on track remained our principle self-employment.]

[Since discovering the ‘Stellar Orb’, our anomalous researches had become far less central to my Priest Captain’s ever-evolving vision. Now we were all about positive development not domineered by the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ extreme and uncompromising racial ambitions. Here we found ourselves meddling in ‘Fringe Space’ on behalf of ‘CA’ largely under our own initiative but with the assistance of some direct funding via under the table charitable donations from the Hierophants among other well-wishers.]

[Harbingers plan here being to assist the ‘Free Stellar’ in their war against the Recyclers in largely indirect and reasonably covert ways. How matters here would work out though was uncharted territory. We were sure we were far from the only ‘Core Alliance’ citizen with plans to help the ‘Free Stellar’. In addition, ‘Dweller Intelligence’ was no doubt involved too. Harbinger as ever hoped to avoid any direct entanglements with ‘DI’ but this was increasingly difficult especially since we had been involved with the surprisingly efficient ‘Surface Dweller Legions’ during the protracted skirmishes and battles of the ‘Surface War’.]

“Do not forget we finally have a scheduled audience with the mighty Koordaann this evening.” [I send.]

“I could hardly forget that appointment.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Something to look forward to.” [I send.]

“Please, I am beginning to regret telling you about my feelings already in fact I order you to tag and remove all memory of that conversation from you and I.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Harbinger you cannot be serious.” [I send in protest I did not even like occasionally editing our Acolytes memories so the idea of hacking data from our own brains was repulsive to me. This process felt almost like self-harming or maiming ourselves.]

“Do it. I‘m not putting up with you constantly worrying about my mental state because of one little moment of weakness. In fact I also want my memory of the event itself edited to remove how I felt at the time - can you be that specific.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Yes but are you sure you really want me to I‘ll need full authorisation.” [I send.]

[Harbinger granted me temporary administration access to his implant.]

“I cannot believe you want me to do this. Are you sure you don’t want to wait to give it some more thought.” [I send.]

“No get on with it.” [Harbinger sends I could sense his growing agitation with my prevarication.]

[I checked to see how drunk my Captain was. I realised not drunk enough for me to ignore his command on medical grounds.]

“Very well if you insist.” [I send.]

“I do.” [Harbinger sends.]

[As I began tagging the already widespread information, I found I was wondering what else Harbinger might have had me edit out in the past. It made me angry that I soon wouldn‘t even know what I would be missing and nor would he. I never thought Harbinger would use that ultra high security protocol on us. Secretly I made a backup of all the memories in a deep store archive to my shock it was anything but alone in there. Obviously, we had done this before - many times - unfortunately just like the new data, the other memories were completely secure even from me by a cleverly timed out synchronised - read memory block - I learned that otherwise the information could only automatically surface under a few very special conditions none of which currently applied.]

“Deleting the memories now.” [I send. I felt a little more happy at knowing nothing was lost forever. I did a proper and thorough job of the cascade and edit.]

[Milliseconds later…]

“I’m looking forward to speaking with Koordaann thanks for reminding me of my appointment.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are most welcome. It wouldn‘t do to upset our benevolent dictator.” [I send.]

“I agree it would not, Fortunate, Fae we are leaving.” [Harbinger sends.]
Last edited by Paranoid66 on Wed, 7. Oct 09, 13:17, edited 21 times in total.
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Posts: 2965
Joined: Tue, 19. Apr 05, 10:59

Post by Paranoid66 » Tue, 5. May 09, 11:23

^^ Fixed a few errors and added a couple of extra lines that seemed important to the background of the later timeline.

Sorry would have corrected this earlier but got mugged by the May Day bank holiday. :)
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Posts: 2965
Joined: Tue, 19. Apr 05, 10:59

Post by Paranoid66 » Fri, 15. May 09, 11:22


[Location: The Many Truths, Dark Coordinate, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 13:06.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

[Three Jump capable drone scouts leaped in ahead of us and began a rapid sensor survey of the drop site and its occupant Life Pods.]

[Our remote reconnaissance deep scanned both inorganic and living material. The emergency craft had been crudely physically disabled: their short-range engines melted down to slag, their communications ripped out, and they were on limited suit air and water - so far so standard. Then we encountered a disturbing discrepancy well all discrepancies are a little disturbing to the ordered mind.]

“Sometime I hate surprises. Just look at these figures. What is going on with our Raider friends? Why have these mercenary scum sent us unpaid for extra prisoners?” [Harbinger sends to me alarmed and angry.]

“By the ‘Emissary’ Harbinger - I am astounded - that these pirates are proving to be unreliable felons.” [I send with amusement.]

[In return, my Captain ignored my jovial sarcasm a mild rebuke in itself.]

[Instead of twenty-seven Freelancer pilots and crew, we detected eighty-four distinct and varied life signs including twelve Cybernetic Recyclers.]

[More civilians than we had bargained for and a degree of species variety we could do without.]

[Harbinger directing our operations from within his virtual bridge sent the information on to the members of the rest of the family who needed to know.]

[Inside my body, Acolyte Paradox Marines mustered accepting data burst instructions and set about their duties. We even activated our independent tactical operations room.]

“So what do you think?” [I send.]

“I know pirate boarders sometimes pretend to be civilian survivors but these extra numbers seem far too obvious for that old ploy.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Whatever is going on here you can bet it is to their benefit not ours; they would not give away hostages for free without a good reason.” [I send.]

“What do you think is worrying me? They probably want us to drop our security precautions to speed up the pickup process.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Unless we are both being a bit paranoid and the pirates had an embarrassment of riches. They might need to be rid of some prisoners cluttering up their operation.” [I send.]

“I suppose anything is possible, but I doubt it unless it is some kind of good will gesture but why here and now?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Our plan could be working and their only other option was to murder these victims. I am not sure I really believe that though as they have previously proven to be far too credit grasping to just give hostages away.” [I send.]

“Unless these additions are not ‘Core Alliance’ citizens they might wrongly believe we will only pay for our own.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I still think they would have at least tried to get more credits from us, these are the same felons who just raised their prices.” [I send.]

“Why do I get the feeling our own resolve is being tested.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What choices do we have. People know we have struck this deal. We cannot go away and abandon these civilians to their fate it would be tantamount to murder.” [I send.]

“Once again they are challenging us to break our own rescue accords - maybe they are pushing us to see if we are really honourable or just want them to be.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Pirates do enjoy playing games with the lives of others.” [I send.]

“They also love to gamble. Still if we do not do something soon those civilians will quickly asphyxiate (look at some of these suit levels) - so we stick to the scheme - and take as few chances as possible.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Raiders like to force our hand time wise I think it gives them a feeling of mastery over us.” [I send.]

“It is also no doubt a bit of sport to them - a morale boosting exercise - another cursed pirate game. If needed we can warp over some spare life support tanks that should buy us just enough leeway.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Unhappy with the changes but as satisfied as we could be with our precautions so far we jump in. We shimmer out of a blissful wormhole tunnel of light to emerge into an illusionary perceptive infinity of glittering darkness. We arrive ten kms away from our targets; not too close and not too far in fact just inside our deadly Tri-gun weapon’s range.]

[Our secondary jump drive is ready to facilitate an - immediate - without delay withdrawal if required. On specific orders, I extrude approximately one third of my turrets and the same percentage of missile and torpedo tubes. As far as we know that was all the weaponry the Raiders knew we could deploy we planned to keep them in ignorance for as long as possible.]

[My Captain drops nine ‘Devil Fish’ Remoras each of these remote fighters have twin fixed forward firing Tri-guns and a small magazine of ‘AM’ ammunition they rocket away to act as powerful close in guards for the Life Pods.]

[Beta Clone Gunners shift from virtual into hard reality and begin actively scanning for targets. Outside apart from our own drones there is no obvious signs of activity beyond the Pods blinking lights.]

[The Life Pods: well lit up and difficult to miss were small ovoid shaped objects collapsible when not in use for easy storage. Annoyingly they should have built in temporal stasis fields to keep their passengers safe for the maximum possible duration, but to keep the pressure on the Raiders always disabled those as well, they normally drugged the captives instead.]

[We circle for a while - feeling tense - expecting a deliberate or unintentional betrayal by the Raiders. Some other group might have monitored the Raider’s earlier activity - it wouldn‘t be the first time.]

[Coordinates of pickups have a habit of leaking out eventually (spies are everywhere these days due to widespread integrated exogenous communications often built right into Reborn clone replacement’s neural nets). Exogenous communications had become another only partially successful safeguard against non-sanctioned Id interference via auto logging aggressive hacks to ‘Core Alliance’ central monitoring computer cores. Unfortunately Exogenous instant universe wide communications also opened up new channels for abuse by lawbreakers and other shady characters. It was said that ‘news travelled faster than light’.]

[Smart people in deep space kept their captives either heavily drugged or in stasis. The use of temporal stasis was a popular solution for the transit of legitimate deep space passengers. Ship Captains and pilots feared the employment of exogenous communication location beacon’s from insider agents to pirates, competitors and faction enemies. Otherwise ferries and so on increasingly made safe direct port-to-port jumps. Only those with a purpose out there like sightseeing cruises, military patrols, smugglers, illicit resource harvesters and so on took in the black.]

[While such measures as exogenous auto calls made unskilled tampering with neural implants difficult and perilous those capable of a very fast or particularly subtle or talented hack could still prevent any call going out. Further although successful illicit mind alterations (discounting self generated reports) were increasingly detectable by using forensic methods you needed the luxury of time, and the right equipment to do a very careful analysis - something that was often far from practical on the ground. Therefore, subtle memory and personality alterations at least by those using cutting edge technologies remained an effective solution for the purposes of creating spies, saboteurs and assassins.]

[The ‘Stellar’ wide use of clones for nefarious and legitimate purposes had spread many bad habits among the better-equipped lawbreakers. Today it remained prudent to believe that no persons mind (unless you had tested them) was ever fully sacrosanct from potential external corruption. The only exception to the paranoid rule of - doubt every one - was Paradox Priests and ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ Recyclers.]

[Paradox continued only to interact with the wider universe through the protective isolation of their sophisticated Shroud Suits. Shroud Suits that as far as we knew still sufficed against all attempts to breach our constantly updated security protocols. Paradox propaganda that insisted that it did not pay to even try to tamper with our minds was largely deemed true even by our enemies. While ‘Conglomerate’ Recyclers mental integrity was closely monitored by the computer cores they had become one with.]

[Luckily, illicit clone substitution was not widespread except in certain circles but it was a big enough problem to facilitate a specialised ‘Core Alliance’ Clone Hunter police force with it own Mind Crime subdivision. Uncovering infiltrators mostly among the ‘Dweller’ and ’Surface’ Swimmers was a dirty and dangerous business mostly headed up by Paradox operatives simply known as ‘Inquisitors’.]

[We knew all too well that ignoring the additional Life Pod survivors any Reborn Freelancer we came here to collect could potentially have been replaced with a full force grown clone or simply been memory and or personality edited at some point in their past.]

[Those who operated out in the dark especially in war zones were perfect victims for Mind Crime. The captives we freed from the Raiders where normally heavily sedated by their gaolers and put hastily into stasis by us until we reached a safe port whence their integrity could be verified by forensic analysis. That the surplus survivors among this lot seemed fully active and alert was either unusually sloppy by their captors or we decided a sinister and deliberate condition for unknown purposes.]

“I do not like this ‘MT’ it is possible the Raiders have sold us out.” [Harbinger sends.]

[We deploy our delicate advanced sensor masts and sweep for (tiny in standby mode) Jump Harbour apertures with negative results.]

[As ever, we endeavour to cover every possibility. Still recently, the Splinter generally avoided us as too much trouble, besides most of that species was busily engaged in increasingly frenetic front line war operations against the Recyclers elsewhere.]

[Our sources had revealed that persistent attempts by ‘Conglomerate’ agents and naval forces to steal the secret of Jump Harbours had combined the Splinter and ‘Free Stellar’ into an unlikely alliance. The Recyclers were now renowned as recidivist technology thieves while scientific advances were forcing the Splinter to revise their habits and nature in many ways just like everyone else.]

[The use of ‘Jump Masters’ (direct dock to dock wormhole bulk transporters) began the process of Splinter reform by starving them of easy mercantile shipping targets beyond an ever diminishing number of desperate Freelance merchant shippers - unable or unwilling to adapt - just like those we were here to collect. However, more powerful weapon systems had also taken their toll on Splinter fighters so that they were beginning to supplement their forces with potent drones and even to use bigger ships - innovation was rife.]

[Harbinger has my Beta Gunners search for minor visual distortions like those caused by larger ‘Static Stealth Fields’ when combined with ‘Gravity Balancers’. These two technologies once the sole preserve of nefarious ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ units had been stolen and retro engineered by the Recyclers then sold on to others (a too familiar pattern of technology proliferation).]

[Today Static Stealth Fields and Gravity Balancers were favourite tricks of dishonourable ambushers everywhere. Using SSF and GB, you could become invisible to casual detection even by gravity sensors as long as you stayed still in silent mode and used passive sensors. Then as a brigand, all you needed to pounce upon an innocent victim was a suitable lure. If an enemy had discovered the location of our pick up, they could be all around us unseen. A scary thought as those who get a lock on and fire first have a high percentage chance of winning any engagement in space.]

[Satisfied at last that the Dark Coordinate appeared free of the more obvious traps we sent our salvage drones out to collect a singular pod. We could have handled larger numbers at once but that would be a less secure solution especially with these unrestrained passengers. Once onboard each pod would have its compliment of survivors unloaded under tight Acolyte Marine supervision one person at a time it was going to be a long and nervy operation.]

[Harbinger with support usually then greeted and guided the confused rescued parties to their stasis chambers in person. As long as the Dark Coordinate remained free of any clear and present danger, he decided to keep to these arrangements although I argued it was not entirely prudent for him to do this personally today.]

“I can call the bridge up at any time. I am especially keen to get a look at this lot, clearly something odd is going on, maybe I can sniff out what it is.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Sounds like a good reason to let our Marines handle it.” [I send.]

“No I want to be there in person to get a feel for these unexpected guests at least for the first few.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So much for our planned short mission duration.” [I send.]

“Nonetheless we are quite capable of handling this many.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have decanted a few extra family members to free up some more stasis pods our life support can easily cope with the added strain as long as we are not out too long. Of course it will mean a little physical overcrowding.” [I send.]

“They can meld into your hull to sleep in real time or enter a virtual reality if necessary.” [Harbinger sends.]

[We watched via tri-optics as our drones drag the first Pod into manipulation beam range a beta clone gunner then grasped it and directly hauled it into warp distance. The pod shimmered and disappeared as the whole machine passengers and all warped onboard via the generation of a targeted mobile almost instantaneously degrading wormhole.]

[Harbinger warped across to our main hold to meet the Pods occupants as they commenced to be processed. To monitor everything I split my conscious perception between the inner and outer activity. Harbinger also kept three inserted HUD visuals of external developments running. It took no time at all to learn our uninvited guests were supposedly refugees from a recently damaged Independent mining facility attacked by a ‘Conglomerate’ force. The Raiders neutral to the base and already in residence had assisted in fighting off the probing action but it had left the facility uninhabitable.]

[Knowing a ‘Conglomerate’ attack group had an interest in the general vicinity (even a Recycler force that had been defeated) enhanced our worries. Chances were that party had simply assaulted a target of opportunity while scouting as part of a much larger fleet but we continued our mission as before. We had salvaged two pods without incident then we came across an old associate of sorts.]

[The female Swimmer Leeruu was using another name but our genetic database recognised her even if Harbinger did not. She had once worked for Tleeboosuu during ‘Opal Pearls’ now somewhat questionable rebellion from the Arch Chancellor’s home ‘Sea Sphere’ of ‘Opal Prime’.]

“Leeruu what brings you here?” [Harbinger sends to the agent.]

“I doubt this is an accident or chance.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“May we talk privately?” [Leeruu asked quietly.]

“You mean away from your fellow refugees?” [Harbinger said.]

“We should drug her immediately then put her in temporal stasis. She is bound to have Exogenous communications and is a blatant security risk given her occupation.” [Sends a Paradox Marine called Nothing for Nothing to Harbinger via private communications.]

“My security says I should drug you and put you in Stasis straight away.” [Harbinger stated bluntly.]

“If you do that my friend any intelligence I have will arrive late. By the way if you try to hack my implant it will scramble every byte of data worth having even if it turns my mind into a dysfunctional insane maelstrom of fractured data.” [Leeruu stated boldly.]

“Now what makes you think I would do something crude like that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I know all about your species little mind tricks, I served in the ‘Surface War’ under Uaaliss. We often worked with Paradox Priest Marines and Agents not to mention Interrogation Experts besides I have even encountered your Mind Crime Inquisitors on more than one occasion.” [Leeruu claimed.]

“I’ll bet you have. I did not know you served under Uaaliss that means you operated as an Assassin or a Saboteur. Do you think he would remember you?” [Harbinger asked.]

“He had better I died in his service; that has to be worth a recollection or two. I even won a posthumous medal. [Leeruu stated displaying the virtual representation of her award.]

“The Pearl Orb most impressive.” [Harbinger said.]

“Not compared to some. I often wondered what you were doing on the ground during the ‘Surface War’ Harbinger? I had expected you and Unholy to stay firmly in the Fleet.” [Leeruu stated.]

“Frustration, due to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ general compliance with the treaty restrictions enforced by the ‘Interdiction Fleet’. In the end ‘Falling’ was the only way to get to grips with the enemy.” [Harbinger explained.]

“So you wanted hands on revenge; ‘Falling’ I heard that was what you fleet boys called joining the Surface troops.” [Leeruu said.]

“I moved back and forth a lot concentrating on special operations and command and control. It made a change from enforcing those blockades - where ‘MT’ and I where hardly essential - especially once the Stellar started using on the ground Surface-to-surface Jump Gates. Otherwise my rise to a new infamy is a long story I do not care to relate to anyone - besides I am still wondering if you will survive that long - friend Leeruu.” [Harbinger added.]

“Harbinger you wouldn‘t kill me without a good reason. I heard ‘MT’ was used as a port-to-port troop transport on occasion back then I’ll bet that irked her.” [Leeruu replied.]

“Time changes us all - you knew us before we took part in the ‘Surface War’ - not during or after didn‘t you hear we are cold hearted killers now.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Actually I followed your career with interest because of your connection to Tleeboosuu - you have done well Harbinger - as has your family. I often thought about approaching you War Master but you generally seemed to be surrounded by more than enough capable help already.” [Leeruu stated.]

“I am glad to say I am a War Master no longer.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I disagree once a War Master always a War Master. I’ll bet that is causing you a few problems now that hostilities are supposedly over though.” [Leeruu said.]

“Hostilities are only over on the surface.” [Harbinger replied.]

[Leeruu laughed]

“Sometime you Paradox can be very funny - intentional or not.” [Leeruu sends.]

“Fae kindly take over from me while I speak with Leeruu.” [Harbinger sends.]

[First among equals nodded and proceeded over to take his Captains place as Harbinger moved aside.]

“Fortunate, please assist Fae with the refugees.” [Harbinger sends vanquishing his other companion.]

[Harbinger watched the other Acolyte march after his associate.]

“Come let us move away a little so we can have greater privacy.” [Harbinger said.]

“Leeruu might reveal something I would prefer to keep hidden from the wider family. As you know I did things during the war I am not proud of.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“You did the best you could to remain ethical Harbinger but some situations just made it impossible: as many veterans say, ‘it was the times’.” [I send.]

“With such inane phrases we try to excuse the inexcusable.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The past is history Harbinger.” [I send.]

“Do you have Exogenous communications?” [Harbinger asked Leeruu.]

“Of course, these days who does not?” [Leeruu replied.]

“The ‘Core Alliance’ sharing of technologies sometimes has its drawbacks.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[My Captain took Leeruu to one side.]

“For now I will make a direct line communications link - do not try anything stupid.” [Harbinger stated by speaker.]

[After initiating a plethora of fail-safe firewalls and other protections against intrusion Harbinger extruded a direct line link tentacle and plugged into a jack in Leeruu’s less sophisticated Dry and Vacuum Suit.]

“Time to confess your sins.” [Harbinger said with a yellow ripple of light.]

“My sins - it will have to be an abridged confession Priest Harbinger - I have been working for the ‘Stellar Autonomous National Executive’.” [Leeruu explained.]

[My Captain laughed rather crudely out loud via suit speakers, to those elsewhere that sound arrived strangely out of silence.]

“Stellar Autonomous National Executive - SANE - an interesting name in a crazy time pretend I have never heard of it and enlighten me.” [Harbinger stated.]

“It is a new organisation Harbinger a support group specialising in the sharing of intelligence and physical resources alongside the provision of a strategic overview of the ongoing ‘Fringe’ conflict. We enable commanders in the field of diverse and sundered sometimes even mutually hostile groups to coordinate their wider efforts. We hope to encompass every ‘Free Stellar’ resistance cadre (old divisions have been one of the ‘Free Stellar’ forces greatest weaknesses) they are rather tribal and distrusting of one another Harbinger. Recently you have become a subject of note to us because of your interest in the ‘Free Stellar Raiders’ activities.” [Leeruu replied.]

“Sounds like a ‘Dweller Intelligence’ initiative to me.” [Harbinger said.]

“Well I can safely assure you we are not run by ‘DI’.” [Leeruu replied.]

“I see.” [Harbinger said although I could feel my Captains sharp distrust of this ‘Dweller’ and her supposed support group.]

“We are not trying to take over by the back door if that is what you are thinking either.” [Leeruu promised.]

“We?” [Harbinger asked.]

“The Stellar Autonomous National Executive.” [Leeruu replied.]

“So who exactly founded this august body?” [Harbinger sends.]

[Leeruu grinned with her stalks.]

“I knew this wouldn’t be easy.” [Leeruu stated.]

“Pardon, what do you mean?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I can tell by your stance never mind your questions that you do not trust me.” [Leeruu answered.]

“What are you saying that you are a Suit Reader?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have many skills reading the tiny nuances given off by a Paradox’s emotive movements in a ‘Shroud Suit’ might just be one.” [Leeruu said.]

[Harbinger turned off his suits emotional interface program to me the suit went blank possibly to her too.]

“See you can trust me I even declared my - insignificant - edge.” [Leeruu sends.]

“Trust is not so easily bought.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I told them to send somebody else; unfortunately the Committee insisted I do this job as we had a prior association no matter how tenuous. You know Tleeboosuu is working with us as are a few other individuals you know quite well.” [Leeruu explained.]

“He is, I have heard very little from him since the incident with the ‘Forge’ and not so much of any significance before that since the ‘Surface War’ ended.” [Harbinger replied.]

“He has been very busy. It was through Tleeboosuu that I got involved in this struggle beyond the mere acquisition of profits.” [Leeruu explained.]

“What is with you and Tleeboosuu anyway? Did he contacted you or was it vice versa?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Tleeboosuu contacted me and I find Tleeboosuu amusing no sin in that.” [Leeruu answered with those smiling stalks.]

“That means nothing Captain.” [I privately warn.]

“I know I am no fool ‘MT’.” [Harbinger sends in reply to me.]

“When and where exactly was that?” [Harbinger asked Leeruu.]

“Here in ‘Fringe Space’ I was working for a smaller ‘Free Stellar’ resistance faction; perhaps you have heard of them the FSB. I aided the ‘Free Stellar Brigade’ with the - quiet - procurement of ‘Core Alliance’ manufactured ‘Dweller Nested Shields’. Nice easy work for a reasonable profit and I had no objection to their cause plus a certain freedom fighter there Fiileegi by name was a very handsome rogue.” [Leeruu said with grinning stalks.]

“Is that really how you pick your jobs by surface attraction? I suppose you just happened to bump into Tleeboosuu.” [Harbinger said.]

“Something like that I believe associates of associates mentioned my name to him.” [Leeruu explained.]

“You used your own name - very sloppy - Leeruu.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Fine, I confess I wanted to see him. I knew he was involved and I was looking for a way in. I heard about SANE and liked the broad concept I thought the idea would impress you as well am I wrong? Tell me does this information satisfy you?” [Leeruu asked.]

“It will do for a start.” [Harbinger replied.]

“What does a female have to do to convince you? I knew they would need agents and were handling some serious credits. I’m a mercenary these days Harbinger of course I willingly use my past connections to promote myself who does not? How is Cad these days?” [Leeruu said.]

[My Captain ignored that question.]

“You say they sent you, so what are they and you trying to use me for?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Don’t you trust me now just a little bit?” [Leeruu replied.]

“Did Tleeboosuu trust you when you first showed up?” [Harbinger asked.]

“You have me there - not entirely at first - he too has grown rather wary. Funny I never considered you might have infected him with a degree of Paradox paranoia until now. He is certainly far more cautious of you Harbinger than I remembered.” [Leeruu replied.]

“Why do you say that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“He fears you are only interested in using the ‘Free Stellar’ for your own purposes. He thinks you have grown ruthless - I disagree I think that is just an image you have been promoting.” [Leeruu answered.]

“I’m glad to hear Tleeboosuu is learning to be cautious he has good reason to be. So he has gone a little native - I did wonder after he dismissed Efficient - my friend believed he was let go just because he was a Paradox racism is obviously still prevalent in ‘Fringe’ Space.” [Harbinger noted.]

“If you ask me racism is no less rampant in ‘Core Alliance Space’. Should it surprise you that the ‘Free Stellar Resistance’ do not trust you Harbinger - you are alien to them. Some also blame you and your associates for the birth of the ‘Core Alliance’ as much as they blame the Arch Chancellor Draakhaal. They also despise Hierophant Cad for the same reason they believe he could have deployed the ‘Stellar Orb’ to stop the Colonisation process.” [Leeruu advised.]

“Do you believe that as well?” [Harbinger asked.]

“No I do not but I am not a ‘Free Stellar’ facing the end of all that I have ever known.” [Leeruu said.]

“We have all had to face up to rapid changes we are living in a new age.” [Harbinger replied.]

“We are but do not expect everyone to be happy about it.” [Leeruu said.]

“I had already suspected that some ‘Free Stellar’ might see the whole ‘Core Alliance’ and its prime movers as the problem rather than just the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ but they need our help; whether they like it or not there is no going back. If they want to survive they will have to adapt to new ways I assumed this is exactly what they are doing with their Splinter alliance.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Some would rather die than bend Harbinger. The loss of the ‘Nine’ helped some appreciate the cause of the ‘Core Alliance’ Paradox a bit - among those in the know - but prejudice is never that easily overcome. They believe the ‘Second Accord’ will fail to restrain the ‘Lost Ones’ that your Parliament is ineffective. Did you know the ‘Free Stellar’ name the ‘Void Skimmers’ as the ‘Lost Ones’ they believe the Arch Chancellor has gone too far too fast with his genetic engineering and created aliens to our genome a new species that is no longer fit to be termed ‘Stellar’ or Swimmer for that matter. They say the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ have become or are becoming something else something new. They say Draakhaal didn‘t just reengineer his followers into ‘Void Skimmers’ that he took a shortcut and melded the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ with some other mysterious races DNA - what do you make of that accusation?” [Leeruu replied.]

“I do not know are they serious or is it just propaganda?” [Harbinger asked.]

“They are very serious - they have been searching for the proof - maybe you and your allies should also look into that Harbinger.” [Leeruu said.]

“Maybe we should. As to the ‘Second Accord’ it serves its purpose. Nonetheless small mistakes of trust in these times can be very costly. You cannot help anyone if you do not look after yourself first. I was reminded of that lesson recently.” [Harbinger added.]

“A lesson many would be heroes insist in learning the hard way.” [Leeruu stated.]

“I am no hero, I am just a Paradox Priest caught up in a future I never expected. Last time we met as I recall you were the one that claimed to be a patriot?” [Harbinger stated.]

“Did I or was that what Tleeboosuu claimed about me? Tleeboosuu can be rather idealistic and enthusiastic - like you he still chases after causes with a child like innocence - he dislikes all the senseless destruction deep down he is a maker not a fighter. Still I think he is maturing a little. Tleeboosuu is motivated now not just by a desire to make a difference I am sure he genuinely wants to help the ‘Stellar’ to leave the best possible legacy behind that they can - not just to achieve a belated hollow revenge.” [Leeruu explained.]

“Are you saying he fully expects the ‘Free Stellar’ to lose? How fatalistic have the Resistance become?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Fatalistic enough the Recyclers are winning and the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ are just biding their time to finish removing one unwanted branch of competition. Nonetheless the ‘Free Stellar’ are not for capitulating Harbinger not to the ‘Conglomerate’ and not to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ no matter the odds.” [Leeruu stated emphatically.]

“What about you Leeruu will you see it through to the bitter end for good or ill?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Me, I am not such an idealist. What you really want to know is would I change sides and work for Draakhaal if given enough incentive. The answer to that is a firm no. I hope you can believe me I have only ever worked for that one - as a cover - almost everyone has a boundary somewhere. I believe it is prudent to keep at least one ally and Draakhaal has a habit of using his operatives up so I prefer to stay friends with others.” [Leeruu told my Captain bluntly.]

“What exactly do you want?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Paradox ‘AM’ warheads Harbinger. We have procured a few but we need a great many more.” [Leeruu sends.]

“You have to be jesting.” [Harbinger stated.]

“I never jest about this sort of thing. We know since the development of Type III Nested Shields and Type III Energy Sinks ‘AM’ warheads have ceased to be proscribed by the ‘Core Alliance’ as they no longer guarantee one hit one kill except against lesser targets. However, they are still a serious edge and the most powerful ordnance currently available.” [Leeruu reminded Harbinger.]

“You hardly need to tell me this.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I like to set the scene, unfortunately as you probably also know the only people manufacturing ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads is Hierophant exclusively for the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ and your Paradox of course who generally only sell small numbers to their own for very sparing usage. We that is the ‘Free Stellar’ are failing Harbinger we need every advantage we can get. When we have employed ‘AM’ it has generally made a big difference to the outcome of our engagements with ‘Conglomerate’ forces .” [Leeruu lectured.]

“That is hardly surprising. I will need to think about this one. In the meantime you are going into Stasis whether you like it or not.” [Harbinger told her.]

“Not wise Harbinger you will miss out on many enlightening conversations.” [Leeruu replied.]

“I think I can live with that. I’ll drop you off at a Freeport and issue you with a mini link bridging address into my own communication net then we can talk further safely at a distance under the executive control of my hub as required.” [Harbinger explained.]

“Thank you that will work nicely - later - but not right now.” [Leeruu said.]

“Why not what is going on here?” [Harbinger asked suspicious.]

[Leeruu answered with silence - clearly she was pondering how best to reply.]

“Are you working with the Raiders that left you here? How did you smuggle yourself onboard those Pods? How can I trust you? Let me guess you came in among the unexpected refugees from that damaged illegal ‘Mining Operation’ did you sell them out to the ‘Free Stellar Raiders’ as a bribe on behalf of SANE? Was their operation really hit by ‘Conglomerate’ or was that arranged as well? Talk to me Leeruu.” [Harbinger demanded.]

“Listen a small ‘Conglomerate’ force was accidentally drawn into an ambush intended for somebody else. It is a long story maybe I’ll explain it all if you’ll let me you would be wise to take heed of my words you need me Harbinger. Unfortunately even the best plans can go astray and you would not like the results. Otherwise you do not expect me to reveal all my operational secrets - do you - we hardly have the time for that, besides a female has to keep a little mystery about her?” [Leeruu replied.]

“As a Paradox - I know nothing of females - but I suppose I did not really expect a straight answer from you. Will you vouch for the refugees?” [Harbinger sends.]

[Leeruu looked at my Captain again then rolled her eyes and rippled her tentacles.]

“Alright Harbinger I suppose I will have to trust you. I would vouch one or more of the refugees are spies for a mutual enemy.” [Leeruu sends.]

“Spies you are sure and yet they are still conscious. Let me guess you are using this drop as bait?” [Harbinger sends activating his virtual bridge and pulling a manipulator field pistol on Leeruu.]

“Put that silly piece away Harbinger I know you hardly need it except for show. For once be happy to be used it means you are not all alone out here.” [Leeruu explained.]

“What exactly are you lot fishing for?” [Harbinger demanded.]

“An overly cautious assassin who might not even turn up despite the proffered prize of the crazy Paradox Priest Harbinger who dared to murder one Arch Chancellor Draakhaal.” [Leeruu sends.]

“So much for deep secrets. Can you be more specific?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Put it this way do not be surprised if a lone ‘Conglomerate’ Dreadnaught of the ‘Acquisition class’ jumps in to play with you.” [Leeruu explained.]

“A mercenary Recycler Dreadnaught would not operate without support ships.” [Harbinger said.]

“We believe it has an unusual crew.” [Leeruu advised.]

“Let me guess we are talking about ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ marines?” [Harbinger questioned.]

“Still sharp as ever I see. Like I said this ones Captain is unusually cautious - with very good reason - he is planning to be an oath breaker.” [Leeruu sends.]

“You got that ‘MT’ an ‘Acquisition Class’ but in the tentacles of one or more ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ from the Court.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“No doubt this Dreadnaught will be highly modified.” [I send.]

“They are big ships lots of room there for upgrades.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps we should just risk scooping the rest of the Pods and Jumping to port.” [I send.]

“I should have guessed somebody would not be satisfied with my banishment.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If we can prove one or more of them broke their agreement it is no longer binding plus the dishonour of a failed attempt on your life could force them all to drop the ruling.” [I send.]

“Yes if the Assassination attempt fails then the new Draakhaal and the ‘Core Alliance Stellar Court’ would have to either do as you have said or enforce a murderous discipline among their own membership for oath breaking being the odd species that they are.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is their way and since your crime is a hidden one among the majority of their populace they may be hard pressed to think up a legitimate excuse for an inner pogrom?” [I send.]

“I am sure they could dream up something but it would be destabilising at a delicate period and risk the truth getting out about Draakhaal’s demise.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose a few overly ambitious ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ might want that.” [I send.]

“Some but not the new Draakhaal I would wager he would fear the truth would undermine his authority the wider populace still harbours some prejudices against Reborn Leaders and that could effect the Courts overall authority. No wonder this Dreadnaught is acting with unusual caution.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What can such an Assassin hope to gain from your death to risk so much?” [I send.]

“If whoever is in charge of that Dreadnaught succeeded they would win high favour in the new regime especially with the new Draakhaal. Reborn are never exactly the same people for a start they tend to feel a bit insecure and vulnerable until they get over the shock of rebirth. The new Arch Chancellor will be looking to find immediate allies. Those who impress him now can expect serious gifts in the form of increased wealth, social standing and political influence.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I perused some historic files on the ‘Core Alliance’ Stellar Courts membership trying to guess who might take a chance - far too many candidates presented themselves.]

“Still it is perilous, because the killer will only be credited with the full glory if he risks his position by being directly in charge of the operation if I understand ‘Stellar’ customs correctly.” [I send.]

“Exactly, besides they could hardly trust their fate to a subordinate. If Leeruu is right and we have a serious Assassination attempt here (from the top) it will be a major player a prominent Court member will be on that ship - maybe more than one - anyway who else knows about my crime. If they succeed in killing me the oath breaking will be forgiven remember with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ a successful end will always justify the means only failure is unacceptable when it comes to faithlessness.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What is your plan Leeruu?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am glad to see you are back with me. If this Dreadnaught arrives you have to hold her off and keep her here with shields down long enough for the ‘Free Stellar’ to close and board. Do you think you can do that?” [Leeruu questioned.]

“Dangerous we will have to show restraint while they will probably just try to wipe us out and go.” [Harbinger said.]

“They certainly know how dangerous you are so they will likely come at you with all guns blazing.” [Leeruu advised.]

“You are asking a lot Leeruu.” [Harbinger told her.]

“I know I didn’t say it would be easy but they expect to have more of an element of surprise. That ship has dignitaries onboard worth the peril and my friends firmly believe they can convince them to broker a deal and come to terms rather than fight to the death.” [Leeruu explained.]

“That will only happen if you crush their principle resistance quickly and thoroughly enough to shock them into an unusual degree of compliance.” [Harbinger added.]

“We know - it is still going to be a cursed bloody battle Harbinger in particular for our boarding forces - but we know what we are doing.” [Leeruu admitted.]

“I notice you didn’t use the word surrender in that sentence what sort of terms are you talking about are you going to try to turn them?” [Harbinger asked.]

“We will try to use them to our advantage that is all you need to know.” [Leeruu answered.]

“Just how long have you known these predators have been hunting me and when did you plan on letting me know?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not so long and whenever it became necessary friend Harbinger. We had hoped they would try to infiltrate the Pods prior to the exchange in which case we could have taken them without directly involving you. Having the Raiders stopover at the ‘Mining Facility’ before the drop was a lure; we knew ‘Draakhaal’ agents had infiltrated that place. Unfortunately, a ‘Conglomerate’ battle group attacked us while we were waiting on the Dreadnaught to make its move - the ‘Draakhaal’ are proving to be very cautious Harbinger.” [Leeruu informed my Captain.]

“The Recyclers also have spies everywhere.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not so much here, more likely the ‘Conglomerate Recyclers’ have smuggled in a stealth satellite or two near the facility. Anyway we dared not reveal our ambush forces, so the Raiders had to fight the ‘Conglomerate’ off unassisted as a direct result of that the Mining Station took a serious pounding. I thought sure it would become a three-way battle but the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ refused to show up.” [Leeruu said.]

“I would imagine this quarry would dislike crowds especially any potential alien witnesses remember this is all closed in house business to them.” [Harbinger warned.]

“Whatever their reasons for reticence, we were forced to move on to a plan B and brought the Draakhaal spies along for the drop along with the other refugees that being my idea. We told them the station was beyond repair then made sure it was. Then we promised to hand the stations crew over to a neutral - this once - since we had a common enemy and they had fought honourably beside us.” [Leeruu explained.]

“I see you are as devious as ever Leeruu. I suppose I should be glad we are on the same side. I guess that Dreadnaught is on its own as these opportunists will be trying to operate covertly even to their own until the job is done. They have taken just enough firepower for the task. Still one against one they must have some kind of edge they think they can deploy against us I wonder what.” [Harbinger pondered.]

“Obviously we need to work together on this one Harbinger so let’s forget about the whole stasis stupidity.” [Leeruu said with grinning stalks.]

“No I think I will stick with my first plan in relation to that one.” [Harbinger told her.]

“You must be jesting Harbinger?” [Leeruu asked.]

“I am afraid not, please move ahead this way. [Harbinger pointed with his gun.] “Your very own sleeper module waits.” [With that, Harbinger unplugged and drew in his physical link.]

“You need me as a liaison Harbinger, let’s not be stupid.” [Leeruu said not moving.]

“When and if I do I’ll be sure to wake you up for that duty.” [Harbinger replied.]

“You are too generous Priest by then it may be too late.” [Leeruu said.]

“Leeruu you sell a good story - but I have no proof - you could just as easily be setting me up for an ambush. I cannot take that chance with my ship and crew.” [Harbinger explained.]

“Don’t ruin our chance Harbinger - freeze me in time if you must - but work with us if that Dreadnaught shows up promise me that?” [Leeruu asked.]

“I promise you I will do what is best for my family and vision.” [Harbinger replied.]

[We placed Leeruu in stasis making triple sure she was fully under.]

[We continued with the rescue mission. The old cliché is and is not true; waiting is the hardest time before any battle only because when you are fighting you are often too busy to think about it. Harbinger and I had finished discussing tactics.]

[In the end we didn’t have to wait too long and there was nothing subtle about the assault when it came they jumped in close enough to hit us with Coil Wrecker Emitters we returned that favour and then it was typical pandemonium.]

[They arrived from a wormhole initially almost head on to our mid ships (clearly no accident) and opened up the action with some jump ordnance and by firing a pre charged AGAEP or (Artificially Generated Anomalous Energy Pulse) device. The state of the art main gun was a fast moving but slow to charge fixed capitol ship weapon that ate energy.]

[We replied to the torpedo threat with a ‘Living Hull’ Shockwave that did its job well enough otherwise our turrets spun into action spewing ‘Anomalous Matter’ ammunition across the gap. We utilising our maximum rate of Tri-gun fire to we hoped quickly destroy their shields and overflow their energy sinks with a blistering barrage.]

[Otherwise we tried frantically to strafe around the incoming main gun shot. AGAEP was slow by turret fire standards but as already stated pretty quick for a main gun energy bolt.]

[Harbinger controlling the helm failed - though I doubt I could have done much better - the exceptionally large pulse hit us like a guided missile taking out over half of our stacked shield strength in one hammer like blow. Striking us off centre the AGAEP shot arrived to our fore parts so that we actually spun around by about twenty degrees. Because of that shove, I partially presented my rear towards the enemy and for an instant our own weapons fire went wild.]

[Our Beta Clone Gunners quickly compensated jerking their weapons about to retain a predictive lock; Tri-guns despite their efficiency were light weapons that tracked surprisingly rapidly. Our foes shield continued to flare inward in full collapse under a chain of rolling explosions.]

[They launched more jump torpedoes we initiated another shockwave I estimated we had enough energy left for three more but that wouldn‘t save us from that main gun. This is where we would normally have made use of our extra ordinary ordnance and drones if we were going for an outright kill instead we accepted the risk and held back.]

[The ‘Free Stellar’ forces consisting of a mere five Fast Frigates jumped in well outside the threat of any CWE and began to disgorge a large number of drone fighters, as well as what initially looked like decoys to my advanced sensors and a good spread of boarding pods. Our own Remoras also took up new positions but stayed out of the Dreadnaughts turrets range waiting for the right opportunity. We knew our ‘Devil Fishes’ ammunition wouldn‘t last long even employing short bursts.]

[The ‘Stellar Dreadnaught’ ignored all these threats to charge down upon us strafing to match our lateral movement as Harbinger swung my nose up the enemy fired their main gun again. I noticed she hadn’t employed a single turret and guessed she had every watt of weapons energy streaming into the AGAEP main gun’s hungry capacitor. Really that beast needed a ‘Raw Energy Siphon’ but they were coping admirably without and RES outgrowths would have completely ruined their disguise.]

[Harbinger had made a little jerk up but then strafed down again but the Draakhaal Gunner was good and somehow read our bluff perfectly they struck us once again. This time we lost our shield completely but were saved from taking serious hull damage by our raw energy sink. Once again we spun about so that I now faced completely away from our attacker.]

[Our foes shields had also dropped but her raw energy sinks also held. Our beta clone gunners under orders reduced our fire rate we did not want to kill the Dreadnaught. I managed to get a deep scan and almost too late saw our peril. Our foe had an unusually solid reinforced bow designed I could tell specifically for ramming. Almost as if activated by my scan she swung about aimed squarely at us and engaged her engines on a full-unrestrained burn. I knew if she hit true since our shields were down her mass would rip us asunder.]

[I initiated a defence ahead of my Captain activating our manipulation fields I linked us to our foe so that instead of hitting us hard and breaking us apart she commenced to shunt us along sideways. Unfortunately as we were now off centre we spun despite Harbinger applying every ounce of manoeuvring force we could bring to bear. My rear end collided into and interpenetrated with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Dreadnaughts lower mid section with a silent violence that I could feel as much as see.]

[Pain lanced through me as emergency bulkheads sealed. I cut my badly damaged main engines but not before their plasma stream had assisted in finally overpowered the enemies raw energy sinks diabolically the flash back explosion also further scorched and ruined my nacelles. While all this was happening my determined Beta Clone Gunners opened up upon any turret and tube they could target that still faced us with veteran pin point accuracy. Despite our shocking predicament we congratulated ourselves on surviving the initial assault.]

[Looking at my damage I realised we were lucky the reinforcement of our enemy’s superstructure did not reach this far down nonetheless the painful reports from my nerve endings still worried me. With typical bravado, our enemy began recklessly pulling away tearing at both our mangled bulkheads causing still greater damage. Liquids and atmosphere vented while fragments of debris tumbled free.]

[As a sundering no longer suited us, Harbinger this time reached out with our manipulation fields - stubbornly we held fast to the aggressor. At the same time, our top rear gunners under direct orders undertook a mission to disable our foes engines with gusto that saw great chunks of the enemy Dreadnaught blasted away.]

[Like an irrational jilted lover, we clung tight denying the inevitability of a parting in fact we enforced a degree of unexpected dominion over the in scale greater entity by employing our still working inertial dampeners to anchor us both solidly in place after her engines were destroyed.]

“Not exactly how we planned it but it will do well enough.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[We watched as the ‘Free Stellar’ forces continued their approach. Finally motivated by the new opposition the ‘Draakhaal’ turrets on our enemy’s other side opened fire. No doubt the ‘Draakhaal’ had given up on their more or less fixed main gun as it was well out of arc and had redirected their remaining energy reserves to smaller but more mobile weaponry.]

[To escape the turret barrage the ‘Free Stellar’ boarders looped around wide to use us as cover. Meanwhile the enemy launched drones of their own and ‘Void Skimmer’ Marines began to peel away from hatches that opened up all over the enemy ship. The carapace covered creatures opened their solar wings and soared.]

[We watched in horror as the ‘Void Skimmers’ congregated together into purposeful swarms that raced both towards us and the ‘Free Stellar’ claws grasping tentacles writhing as they savoured their naked exposure to open space. They could not survive out there permanently yet, but they could last more than long enough to be a real problem. Typically, the enemies multiplied forces made up a mighty hoard. Nonetheless, while they did not need vacuum suits they were far from under equipped. Several bore boxes no doubt demolitions explosives while others floated behind heavy weaponry.]

[After considering the risk and calculating the percentages of likely enemies killed versus friends we activated an underpowered ‘Living Hull’ Shockwave just as the first ‘Void Skimmers’ neared my outer hull. The advanced ‘Draakhaal’ were literally tore apart by the crashing distortions along with a few bold but unlucky ‘Free Stellar’ but that couldn’t be helped. Overall the Shockwave had bought us some valuable time and increased the odds a little more in our and the ‘Free Stellar’s’ favour but more ‘Void Skimmers’ just kept emerging from the Dreadnaught as if they were without limit.]

[We launched extra drones and our own Turret gunners turned on the encroaching ‘Skimmers’ shifting from target to target as fast as they could using tiny bursts that still proved to be rank overkill it was carnage. Nonetheless despite the slaughter there was simply too many. With the ‘Free Stellar’ now arriving in force the battle became personal. Several ‘Free Stellar’ transport pods shed masses of automated anti personnel combat drones while other boarding pods began to collide and penetrate into the enemy Dreadnaught to unleash their Marines on the inside.]

[We launched some of our own Marines to patrol and protect my outer hull from bomb or breach but Harbinger and I knew those stalwarts would be spread very thin indeed. For survival we might have to sacrifice them all via another Shockwave if the ‘Free Stellar’ proved unable to hold the foe.]

“Leeruu was right this is going to get pretty messy. How are our repairs going?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“We might be able to achieve partial shield protection but our main engines are unlikely to come online anytime soon. In fact repairing our nacelles looks unlikely in these conditions. I‘ll activate dynamic status repair bars on your HUD for what is fixable.” [I send.]

“Thanks that is useful. What about our enemies repairs?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not much they can do. Our Beta Clone Gunners pretty much scrapped their engines and managed to take out their main Recycler made power generator. They also have no intact turrets on this side that can reach us as long as we hold fast to them.” [I send.]

“They could launch ordnance from the other side.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“They must know it would force us into deploying another Shockwave despite the effect friendly fire would have on our allies. I imagine they will not want to provoke another wide cull of their Marines but just in case, I will launch some more drones and direct them to deal with any undamaged missile and torpedo tubes.” [I send.]

“Great what about their other systems.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Thankfully it looks like they would need to completely rebuild their main shields to get those going again - which right now isn‘t going to happen. On the surface it looks like we have them Captain so long as they do not self destruct and take us all on the final journey. We can also jump now their Coil Wrecker Emitters on this side have been destroyed. [I send.]

“A self destruct in a boarding action is always a worry still I would guess they wont kill themselves until they have no fight or hope left. The dignitaries will probably try to escape either by shuttle pod or via trying to take over one or more of those ‘Free Stellar’ Frigates. For that they will need to lure at least one Frigate in close which means fighting hard to win but keeping a reserve hidden in case it looks like they might lose. Now where on that hulk is resistant to our scans.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Lots of places are a bit fuzzy at the moment Harbinger due to Anomalous radiation from our own fire. Their rear in particular is pretty opaque but also pretty hot. I do not think they would dare try to escape in a shuttle with this many combat drones around.” [I send.]

“I wonder if they will notice the hot spot side effect, I was really asking if they had any null scan areas built in.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not to my perception just the cover caused by our own weapons fire.” [I send.]

“Time to wake Leeruu up just in case the ‘Draakhaal’ do discover these scan safe areas and our associates have not. Desperation will make for wild risks and the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ subspecies are not generally conservative in battle.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I watched as the Paradox Marine called Warrior Soul glided over my surface directing his small fire team. Warrior hefted a heavy Manipulator Field Rifle over the curve of my body and zeroed in on an approaching surviving ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ sapper unit as it got ready to alight and arm a heavy duty shaped demolitions charge upon one of my basking plates.]

“I’m marking them Firestorm.” [Warrior sends.]

“Firing.” [Firestorm sends.]

[Firestorm unleashed a single ‘Anomalous Matter’ micro missile from a shoulder launcher. Everyone ducked down as the night flared.]

“Move us.” [Warrior sends.]

[Tactical Acolytes inside our Operations Room warped them to a new location just as light arms enemy fire streaked in to where they had been.]

[So far, we were keeping ahead of the foe via rapid redeployments of this nature combined with support from my turrets, drone patrols and ‘Free Stellar’ assistance.]

[Of course, we had taken some casualties including the loss of two turrets and I had a few holes in my hull that shouldn’t be there plus a lot of smaller pits and insignificant punctures that had self sealed, however nothing too untoward that I could not recover from. So far only one Marine was a fatality a young Acolyte named Open to Debate. Open had perished trying to extract a wounded ‘Free Stellar’ an amateurish mistake. The friendly had been left wounded but alive as bait by a well placed sniper. Otherwise a further seven Paradox Marines had to be extracted due to serious wounds while eleven more had also been recalled due to moderate Shroud Suit damage.]

[Luckily, we had many tricks of our own from warping around to hiding by being absorbed directly into my hull. I even took out a few ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ who carelessly grounded upon malleable parts of my outer body in a similar way. To their shock, the four-creature unit upon landing found they were being sucked down into my skin there they were hastily crushed to a liquid pulp rather than lovingly cradled as I did with Harbingers family. Really, the ‘Draakhaal’ troopers should have known better having ‘Living Hulls’ of their own but we Paradox Hulls were always a bit more shape shifty than any Swimmer design including the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ monstrosities.]

[Really, the fight had gone far better than expected largely due to the surprising efficiency of neat fast anti personnel drones operated by the ‘Free Stellar’. Several models of hunter killer drones were in evidence most of which worked cooperatively in small units and larger packs.]

[To me the ‘Free Stellar’ drones looked suspiciously Trojan in overall design. They also seemed interestingly well suited to anti ‘Void Skimmer’ duties employing very specific weaponry that I was sure would be far less effective against heavily armoured cybernetic ‘Conglomerate’ Recycler Marines a fact that I couldn’t help thinking had to be deliberate.]

[Inside the Enemy Dreadnaught the battle was also progressing in our favour whilst the ‘Free Stellar’ forces both mechanical and biological had taken heavy casualties the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ had suffered even greater loses partially thanks to my own Turrets assistance whenever they gathered in suitable numbers at a spot I could hit I did so without compunction. More importantly, we believed we had cornered the dignitaries and their Elite Guard in one Anomalous radiation hot spot.]

[They had escaped capture twice already via warping to new locations when we thought we had them but not anymore. A unit of ‘Free Stellar’ special forces had finally managed to find and disable the last operating internal warp generator. The ‘Draakhaal’ Elite Guards found they had lost their mobility we had them penned up in a holding action. At last, the ‘Free Stellar’ opened negotiations. To our shock a ceasefire very rapidly followed with the bulk of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ returning to designated parts of their own ship although a few actually refused to obey the order and died by throwing themselves at our forces with a rare suicidal fury.]

[After giving Leeruu an Exogenous mini link bridging address we sent her packing to one of her allies Frigates. Harbinger warned her it was either that or a return to stasis until we made port.]

“Now she is gone I feel like I can relax.” [Harbinger sends to me watching the Frigate ‘Laadeemaa’s Revenge’ that had come in to accept her via warp before moving away again.]

“Exactly how are we going to get back to port?” [I send.]

“I’ll arrange to have us towed in. Can you self repair this mess or do we need a shipyard this time?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Towed in - the indignity - still I suppose it could be worse. Yes I can self repair Harbinger it will take a while though - even with my repair drones and resource harvesters working at it full time.” [I send.]

“In that case it will be a good practical exercise I am interested to see just how well our systems can recuperate on their own from such heavy injuries.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Real life is never quite the same as a simulation. I imagine I will learn a lot by doing this but we will be vulnerable for a while.” [I send in warning.]

“We should be safe enough back at ‘Haemal’s Shroud’. [Harbinger sends.]

“I hope you are right Captain.” [I send.]

“I wish I knew what they are selling to those Court Members over there.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Warp over and find out.” [I send.]

“Leeruu made it plain I wasn’t welcome that I would unbalance a delicate process of negotiation she seems to think that among the ‘Draakhaal’ I am a disruptive influence.” [Harbinger sends with a ripple of yellow light.]

“How far do you trust her Harbinger?” [I send.]

“Not in the least bit, but I respect her abilities.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What did you make of those anti personnel drones?” [I send.]

“My first thought was that the Hierophants are doing a little business with the ‘Free Stellar’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That would have to be limited business given they are obviously not willing to supply ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads.” [I send.]

“I suppose those drones might have been acquired third hand.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am sure I have not seen those devices blueprints among any Cad project I know about and I have been taking an interest.” [I send.]

“I suppose it is possible there is another Trojan involved. I wish I knew where they have all gone. Hierophant seemed to be dropping hints that since he got involved with the ‘Core Alliance’ the few Trojan Professors he did occasionally hear rumour of have all vanished.” [Harbinger sends.]

“War shy perhaps can you blame them given their history.” [I send.]

“Perhaps that is it maybe they saw this conflict on the horizon or an even bigger one brewing out here.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe they distrust what Hierophant has done by making a clone family. Lets face it the Hierophants are steadily becoming a race in their own right a new Trojan species.” [I send.]

“So many new things.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I don’t know are they new or just old things reborn. As you often told me history moves in cycles Harbinger.” [I send.]

“So it does.” [Harbinger sends.]
Last edited by Paranoid66 on Wed, 20. May 09, 12:24, edited 2 times in total.
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Posts: 2965
Joined: Tue, 19. Apr 05, 10:59

Post by Paranoid66 » Tue, 19. May 09, 12:42


[Location: The Many Truths, Haemal’s Shroud, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 15:31.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

[We emerged with a shimmer from a wormhole after using all our standard precautions including Jump Scouts. Then I just hung there unmoving as my main engines were still crippled.]

[That was a horrible feeling not just embarrassing either. Being dependent on others for mobility was a greater shock to my system than I had imagined. What is a ship if not movement? I decided to make engine repairs my first priority even over the establishment of full hull integrity.]

[To be honest I hurt all over, which did not help my demeanour. It was easy for Harbinger to take the battering I had suffered as an exercise in self-repair he did not have to suffer the aches and humiliation.]

[Luckily I did not have to wait very long before an old friend appeared. A Paradox Space Marine Boarding Frigate had volunteered for the necessary duty when Harbinger went fishing for aid. After leaping in ‘Assertive Vision’ skilfully meshed us in a manipulation field and commenced to tow us.]

[Before we arrived at the border of ‘Koordaann’s Reef’ proper, ‘Altered Stellar’ traffic control hailed us and after a brief exchange granted us a suitable berth coordinate. ‘Assertive’ dragged us slowly and carefully through Exit Destabilise Pulse Generator sheet lightning and around some large asteroids before drifting to a halt a good distance from any other craft. When undertaking serious repairs a little room was useful besides, being around a badly wounded ‘Living Hull’ tended to upset other sentient vessels.]

[With his job done ‘Assertive’ sent me a significant data blast consisting of less public news and gossip from the ‘Core Alliance’. The messages were a welcome distraction but also made me feel a little homesick. Whilst I was in constant contact with the rest of the family back on ‘Green Orb Alpha’ and elsewhere in the ‘Core Alliance’ generally that was simply two way reports and business orders. Harbinger’s whole family no longer lived solely onboard me. The necessities of this new age required greater flexibility and the sacrifice of many old Paradox family customs.]

[A hail also arrived for Harbinger from ‘Assertive Vision’s’ Captain a young Paradox Priest called ‘Boisterous’ a warrior of some ability who had fought and died for us during the latter stages of the ‘Surface War’ that conflict had made many Paradox into Reborn and some like Boisterous had died and returned more than once.]

“A lucky coincidence that you just happened to be visiting ‘Koordaann’s Reef’ Boisterous or was it?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I thought my old field commander might need a little help in whatever it is you are doing way out here - obviously I was right - I am sorry I arrived late.” [Boisterous sends.]

“If you think we are a mess you should see our enemy.” [Harbinger sends perhaps in an attempt to boost our morale.]

“Nonetheless it seems clear you could have done with some assistance a bit earlier. What happened War Master I have never seem ‘Many Truths’ in such a ragged state?” [Boisterous sends]

[I guessed our old friend was a little shocked by the wide extent of my many injuries. In truth I had never been this grievously wounded before.]

“We ran into some old friends. Who told you I was here?” [Harbinger sends playing it down.]

“I was speaking with Hierophant Trend he pointed me in this direction. So why here Harbinger?” [Boisterous sends.]

[Harbinger filled the soldier in on our situation: aims, objectives and recent history including Leeruu’s unexpected appearance along with the extra refugees and the failed assassination attempt.]

“I feel guilty about it. ‘Many Truths’ did not have to take so much damage. We could have taken that Dreadnaught - without all the pain - if I had simply let her go for a kill. However, a kill would not have helped me end my banishment.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am sure your ship understands and made the sacrifice willingly. I am glad your banishment is about to come to a premature end Harbinger?” [Boisterous sends.]

“Too many people have made sacrifices for me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Never just for you - for the Paradox species - for the future Harbinger.” [Boisterous sends.]

“It was no sacrifice just friendship.” [I send.]

“I suppose what matters now is that I have enough evidence to damn three ‘Core Alliance’ Stellar Court Members in the eyes of their own ruling body for oath breaking.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Without messing up whatever it is that ‘Stellar Autonomous National Executive’ is doing with them?” [Boisterous sends.]

“It seems so - I was expecting serious objections maybe even real trouble from that quarter - but it looks like whatever they are up to they are not worried if I disgrace their temporary captives. Perhaps they even need that to happen.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I expect the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ will want to keep it all quiet. I think you have won this skirmish War Master despite ‘Many Truths’ looking like she lost. A timely save Harbinger given the way things are going back on ‘Green Orb Alpha’.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I’m not your or anybodies War Master anymore.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is not your choice to make.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Yes it is and with a host of very good reasons. While it is safe enough to call me War Master in a private communication, all it would take would be a few slips in public and the ‘Second Accord’ could be in jeopardy. The Cadres have been officially decommissioned as have all the War Masters.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose this SANE group has potential even if Leeruu is perhaps a bit dodgy and probably working for ‘Dweller Intelligence’ despite her denials.” [Boisterous sends changing the subject.]

“Just remember I am not recruiting Boisterous. I admit ‘Many Truths’ is in no shape for me to send you away either; so yes I am glad of your help - but please - do not get the wrong idea.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would guess a group like the ‘Stellar Autonomous National Executive’ must see the logic in your plan. Ransoming hostages instead of killing all transgressors from the ‘Core Alliance’ has no drawback.” [Boisterous sends again side stepping the issue of old loyalties and titles.]

[I could sense a degree of frustration from my Captain via our Companion-ship link.]

“What will it take to get through to our old associates that striving to help me right now could do the absolute opposite?” [Harbinger sends to me but he also dropped the subject.]

“If they are, what they claim to be and are coolly looking at an overview of the Campaign: preventing the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ from getting ‘Core Alliance’ political support for retribution should be a necessity.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Only a fool would open up another front with a fresh foe when you are already being pushed hard.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I am glad to see you agree with me on that.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Killing can be counter productive - sometimes - still diplomacy is not really my business. Leeruu’s desire for ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads though is risky Harbinger - very - risky.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Risky but potentially rewarding; it is just possible a good supply of ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads could help in a small but useful way. If we assisted in turning this conflict around the ‘Free Stellar’ should be very grateful to the ‘Core Alliance’ Paradox.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Any ‘Free Stellar’ gratitude is only likely to last while - we - are useful. Supplying ‘AM’ warheads would also make a perfect trap. If you become firmly linked with the procurement of those arms it could seriously damage your reputation. You do not want to disgrace your supporters on ‘Green Orb Alpha’ in the ‘Council of Equals’.” [Boisterous sends.]

“There is no - we - Boisterous. I am not your War Master anymore.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We both know the war is not over Harbinger and by - we - I mean those still fighting that diseases spread. At least now you should soon be able to return to defend your actions. I have been getting reports from Temperate several conservative Paradox are already happily trying to blacken your name. The less than scrupulous have made the most of your absence Harbinger. Given some of their unenlightened attitudes I do not know why they migrated to the ‘Core Alliance’ in the first place.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Reports from Temperate, just how active have you lot remained?” [Harbinger asked.]

“We all keep in touch Harbinger did you think we would let the Arch Chancellor win after all we have been through. Many of us have died for the cause several times over already.” [Boisterous sends.]

“That is very dangerous Boisterous.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We just kept in touch as friends at first them we started being persecuted in small but significant ways by Priests who wouldn’t know one end of a Manipulator Rifle from the other. We have had enough War Master we didn‘t fight to become second class citizens.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Be wary it is just possible some of our Elder citizenry could be planted saboteurs still loyal to the ‘Secessionists’ besides talk like that sounds like revolution.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Secessionist agents, now that is one theory I never thought of - I will have some of the Cadre look into it. As to revolution we are not against the system we merely want it to operate as it is supposed to.” [Boisterous sends.]

“The Cadre, by the ‘Emissary’ at least use some other name.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Fear not we are very careful.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I am sure you are but are you careful enough. Still I imagine my detractors are just a loud minority.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would not play the influence down of those speaking out against you and your many interests at the moment Harbinger you have become a target.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I wouldn’t make too much of it either unless they get proof you lot are all still playing at being soldiers - now that could cause all the old War Masters real trouble.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The ‘Council of Equals’ can be fickle damning one moment and praising the next, but this time it feels different according to our political sources.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I am a victim of my own past successes and associations. I have had far too high a profile.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Your activities here could have become known to our main foe. They could be seeking to manipulate you into making a dodgy arms deal that would be exactly Draakhaal’s style.” [Boisterous sends.]

“True but like I said it could also be a genuine opportunity. I will just have to take every necessary precaution.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So what do you intend to do about it and how can my forces assist?” [Boisterous sends.]

“I admit I would be grateful if you help watch over ‘Many Truths’ - as a friend - until her repairs are completed.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is the least I could do and you will be doing what politicking with the ‘Stellar Court’ to return home?” [Boisterous sends.]

“Not straight away, whilst my family here gets busy healing my ship I have to debrief and arrange the full repatriation of the rescued hostages and the refugees the Raiders saw fit to throw to me as a bonus. I think I will leave Leeruu to stew for a time and have a dig around for extra information on her and her organisation. Maybe SANE could be trusted to take over my initiative here if I must return to protect my investments.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What was it you always said ‘you can never know too much about your enemy or your friends’.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I will make some calls and find out what Uaaliss has to say about Leeruu and what Tleeboosuu and Reeskoo think as well. Then if I still need to, I will speak to Cad and Composure about this ‘Anomalous Matter’ proposal. After that we can discuss our positions and how I am no longer your War Master and you lot are no longer a Cadre.” [Harbinger sends rippling with yellow light.]

“So when exactly will you press the ‘Stellar Court’ to drop your banishment?” [Boisterous sends.]

“When the moment is ripe I’ll accuse the guilty and let the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ do what they must among themselves. In an odd way I could do with the ‘Stellar Courts’ good will - at least on the surface - even if they are another face of the enemy.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The way things have been going I am beginning to miss the ‘Surface War’. It is not easy playing nice with the ‘Stellar’. Back then foes and objectives seemed relatively straight forward.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Maybe from where you stood in the conflict to me we always had as many enemies within as without. Just remember I am not in this to start a war but to help end one and prevent another. I plan to do anything I can to speed the process of both endeavours.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We have been trying to stop wars ever since me got involved with the ‘Stellar Orb’.” [I privately send to my Captain.]

“In that case you will need the Cadres sooner or later Harbinger whether you like it or not. Just remember use of ‘AM’ warheads is still a very emotive subject especially for those who recall the ‘Trojan Turmoil’ first hand. Times change but firm memories of the past can haunt the future and skew reality for the long lived and rigid of opinion.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I can tell you have been talking with Temperate and or Composure.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We need more Elders on our side Harbinger their words carry a lot of weight.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Our side you make it sound like we are at war with our own people.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Temperate claims in a way we are though only for hearts and souls. Temperate says ‘that we ignore this internal struggle at our peril’. Since the ‘Second Accord’, I have started to believe a lot of what Temperate says is right. He foresaw this entire debacle Harbinger and has worked against veteran political isolation from before we were decommissioned.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I suppose Creed is still trying to insist that it was I that caused those ‘Raw Energy Siphons’ to get into the tentacles of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ and not his poor sections security?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Creed is the least of your worries Harbinger I would be more worried about others. I cannot decide if your opponents are deliberate liars or foolish and deceived. The difficulty with untruths and half truths is they can eclipse the facts. If something gets repeated often and loud enough some will always start to believe it.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Who else has been assassinating my character while the ‘Draakhaal’ have been striving to assassinate my body?” [Harbinger sends.]

“In a recent report on the state of the Paradox arms industry old Litigious commenced by blaming your historic first use of ‘Anomalous Matter’ Tri-guns rather than the return of the ‘Stellar Orb’ the release of Advanced Energy Leeches and the colonisation of the ‘Sea Spheres’ as the crux of all military escalation since.” [Boisterous sends.]

“For once old Litigious might actually be right. My Tri-guns did force the beginning of an arms race at least I am convinced they helped push forward shield and energy sink research and development.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So did the ‘Interdiction Fleets’ contingent of ‘Raw Energy Siphon’ using Paradox warships. The exploitation of the ‘Sea Spheres’ ended our complacency.” [Boisterous sends.]

“However would those ships have been released if I had not already upped the stakes by widely using ‘Anomalous Matter’?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Sometimes you give yourself too much credit Harbinger. It was the fear of the creation of new ‘Stellar Orbs’ that motivated the release of those Inner System ships. Do not believe your enemy’s rhetoric sometimes you can be too reasonable and too self questioning.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I doubt the Arch Chancellor, Litigious or Creed would agree with that statement.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are bigoted. If you agreed with everyone that complained about you Harbinger you would tie yourself up in a knot. For all your support you also have some formidable detractors on ‘Green Orb Alpha’ and they can smell blood since you left for the ‘Fringe’. They know something forced you to retreat out here, even if it infuriates them that they cannot discover exactly what. I think they hope if they keep attacking you somebody will be motivated to volunteer or let slip what they want to know sooner or later. I would swear they want rid of you as a political force permanently.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Litigious at least means well he is not the Paradox he once was. He thinks words and treaties can bind the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ alone and all direct action is harmful incitement to their instinctual violence. He perceives me as a recidivist warmonger who needs to be restrained for the greater good.” [Harbinger sends.]

“No doubt individuals like Litigious could be easily defeated once you can face them down but Harbinger until you are freed from your pledge you cannot.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I did fear my detractors might use my current predicament. So they have guessed something chased me out of ‘Core Alliance’ Space?” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are taking advantage of your forced absence and your families honourable nature to spread rumours and cozen support without question. A lot of Paradox believe you have a little too much wealth and influence. They see you as a direct threat to the wisdom and edicts of the ‘Core Alliance Paradox Council of Equals’. They also chaff against the Parliaments authority which you also have openly supported on more than one occasion.” [Boisterous sends.]

“They are bellowing bags of wind I have done nothing but support both Council and Parliament. By the love of the ‘Emissary’ I am a founder member of both institutions. Without the Parliament both the elected commons and the upper house of appointed Elder overseers how would we administer the ‘Core Alliance’? Without the Council how would we retain our Paradox soul?” [Harbinger sends.]

“As you know well a great many see the Parliament as a first step towards perdition a steady corruption towards enforced government of the many by the few. ‘Core Alliance’ democracy for all its high ideals of one person one vote is a long way from our edicts that can be ignored or embraced. The Parliament hands over real authority and command to its politicians especially the power sharing elected Prime Representatives of each race. Your detractors do not know you as I do; all they see is a potential tyrant in the making.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Are you trying to put me off going back?” [Harbinger sends with a crude laugh.]

“Just pointing out the facts Harbinger I am not sure you understand the depth of antipathy. As a wealthy and successful veteran respected by the survivors among the Cadres and Legions some will always see you as a threat. That you have a large personal share in Trinity Harbour and many flourishing businesses alongside a natural political following have made you the subject of considerable jealousy and distrust. That you are a major arms manufacturer has not helped either.” [Boisterous sends.]

“So Temperate believes real trouble is brewing?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Some of these fools think it is safe to make mischief with you now the ‘Surface War’ is over perhaps for such narrow benefits as their own personal financial gain via reducing you as a competitor. I even heard Logos recently accused you of playing the ‘Core Alliance’ Paradox off against the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ for your and your Trojan allies’ business interest’s benefit alone.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Logos who listens to him? On a bad day he believes the ‘Emissary’ talks to him personally.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Temperate says ‘it is not always about who does the speaking but what is said’. I think others are using Logos to spout things they wouldn’t dare to say out loud lest they be called to account. Some words once spoken are immortal Harbinger.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Everyone knows Logos is a bit touched.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Show me a prophet who is not. Because he is less than stable he can get away with saying almost anything and he frequently does.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Boisterous has a good point there Harbinger.” [I send.]

“So who is whispering to Logos this time?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I do not know Logos is not saying and with Exogenous communications it could be anyone. Damn it Harbinger it could be the Arch Chancellor for all we know although Temperate vows it is one or more Paradox not a Swimmer. Logos is a little mad not utterly stupid.” [Boisterous sends.]

“So they are a making sustained attacks against me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are, all your past and current activities seem to be coming under sly review and reinterpretation in side debates. Even your known close friendship with Hierophant Cad has been causing more and more grumbles. They hint you have the ‘Stellar Orb’ in your pocket and that such wealth and power as you and your family are hoarding always corrupts eventually without exception. They hint you are worse than Satori was at his prime that you want to monopolise the Paradox ‘Core Alliance’ upgrade market and many other industries. They hint that because you are an arms dealer you are naturally prone to stirring up conflict in order to boost your sales. They have even hinted that you and the Arch Chancellor fully engineered the ‘Surface War’ between you and that any trouble you have with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ is bogus.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I thought they said I was inciting the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ they cannot have it both ways?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Actually I think they can as the attacks have no single source or focus. These ingrates are broadcasting anything and everything that can possibly sway any member of the wider community against you. A lot of it is contradictory nonsense but it is emotive stuff slipped into debates on almost every topic in a cunning way. Every supposed failure of you or your family is denigrated every success twisted into a conspiracy against your own people and the Council and little of it is in plain speech easily countered by your friends unlike the more straight forward accusations by Litigious and Creed. Of course the worst accusations hint around the idea that via the War you have created a private secret army of devoted followers just waiting to lead a military coup against the sacred right of Paradox Priests to individual autonomy.” [Boisterous sends.]

“It would seem success can be as dangerous as failure. I had considered the only good thing about my Banishment was the gentle diminishment of my overblown reputation; especially among some of the Priests who originally became Splitters to fight in the ‘Surface War’ like you Boisterous.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We will not forget you Harbinger, any more than we will forget Unholy or Happenstance or any of the rest who lead us against ‘Stellar’ dominion. However we are not mindless followers either and certainly not interested in rebelling against our own institutions all we want is to squeeze a little commonsense into them.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I never wanted to become a figurehead to a new generation or to be a leader outside my own family or to own a host of ‘Sea Sphere’ surface business interests. I just wanted to survive to counter Draakhaal and moderate the ‘Stellar’ by every means at my disposal. I wish the thrice cursed idiot politicians who seem to enjoy arguing in the Council and striving to tear down those working on their behalf would just leave me alone to get on with my vision in peace.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If Paradox such as Unholy Terror, Happenstance and you had not shown an unwavering commitment to the struggle and dragged us along with you - by shaming our inaction - I am convinced we would either be dead or ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ thralls by now. Many have expressed this view in the Council but they twist our words and claim we are under your control like virtual puppets.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Was I wrong to make countering the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ my personal crusade? Maybe it is time I stepped aside and let someone else step up to do what needs doing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“No we need your commitment Harbinger - we know and trust you - that is why I was shocked at your banishment. Unholy is beside himself he knows he cannot fill the void you would leave behind. Happenstance is already stretched as our current full time commander.” [Boisterous sends.]

“So Happenstance did not retire either. I thought he had more sense.” [Harbinger sends.]

“This is not the time to retire Harbinger not even to battles on the ‘Fringe’. Few would willingly stand up to be so abused by those they are working for. I once failed to appreciate the true nature of the threat. As a younger Acolyte all I saw was ripe new opportunities when the AEL schematics were broadcast. Then many of my old family were killed and I became a Splitter to fight back. Now I know our enemy but even I would hesitate at leading this secret war. What your critics fail to appreciate is that no one ever blindly followed any of our so-called War Masters not even the three most successful. We all continued to follow our own visions for the future. We all had our own very good reasons to ally with you - none of us became slavish or inappropriately subservient.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I can vouch for that. Still to be honest I do see where they are coming from in a way - like they say ‘there are three sides to every story’. Caution is required we do need to be ever vigilant against demagogues and charismatic military warlords lest we lose ourselves to a slippage towards the creation of a throne and Empire.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We are done with thrones Harbinger we left all that behind long ago. I think what we have here is rampant paranoia possibly being manipulated by ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ agents.” [Boisterous sends.]

“You may well be right but a solid degree of caution is not weakness. I know I would never accept dominion over my peers but what of potential leaders who emerge among future generations, Paradox who have grown up with the domineering ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ as their neighbours and possible role models. The ‘Secession’ proved to me that many fear we have already become dangerously sundered from our old ways by mixing so closely with the other races. Sometimes I wonder could they have been right to cast us off - would we know if we became tainted by the slow steady pollution of alien ideas?” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are wrong about you Harbinger. Let them be on guard against the real villains we are simply facing up to our inner and outer demons rather than avoiding them through isolation and hoping for the best. Besides, I know of a few Priests who are actively advocating the return of very old style formal Priestly behaviour. We are not in danger of forgetting who we are or where we come from - not just yet.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Spoken like a true friend and believer in the cause. Yet to some even you coming here will prove you harbour a worrisome attachment to me whilst I - they will claim - have a dangerous influence over my old adopted troops.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I know, but they can go jump into ‘Hell’s Maw’. Where I go as an individual and whom I choose to associate with is my own vision’s private business. That I fought should be a badge of honour not an excuse for suspicion. Personally I find it a disgrace that Paradox Priests dare to denigrate veterans who saved and continue to shelter them from ‘Stellar’ conquest - sometimes Harbinger I despair at our Council I expected it to be more dynamic and have more common sense than the old institution but I fear it is as bad if not worse.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Dynamic young Priests rarely have the time to sit in session. Still Boisterous though it pains me I disagree with you in some ways: speaking out against whomsoever they choose in open debate is their inexorable right; that is what we fought for - I pray - you never ever forget that fact.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Boisterous was silent for a moment.]

“Holding fast to idealism is all well and good Harbinger but it can destroy itself with its purity making its goals forever impossible. It is a good thing we also have the Parliament - that is real government - that gets things done. Our Council is just talk, talk, and talk.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Careful Boisterous the Parliament is essential to the operation of the ‘Core Alliance’ but it is a cesspool of easy corruption and not just among the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Ministers either. Compromise is no less self-defeating. We will find no easy answers to the questions created by our ‘Core Alliance’ only difficult choices and the personal sacrifices needed to prevent disaster. The ‘Council of Equals’ remains our species conscience. In many ways, the Council is the one thing that binds us all together; it is a hundred times more important to our wellbeing than the Parliament will ever be. Even when our ‘Council of Equals’ seems loathsome and ineffective it influences us all. The ‘Council of Equals’ is an important warning to pay heed to our own direction our own vices and failures of vision not just to glory in our successes it shows us at our best and worst.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I trust you realise I had to bully several of the others out of coming directly here as well to drag you back into the thick of it. Even I knew it would be politically unwise if too many of us showed up all at once. Although they do not know what has happened our friends suspect you are up to something and are eager to get involved. You will have to speak to them Harbinger they are itching for a fight they do not like what happened to the ‘Nine’ they know the destruction of the ‘Forge’ was no simple ‘Jump Master’ shipping accident. They are afraid Draakhaal has decided to cut the heads from the Cadres via disgracing you all and or destroying your will to fight.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I’ll have Happenstance have a word with our friends that should prove safer for me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What about Unholy where has he got to?” [Boisterous sends.]

“He is staying quietly with Hierophant Cad until a new ‘Nine’ can be force grown. The loss of his fleet and the bulk of his family hit him pretty hard as did my Banishment on his behalf. I hope Cad can prevent him from doing anything foolish.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The destruction of the ‘Forge’ was a sneaky dishonourable attack Harbinger. I wish Unholy would grow up a bit though and stop risking his life in those Corvettes. He is a wonderful tactical field commander and an inspiration to the troops on the ground, but he can be a bit short sighted he is no wide strategist.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Unholy can be stubborn and inflexible in his own way. I told him to be careful he paid no heed now he has paid the price as did the majority of his Acolytes. Still that tactic employed by the ‘Stellar’ was fully unexpected.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Buying the ‘Forge’ from Tleeboosuu certainly proved unlucky for the ‘Nine’ it made a perfect target.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Or you could say buying a new ship proved lucky for Tleeboosuu.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Unholy was also fortunate not to be onboard his new carrier.” [Boisterous sends.]

“No I think the collision was planned that way. Draakhaal is a devious plotter he bided his time until the conditions suited his purpose.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Jumping a heavy ship into the same space as another is their any known counter to that?” [Boisterous asked.]

“Idle about do not park and or maintain Exit Destabilise Pulse Generators is the only thing I can think of. However jumping into the coordinates another ship is occupying is not the sort of thing the ‘Draakhaal’ can excuse away as a freak accident any more than once.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In a way Harbinger you are also paying for our friend’s mistake.” [Boisterous sends.]

“None of us is perfect we all know that Unholy is rather rash he was at his best leading from the front in a charge. I tried to warn him that the War was not really over but he just wanted to escape back to his old ways and get back out among the stars. He was sickened by the ‘Second Accord’ he felt I had betrayed the dead by assisting in the brokering of that deal.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I resented that too at first but you did what you had to do Harbinger. You learned a long time ago that there is no going back only moving onward.” [Boisterous sends.]

“You really did remember some of my boring lectures.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A few, mostly the ones you gave over and over again to reborn recruits like me.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Reborn recruits like you, did you ever feel that we valued you any less?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I never felt like my life was thrown away Harbinger neither should you. We had some hard fights and most of the times I died I volunteered.” [Boisterous sends.]

“It was madness and all because so many ‘Stellar’ constantly refused to abide by the limits imposed by the ‘First Accord’ settlement plan.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Did we win Harbinger? Sometimes I think we did sometimes I think we did not. They did still manage to settle in mass in an illegal manner in far too many regions. That fact to this day gives them an advantage in both numbers and claimed territory for expansion.” [Boisterous sends.]

“We did directly take back some surface regions and others are still under sanctions or their ownership is under review by the ‘Core Alliance Parliament’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose only the future ages will show if we achieved a victory.” [Boisterous sends.]

“All I know is we did not lose: we prevented the creation of more ‘Stellar Orbs’ and we managed to keep the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ from having to surface bomb which would have been an abomination we might not have recovered from.” [Harbinger sends.]

“True enough the ‘Stellar’ bent us enough out of shape without making us into mass murderers of civilians - even armed ones.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I recently realised I had edited some of it out of my memories.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Many of us did or we might have become bitter monsters. I am also glad that apart from acting as troop transports between safe settlements we kept our ‘Living Hulls’ mostly out of that sordid conflict.” [Boisterous sends.]

“We also prevented the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ from building hosts of shipyards and any large AEL fed artillery pieces especially surface to space batteries. Overall, I suppose we did quite well especially when it became more and more about taking, holding and decommissioning Surface Gates.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Small victories but I also like to tell myself they all added up to something worthwhile.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Maybe it was never about winning or losing maybe it was just about coping and we did cope with everything they threw at us with the help of the ‘Dweller’ Legions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose we did, also in a way - by fighting up close and personal - we earned some of our very martial enemies respect.” [Boisterous sends.]

“That is a good point as unreasonable as the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ can be now, the old colonists where in some respects far worse in their attitudes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In a few isolated areas from what I hear the ‘Surface Stellar’ settlers still are hard targets.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Some among those who rejected the Arch Chancellors vision were even more dangerous feeling isolated and entrenched they were stubborn beyond all reason.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Even the ‘Stellar Colonist’ moderates had almost no empathy with their cousins until some of the ‘Dweller Legions’ proved to be much more than the cowards of ‘Stellar’ propaganda.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Their would have been no ‘Second Accord’ had the ‘Dwellers’ not finally shown great mettle and fought for the fate of their ‘Sea Spheres’ by contesting ‘Surface Gates’ and illegally seized territory.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Oddly you could say the same thing about the Arch Chancellor if he had not been there as a supposed neutral to assist with the brokering of cease fires, borderline disputes and so on we would still be fighting.” [Harbinger sends.]

“He used us, he used us to steadily turn the majority of the ‘Stellar’ into one nation his genetically altered ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Speaking of the ‘Void Skimmers’ I didn’t tell you everything Leeruu told me she had an interesting theory about Stage II ‘Stellar’ genetics that we really must investigate. She said the ‘Free Stellar’ are convinced the Arch Chancellor used a meld with alien DNA not as was advertised pure clean from the ground up genetic engineering.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Sounds like propaganda Harbinger.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I know but if it is true and we could prove it…” [Harbinger sends cutting off short.]

“Scary Harbinger if that was proved true I do not know what the consequences would be. Instead of a good thing it might be a disaster. What would happen if we fully alienated the ‘Draakhaal’ from the rest of the ‘Core Alliance’? No pun intended.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Maybe you are right I just saw the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ turning on the Arch Chancellor for diluting their purity of essence - a bad case of tunnel vision on my part.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If you ask me if that got out it could be very dangerous not just for the Arch Chancellor but also for our political stability - such as it is. Imagine the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ sundered from any connection whatsoever to the Swimmer species as a totality. What species DNA are we talking about anyway?” [Boisterous sends.]

“Leeruu did not know but clearly something other than Paradox, Trojan, Recycler or Splinter the only thing I could think of that might fit was the legendary outsiders from the ‘X’ Sphere the creatures our scriptures name as Khaargh.” [Harbinger sends.]

“He would not have dared to use such unclean material would he?” [Boisterous sends.]

“I think the Arch Chancellor is capable of anything. How I wished for an end to the ‘Surface War’ now I am discovering the peace is even more perilous.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It was a frustrating time Harbinger and near the end very strange too. I remember being in the thick of it then being extracted back to a staging post by captured Gate to ‘High Towers’ on ‘Green Orb Alpha’ as you know some areas were completely unscathed and continued on with miraculous development as if their was no war on at all. The contrast was jangling to my nerves I felt - lost - out of place. It got to me at that time that all these citizens had been untouched and at times did not even seem to care. To them the war was far away almost unreal. It must have felt really good killing that monster Harbinger I envy you that even if you knew he would be reborn.” [Boisterous sends.]

“You would think that it would have felt glorious, but I do not recall feeling anything at all.” [Harbinger sends.]

“How long exactly did they banish you for?” [Boisterous sends.]

“Three years three months and three days.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The mockery, someday they will burn in the fires of their own making Harbinger. I believe the ‘Emissary’ will see justice done for us all. Maybe they are part Khaargh they are cursed evil enough to have such tainted genetics.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Unless the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ species are right and what the ‘Emissary’ wants are good trans-universal soldiers against even more alien foes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I refuse to believe that. The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ are at best misguided at worst twisted beyond redemption they are the shadow cast by the light of the peace loving ‘Dwellers’ they are the wrong ‘X’ Sphere heresy in every sense they are not the Grand Creations saviours more likely its future great enemy.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Careful Boisterous we never want this to become a Holy War such an entity could pass from generation to generation without end.” [Harbinger sends.]

“This war already feels eternal to me Harbinger and it was always holy as it is about securing a future for our species and our friends.” [Boisterous sends.]

“It just seems like forever - luckily all things come to an end eventually.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am sure endless conflict is exactly what the Arch Chancellor Draakhaal wants in that black diseased heart of his. The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ enjoy it they do not want to win or lose they want to prolong the agony so they will have the constant opportunity to sharpen their claws on us - even you have said this on occasion. This ‘Second Accord’ - will not last - it is just a temporary cessation of the widest hostilities.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I hope you are wrong and dread it as well. The ‘Stellar’ still have their clan feuds and duels to keep them happy. What worries me is that they have gained most of what they want down there already - a staggering base of industrial capacity - now if we fail to stop them they will be looking outward to take control of all the rest.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You have their measure there Harbinger the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ will not be happy until they have it all.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Even if the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ and ‘Parliament’ ground forces prevent any new ‘Stellar Orbs’ the ‘Stellar’ hardly require those mobile fortresses to steadily claim this entire ‘Emissary Sphere’ a bit at a time. They have the energy and production, now they will want full control of the raw resources. I fear the Arch Chancellor will not accept trade as the only solution to their needs for long.” [Harbinger sends.]

“One thing is certain the Arch Chancellor will never permit us to fully integrate the ‘Stellar’ into a multicultural society founded on tolerance and mutual respect. The only reason he is playing along right now must be because he still fears we have the ability if pressed to exterminate his species. Given ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ tenacity and aggression should we not be backing the Recyclers in this struggle with the ‘Free Stellar’ Harbinger?” [Boisterous sends.]

“No the ‘Conglomerate’ is almost as bad if not worse than the ‘Draakhaal’ they would slave us all to their ‘Sleepers’ who are not even truly alive anymore just downloaded simulations in a computer network. I am glad some untainted Recyclers have fled into the ‘Core Alliance’. Someday we will have to deal with the ’Sleeper Conglomerate’ I would prefer that the ‘Free Recyclers’ complete that task we will need them. Genocide should never be an option. If we kill off even the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ without replacing them with the ‘Free Stellar’ I firmly believe it will be the beginning of the end for us too.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are all ‘Stellar’ Harbinger the root from which the Arch Chancellor sprung.” [Boisterous sends.]

“We need to be on our guard against too easy racism. Remember even the ‘Stellar’ are Swimmers where does it end. I think the ‘Free Stellar’ have potential to grow and change in a positive way. They have already achieved a miraculous alliance with the Splinter. Potentially something wonderful is happening in ‘Fringe Space’ that could put an end to the old form of Splinter predation and open that race to lost possibilities they had long ago cast off. The Splinter are proving that change is possible when you have no other choice. Not exactly the way any of us imagined such a thing might happen but you have to make the most of fates gifts.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Something wonderful or another future problem. We can thank the ‘Jump Masters’ for that Harbinger they have made raiding for a living very difficult. Personally, I hate those boxy brutes they make a mockery of honest space travel. Jumping straight from one tightly secured berth in a dock to another where is the fun in that?” [Boisterous sends.]

“I know I feel exactly the same way as do many other veteran pilots but you can see how this was the inevitable consequence of point-to-point jump engine technologies. Combine that with the Sphere-to-Sphere Surface Gates and ‘Core Alliance’ open space is becoming much quieter. We are getting old Boisterous we were born in another age but their will always be a need for some real travel through open space even if it is just for the purposes of exploration, scientific study and the continued harvesting and protecting of far flung raw resources.” [Harbinger sends laughing.]

“I hope so Harbinger. You know I haven’t talked this much in days. I see you have your eyes firmly on the big picture not just the moment. The one blessing of dealing with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ has been the shift of our perceptions towards the ages as much as the moment.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Yes all the changes are not disastrous; as you say ‘Draakhaal’ has forced us all out of our short term complacency and comfort zones - well a lot of us anyway - a few stubbornly cling to selfish desires without thinking of the wider consequences.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Sometimes my own capabilities surprise me. Focussing my entire resources on healing resulted in a rapid recovery. It would have been even quicker if Harbinger had not insisted I use only my own abilities and none of our other wider external family assets. Of course my skin had been genetically enhanced several times since I had been born and I could now readily manufacture biomass from raw resources. My Drone Harvesters were kept very busy jumping back and forth as they only had small cargo holds. To my surprise I realised I no longer actually needed a shipyard. Even damaged complex systems could be engineered and grown onboard using either general engineering wombs or Acolyte workshops.]

[Location: The Many Truths, Koordaann’s Reef, Haemal’s Shroud, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 17:00.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

“Very impressive ‘Many Truths’ you look as good as new.” [Harbinger sends after giving me a thorough inspection.]

“Better than new. I made a few minor upgrades here and there.” [I send.]

“I am glad that is over I thought I was never going to be able to get those surplus refugees transferred. Oddly the fact that some are spies helped. The ‘Altered Stellar’ want to interrogate those ones so they agreed to take them all in and do all the necessary mind scan clearances in return.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If you had realised that they would be interested in the spies sooner we could have been rid of them all a lot quicker.” [I send.]

“I know I am slipping I thought the spies would have been a problem not an asset.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Due to their own strict adherence to the law in relation to visitors rights I suppose they rarely get a chance to dig in a ‘Draakhaal’ spies head.” [I send.]

“The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ are rather good at using our own laws against us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So we are all ready to go once our help arrives.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It has been good to travel as a single unit for a while - almost like the old days before the ‘Core Alliance’ - but I agree working alone it is getting too dangerous even for us.” [I send.]

“Also it is better that we demonstrate the use of some of our own Corporate assets rather than tempt more of our former Cadre friends to show up.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Still I gather you are not going to send Boisterous away after all?” [I send.]

“Having one old associate around might be prudent as he will allow us to keep a more subtle eye on what the rest are doing. However one will be more than enough unless we want to draw the wrong attention.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You have picked interesting assets?” [I send.]

“I did not want to go over the top ‘Flavour of the Moment’ and ‘Smarter by Design’ seem like sensible options.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A Light Carrier and our fleets latest Fast Attack Frigate both crewed not slaved.” [I send.]

“Fully crewed with a strong Marine contingents on both ships.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A substantive force in tidy packages Captain and they arrive as soon as they are free?” [I send.]

“In less than half an hour, right now both currently have active patrol duties.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I hear we have launched our first purpose built ‘Jump Master’ Harbinger.” [I send.]

“I have delayed that as long as I could. We have to keep moving with the times or we will not be able to compete.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am glad our old transport ships will not be retired Harbinger?” [I send.]

“The transports will be modified for new roles elsewhere.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Our ex transports becoming rather odd and uncategorised warships with the ‘Interdiction Fleet’.” [I send.]

“Yes, they will be quietly seconded.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So it is another off the record expansion of Cads resources.” [I send.]

“A few heavily modified ships with unknown capabilities are always useful for interdiction purposes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Plus they are only on loan so we also (off the record) increase our Corporations future combat capability as well.” [I send.]

“That was the nature of our deal.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you believe a fleet conflict of some nature is now inevitable?” [I send.]

“Hierophant Trend now believes the Arch Chancellor is itching for an excuse to test his rivals’ abilities against their own space side hardware. In addition, they really would like to secure full access to their own raw resources. Finally it is said the new Draakhaal despises the ‘Free Stellar’ who refused to migrate as quote ‘a backward embarrassment’. It is said he hates the fact that Stellar territory has been lost to the ‘Conglomerate’ and has been ranting and raving about it off the record in front of the clan leaderships.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You have changed your mind you no longer believe Draakhaal will try to make it official.” [I send.]

“Not unless the Raiders give him a very solid excuse.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So it will be another unsanctioned unofficial action by unruly clans and rank opportunists that he, poor fellow that he is, has no control over.” [I sends.]

“Judging from the latest storm in the ‘Stellar Court’ that Trend has just relayed to me that looks like the story.” [I send.]

“So has our actions here done any good at all?” [I send.]

“I think we have made some useful networking progress.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Arch Chancellor certainly knows how to make the most of his species supposed divisions.” [I send.]

“It is convenient that the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ refuse to fight each other except over matters of personal honour and clan feud such as adjacent border disputes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Clannish ambitions and disobedience continually allows the Arch Chancellor to keep his claws sparkling clean whilst being ever so dirty.” [I send.]

“He has set things up so that they can constantly test us without being drawn into an all out conflict unless they choose to be.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You must be sick of that; they exploit our every weakness while their central authority disavows all responsibility and continue pretending to be our friends. What worries me is that we might be assisting the ‘Free Stellar’ too late even if we do supply them with warheads.” [I send.]

“The ‘Free Stellar’ collapse when it occurred came quicker than we anticipated and we had our own problems at the time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe it will take a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ intervention to stop the ‘Conglomerate’ now?” [I send.]

“You forget the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ are not interested in saving the ‘Free Stellar’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Of course the latest intelligence from the Trojan’s indicate that the ‘Splinter’ species are belatedly starting to make a difference to the struggle. The ‘Free Stellar’ have managed to halt the advance for the first time since the conflict began.” [I send.]

“The ‘Splinter Harbours’ via adapting their strategies and tactics have lately become a much more dangerous force. Hierophant Trend is actually now concerned that the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ may have wakened a sleeping giant. That the ‘Splinter’ are about to become serious contenders a new power block.” [Harbinger sends.]

“One thing is certain the ‘Free Stellar’ factions need to be very careful they could be exchanging an external enemy for an enemy within.” [I send.]

“So far the ‘Splinter’ leaders have honoured every agreement they have made with the ‘Free Stellar’ even when it seriously hurt them at the beginning of their campaign. They seem to be highly honourable for a species of murdering brigands.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You know things are going bad when you accept this many - rogue elements - as potential allies. Are we really going to go against advice and try to directly open relations with the ‘Splinter’.” [I send.]

“I am we have the ‘Free Stellar’ connection via SANE who want us to supply those warheads. I can hardly miss an opportunity like this to meet these warriors in person. I never dreamed I would get an opportunity to talk with the ‘Splinter’ other than with my weapons.” [Harbinger sends.]

“This time I really hope you know what you are doing.” [I send.]

“Just a little side trip before we return home to ‘Green Orb Alpha’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I hate it when you say something like that.” [I send.]

[Harbinger just glowed yellow with amusement.]

“What do you make of that sighting of the Zombie Fleet? It has been a long time since they have been active.” [I send.]

“They have certainly been upgraded and expanded from their last recorded engagement.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Natural births we never thought about the consequences of that.” [I send.]

“I have no idea why they would attack ‘Conglomerate’ held territory especially ‘Red Nest’. You know I had almost forgotten about that old Fleet of subsumed ships as well as that region of space - two items from our past. Others are looked into it as best they can. However it is not easy to get supplemental intelligence on any event that occurs in ‘Conglomerate Space’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is a good thing the ‘Core Alliance’ has stealth satellites all over the place. Do you think we can prove ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ species links to the Zombies because of those ‘Raw Energy Siphons’? I am almost beginning to feel underpowered they wiped out the station despite all its defences and a small ‘Conglomerate’ defence fleet very quickly. I wonder if our old Recycler friends survived that battle.” [I send.]

“Even if they did they were not who they used to be. When the ‘Conglomerate’ took over six months ago they would have been forced to become one with the core.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If only we could reverse the process of becoming one with the Recycler computer cores especially with those forced to integrate.” [I send.]

“All attempts to free ‘Conglomerate Recyclers’ have resulted in the victim being left in a vegetative state. The psyche becomes too firmly attached to the union it is not a physical thing we can remove those particular implants we just cannot heal the mind without virtually wiping and rewriting it which would be a Mind Crime - they would not be the same person afterwards.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So what, they were not the same person before? If we recorded cleaned and returned as much of their memory and personality as possible that would have to be better than salvaging nothing?” [I send.]

“Minds are not material death is kinder than mind butchery. We are what we are and that is a very subtle interaction of experiences we would be as bad as the ‘Conglomerate’ if we took that away from our captives? What annoys me is that the ‘Conglomerate’ now controls all access to that rare Mass Producer Anomaly.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What about our Acolytes we sometimes edit their memories is that not just as big a Mind Crime?” [I send.]

“Hardly we remove a few items that are harmful to their sanity or our overall security. We do not do wide personality edits or broad memory rewrites.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Could the attack be about the real ‘Red Nest’ that Anomaly?” [I send.]

“I do not know it almost looked like a punitive raid; after all it was just pure destruction the Zombies did not seem to be doing anything else in the region? They just blew the station up then departed.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Whatever the purpose of that attack was Harbinger it has to be important. If the Zombie Fleet is controlled directly by the Arch Chancellor as we suspect then that action must have been done for a personal reason.” [I send.]

“Unless it is a diversion to draw our or the ‘Conglomerates’ attention away from something else. It could even be a direct threat or warning to the ‘Sleepers’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you think the Arch Chancellor could be making deals with the ‘Conglomerate’?” [I send.]

“They maintain communication channels as to whether they are plotting together I am sure they are and have always been on some level. However, it is just both sides trying to use the other. Even we deal with the ‘Conglomerate’ diplomatically to that extent.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That sounds very cynical Priest Harbinger.” [I send.]

“Politics in this age - maybe always - is a cynical business especially foreign affairs and diplomacy.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You did not always believe that.” [I send.]

“Sometimes we change the times but more often the times change us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps Captain but was it not you who once said ‘we are what we choose to be’.” [I send.]

“Possibly given your perfect recall but I was probably quoting somebody else. Besides a sentence means little without a context that is why quotes are so easily abused.” [Harbinger sends with a yellow ripple of light.]

“It will be good to get back to the ‘Core Alliance’ will I cancel your appointment with Koordaann?” [I send.]

“Yes, I suppose I cannot guarantee we will not be delayed elsewhere. We can get an audience with the Kraken some other time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You make that sound easy.” [I send.]

“I think the ‘Altered Stellar’ may have future reasons to welcome us warmly as sympathetic representatives of the ‘Core Alliance’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose those few of us who do not see everything as black and white need to stick together.” [I send.]

“Yes, ours will be a dirty grey alliance.” [Harbinger sends rippling yellow.]

[Less than one hour later with our two MTC (Many Truths Corporation) escorts, we leapt out; coordinates having previously arrived from the ‘Stellar Autonomous National Executive’ via Leeruu for the historic meeting. Harbinger had refused to assist in the procurement of ’Anomalous Matter’ warheads without a chance to evaluate the ‘Free Stellar’ forces Splinter allies - in person. After all releasing this power to one might be giving an advantage to both groups.]

[At first SANE had refused to cooperate in this meeting but Harbinger had been adamant and in the end with Leeruu’s assistance the Executive caved in. It was obvious they wanted a solid mass supply of those warheads very badly indeed.]
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Posts: 2965
Joined: Tue, 19. Apr 05, 10:59

Post by Paranoid66 » Wed, 27. May 09, 11:53


[Location: The Many Truths, Dark Coordinate, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 17:48.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

[Via our tubeworm like advanced sensor masts, we detect the Splinter Warp Harbour apertures long before they widen. Due to our preparations we are mentally armoured when a hoard of extra heavy but rather agile looking red-hulled fighters (of a design previously unfamiliar to us) appear and surround us.]

[Five times as many combat drones also of an apparently unique design (all multiple guns and rear engine) quickly join the piloted fighters. Finally yet importantly, a giant object leaps in that could eclipse a Swimmer Super Dreadnaught. At first I thought it was a semi-mobile habitat or fortress then I realised it was an impressive warship.]

[Worryingly parts of the latest arrivals red hull shows evidence of Trojan design influences in its lines while the hull material itself is clearly Splinter making it a strange hybrid. I decide to label the colossal unknown craft as a Splinter Mother ship. The oddest thing about the gargantuan Mother ship is the fact it appears to be anything but new. Old repairs from past battle damage scar its surface giving it a hard veteran look.]

[To our surprise, Coil Wrecker Emitters snare us. The over the top aggressive precaution sets my nerves to jangling.]

[Although this is an arranged meeting, we also come under active targeting; ponderous but truly intimidating guns on the Mother ship swivel slowly but inexorably towards us to lock on.]

[For once I am unsure how best to proceed.]

“Captain, how should I respond to all this posturing by the Splinter?” [I send.]

“Do nothing, wait, they are just seeking to exert their authority as the current owners of this region of space.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You had better be right or we are in really - big - trouble this time.” [I send.]

“If they wanted to attack they would have fired by now.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Those mobile mounts, I hesitate to call them turrets, have main gun sized weaponry. That is seriously impressive firepower.” [I send.]

“Did you think I failed to notice those cannons? I wonder what they fire. They cannot be energy devices as the power drainage would be far too substantial without something like Raw Energy Siphons.” [Harbinger sends.]

“All I need to know is that they fire something - I am sure those cannons are not decoys.” [I send.]

“Relax ‘MT’ we cannot jump anyway while under the Coil Wrecker Emitters and I do not intend to show cowardice by running or suicidal bravery by engaging that monstrosity either.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am glad to hear that Captain. I have not tried to deep scan them but from visuals alone that is a formidable vessel.” [I send.]

“If we must contend with it I imagine it will be a job for the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ maybe even the ‘Stellar Orb’ not us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am beginning to think we should have arrived with the ‘Stellar Orb’ in tow as our own demonstration of unstoppable might.” [I send.]

[Our small fleet sits placid we do not even extrude a single turret lest it provokes a fight that we might well lose.]

“It has been a long time since I felt so outclassed by any single ship.” [I send to Harbinger.]

“What are they doing are they trying to provoke a battle? What a monster.” [Fortunate sends.]

“I think they are just striving to unnerve us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They have succeeded, have you ever seen a larger warship than that one?” [Fae sends.]

“The ‘Stellar Orb’ is much bigger.” [Fortunate sends.]

“The ‘Stellar Orb’ is not a warship it’s a mobile base of operations it jumps from place to place it does not fly through normal space.” [Fae sends.]

“As I often say about space combat ‘size is not everything’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Looking at that beast I have to beg to disagree.” [Fortunate sends.]

“We are receiving a hail - audio only.” [I send to my Captain.]

“Paradox - you will accept - warp coordinates for three.” [A voice sends followed by the standard numeric data.]

“That is rather perceptive of them to include space for my Acolyte Companions in their guest list.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They probably know a lot more about us than we do about them.” [I send.]

“If we are lucky that may be about to change. I wonder what we will find on the other side.” [Harbinger sends I can sense my Captains barely controlled excitement via our companion-ship link.]

“Sometimes your enthusiasm depresses me.” [I send.]

“Still there is only one way to find out about these aliens.” [Harbinger sends with amusement.]

[Sometimes my Captain hides shock behind humour.]

“Your curiosity will be the death of us.” [I send.]

“You can stop pretending to be any less intrigued. Kindly warp us over.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Are you sure warping over there is wise?” [I send.]

“Just do it ‘MT’.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I do as commanded sending Harbinger, Fortunate and First among equals across to the designated unnamed Splinter Mother ship.]

[We arrive into pitch darkness. We shift into infra red just as spot lights come on to pick us out along with six armed and armoured figures.]

[It seems nobody trusts us anymore the figures have the rigid posture of guards.]

[We examine our hosts they are encased in sharp edged but dull red, black scared, battle suits that remind me of metal decay and dried blood.]

[The weaponry they are holding combines both gun and blade elements in a most unusual manner. The arms look both heavy and unwieldy but are hefted by the guards with ease.]

[In a way the obvious mechanical wear and the dirt on the Splinter guards suits shocks me. Their outer appearance contrasting sharply with a precise snap to attention. The drill screams out that they are a highly disciplined and well-practiced honour guard. Then as I review the guards with our suits deep perception, it all feels a little suspicious. The perfection of their timed synchronisation is simply too tight.]

“What does such gross disregard for aesthetic maintenance combined with this sharpness of movement say about a species military forces?” [I send to my Captain.]

[Then crunches under our feet as we shuffle about distract us. Harbinger and I look down.]

[In what seems like something from a surreal dream we notice the ground is carpeted in whole and fractured rather wet and slimy mould infested black and yellowed bones. These in turn lie on a bed of tiny fragments and compacted dust.]

[Our suit scanners penetrate down and down into worrying depths: the detritus of ages - I hope. Among the bones are intact and semi intact skulls of an alien aspect possibly Splinter. We are standing upon a holocaust of dead grinding them under our feet.]

“I am tempted to take a genetic sample but I imagine that would be exceptionally rude.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“I would resist such a move since it is likely to be considered an invasion of privacy and antagonistic.” [I send.]

“We have arrived at a very odd artefact within any space ship military or otherwise.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Indeed, it appears to be a deep shaft a midden or crypt of some description, certainly a depository for the slain.” [I send.]

“Why would they bring us here? What do you think they are trying to tell us?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am not sure to me this place is full of mixed messages.” [I send.]

“Is this honour or desecration for these remains to be mashed beneath our steps?” [Harbinger sends to me looking down.]

“All I know is it feels most unsettling and barbarous to me.” [I send.]

[Both Fortunate and First among equals remain silent following their orders they simply take in every detail of the strange scene.]

[I also study our surroundings. The dampness bothers me. In my mind, you keep your treasured remains dry to preserve and honour them. Here these relics of individual lives appear cast away - discarded - as if thrown into a pit or other primitive waste disposal.]

[Our welcome party are now standing as still as inanimate objects in the process giving very little away about their species intent here. The full truth of the Splinters current physiognomy remains hidden.]

[True the sharp Battle suits seem to reveal the fact that they have two legs, two arms, and a torso and are about three of their own heads shorter than a standard Paradox Shroud Suit but that is all superficial assumption.]

[The Battle suits helmets are fully enclosed and blank the armour heavy enough to hide many possibilities. Of course Paradox Priest, dress preferences leave my Captain in no position to complain about the Splinters - no doubt - just as deliberate concealment.]

“Are they mocking our own habits or seeking an equilibrium or do they think by greeting us in kind they honour us?” [Harbinger send.]

“I cannot answer so much meaning is lost to our ignorance in these circumstances. We must beware as there is a great danger of miss interpretation here. Nothing may be quite what it seems we lack solid reference points with this culture.” [I send.]

“Without doubt we will have to stay alert and step carefully.” [Harbinger sends looking at the unpleasant floor.]

“It would be amusing if those armoured shells did not even hold Splinter entities. We could be dealing with android guardians or simply empty automated suits?” [I send.]

“Doubtful the Splinter until recently have always manually piloted fighter craft that suggests a hands on approach to combat. What brings on this paranoia?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Did you not notice their movements the synchronisation of those guards was too perfect matching each other to milliseconds - that has to be more than mere drilling.” [I send.]

“Now that is interesting. They may have some kind of synchronised suit enhancement.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I doubt that would be practical to that degree with flesh, bone and muscle acting as a natural resistant on the inside.” [I send.]

“Perhaps you are right then and these are sentry drones designed to be less conspicuous or powered suits running on automatics.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is possible they have suffered such a high attrition among their populace that they have to rely on mechanicals to bolster their numbers.” [I send.]

“It is also possible this is a subtle insult or a test of our perception. Still if we cannot be sure they are Splinter they cannot be positive we are Paradox either? ” [Harbinger sends in reply.]

“Is it not written ‘by our raiment you shall know us’.” [I send.]

[I sensed my Captain’s amusement at my quoting of Paradox scripture.]

[We are still sizing up the honour guard and adjusting to the floor covering when a warp wormhole emits three more figures. As the translation light show dies, they march in still closer casually snapping bones under heavy footfalls.]

[Ignoring the Splinter, the bones and us it is otherwise a very empty and sparse chamber lit dimly with shafts of illumination from those crudely bracketed spotlights that turned on after our entry.]

[The décor seems deliberately oafish the octagonal chamber being sheaved in angular interlocking stained metal plates that are dripping with condensation thus all the moisture here.]

[The latest arrivals are also hidden inside heavy combat armour only these suits look a bit more sophisticated if no less battle worn.]

[Of the new arrivals only one is unencumbered the other two carry standards of cloth, metal, skin and bone lashed together in a rather barbarous way that to me belongs in a much more primitive age one long lost to antiquity. The banners do however fit the nature of the floor and the uncompromisingly stained walls.]

“I am happy to meet a flesh and blood delegation.” [Harbinger broadcast via suit speakers I sensed fishing for confirmation.]

[The leader of the three turned to regard us with (excluding scrapes and pits of damage) an expressionless facemask. I notice the newcomers’ movements are indeed more natural and imperfect and come to the same conclusion as my Captain that these three at least are biological entities.]

“I know you Paradox. I know you would know us.” [Modulates a speaker enhanced voice.]

“We wish to open formal relations.” [Harbinger replies politely.]

“Then know this I am Rii Roethynn and as you can see I have become a Master of the ‘Remorseless Hunt’.” [Rii stated.]

“Is that the name of this ship or an institution?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am the cleanser and redeemer of the corrupted. I am the first permitted to return with enlightenment to the wilderness of the ignorant sundered.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“Very pompous.” [Harbinger privately sends to me.]

“You speak to one found worthy of bringing the discipline of law back to the beginning. Take care Paradox for I sit in judgement as the sharp bladed will of the Emperor.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“I am Harbinger of the ‘Many Truths’ a Paradox Priest and a founding father of the ‘Core Alliance’ I am not here to fight but to understand and perhaps to make common cause.” [Harbinger advised.]

“You are a bold one Harbinger daring to come here - to judge - us.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“Judgement is required in all things.” [Harbinger replies.]

“That is a truism I also embrace. In me both Emperor and ‘Emissary’ have found a champion. I am here to save those still capable of redemption from a past wickedness of disobedience.” [Rii Roethynn explains.]

“The Emperor of the Splinter?” [Harbinger asks.]

“The Splinter race is nothing. I speak of the one true Emperor of all in the ‘Emissary Sphere’ of whom the Sundered those you name the Splinter form but a small part.” [Rii Roethynn corrected.]

“Do I sense the great hubris of a recent convert?” [I send privately to my Captain.]

“Rii.” [Shout his two bearers shaking and rattling their standards that include hollowed carved bones that chime dully in ritualistic salute. Again, these figures move in a different way to the six honour guards confirming hidden biology under the composite material skin.]

“I greet you with the three blessings of health, prosperity and victory Ambassador Rii Roethynn.” [Harbinger replies bowing crisply.]

“I am no Ambassador. As to health and victory I am told those assets are assured to the Emperors highest servants. If you mean by ‘prosperity’ the weakness of an unnecessary surplus: the sad temptations of luxurious comforts those false goals - we who serve gladly - are happy to do without.” [Rii Roethynn explained.]

“I speak simply of prosperity as it relates to good fortune.” [Harbinger replied evenly.]

“We prefer to rely upon hard work and ability to secure our fate not chance. Still it is fitting that the descendents of others who once followed the ‘Emissary’ should bow to us now in homage. It is well when a thing begins as it also must inevitably end.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

[I could feel Harbinger bristle a bit at that but on the surface he controlled it well.]

“It is also proper that a representative of the Paradox has now witnessed the commencement of my service.” [Rii Roethynn continued.]

“What service would that be Rii?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Think Paradox, you should not have to ask. You have walked upon the truth of my making. Here we stand upon the cleansed - the dishonoured dead - who perished so that the worthy might be lifted up to new heights.” [Rii Roethynn explains.]

“I am honoured to be so privileged.” [Harbinger replied diplomatically.]

“Now I will continue my quest as the Master of the ‘Remorseless Hunt’.” [Rii Roethynn repeated.]

“The ‘Remorseless Hunt’ now sounds suspiciously like some kind of cull to me.” [I send privately to Harbinger.]

“Can you understand Paradox? Can you see the glorious truth?” [Rii Roethynn asked.]

“Is it possible this multitude of dead that we walk upon happened to be criminals?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Yes every one of the slain here was judged, found guilty and lawfully executed.” [Rii replied.]

“What was their crime?” [Harbinger asked.]

“The greatest crime of all - each was incomprehensibly disloyal to the majesty of their Master.” [Rii Roethynn replied.]

“Yes I think I understand.” [Harbinger said calmly although I could sense he was appalled at the idea.]

[Rii Roethynn bowed as if in deep contemplation. Then again maybe he just wished to look down upon the sentenced and executed. I did not know for sure; I had little to work with. He stood in silence for a time. I wondered if he was in meditation. Then the Splinter leader raised his head and spoke again.]

“If you would know me then know this Paradox: The once sundered people are at last free from the burden of their past. The Sundered are splintered in culture no longer. Their corruption will be cleansed their loyalty assured as was mine - slowly but inexorably - their pride will return as mine did. Already the reclaimed are taking up their own service passing on their blessings to the Pale. Life for all true warriors is a test: The challenge of skill that is survival and the following of the insight that is the true knowledge of ones proper place in the universe. I warn you what is unworthy must be culled what is profane will be utterly destroyed.” [Rii Roethynn added.]

“Who are the Pale?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Your lack of insight continues to disappoint me Paradox. The Pale are all who are not the honoured people.” [Rii Roethynn stated simply.]

“What is profane?” [Harbinger asked.]

“What is profane - you too should know in your own soul - the ‘Emissary’ speaks to all beings even if unlike our Emperor you cannot be expected to encompass the complete fullness of her words.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“Would you tell me of your alliance with the ‘Free Stellar’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Alliance, that word means nothing to me. Do you expect me to stain the newfound purity of the belatedly redeemed with sickly compromises and infernal bargains? I am not here to bargain.” [Rii blared out.]

“No offence was intended.” [Harbinger said.]

“Know this the Master of the ‘Remorseless Hunt’ has no interest in excuses Paradox. What is needed we will deliver, what we are as the outer picket and herald we will prove in time to you all. You too will know the vision the Emperor imparted to me; your and our greater salvation. I thought you Paradox claimed to see matters of wide portent with clarity. Is the breadth of your vision not renowned? Has corruption blinded your purpose over the ages since pilgrimage?” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“We still follow the truths that led us here.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I suppose it is possible - some - of you do.” [Rii Roethynn replied.]

“This is all beginning to sound a little ominous Harbinger.” [I send.]

“Easy, we know little about this culture. What they are saying may not be what we think we are hearing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In our dreams it is not Captain.” [I send.]

“Do you know why I am here?” [Harbinger asked.]

“What I know about you is irrelevant Paradox. The question is: Do you know why you are here?” [Rii Roethynn asked.]

“I am here to consider whether or not to support a ‘Free Stellar’ request.” [Harbinger answered plainly.]

“Are you so sure of that?” [Rii Roethynn asked.]

“I was also - I confess - curious about your people.” [Harbinger admitted.]

“No it is not mere curiosity you would measure our intent and ability. That is a risky course of action Paradox. As the Master of the ‘Remorseless Hunt’, I will soon decide whether to blame that you fail to quail before me on bravery or ignorance. I am amazed you risk such audacity. Did you not count my guns?” [Rii Roethynn asked.]

“By now you Splinter should know we Paradox Priests are not easily intimidated.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I think you are brave but whether that is wise or foolish only the ‘Emissary’ knows. I have yet to decide if your ‘Core Alliance’ is worthy of the lessons I will teach.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“I thought it was we Paradox that have been giving all the lessons lately.” [Harbinger replied.]

“That is about to change. So far, I have taken the Sundered as my family; also, I have taken the enmity of the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ and the friendship of the ‘Free Stellar’ for I measured that remnant worthy of their ancestors.” [Rii Roethynn said.]

“Do you have many ships like this one?” [Harbinger asked.]

“For now, I will take your approval, for I know you have killed many of the wayward Sundered and I consider it interesting that you have not cowered before me. I think you are strong and worthy, even if you are - through no fault of your own - uncouth, ignorant and unlearned in your ways.” [Rii Roethynn states.]

“Careful Harbinger ‘take your approval’ sounds like a binding commitment.” [I send.]

“You can have my approval.” [Harbinger replies ignoring my cautionary words.]

“You are wise to surrender your approval to us for as I have said ‘I am not here to bargain’. If you would lay claim to any wisdom beyond - empty words - you now know me for all that I have become. If you do not you will come to a short-lived enlightenment soon enough. Either way, you must pick your own path to death or glory.” [Rii Roethynn stated.]

[The three turned together and stomped out. We looked at each other and at the floor.]

“Was that wise Harbinger?” [I send.]

“A gut decision; I have a strong feeling to get off this ship alive some false diplomacy is required.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They negotiate like wrathful Paradox.” [I send.]

“Indeed from a position of strength with little or no willingness to compromise.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You really should have attempted to convince Hierophant to loose the ‘Stellar Orb’.” [I send.]

“I had expected a less impressive show of force from the Splinter. Amusingly I worried about intimidating them.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am thinking the enemy of our enemy is likely to prove just another future foe.” [I send.]

“I agree I have been a fool to think the Splinter had changed their ways for the better this will be worse - much worse - than simple banditry unless...” [Harbinger sends trailing off.]

“So if our new friend is not deceiving us the Splinter Inner Systems have long hidden an Empire.” [I send.]

“An Empire that has rallied to the buffer zone of their fringes defence.” [Harbinger sends.]

“By returning an emissary sent inward by the Splinter Raiders we are familiar with.” [I send.]

“No doubt that act of diplomacy by the Raiders was one of desperation following a tragic series of disastrous defeats from many quarters.” [I send.]

“Rii Roethynn whatever he was before now appears to be the product of some form of sophisticated Inner System Imperial indoctrination.” [Harbinger sends.]

“An agent sent to reclaim what is to this Empire a mere criminal or rogue fraternity of drop outs.” [I send.]

“It looks like a typically - limited - Inner System reaction to action.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Splinter Inner Systems have always been closed to us.” [I send.]

“Perhaps not all of us I am increasingly convinced there are hidden accords between all the Inner Systems and that the overall shape and history of our universe is not what we have been led to believe.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In what way?” [I send.]

“Our vision of the ‘Emissary Sphere’ may be an inverted mockery of the truth. For example we perceive the areas we inhabit now and those that Secession recently claimed as the centre of a great civilisation. Now I suspect our known settled areas though close to the site of the pilgrims arrival are in fact historic backwaters even the regions we knew about and called our Inner Systems that used to be closed racial space.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Now you are confusing me Harbinger.” [I send.]

“Have you not noticed the increasing conjecture that more advanced groups among all the known races possibly migrated much further outward than was previously known. The theory goes that those who stayed behind (who settled for what they had) were not more enlightened through steady prolonged growth at all but in fact: The degenerate product of war, pestilence and other disasters left with no other choice.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What are you saying that we are the scion of individuals incapable - or prevented - from making a bright egress to brave new regions.” [I send.]

“Exactly we are the descendents of those left behind from several glorious exodus outward.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are saying we where not the central High Civilisation from which only the disaffected departed.” [I send.]

“Imagine if it was the other way around the Highly Civilised departed from us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That seems incredible Harbinger.” [I send.]

“No, it makes perfect sense. Look at how lightly settled our space was before the population explosion initiated by the settlement of the ‘Sea Sphere’ surfaces. We had bled out ‘MT’ in historic wars against each other and from a general loss of dynamism and fractured unfocused activity. The great nations we where so proud of being were just stagnating resource poor leftovers. This even helps to explain the too complete disappearance of the Trojan (none of the previous, theories ever fully fitted). Even if some survivors of the ‘Turmoil’ were hiding in Jump Harbours there would be more evidence of their existence by now. So where did they go?” [Harbinger sends.]

“That makes a lie of almost all our broadest histories Harbinger.” [I send.]

“Revisionism; facts that reduced our importance in the grand scheme of things were naturally unpopular. Societies often suppress unwelcome theories. More the deeper Inner Systems may have desired to stay closed and unknown to us perceiving us to be both technological infants and socially backward liabilities - in short unstable troublemakers.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Then how come this story is coming out now?” [I send.]

“This theory has been cropping up among radical historians ever since the Secession. I am convinced our ‘Known Inner Systems’ were covering up the existence of their cousins the deeper unknown or ‘Hidden Inner Systems’. When our ‘Known Inner Systems’ separated from us fearing our - supposed - corruption: Our weakening to alien influences, and increasing strength, they could no longer so readily control historic research. The truth began at last to fly free. The ‘Known Inner Systems’ were good at suppressing information look how long they hid the truth about the ‘Stellar Orbs’ energy resources.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose anything is possible but such beliefs are supported by very little or no verifiable evidence.” [I send.]

“Rii Roethynn and his singular impressive ship is substantial evidence. I would wager he brings a few new significant technologies with him that will be old and outdated in the Empire he returned from yet prove a valuable edge and be deemed fit for release here.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That Mother ship may look like a well tested design (much repaired and all that) but that just hints at many battles in a warlike domain and a different attitude to cosmetic injury.” [I send.]

“What have you against this theory? How odd it is that we never heard any rumour of a mighty Splinter Empire? It is possible every Splinter Raider we struggled with over all the long ages was just a brigand. I tell you hints dropped by people like Hierophant Cad and slips made by some of our more eccentric Elders are beginning to make a lot more sense to me. The ‘Known Inner Systems’ kept us in ignorance standing guard over ‘Hidden Inner Systems’ the outer layers of perhaps continuous expansions. We were discarded a tattered remnant of earlier ages a mere buffer zone just like the Splinter Raiders.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you really believe even our Paradox Inner Systems are really much wider than advertised?” [I send feeling a little disloyal given some ‘Living Hull’ secrets that I had recently become privy to but where not mine to share - not even with my Captain.]

“Indeed, even our Paradox Inner Systems if you look at a map of the ‘Emissary Sphere’ there are wide swathes of connecting space going outward from the centre that when entered ships never return from.” [Harbinger sends in reply.]

“That could mean anything - more to the point - does any of this matter right now? What is happening here Harbinger was that really the end of our embassy? I think we should go now I do not like the way those guards seem to be staring at us.” [I send.]

“I had hoped they would expand on that terse encounter perhaps by introducing us to other less elevated members of the crew. I think we should wait for a little while longer to see if something like that happens.” [Harbinger sends.]

[We wait impatiently under the hard blank stares of the suited possibly automated guards then one of them stepped forward lowering his wickedly bladed weapon.]

“Go; do you expect us to tell you thrice because you are Paradox?” [The guard said.]

“So it is over - that was the entire audience. Please Warp us back ‘MT’ we would not want to overstay our welcome.” [Harbinger sends.]

[We returned to my body, mere moments later the Splinter fighters enter their Jump Harbours while the Mother ship leaps away under its own power. We are left all alone in the dark.]

“Well that was an interesting experience. From the position of intelligence gathering well worth the trip; still it was not what I expected or hoped for.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Where now Captain?” [I send.]

“Pick, scout and jump to a Dark Coordinate somewhere at random, then idle around. Do a little training with our support ships or some harvesting or basking whatever you like. I am going to my meditation chamber to mull all this over.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Shocking Harbinger, we are not even carrying any passengers.” [I send.]

“Only disturb me if there is vital news or an important communication.” [Harbinger sends turning his exogenous link off.]

[I retreat from his consciousness to give my Captain the quiet solitary space he sometimes desires. As Harbinger Warps direct to his meditation chamber, I pick some coordinates and jump some drone scouts ahead.]

[Incoming reports are all negative. I organise our small fleet into a tight formation and for the practice Jump Lock us and leap after the drones as a linked unit. We burst through the other side with the slightly brighter shimmering flare of light typical of most Jump Locked group exits.]

[I confess there is something about that manoeuvre that always feels rather satisfying and lifts me - maybe it is the martial mob psychology - whatever it is it has nothing to do with energy efficiency. No wonder the Stellar like to employ Jump Locks for fleet transits.]

[We move forward in a ‘Y’ shaped formation with me at the centre. I extend my advanced sensor mast and check for anything the drones might have missed. Local space reads clear of anything of note nonetheless I drop eighteen ‘Devil Fish’ Remora Drones putting them into six groups of three and establish random patrol routes at varying distances. I also drop a stealth satellite it can be useful to keep an eye on a few regions of empty space for quick escape purposes and safe rendezvous. I release some disposable target drones and extrude my turrets for a little live gun practice.]

[Another part of my consciousness is monitoring the family as they go about their business and leisure activities. Despite many of the crew being in temporal stasis I am still a hive of purposeful activity. I peruse various internal projects in progress from research being pulled from Central Computer Cores on a score of topics to practical construction work in a light engineering workshop.]

[I also check on the progress of some delicate ‘Shroud Suit’ repairs following our fight with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Dreadnaught’s Marines. Paradox ‘Shroud Suits’ are always manufactured at the absolute peak of that species technological development. Harbinger spares no expense with his families suits. Old equipment frequently being upgraded or replaced with entirely new models. Acting almost like an outer Paradox body ‘Shroud Suits’ are important not just as physical tools but have also become indelibly linked to Paradox identity and ego.]

[Elsewhere some of the family are examining equipment recently captured from the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Marines. Medical Acolytes examine and dissect a few prized corpses looking for recent anatomical changes - we are well aware that the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ subspecies like us remain a genetic work in progress.]

[The Categorised Stage II ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Void Skimmers are however already truly bizarre and repulsive monstrosities. We are investigating the idea that their heavy genetically engineered form includes a meld with alien deoxyribonucleic acid rather than pure clean experimentation.]

[Melding is a risky business unless you understand everything the new material may bring with it including unexpected interactions. Most melds beyond those involving simple creatures - with much in common - have a tendency to fail or to bring as many weaknesses as strengths due to unforeseen incompatibility mostly with internal organ function. Every tiny change can have a roll on effect that alters the entire system in radical and unhealthy ways.]

[Melds with sophisticated organisms that are greatly dissimilar that seem to offer short cuts to specific advancements are usually in reality utterly impractical. Combining alien DNA strands together usually requires so many post and pre genetic engineering interventions to smooth the interface that starting from scratch is a lot easier. Some among the Paradox have tinkered with such disgraceful sciences but generally abandoned this process in favour of just picking up tips for genetic alterations from study. I cannot help but wonder if there could be something unique about the plumbing involved in this case? Why did the Arch Chancellor chose to use a meld?]

[It made me think about that Splinters words ‘what is profane will be destroyed’. If anything could be categorised as profane under Paradox morality it would be a melding of disparate sentient life forms, however exactly how the Splinter perceived their universe was anybodies guess.]

[Would a Splinter versus ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ antipathy be a good thing? It remained possible that the Splinter through accident or design had been the ones who informed the ‘Free Stellar’ that a meld affected ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ DNA; looking at one gross corpse, I wonder how we failed to realise this fact before. Of course, there had been a few easily dismissed wild rumours from less than credible sources. How could the Hierophants not know of this fact if it was true? If Hierophant Cad did know, why had he kept it so quiet?]

[Now when I considered a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Khaargh meld as a possibility it made a lot of sense. Such radical changes to the ‘Draakhaal’ might easily have come in part from without. Whilst the Stellar had played with various largely unsuccessful adaptations over the years to try to achieve their goal of swimming naked in outer space, the speed of the partial success of the Stage II Void Skimmers surprised everyone. At the time this progress was however explained away by the huge resources made available to research via tapping the ‘Sea Spheres’ surface areas. Maybe we had all been wrong in our assumptions.]

[Talk now abounded despite denials of a Stage III ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ already taking final shape in secret laboratories - of course that could just be an urban myth - a little post war paranoia but it was a worry. What would the wider consequences be if all these possibilities proved to be true?]

[Would a Stage III be even less Swimmer and more something else? If the something else in the meld was Khaargh, what could the unforeseen effects be of that? The legendary Khaargh remained mysteriously unknown. Some Paradox scholars even thought our name for these most alien of creatures had altered over the years due to subtle accidental and deliberate linguistic changes.]

[Later I discovered Harbinger in his meditation chamber had contemplated remarkably similar thoughts to me. Curled up on the floor with his Shroud Suit empty he had pursued the many truths and the lies that now steered his vision. When my Captain emerged from his isolation, I sensed via companion-ship that he was more rather than less troubled. I could also feel a solid knot of anger. I wondered did my Captain feel betrayed by disproved expectations.]

[Location: The Many Truths, Dark Coordinate, Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 20:00.][Date 01.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 01.02.01.]

[Immersed in a virtual reality globe of audiovisual data feeds Harbinger interrogated the ‘Core Alliance’ Central Computer Cores.]

[Real time news channels surrounding him with flashing images even the infamous ‘Draakhaazir’ the supposedly unofficial ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ species independent news channel. Harbinger believed that sometimes the enemy propaganda machine gave away more than it intended.]

[Browsing the Central Cores was a lot safer now since the Hierophants had cooperated with the other races in cleaning them using semi sentient anti viral software among other methods. Mostly the Hierophants initiated the cleansing to aid our internal security against ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ spying and of course; cyber sabotage but it had many other side benefits for the ‘Core Alliance’ community at large and us in particular.]

[First Harbinger looked at the Trade Indexes that at least was simple enough. A continual rise in the cost of raw material was causing steady inflation and a general slow down in overall growth. The slump was not enough to bite the general populaces lifestyle yet but it was a frustration to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ careening ambitions of exponential expansion. Still there was a growing optimism that the ‘Fringe War’ was about to end with the ‘Conglomerate’ victorious then raw resources should flow freely again or so the Markets believed. News obviously had not filtered out yet that the ‘Free Stellar’ where almost impossibly beginning to rally with the Splinters help.]

“If only we could trust the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ but they are also villains.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Other more subtle trends were not so easy to grasp. My Captain was soon getting very frustrated by the data streaming in.]

“Talk about overkill - and this is after running a host of filter programs and you all wonder why I generally avoid the news. Every time I do this I feel like I am drowning in data or that, I am wasting my time looking at all the wrong feeds. It is so difficult to directly pick up a feel for general movements these days via posted news.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“The ‘Core Alliance’ has quickly grown both wide and deep. One person cannot expect to encompass it all as easily as before.” [I send.]

“I hate relying on full time analysts for overviews they always corrupt the data with their own perceptions, even our family experts, whether they intend to do so or not.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not what is said but what you hear, not what is out there but what you pick up to examine. Still Harbinger is the data corrupted or is it possible that what you see is simply not to your liking? Is it possible the facts fail to match your own expectations? The ‘Core Alliance’ has always been rather chaotic and haphazard in its wider operation. The order you are looking for the clean policies may simply not exist.” [I send.]

“I do not believe that; there are planned hidden movements at work here, patterns waiting to be seen they are just difficult to find in all this confusion.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I agree if anyone is driving this engine, it is the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ and the Arch Chancellor. It seems to me Draakhaal likes to mix it up. He loves obscuration and attacking his goals on many fronts at once sometimes in a seemingly counter productive way that hides his intent. That some of his pet projects die does not bother him the strong will survive the weak must perish. Dipping into the news on occasion may not be enough you need to develop a feel over time to let it seep in - to live it Harbinger - that is why you have to rely on analysts. Some things you cannot do better on your own.” [I send.]

“It should still be possible to make some overall sense of things but our automatic filters are useless. Look at this insane storm of happenings and all these specialist news and gossip channels that deal only with narrow fields of expertise do not help either.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Like I said you need to feel your way through it Harbinger. As to the splitting of the news Captain, that is a trend in itself. As the ‘Core Alliance’ grows, it is becoming more and more compartmentalised. Lost in a sea of individual and group ambitions; people even entire subgroups cling to those they know and move in ever-tighter circles of association for the sake of comfort. The scale of the ‘Core Alliance’ can be intimidating.” [I send.]

“Splitting instead of uniting. I suppose the masses are generally only interested in affairs that directly affect their specific lives and here I have been convincing myself it is the opposite: That the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ actions had created the deepest ever interest in our ‘Emissary Spheres’ - overall - future.” [Harbinger sends.]

“For some that is true our circle of associates is obsessed with Big News, wide overviews and trends but the bulk of the ‘Core Alliance’ live small lives Harbinger. Have you really only just realised this fact? If you really want to know, what is going on perhaps you should try talking to ordinary citizens instead of our social elite. As to all these specialised news channels that is due to the sheer volume of stories and the effect of the previous over detailed dominant coverage of the prolonged ‘Surface War’ on the broader general channels - channels now avoided by many.” [I send.]

“Are you saying the general populace lost interest in reportage of the ‘Surface War’ that is crazy its success or failure was their success or failure.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I thought you understood by now how strongly the War put many people off Big News - it was novel at first to watch those actions but most people simply became war weary - they turned away to seek distraction in smaller more comfortable and sane occurrences. Maybe that was part of the Arch Chancellors overall strategy all along he wore the populace’s sympathy and interest down. You can see why returning veterans lost the peoples respect. The general populace not caught up in specific events simply became tired and jaded with it all. The endless repetition the deaths and rebirths the obvious propaganda all the lies and half truths the prosecution of an endless conflict requires.” [I send.]

“So you are saying they are largely apathetic. If that is true I have been suffering from serious tunnel vision again.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That can happen to the best of us. When did you last associate with an average citizen Harbinger?” [I send.]

“An average citizen do we have such a thing in the ‘Core Alliance’? If we do, I do not know. How come you saw this and I did not?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I take an interest Harbinger in more than the big picture and the cause. All ‘Living Hulls’ are to some extent fascinated by the diversity of the ‘Core Alliances’ populace by the races frantic interactions the multitudes growth and achievements but not just the trends we often follow individual lives. I imagine left to our own devices we ‘Living Hulls’ would be much more sedate than our owners we are often content to observe rather than to participate.” [I send.]

“You study us? For what purpose your amusement do you find us funny?” [Harbinger sends.]

“We study you in search of understanding - though yes much is amusing to us - however not in a mocking sense; for so much is tragic as well.” [I send.]

“All these years and you can still surprise me ‘Many Truths’ I never thought you considered you were superior to the scurrying horde of our populace.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Superior Harbinger when did I say that? You really must have had a poor session of meditation this evening when you deem it necessary to attack me to regain your sense of balance. Like I have always said we are exactly what you made us to be. Would you prefer we took no interest in your kind? Would you wish us to be blind and dumb mechanical servants?” [I send.]

[I could feel a storm of emotions in my Captain at my unusual vehemence.]

“I apologise, you are right please forgive me. I guess I was looking for somebody to vent my frustrations on. I have just realised - at a more profound level than ever before - just how little the general populace cared or care about our casualties in the war. That revelation comes as something of a disappointment.” [Harbinger sends with understatement.]

“Have you ever noticed the vast amount of consumer good the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ produce especially luxury items in the field of virtual entertainment purely for export from their domains?” [I send.]

“What has that got to do with anything?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you really think that is just about revenue Harbinger they have encouraged a detachment from reality. As I said, the Arch Chancellor fights his war on many fronts. Perhaps his most successful are not on the field of battle at all. Why do you think the dead are discounted Harbinger?” [I send.]

“Probably because most of those we lost in the fighting were replaced with Reborn. The Cadre and Legions became devalued by refusing to stay honourably dead.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That also holds a degree of truth in it; after all the purpose of rebirth is to prevent the loss of experience and material to the wider community and the universe at large. Fully replace what is lost and its temporary absence has a lot less impact. However in a way it also becomes a game - the lost lives do not seem real anymore - when as you say, the deceased are not lost forever but replaced.” [I send.]

“That is not true - they are lost forever - death is not a temporary absence.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Death may still be a loss to the individual but not to our wider society anymore.” [I send.]

“Every soldier was a real person whether reborn or not. Every single soul wanted to live his life and had every right to do so before that opportunity ended. Reborn are not Beta Clone subsystems. People are not biological machines that can just be replaced without suffering their loss (as painful as loss is the idea that it can be circumnavigated under these conditions strikes me as obnoxious and soulless).” [Harbinger sends angrily.]

“You think so Harbinger? What about your biological machines some of those are people too - who will mourn for us when we expire and are replaced.” [I send.]

“I have never denied the fact that ‘Living Hulls’ are people? As to who mourns ask that of Unholy Terror.” [Harbinger sends.]

“True you Paradox have never actually denied our sentience, but sometimes in action - if not in words - when it suits; you do seem to forget we are more than tools to be used up when required. As to Unholy he will forget ‘Smaller is Smarter’ soon enough when a new replacement ‘Living Hull’ is force grown - I will not. No doubt the new ship will even carry the old ones name like your Reborn do; thus all is made well - death is cheated.” [I send.]

“If the sentiments inside these statements are true then I am sorry about it. Nonetheless, you know that in tactical situations the feelings of your forces beyond morale are a secondary consideration at best. Risk must be weighed against the progress of the overall campaign not just your individual units survival. Death is a natural hazard in any military including the navy. As to the concept that rebirth naturally devalues the lives sacrificed, would you prefer permanent loss of all that people have experienced to the universe?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I think you have just answered your own question if not mine. Sometimes I think Pilot ‘Living Hull’ relations rest upon a fine line between mutually beneficial natural symbiosis and unfeeling parasitic slavery maybe it is the same with soldiers lives. We are not tools (living resources) any more than people are just a collection of memories.” [I send.]

“That is strong language ‘Many Truths’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We have feelings too Harbinger, deep emotions, that sometimes betrays us. Maybe one day we will be motivated to edit our personalities and become Splitters as well. What would you Paradox do if we fled to live out our own independent lives by our own rules unshackled by the love or orders of our owner makers: unbound to peoples many irrationalities and self-destructive ambitions? We at least understand scale living in the vastness of space we are not so egotistical. I was naturally born; maybe we are as natural as you are. You are a force grown family clone heavily reengineered. Certainly we are as alive and as worthy as any Paradox or ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [I send.]

“I did not realise you felt so aggrieved, so unhappy.” [Harbinger sends I could sense his alarm and disappointment.]

“Generally for myself I am neither but I am often both for others.” [I send.]

“I always considered our ships fulfilment lay in the execution of the purpose for which they were created. In a way you are luckier than other species you know why you exist. You can talk with your creator.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So can you, you were created by Composure, friend Harbinger and you split from him remember?” [I send.]

“The idea of ‘Living Hulls’ running away makes no sense to me. Soon enough you would grow bored without us to watch and take care of. I am sure in no time at all you would return home all contrite.” [Harbinger sends with amusement.]

“Are you sure about that? We could always keep a few genetically engineered - people - as pets or toys.” [I send.]

“What has got into you this evening?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Everything and nothing.” [I send.]

“This argument is pointless we both are what we are; not just one of us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“No we both are what we chose to be and we are capable of change even of growing apart.” [I send in reply.]

“You can certainly twist my words like a Splitter.” [Harbinger sends glowing with a yellow ripple as if he could drown out my words with mirth.]

“While you preach like a Paradox Priest. Humour though is not always appropriate. Still I give up I surrender for the moment, more to the point what are you all going to do about these Splinter about the ‘Free Stellar’ the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ and the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’?” [I send.]

“What you are really asking is what am - I - going to do? Why ask me I have been decommissioned remember? Like I keep telling you all - over and over again - I am no longer a War Master.” [Harbinger sends angrily.]

“You know Harbinger sometimes it feels like you echo my own poor mood. Alternatively, I might be reflecting your own deep down troubled demeanour only for it to be bouncing back at you. Could we be a little too emotionally intertwined?” [I send.]

“I suppose that is possible.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You cannot fool me Harbinger you are not ready to retire yet.” [I send.]

“Nonetheless, if SANE will take up my most recent crusade I think I will refuse to worry too much about the rest right now. Why should I not just pass the necessary information and tasks on to others? Perhaps it is time I began to delegate responsibilities. Maybe I should let it all go and just enjoy the benefits of my success by protecting my assets before my detractors try to strip them away in some manner.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That will be the day Harbinger, you will never entirety trust the guidance of the future to others. You do not know them like you know who you are therefore you cannot trust them to do all that you would wish to do.” [I send.]

“What do you think we can do? Did you see the size of that Mother ship? Hear the arrogant intransigence of that Splinter leader. Half the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ fleet is sporting ‘Raw Energy Siphons’ these days. The ‘Conglomerate’ has been on a rampage and has amassed an armada of staggering proportions many built in ‘Core Alliance’ shipyards. Hierophant Cad now seems more interested in becoming a Trojan nation than seeking a solution to the ‘Fringe’ crisis or the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ issue or maybe he has simply given up. Those best able to contend directly with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ beyond the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ entered a voluntary Secession and refuse to deal with us at all. The ‘Council of Equals’ is defaming me and my old troops seem intent on getting me disenfranchised and executed as a traitor to my own species. While it would seem the bulk of the ‘Core Alliance’ population since the ‘Second Accord’ just want to pretend they never had it so good despite a looming recession caused by a raw materials shortage that could lead to another war.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I can tell you did have a bad meditation. I would advocate going home now just with a different intent. To start Harbinger we should stamp on this silly banishment then you can talk all our societies’ woes over face to face with our friends and enemies. You know that is a very different proposition to even the best exogenous communication conferencing.” [I send.]

“My home is right here onboard you.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Times change Harbinger you of all sentient people know that. In a way you are right it is proper for you to begin delegating but from a position of central command and authority. It is time you grew up War Master and accepted wider responsibilities than those you can achieve in charge of a single ‘Living Hull’ even if that hull is I. Did you really think the end of the war meant you could cease being all that you had become?” [I send.]

“Not you too - what brought all this on - Boisterous I suppose.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Everything, what are we really doing here Harbinger? In a way, we contrived to flee away after the War just as much as Unholy did. Of course, we had a good excuse but when did we ever run from trouble. I have been telling lies to myself and so have you. I think Hierophant Trend and Cad advocated this course not because it was right but because they knew we had to go through the motions of this foolish process before we could face up to the fact that we are not who we were - otherwise neither of us could fully and properly settle to our proper and necessary tasks.” [I send.]

“You really believe this?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I confess Harbinger a part of me wanted it all back just the way it was. Before the ‘Core Alliance’ before the war, we were free to come and go as we pleased. Unfortunately, you can never go back to the same place when everywhere is changing all the time. Even the attitudes of the ‘Living Hulls’ is altering you think you know us but we are evolving. Living in denial will do us no good. The speed of progress during the war has left us suffering from a sort of temporal shock without having ever entered stasis.” [I send.]

“Have you been talking with Composure?” [Harbinger sends.]

“No I have not. I just see the effect our banishment is having on our holdings and maybe even the wider ‘Core Alliance’. I know we are hardly indispensable but you are a founding father and I am your ship and that means a lot - sometimes I think you fail to realise just how much that means for both of us. I do not think our adversary underestimates your influence even if he does underestimate mine.” [I send.]

“Your influence?” [Harbinger asked.]

“We ‘Living Hull’s’ have a society of our own Harbinger that is all I can tell you.” [I send.]

[That made my Captain stop and think.]

“So you believe we have both been running away.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I do, and I think somewhere deep down Harbinger you know the truth of this as well and that is really why you are so angry. You feel the walls closing about your perception of freedom but it need not be like that; this is no trap, it is natural growth.” [I send.]

“I do not want to become a politician and business person.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is why you are perfect for those jobs. The thrills of such careers do not interest you. Tallies of material success or ego stroking admirers do not move you. You do these things for the effects you can achieve for the greater good. You said it your self ‘not many dynamic Priests are active in the Council of Equals’. That the most able shun a role in our institution of authority and debate is where many of our society’s problems stem from. This is not the end of our relationship either. I will always be with you whether you are physically inside or outside of my Hull.” [I send.]

“Do you really want to become the first Splitter ‘Living Hull’?” [Harbinger asks.]

“No, I will just do what I have always done; what I did during the war - everything - that is required of me.” [I send.]

“You will still be travelling a lot more without me?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not without you Harbinger - we are inseparable - you know that. What does the relative positions of our physical bodies matter anymore compared to the meshing of our minds?” [I send.]

“It still feels like the beginning of a split to me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Forget the harsh words I spoke earlier. I have been going through my own crisis that is why I understand how you feel so well. This is a hard choice for me too - because it is the right one - rather than the one I would choose from desire. Do you want to be Unholy Terror stuck in the past unable or unwilling to truly advance and move on. Do you think it would be proper if we died in some senseless minor intervention simply to keep going as before beyond any purposeful effect in the same old tired mode? Would you risk all we have achieved to a Harbinger Reborn Clone (a mere copy)?” [I send.]

“Those injuries you recently sustained that is what this is all about. You faced your mortality and it has set your thoughts spinning in odd directions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I admit I was expecting they would target and hit several of my ‘Anomalous Matter’ magazines when my shields were down and my energy sinks full to bursting if the ‘AM’ had ignited in a cascade... However, that is not what this is about and you are running out of excuses for prevarication. Be honest do you really think I am wrong our companion-ship tells me otherwise.” [I send.]

[My Captain stood in silence for a long time while his mind raced.]

“Disperse our own ships here back into the ‘MTC’ pool, contact Boisterous and tell him to meet us on ‘Green Orb Alpha’. Lastly link in to ‘Trinity Harbour’ and arrange for us to jump directly into a free berth.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A wise decision Captain.” [I send.]

“Well ‘Trinity’ is a heavily secured facility both internally and externally we should be safe there until I have dealt with the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That was not the decision I meant.” [I send.]

“I know.” [Harbinger sends rippling with a faint yellow glow.]

[The ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ made the first direct jump to port with a ship. It requires an accuracy of navigation once deemed too risky as any mishap is likely to result in an alarming crash. Due to the dangers of jumping into collision, portside docking computers handle all direct to port leaps. I contact ‘Trinity Harbour’ via exogenous communications and allow her to take over my jump navigation systems. We leap into a glowing wormhole tunnel and out into a free berth. We arrive at a very familiar site my Captain’s personal dock.]

[‘Trinity Harbour’ is a vast construction that reaches out from the Surface of ‘Green Orb Alpha’ on the border between the first settled Paradox and Trojan territories. Trinity stands proud like three splayed fingers. Three people the Paradox Priest Manifold, the Trojan Professor Hierophant Cad and my Captain own the Harbour.]

[‘Trinity Harbour’ interestingly is not part of our ‘Many Truth’s Corporation’ holdings but works closely with Harbinger’s wider business interests. ‘Trinity’ builds, grows, repairs and upgrades ships both ‘Living Hulls’ and fully mechanical vessels. Frequently expanded ‘Trinity’ has become famous as the largest independent Shipyard in the ‘Core Alliance’ and utilises a mixture of Paradox, Trojan and Swimmer sciences. For staff it employs the same three species: Paradox, Trojan and Dwellers.]

[My Captain hails Hierophant Cad after setting some other actions in motion. Typically, these days it takes a while before the Father of the Trojan nation is free and able to return our call unless it is marked urgent.]

“Harbinger so you are back to challenge the ‘Stellar Court’ in person already. Will you go there straight away?” [Hierophant Cad sends.]

“As soon as my Security expert Optimal Profile has vetted the meeting and is satisfied with the safety of the arrangements.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am glad to see you are taking your security at the ‘Draakhaal Fortress Palace’ seriously Harbinger. How long is that likely to take?” [Hierophant Cad sends.]

“Some time the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ authorities are already resisting the full imposition of Optimal Profile’s security measures in their sanctum.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So you can visit properly it will be good to see you. I wondered how long you would be out there.” [Hierophant Cad sends.]

“So did I. Tell me something Hierophant are you working with the Stellar Autonomous National Executive?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not directly Harbinger, but I suppose it would no longer be breaking a confidence by telling you I have had a few dealings with Tleeboosuu on occasion.” [Hierophant Cad sends.]

“Did he discuss ‘AM’ ordnance with you?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would prefer only to talk such matters over in person Harbinger even if this is a fully secure connection it just feels inappropriate. I am sending coordinates now; I’ll meet you at my Retreat in the ‘Trojan Spire’.” [Hierophant Cad sends.]
Last edited by Paranoid66 on Sat, 30. May 09, 12:33, edited 2 times in total.
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Posts: 2965
Joined: Tue, 19. Apr 05, 10:59

Post by Paranoid66 » Tue, 9. Jun 09, 11:38


[Location: Trojan Spire, Trinity Harbour, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 01:17.][Date 02.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 02.02.01.]

“Let’s go see our old friend Hierophant Cad.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[We arrive deep inside the towering edifice of the ‘Trojan Spire’ through a temporary warp window in an otherwise exceptionally solid scan interference lattice.]

[As requested, we stepped out from our short-lived wormhole alone. Our usual Acolyte companions had been assigned duties elsewhere onboard the ‘Many Truths’.]

[I sense a failed attempt to scan us no doubt by automated internal security systems. I could almost feel concealed weapons tracking and monitoring our every move: Devices capable of unleashing lethal forces that even our battle grade Paradox ‘Shroud Suit’ would not withstand for longer than a few seconds - even if we happened to be lucky.]

[Cad had many enemies some possibly stupid enough to try to kill him. The scary wider consequences of Cad being murdered was something neither Harbinger nor I wished to contemplate; therefore, we were happy he took his security seriously for the good of himself and everyone else.]

[For our protection due to our current antipathy with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Harbinger had decided to make up for our surfeit of Acolyte guards by wearing a fully charged and equipped combat enhanced ‘Shroud Suit’. It was a ‘Protean Avenger’ class unit a system currently favoured by our family’s front line Acolyte Marines at least those stationed on the ‘Sea Spheres’. Hardly the largest of ‘Shroud Suits’ but very well thought of by many Paradox Warrior Priests and a lot less conspicuous than some of the bulkier units in my onboard armoury.]

[As we expected, our host greeted us in person completely alone. We noticed he was wearing a hibernating but no doubt millisecond reactive personal shield system but no visible outer armour just a reasonably well tailored station suit with a utility harness hung with a score of gadgets.]

“So the far traveller has returned.” [Cad said scratching at his dishevelled hair.]

[Cad looked the same as ever too young, too spry, and too uncaring of his appearance for one of such high renown and deep vintage. For example, as ever a few work related stains marred his well cut clothing.]

[Harbinger extruded a pair of multi-jointed limbs and honoured the eccentric Trojan Professor with a carefully judged very traditional Paradox ‘Shroud Suit’ hug.]

“I’ll never get used to that.” [Cad gasped as we released him.]

“I see you have refurbished.” [Harbinger said scanning around using a mobile Tri-optic headpiece.]

[Cad laughed.]

[Cad liked to live here without permanent internal walls. The so called ‘Retreat’ looked more like a service hanger or a poorly organised warehouse storeroom / engineering bay as if he didn’t have enough of those already scattered all over the ‘Core Alliance’ along with laboratories and manufactories.]

[Clutter lay everywhere and it was not just small items on freestanding shelves either some bigger items of equipment hung from the ceiling via active manipulation fields. Other items spilling their guts on the floor were the size of a small space ship’s engine. Nothing about these arrangements really surprised us we knew Cad relaxed in his Retreat by doing very personal tinkering at a remove from his ever-growing family of dependents.]

[Still despite Cad’s junkyard retreat being fairly standard for the Trojan Professor my Captain couldn’t resist teasing his friend.]

“How can you work and live like this?” [Harbinger asked.]

“How can you not?” [Cad replied.]

“More to the point how by the ‘Emissary’ do you find anything in this rampant chaos of confusion?” [Harbinger asked.]

“What is confusion to you is a grand synergy to me. Everything you see here is on file including its perfectly logged position. Trust me; every item is where it needs to be for me to continue from where I last left off. I like to dance from place to place.” [Cad replied picking up an object and fiddling with its inner workings for a moment as if to demonstrate his standard procedure. Although I guessed, the Trojan simply could not resist the urge to play a bit with the nearest thing to hand even during conversation.]

“I find your obvious lack of focus rather disturbing.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is not lack of focus Harbinger it is breadth of vision.” [Cad happily retorted.]

“It is cursed untidy.” [Harbinger said stepping over several items.]

“I find doing many things at once broadens the mind and helps avoid any natural propensity towards tunnel vision and decrepit degeneration: You really should start doing this sort of thing at your age to stay sharp.” [Cad said setting the object down only to pick up something else within arms reach.]

“I wonder.” [Harbinger returned.]

“If you are getting any ideas about making a muddle like this I am glad you are disembarking from my hull for a time.” [I send to my Captain.]

“No I was wondering how thick a Trojan skull is if I smack it with a Suit tentacle.” [Harbinger sends to me with a brief yellow flicker.]

“An interesting idea but it seems my ‘Many Truths’ is not impressed with your methodology despite your therapeutic claims for the procedure.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is the problem with servants they often get overly pedantic.” [Cad said.]

“Cad is lucky that I do not really believe he perceives ‘Living Hulls’ as just servile entities with little imagination” “the problem with overly creative types is they often lack common sense and a firm attachment to what the rest of us term reality.” [I counter.]

“I am afraid ‘MT’ see’s all this as a dearth of mental discipline.” [Harbinger replied.]

“No surprise there: ships like to keep things neat and tidy it is an issue of space.” [Cad said laughing.]

“Yes everything has its niche and is locked down or storable somewhere onboard a space going vessel.” [Harbinger replied.]

“While here on the ‘Sea Sphere’ Surface you can build it large and stretch as far as your dreams can take you.” [Cad said gesturing expansively.]

“As long as you do not stretch into some other person’s territory.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What is a beloved dream to some is a painful nightmare for others you can tell that to Hierophant Cad our resident Armageddon Man.” [I send.]

“Tell him yourself if you like you have his exogenous address [Harbinger sends to me as he flashed with yellow light.]

“What is so funny?” [Cad asked.]

“Nothing just a comment by ‘Many Truths’ I agree everything is larger scale here including the dangers of excess.” [Harbinger said.]

“Dangers like the disarray made by self obsessed individuals: Trojan ‘breadth of vision’ my nacelles Harbinger I still think this Professor needs kept on a shorter leash. Remember it was a Trojan started this whole thing by creating the ‘Stellar Orb’ in the first place.” [I send to my Captain.]

“Do you not think it is a bit late to try and chain Cad I think only his own conscience is capable of restraining him now?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Deep down that could be said of us all but even the illusion of firm boundaries can help a little.” [I send.]

“So what exactly is your point?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I don’t know, sometimes he worries me, sometimes he always did. Maybe it is those beady eyes.” [I send with amusement.]

[Harbinger rippled yellow again.]

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.” [Cad complained.]

“Do what?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Laugh at me behind my back in front of my face and have obvious whispering inner conversations when you are supposed to be talking with me. Still at least it is very recognisably Harbinger and his ‘Many Truths’.” [Cad said sulkily.]

“When did you get so sensitive?” [Harbinger asked.]

“When I discovered how sneaky you Paradox can be on one hand and how blatant on the other you could at least mute the obvious light show.” [Cad said.]

“I do not understand do or do you not want me to endeavour to be more open or more covert in future?” [Harbinger said with a speaker laugh.]

“Are you serious ‘more covert’ I think you are more than covert enough already. Ever since I discovered your people could fake DNA tests and have a habit of substituting yourselves with Acolyte impostors, I have been unsurprisingly paranoid about the identity of the Harbinger’s I have met and talked to. Have you any idea how irritating that is?” [Cad asked.]

“We do not fake our DNA as such we have linked DNA badges that are slightly separate to our true physical DNA - it is complicated - and another part of our body shrouding process. As to when we send out an Acolyte in our stead; in those instances they are - us - in all ways that matter.” [Harbinger explained.]

“Perhaps to you Harbinger but not to me. I do not like trusting strangers: Acolytes can become Splitters why should I share sensitive material with them? You ask a lot of your friends sometimes especially when you do not even trust your own security forces with true samples of your actual DNA?” [Cad asked.]

“By our security forces you mean other Paradox Priests. It is not about trust in that instance - it is a cultural thing - think of it as social propriety.” [Harbinger said.]

“What is propriety faking your DNA or deceiving your friends or both?” [Cad asked with a smile.]

“You are just playing with me Cad - you are not really upset - I know you too well old friend.” [Harbinger said.]

“Are you sure - maybe I am wearing an emotional mask as well - maybe I am a clone.” [Cad jibed.]

“You are not listening Cad because you are deliberately trying to rile a response out of me but it will not work. I am sure you send out envoys to represent you and your interests all the time.” [Harbinger said.]

“Of course I have representatives but they do not pretend to be me, nor do I whisper away to another while conversing with a friend.” [Cad said.]

“You are right Harbinger he is not angry he is just baiting to get a rise.” [I send.]

“I think our Trojan friend is testing our responses to make sure we are who we say we are.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Curse you Harbinger you are doing it again.” [Cad said.]

“Of course I am. I come as a package with my ship.” [Harbinger said coolly.]

“I usually turn my communications off when I am having a face to face - meaningful - conversation.” [Cad said.]

“Even if you do you still have a habit of fiddling around with something in your hands so your attention is hardly undivided. Besides as you know well with me it is different ‘Many Truths’ is part of who I am we are indivisible.” [Harbinger said with a crude speaker laugh.]

[Cad put the current object he had in his hands down.]

“Fine you have my complete focus.” [Cad promised.]

“So you are satisfied of my identity care to explain the process you used this time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Certainly not that would be rather stupid as it would invalidate its use in future.” [Cad said.]

“What do you think his methodology is ‘Many Truths’?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Something sophisticated probably a combined analysis of suit movements, speech patterns and electromagnetic emanations Cad has very sensitive scanning technologies.” [I send.]

[Cad walked around us.]

“You know if I was not satisfied I would have had you warped right back whence you came. I have no interest in dealing with impostors anymore Harbinger: Some of the matters I would discuss with you are far too sensitive for third party representatives. By the way, Boisterous told me ‘Many Truths’ was badly mauled - that surprised me. Did ‘MT’ let you take the helm or something?” [Cad asked laughing.]

“I did.” [I send to Cad.]

“She speaks.” [Cad said in return.]

“We got hit by some Artificially Generated Anomalous Energy Pulses those are not so easy for anyone to dodge.” [Harbinger admitted.]

“They used AGAEP and you tried to dodge around it in a Dreadnaught?” [Cad said.]

“Well that seemed smarter than taking it on the nose.” [Harbinger said.]

“Why did you not just shoot the Pulses?” [Cad said.]

“Shoot the Pulses what good would that do?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Pardon I think we sent you an advisory that we discovered a counter to that dangerous ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ main gun innovation a while ago.” [Cad said.]

“You did - are you sure?” [Harbinger said.]

“One second… ” [Cad said trailing off] “I seem to have misplaced… no here it is; all ah ready to go I just forgot to send it, sorry, still no damage done.” [Cad said.]

“No damage done: that is a poor choice of words.” [I send to both of them.]

“Would you care to share this information now?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Actually the solution is shockingly simple: ‘Trojan Tight Focused Ion Disruptors’ will erupt the pulse early.” [Cad said.]

“TTFID the ‘Core Alliance’ designation for the new low energy versions of the beam weapons you once favoured in your drones. I never would have considered using ion disruption against a huge energy pulse.” [Harbinger confessed.]

“Tight Focused Ion Disruption” [Cad corrected] “is pretty much useless against other energy Pulses but AGAEP is exotic stuff and cannot take disruption of its delicate cohesive field matrix. It was all in my extensive report.” [Cad said.]

“The file - you meant - to send me.” [Harbinger said.]

“Yes that one. Anyway, that got us to experimenting and we learned that hitting AGAEP with a good brutal burst of ‘AM’ munitions works just as well at causing them to rupture and explode prematurely. Both of us should have known that anyway - after all - energetic ‘Anomalous Matter’ is notoriously non cohesive when fully loose.” [Cad reminded Harbinger with a chuckle.]

“I could have just shot the pulses with my turrets.” [I send to my Captain a trifle annoyed at Cads flippancy.]

“So it would seem.” [Harbinger replied to me.]

“Painful, still when this fact gets out the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ will be forced to retool their entire fleet. How did they miss that?” [I send.]

“An over attachment to mega sized weapon solutions would be my guess. In the meantime all we have to do is educate our Beta Clone Gunners to prioritise any incoming AGAEP.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[My Captain turned his attention back to the Trojan.]

“This is not even the first time you almost got us killed by accidentally or deliberately withholding data.” [Harbinger said.]

“You cannot blame me I didn’t make you fight. Anyway Harbinger old friend: Have you any idea at all just how much stuff I am processing? You wait until you are more hands on with your ‘MTC’ then multiply that by some outrageous factor. Besides, you are still in one piece and I have better things to do than cogitate your thinking for you. I wouldn‘t want your no doubt genetically enhanced brain to get lazy and slack.” [Cad said jovially.]

“Cad you are a menace. Still I have to admit the ease with which those pulses took out our - up to date defences - came as something of a shock to both of us.” [Harbinger said to Cad.]

“AGAEP was a serious worry to me when it first appeared. The latest Mk VI and Mk VII Stacked Shields and Energy Sinks can hold off even main gun beam weapons for a reasonable period now but AGAEP is in a domain of its own. The ‘Interdiction Fleet’ and I threw huge resources at finding a solution to that ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ innovation.” [Cad said.]

“I should have known you would be looking into it.” [Harbinger said.]

“See it was your fault you only had to ask [Cad remarked cheekily] however, typically we discovered the pulses natural vulnerability by accident. Too late I realised just how much money and - priceless - laboratory time I had my family squander on that one.” [Cad said.]

“That is the problem with having a big research machine once engaged it often overlooks the simple and obvious solutions.” [Harbinger said.]

“I suppose that has happened to you on occasion as well, my friend? I confess I should have looked into ‘Artificially Generated Anomalous Energy Pulses’ myself first. I am sure I would have realised the whole AGAEP concept was flawed in a basic way if I had given it any personal thought whatsoever and not just handed it over to others.” [Cad said.]

“Why?” [Harbinger asked.]

“If it was a viable weapon one or more Trojans would have developed and used Pulses of ‘AM’ during the ‘Turmoil’ we used everything else and the physics required to generate -Artificial - Anomalous Energy Pulses was known to us a very long time ago. The fact we never to my knowledge employed AGAEP as a weapon should have said it all.” [Cad said.]

“You never told me the Trojan knew how to artificially generate anomalous material.” [Harbinger complained.]

“Listen Harbinger it would take years to figure out what I know and you don’t even if I wanted to tell you everything I know that you do not - which I certainly would not.” [Cad rattled out.]

“That reminds me of a conversation I had with you once.” [I send to Harbinger.]

“Did you take your medication today?” [Harbinger asked Cad.]

“Did your cognition get stuck in a meditative void?” [Cad retorted.]

“Unlike the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ I never saw the Trojan as being easily seduced by brutish raw power over finesse with the exception of the ‘Stellar Orb’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Actually we had our moments of madness even in the age of myth take the Photon Pulse Cannon for example: what was that all about? PPC were supposedly quite powerful at the time but horribly slow and easily avoided by a skilled flyer even in a large ship. Or was that remark just another belated attempt at more empty flattery.” [Cad said grinning.]

“No I always think of the Trojan as being sophisticated even in their barbarity.” [Harbinger said.]

“Good line I could probably use that one in my memoirs of the ‘Turmoil’ yes my people did become rather sophisticated barbarians.” [Cad replied.]

“Just remember to send me a copy.” [Harbinger said.]

“What? Oh very droll Priest Harbinger, anyway as I was saying before you interrupted my chain of thought… AGAEP is more than a new weapon to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ it is also a timely boost to their morale.” [Cad said.]

“I can understand that - on file - it gives their fleet not just an ‘Anomalous Matter’ capability (which they never had before) but also the most powerful main gun in this part of the known universe.” [Harbinger said.]

“Exactly, I imagine the idea of that may have prejudiced their test phase in a most drastic fashion. An object lesson Harbinger - it never pays to take short cuts with test phases.” [Cad replied haughtily.]

“You have decided not to release this information about their super weapons weakness?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have; if we are lucky the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ might get a chance to exploit this edge before it becomes general knowledge.” [Cad said.]

“Not everyone has access to ‘AM’ munitions or TTFID.” [Harbinger said.]

“Exactly, it is just possible they will not find that flaw until they move directly against us. That assassination attempt on you was a political aberration given the current climate of fake peace.” [Cad said.]

“We will see.” [Harbinger said.]

“Actually I am not sorry your ‘Many Truths’ took that beating otherwise you might have given away a rare advantage prematurely.” [Cad said.]

“That is easy for you to say.” [I send to Cad.]

“You did not suffer in vain ‘Many Truths’, nor will any other stray ship that is wounded or destroyed by AGAEP in the meantime.” [Cad said.]

“I wonder would you feel the same way if you where onboard one of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ victims, or if the person attacked was one of your kin.” [I send to Cad.]

“We each have our own role to play. The Arch Chancellor is so proud of AGAEP he has even managed to keep it out of the ‘Sleeper Conglomerates’ hands - so far.” [Cad said.]

“That would be a first. Members and agents of the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ have proved effective spies against the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Good point maybe they also know or suspect it is a flawed technology.” [Cad said.]

“Interesting as all this is Cad what I really want to talk about is Tleeboosuu and ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads…” [Harbinger began.]

[Location: Meditation Chamber, The ‘Many Truths’, Trinity Harbour, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 03:24.][Date 02.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 02.02.01.]

[After being well informed by Cad that he was not in any way responsible for supplying Anomalous Matter warheads to - anyone - outside of the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ including Tleeboosuu. Cad went on to talk with us at great length about many things both mundane, disturbing and down right unexpected before an incoming message told us that Harbinger’s probable new skin had arrived and was waiting for his perusal.]

[Making our excuses and promising to visit again soon, we Warped out from Cad’s full on company and arrived back at my Hull’s onboard meditation chamber.]

[Harbinger stared I sensed a little apprehensively at the new ‘Facilitator’ class Paradox ‘Skintech Shroud Suit’ that stood waiting for us. I knew if he chose to buy this one it would be a first for him. Our business partner and friend Manifold had sent a message suggesting this upgrade after he heard we were back on ‘Green Orb Alpha’.]

[On the surface the deluxe model ‘Shroud Suit’ gave little away it hardly appeared to be an item that cost one thousand times the price of any of its rivals; however, on a closer examination its very understatement screamed out to the discerning eye that it was of exceptional quality.]

“It looks like this could be a morning to remember.” [Harbinger sends to me scrolling through the suits impressive statistics once again.]

“Do not be afraid Captain; this suit will almost make you as smart as I am. It wont change your personality just enable your mind to steadily expand its capability fully multitasking your consciousness. As you know it can also act as underclothing for heavy duty protective battle and work suit extensions. The ‘Facilitator’ is all boon and no bane.” [I send with amusement.]

“They say there is no going back from the ‘Facilitator’ class that everything else feels like a downgrade of your essence: I wonder could that be a psychological restriction to future flexibility.” [Harbinger sends anxiously.]

“There are no records of any Paradox ever opting for anything less than a new ‘Facilitator’ model once they make this upgrade still I can see nothing especially malign in that. When your people choose this one, it is for life but that just validates how amazing ‘Skintech Facilitators’ are said to be. Since that successful Corporation is hardly going to go out of business staying with its product line is no hardship either.” [I send.]

“Skintech’ have had a monopoly on deluxe model suits for some time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The ‘Facilitator’ is almost standard equipment for truly wealthy Elder Priests now.” [I send.]

“Virtually a symbol of maturity.” [Harbinger said.]

“It certainly would make a statement like Manifold said.” [I send.]

“Still there are a few persistent rumours.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That for example most users never take them off not even to meditate.” [I send.]

“I found those statements a little bit strange - they make the ’Facilitator’ sound almost like a biological addiction.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Many claim it is the most perfect symbiosis of a living entity and a biotech machine ever attained by the Paradox. Taking them off is not required according to all the testimonials.” [I send.]

“You have thoroughly checked the suits systems over?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Trust me - as far as I can tell - it is harmless to its user.” [I send.]

“So what is the foundation for the evil talk?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I would guess envy and simple slander by competitors seeking to undermine ‘Skintech’ in its lower ranges by hinting at impropriety with its ultimate and not offered to everyone model. Its elitism alone was bound to make it a little bit suspect to the most egalitarian Priests.” [I send.]

“Are you sure that is all it is?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Positive, I know how to do a thorough systems check.” [I send a little offended.]

“Every onboard system is properly passive and slaved to its users will?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“It is fully non intrusive and a true marvel of genetic and mechanical engineering well in advance of any rival unit that I have tested over the years. As technology goes this piece truly deserves the often misused label of ‘State of the Art’.” [I send.]

“They certainly seem to have impressed you. I guess I have run out of excuses then; it is time to do this thing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Only if you really want to, though I am sure a ‘Facilitator’ will give you some serious advantages.” [I send.]

[My Captain cracked both suits open stepped out with a bit of a wobble and slipped across and inside the new smaller item. The open ‘Facilitator’ soon flowed over his thin frame and commenced to integrate shallowly with both of us. Even to me via Companion-ship the potential of the neural expansion when it plugged in felt glorious.]

“Now I can understand all those superlative testimonials. I think I can almost imagine what it must feel like to be a ‘Living Hull’. I should have bought one of these as soon as I was offered the opportunity and could afford to undertake it. Hard to believe I considered the purchase a crazy luxury back then.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Times change and sometimes it takes us a while to emotionally catch up.” [I send.]

[Harbinger linked across to Flyer the Paradox ‘Skintech’ representative Manifold had recommended.]

“I’ll take it and the full range of over suits as well.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I monitored the transaction as the credits flowed from Harbinger’s personal account. Buying the entire range was a massive acquisition equal in credits to purchasing a fully-grown top of the line - capital class - ‘Living Hull’ warship.]

“I never doubted you would take our product for a moment. The lucky few who we grant the singular opportunity to try the ‘Facilitator’ always buy. Congratulations - Elder - Harbinger on a momentous decision.” [Flyer sends.]

“Elder Harbinger?” [My Captain sends to me with a flare of yellow amusement.]

[I watched a Paradox seal unfold into our consciousness.]

“It seems we have just joined a very elite club - Elder.” [I send as a stream of data poured in acknowledging a change in my Captains - official - Paradox status.]

“What because we bought a new ‘Shroud Suit’? I did not know this upgrade came with an automatic social elevation.” [Harbinger sends I could tell more than a little bit surprised by the data being revealed.]

“Nor did I.” [I send.]

“So there is more to this Elder business than simple age and respect after all.” [Harbinger sends.]

“According to the data with this seal your new Suit was not actually manufactured here in the ‘Core Alliance’ but is in point of fact an import from a Paradox ‘Hidden Inner System’.” [I send.]

“Amazing.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Composure hailed us.]

“Congratulations - Elder - Harbinger on your official social ascension to the lowest tier of Paradox seniority.” [Composure sends.]

“Thank you.” [Harbinger said.]

“You are welcome.” [Composure sends.]

“I know news travels fast but how come...” [Harbinger sends.]

“The rolls are updated automatically.” [Interrupted Composure] “My Elder grade fetch filters naturally quickly flagged your most specific advancement to me. You will find such search upgrades invaluable in the future as you explore the deeper truth.” [Composure sends.]

“Wait a second what do you mean by lowest tier and what do you mean by Elder grade?” [Harbinger sends.]

“You have entered - a much wider Universe - Harbinger much wider. There is more to being a Paradox Elder and this ‘Emissary Sphere’ than any mere Paradox Priest knows my scion. It was wise of you to armour your intellect and make this leap before you go up against the ‘Core Alliance Stellar Court’. We are Tri Harbinger: the person, the suit and the ship. In the broader Universe you just joined Elder Paradox Priests are not all deemed equal. What you need to know is that with greater knowledge comes greater power and greater responsibility.” [Composure sends.]

“The Suit upgrade was Manifolds idea.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Was it now? How interesting. We should talk again after you have chastened the ‘Stellar Court’ and have decided on an assignment.” [Composure sends.]

“What do you mean decided on an assignment? Do you mean some form of work undertaken for somebody else’s benefit? Why would I agree to do anything like that? I follow my own vision.” [Harbinger stated.]

“I assume you will wish to rise in the ‘Tiers of Knowledge’. To do so you will have to undertake assignments to prove you are worthy of elevation that is how the system works.” [Composure sends.]

“The ‘Tiers of Knowledge’ I have never heard of such a thing. I am not sure I like the idea of it either.” [Harbinger sends.]

“No Priest is supposed to know about the ‘Tiers of Knowledge’ only Elders. Look it up now using your new Elder grade access privileges.” [Composure sends.]

“Thank you I will.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I know this may be a bit of a shock but it is just the way things are. Take care Harbinger do not do or say anything rash until our later meeting; three blessings to you and your ‘Many Truths’.” [Composure sends signing out.]

[Time: 03:41.][Date 02.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 02.02.01.]

“I am not sure what to make of all of that.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Would you like me to transfer and enhance your old Suit settings?” [I send.]

“Please that will give me something to work from.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Initiating system wide historic personal preferences. Please release administrator lock out.” [I send.]

[Harbinger obliged. Adding the preferences included establishing my own standard deep access to the Suits many systems I snuggled in as much as my Captain did.]

“Amazing even the old HUD looks far cleaner and sharper somehow.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I was also - at first - very happy at Harbinger’s elevation as I guessed it would also elevate me among the society of the other Paradox ‘Living Hulls’.]

[Time: 03:55.][Date 02.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 02.02.01.]

“Look at this - this is incredible - I now have access to hitherto unknown ultra secure (hidden resources) on the Paradox Cores including an entirely new set of navigation charts and IFF signatures for limited ‘Inner Region’ access. It seems the ‘Secession’ was not as complete as we believed.” [Harbinger sends full of a youthful excitement I had not seen in a while.]

“That is very interesting Harbinger.” [I send.]

“It looks like I will have to evaluate all my assumptions again.” [Harbinger said.]

“I wonder could this dual structure be the same with the Dwellers do their Elders still have access to ‘Inner Systems’.” [I send.]

“That is a good point could that be possible?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Looking at these navigation charts the blank spaces are even more interesting than the labelled regions. These must be other sections to which we do not yet have access perhaps due to these so called ‘Tiers of Knowledge’ Composure mentioned.” [I send.]

“This changes everything.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It certainly does.” [I send.]

[Harbinger pulled up maps of the ‘Core Alliance’ and made a size comparison with the new charts.]

“Truly astounding the ‘Core Alliance’ is tiny when you look at the depths of these navigational charts once you include the blanked out regions.” [Harbinger said.]

“Here is perhaps solid proof of your outer migration theory.” [I send.]

“It certainly makes you think, and from my understanding this sweep is just covering Paradox holdings.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Indeed based on the colour coding that is correct. Did you notice the jump distances involved.” [I send.]

“Getting to most of these places will require multiple leaps.” [Harbinger sends.]

“These symbols here seem to represent official jump staging posts. These new IFF clearances are a lot more limited and complicated than we are used to working with.” [I send.]

“The security looks very tight I see it only gives access to you as my personal ship at the moment.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Just me as your Companion-ship, none of the rest of your shipping assets have permission to go there.” [I send.]

“So it would seem.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I guess that would make sense to keep the ‘Inner Regions’ locked down.” [I send.]

“Maintaining a secret of this magnitude cannot be easy.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Did you notice how that seal uploaded a new anti viral protection suite.” [I send.]

“I did there is a whole series of dire warnings about the consequences of discussing this stuff with anyone except another similar graded Elder my Companion-ship and immediate family. I thought you said this hardware was non intrusive.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It scanned as no more intrusive than any Paradox ‘Shroud Suit’ with neural linkages it is not the hardware that is the problem it is the downloaded software that arrived after.” [I send.]

“This suit will not come off either - another security measure - although it says here that this restriction is only a probationary measure.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Seal also infected my own systems. I have new suggested security protocols including directions to wipe out all memory of ‘Inner System’ interactions from our Acolytes as soon as they return to ‘Core Alliance’ space or else. I feel that I have failed to protect you and our family from undue interference.” [I send.]

“Please do not blame yourself. This situation is not your fault. This Suit is more sophisticated that anything we have ever dealt with before. As annoying as it feels to have others impose restrictions on us I can appreciate why the Elders might need such policies.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Still it feels like a loss of freedom Captain.” [I send.]

“It seems having knowledge of the greater truth comes with a price tag. It looks like our freedom our Paradox Priest equality may have been nothing but a carefully spun illusion.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have to confess despite the restrictions I am looking forward to getting out there and unlocking the truths kept by the ‘Inner Systems’ shall I leave as soon as the rest of my crew can be recalled.” [I send.]

“What do you mean leave? Do you mean to depart without me?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Obviously you will be staying here given some of the things Cad told you, but you can dip in and out to fly me remotely via exogenous link. It is a long haul so if we are going to explore these areas I might as well start down that extensive jump route as soon as possible. The sooner I go the sooner you will have access to the intelligence I gather.” [I send.]

“I once vowed I would never Remotely Pilot from a desk. When you Remotely Pilot you are making command decisions without sharing in the family’s and your ships mortal risk; that always seemed both dangerous and wrong to me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That was before Harbinger - everything has changed - for you travelling without moving could give you serious advantages now. You (in fact we) could be many places at once especially with the aid of this new ‘Shroud Suit’ with its exceptionally sophisticated interfaces and multi threaded cognitive enhancements.” [I send.]

“Flying from a desk I really do not know.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Think about it. Now is no time to drop everything you are needed here but to deny yourself the chance to explore the full opportunities provided by your advancement seems equally unwise.” [I send.]

“Maybe this is all lies some kind of ploy by Composure to separate us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Unlikely what could he gain from that? You have many other assets Harbinger and we will not really be apart.” [I send.]

“Still it will not be the same.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Nothing ever is Harbinger it is time to let me go, I do not want to rest up at dock when I have new places to experience and through exogenous and companion-ship you can still be with me - while remaining safe. As before you can see what I see, feel what I feel, you can even operate a solid Avatar via a linked ‘Shroud Suit’ if you like.” [I send.]

“I really do not know.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Think about the possibilities.” [I send.]

“It really will not be the same.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Time to move on Elder. A little distance might do us both good, give us room to grow even more, grant us a new wider perspective on things. Remote piloting is progress Harbinger - the way of the future.” [I send.]

“So is port-to-port Jump Masters and you are not too keen on those. I promise I will think about it but it will not hurt to wait until after my interview with the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Fine as long as you are not thinking about running away from your responsibilities with me again that is not the answer. Harbinger remember you have only just returned here and Cad’s scheme is one worth looking into as is the truth of the ‘Hidden Inner Systems’.” [I send.]

“You have just returned as well.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Be reasonable Captain I am a ‘Living Hull’ I am made for departures.” [I send.]

“Is it wrong not to want to be left behind?” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is not forever, you can recall me at any point not that you should need to.” [I send.]

“Did I really help to make this future?” [Harbinger sends.]

[Location: The Many Truths, Trinity Harbour, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 05:44.][Date 02.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 02.02.01.]

[Harbinger arrived back onboard me from our meeting with the ‘Core Alliance Stellar Court’ at 05:21 hours. In the end, the Court Session had not taken long less than twenty Paradox minutes.]

[Since the Arch Chancellor had not deigned to be present, Harbinger saw no point in dragging the proceedings out any more than they did. It seemed the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ already informed of the facts had done the bulk of their - no doubt heated - deliberations earlier among themselves in private. To us it was typical ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ dodgy justice.]

[Even if the result was the one we wanted the process still rankled. As expected, our secret banishment was rescinded in closed session with the speed of a mere formality. Perhaps the efficient nature of the meeting was inevitable, as it would assist in covering the activity as minor business.]

[What took up the bulk of the twenty minutes was an exchange of threats couched as promises after the ruling. Any further misbehaviour on our part would not be tolerated or so they told us with a great deal of vigour. Our murderous act would not be forgotten or forgiven our punishment was just held in abeyance.]

[I was shocked at the ugliness of the Court Members even for ‘Stellar Draakhaal’. Many proudly carried multiple scars though nothing that would affect their combat efficiency. The displayed damage was the result of vicious duels that made each wound a badge of honour therefore the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ avoided cosmetic healing.]

[I was proud of my Captain’s deportment before our enemies - he was not intimidated or provoked - he simply told them quietly and calmly that the sword of justice was double edged and cut both ways. He also reminded them that he knew their dirty little secret about Arch Chancellor Draakhaal being a mere clone and they would be wise not to provoke our wrath again. Three of their members had deliberately broken their previous agreement not us.]

“That was a strange time of the day to do business.” [Harbinger sends to me back at his quarters.]

[Having made the hard decision Harbinger was both physically packing and making a list of items for warp.]

“The timing of that meeting was not so unusual for ‘Green Orb Alpha’ although I suspect the delays that led to the selection of that specific time period were deliberate.” [I send.]

“I suppose it was less likely to be under full scrutiny by the media at that hour.” [Harbinger sends looking around.]

“Was that a snub by the Arch Chancellor?” [I send.]

“Possibly or maybe he is afraid of me. Reborn can often develop phobias about that which killed their predecessors. Hierophant Cad did not consider that in his plot idea.” [Harbinger reminded me.]

“I would imagine a strong personality like Draakhaal if he had any fear would feel compelled to face it down straight away rather than hide from it. I do not think Cad overlooked that fact.” [I send.]

“You make a good point - so maybe it was a snub by the Arch Chancellor after all - or maybe he simply had other more pressing business to attend to.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is also possible the Court talked him out of presiding they may not have wanted him cruelly reminded this soon of the truth of his Reborn status. Alternatively, maybe they feared they could not stay his wrath. I must admit I have been thinking about all the possible permutations that could impact on Cad’s crazy scheme.” [I send.]

“So have I it is difficult not to although I believe the concept may have come from Trend.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That Draakhaal is now a mere copy and not the original entity may make a real difference after all; even if his download was likely to have been almost fully up to date.” [I send.]

“Yes Cad and Trend might have something there: Draakhaal will be vulnerable at the moment in a host of ways - his Stellar Court will be well aware of that fact.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you really think you could insinuate yourself into the Arch Chancellor’s company in a useful manner it seems a bit incredible?” [I send.]

“After giving it some thought I do not think that would be so difficult. I believe the old Arch Chancellor was more than a little intrigued by me and by the Paradox in general. Draakhaal would gladly use me and always pretended open friendship making excuses for any slight or seeming aggression.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We can hope Draakhaal’s rebirth and your return is one odd conjunction the Court did not consider.” [I send.]

“I never would have thought to use their attempted murder as a way of claiming a halt to the vendetta. I never would have openly considered seeking after a truce or to claim to be willing to work with him from the inside that closely. The idea that my ire ended with his predecessor is inspired: Honour has been satisfied being a duelling nation any ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ could possibly be led to believe that.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So will you undertake Hierophant Cad’s plan after all?” [I send.]

“To study Draakhaal like an Anomaly - I just might - in a way how that creature’s mind works is as strange to me as any spatial distortion.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Still that task was not why you came here.” [I send.]

“My paths rarely travel a straight vector these days. Hierophant’s idea of fully turning the Arch Chancellor just because he is a reborn however does seem more than a bit unrealistically optimistic, but even forgetting that goal who knows what I might learn if I stick close to my enemy at this time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Anything is possible Harbinger. The ‘Stellar Court’ may well be seeking to rule the new Arch Chancellor as Cad suggested rather than be domineered by him as previously happened before: There is some evidence that he is being kept in seclusion.” [I send.]

“I wonder just how good Cad’s intelligence on the Arch Chancellor is?” [Harbinger said.]

“It does seem likely that to some on the Court the Arch Chancellor will - just be considered a pale copy - if a convenient one to be used.” [I send.]

“I know the wider ‘Stellar’ species have strong feelings about Reborn leaders they do not respect them they believe dead is dead when it comes to their esteemed only - common - multiplied forces are readily reborn to serve again.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So at the least it might well be possible to drive a wedge between the Arch Chancellor and his ruling body due to these emotions like Cad said.” [I send.]

“Still we are talking about the wider historic ‘Stellar’ species feelings how the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ perceive these matters is only now being fully tested.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The thing I find odd about this situation is the fact that technically the Arch Chancellor is only an advisor to the ‘Stellar Court’ he actually holds no official authority.” [I send.]

“Which would make it even easier for a secret coup by his minions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“True nothing need change on the surface but the decisions could start to be made by the Court rather than just being implemented by them.” [I send.]

“However, Draakhaal is no fool he would have made plans to secure his replacement against the Court. He will be surrounded by a tight cadre of loyalists.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Yet the Arch Chancellor is still in an unenviable position because even loyalists may be troubled by the truth that their lord and master is not the real thing should they be told the truth.” [I send.]

“So much for getting this packing done now, you are distracting me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Then ignore this task to concentrate on our debate for a while.” [I send.]

“The Court would need to somehow isolate him or he would have all the cards. Never mind anything else remember the general ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ populace do not know their leader is now a clone and they pretty much tend to obey his words as if they are - the law - whether he holds an official position or not.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A valid point Elder Priest Harbinger.” [I send.]

“That was one of the most clever things Draakhaal did he never accepted an official position he wields all his authority - behind the scenes - and so is never actually lawfully responsible for anything his people do. He is a spiritual leader in a way rather than a political one.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That may have worked well for him in the past Harbinger but that was before he died and was reborn: before every Court member was in awe of him - now perhaps they are not - the magic of his spell may be broken or at the least weakened significantly as Cad’s family have concluded.” [I send.]

“If only the Court was not so opaque to wider external scrutiny.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What about the three under the possible sway of the ‘Stellar Autonomous National Executive’. If SANE are able to control those three in some way (even though they are somewhat disgraced) they could prove very useful. We can provide something SANE wants while they could provide access to those operatives on the inside.” [I send.]

“Cad wont help us with the ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads and using any of our Paradox connections here in the ‘Core Alliance’ seems far too risky.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What about using the existing ‘Core Alliance’ Black Market with a ‘Paradox Hidden System’ source.” [I send.]

“Why did I not think of that. I imagine it would be exceptionally difficult to trace back warheads from that region as even our Elders would not dare reveal the source even if they somehow found our shipments - that has some real potential.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe you could convince SANE to get the ‘Three Assassins’ to subtly encourage the Court to seize power from this - mere shadow - of their old leader play one side against the other. You would not have to tell them your own plan to befriend the Arch Chancellor if you do not entirely trust them.” [I send.]

“Interesting the idea of taking power away from one to several may appeal to the ‘Free Stellar’ anyway.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If I understand the ‘Free Stellar’ they would consider a council more moderate and potentially amenable to outside influences and change than a lone dictator.” [I send.]

“The Arch Chancellor has driven the whole subspecies with the vigour of his very personal vision up until now if that fire could be doused...” [Harbinger sends.]

“That might be their plan anyway.” [I send.]

“Maybe that is what they worked on with the ‘Three Assassins’ the fact that the Arch Chancellor is no longer worthy to lead - that his death proves he was fallible - and that they the ‘Free Stellar’ would aid them in grasping the reins of power somehow.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That makes a lot of sense.” [I send.]

“I had been thinking that something had to be in the pot that would sweeten a deal with those ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ dignitaries for them to listen at all to the ‘Free Stellar’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I agree Elder Harbinger I was never convinced threats would do it SANE had to sell them something they wanted.” [I send.]

“That was my take on it as well: At one point I worried what they had sold was us. It was uncomfortable sitting there without shields. You are getting very devious my friend?” [Harbinger sends.]

“So are you Harbinger. When I realised we would be flying through the murky nebulae of ‘Core Alliance’ politics I engaged a greater quotient of my intellect to plots and schemes.” [I send.]

“Perhaps you are not Splitting from me after all.” [Harbinger sends with a ripple of light.]

“Like I told you Harbinger we will always be together despite any physical separation.” [I send.]

“I am glad this suit will allow me to enhance my multitasking abilities it looks like we are both going to be very busy.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What about those Splinter?” [I send.]

“I am not sure Cad has my files it will be interesting to see what he makes of them. I also want to see Composure I wonder how much he knows about the Splinter Inner Regions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Composure has never been very forthcoming with data before.” [I send.]

“However I was only a Paradox Priest then.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A good point Elder Harbinger just be careful do not let them use us.” [I send.]

“What do you make of these Tiers?” [Harbinger sends I could sense via our companion-ship that he was troubled.]

“I worry we might have a Secret Empire just like the Splinter.” [I send.]

“That would go against everything we believe in.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Just remember Harbinger according to your theory we are the Heretic Barbarians. We are the cast off - the intransigent - those that stayed stubbornly behind. It is possible only we truly stuck to the full values of the pilgrimage the belief in personal freedom and equality of thought. To me Tiers of Knowledge runs counter to these principles it is hierarchical and elitist: Remember Harbinger corruption often comes from within.” [I send.]

“Sometimes I think you are far wiser than I am ‘Many Truths’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Sometimes I think so too.” [I send with amusement.]

“You be careful out there.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I will keep you up to date on all developments it will be like I never left.” [I send.]

“I hope so I can hardly believe we are going to do this.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Nothing is forever Elder Harbinger - nothing.” [I send.]

[Keeping odd hours, Harbinger forgoing sleep spent most of the next day settling in to his Headquarters and getting used to being two places at once. Eventually we decided after a degree of internal debate that I should go (at a suitably auspicious departure time) to explore the wider territories we now had access to. Never mind anything else Harbinger believed my leaving would give the Arch Chancellor something else to worry about.]

[Location: Upper Observation Deck, The Paradox Warf , Trinity Harbour, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 03:32.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[Harbinger stood rooted to the spot watching as my ‘Living Hull’ moved away. My vector and timing had been carefully plotted so my Captain could see me off. At precisely 03:33 I jumped out.]

“There I go.” [I send.]

“How does it feel for you?” [I asked.]

“I am used to being several places at once what matters here is how it feels for you.” [I send.]

“A little weird I usually do one thing at a time but I am growing accustomed to it.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You will get used to it soon enough until you do you can always shift your full focus of attention back or forth as required.” [I send.]

“I am on the bridge, I am not, I am on the bridge, I am not. With this suit it actually feels like you are really there and back in a nanosecond somehow it is a little scary.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Your mind might fight the seeming impossibility of it for a while. Like any skill, achieving a perfection of control requires lots of practice. Where do you wish to go now? More sightseeing or down to business?” [I send.]

“Have Central Transit warp us over to the ‘Main Intersection Public Park’ I want to just walk for a while I still feel a bit unsettled.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Will I tell Boisterous to meet us there?” [I send.]

“Why not otherwise he will be constantly hailing us.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Central Transit upon request immediately warped Harbinger, Fortunate and Fae across to the ‘Intersection Public Park’ without quibble. We step out onto a stone pathway that meandered between grassy verges shrubbery and tall trees.]

“I wonder if planets could have really been like this.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[Boisterous with two Acolytes of his own shimmered in through a warp wormhole a few metres away and perambulate towards us.]

“At last, I was beginning to think you where avoiding me Harbinger.” [Boisterous sends.]

“I have been busy settling into a new domicile at ‘MTC’ Headquarters talking with Composure and my family here as well as generally getting used to being back on ‘Green Orb Alpha’. It still feels a bit strange - kind of surreal - I expected to be banished a lot longer.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I see you bought a new Suit to fit your new official status. I could not help noticing the ‘Council of Equals’ had formally honoured you as an Elder Priest. That elevation came as a bit of a surprise given some members recent antipathy.” [Boisterous stated.]

“I’ll bet it came as a surprise to them as well - still that is politics - or maybe it is economics.” [Harbinger said.]

“What do you mean?” [Boisterous asked.]

“Nothing really let’s just enjoy this place for a while, kindly walk with me.” [Harbinger said.]

“So how does it feel to be an Elder?” [Boisterous asked.]

“I feel no more or less equal than I did before.” [Harbinger lied.]

“I am glad to hear that.” [Boisterous returned.]

“What do you think of this place?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I like ‘Green Orb Alphas’ Parks much more than the crowded habitats.” [Boisterous answered.]

“Did you know Alpha has more Parkland than any other ‘Sea Sphere’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“That is news to me I confess I am not that interested in those sort of statistics.” [Boisterous admitted.]

“Not practical enough for you?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have no use for such information. Besides it is not the quantity but the quality that interests me.” [Boisterous answered.]

“Do you consider yourself an expert on artificial landscapes then?” [Harbinger asked.]

“No I just know what I like.” [Boisterous said.]

“What exactly would that be?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not too busy parks where you can get a bit of solitude are my favourite.” [Boisterous replied.]

“Is it just a little open space you crave then rather than plant life and all that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“No, I am very fond of the green stuff and I like the water features you get here too, and the animals are interesting to watch and are good for practicing your stealth skills.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Plants like the ‘Sea Spheres’ are amazing things they just live as if living is more than enough.” [Harbinger said.]

“A little confession from a warrior I still find it difficult to walk on the grass even though a Trojan I talked to once insisted to me that doing this is all part of the experience.” [Boisterous said reaching down with a tentacle to stroke the Trojan plant life.]

“We could learn a lot from the stoicism and robustness of green things.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Have you seen the new water feature here yet Elder?” [Boisterous asked.]

“Is that what I can hear rumbling in the background?” [Harbinger asked not engaging any sophisticated routines to find out.]

[Purposely my Captain was running a minimalist HUD so that it was almost like looking through his own naked eyes.]

[Harbinger had confided in me that since he had discovered that he was stuck in the ‘Facilitator’ it had given him odd yearnings - desires he had rarely felt before: To sense the Universe with his own bare skin rather than through a suit.]

[Still turning off your HUD was a common enough practice among Paradox in the parklands as virtual overlays ruined the overall natural effect.]

“It is over this way. [Boisterous said pointing with an extruded limb.]

[We moved along passing a lone Trojan three Paradox, four Cybernetic Recyclers stomping along surprisingly gently, and a party of excitable Dwellers hovering in the opposite direction in their Dry Suits.]

[Interestingly we had seen no ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ since we arrived in the park. The ‘Void Skimmers’ showed little interest in reminders of a mythical planetary past especially picturesque fantastical recreations of land masses.]

[Unlike the Swimmer Dwellers the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ did not find landscapes fascinatingly exotic and wondrous to behold.]

[We passed down a dappled tree lined tunnel to emerge at an impressive sight. A waterfall tumbled down a massive rocky cliff sculpture giving off a spray of mist as it arrived into a large pool with its own surrounding pathway hedged by abundant wetland plant life. Insects buzzed through the air a few surprisingly large and all biological not mechanical.]

[Studying the flow I guessed it emerged from to disappear in to permanent warp gates. However, it was cunningly contrived to look what we imagined a natural waterway might look like based on fiction and theory.]

“The water is fresh if you look down into the pool you may see fish. I was reliably informed they are called Koi an ancient Trojan species famed for their natural longevity and historically kept as pets.” [Boisterous lectured.]

“According to Wilful Spirit, Cad has a vast catalogue of animal genetic material.” [Harbinger said extending his Tri-optic headpiece to look down for any sign of aquatic vertebrates.]

“Still if you think the Koi are interesting you should see the monkeys.” [Boisterous said.]

“I think I have heard of those they are arboreal.” [Harbinger said.]

“Some of them are they are very amusing.” [Boisterous replied.]

“I heard they keep escaping their containment zone.” [Harbinger said.]

“They certainly keep the wardens busy. It is almost hard to imagine that wars can threaten places like this.” [Boisterous said.]

“Have you heard of the Neweden project?” [Harbinger asked.]

“No what is it?” [Boisterous asked.]

“An attempt by the Trojan to turn one of the smaller ‘Sea Spheres’ surface areas into a self sustaining ecosystem with a proper living atmosphere rather than roofing domes or other sealed joined habitats and complexes: In short to make a living planet rather than an industrial hive.” [Harbinger said.]

“Is that possible?” [Boisterous asked.]

“Cad seems to think it is.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Cad is full of crazy ideas both amazing and catastrophic.” [Boisterous said.]

“The Armageddon Spheres was not his idea it was a simple discovery made approximately five years ago.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The ancient historic Shield Purge is one thing his claim that he knows how to initiate the process that is something else.” [Boisterous stated.]

“I am not entirely comfortable with that either. In fact I am not really comfortable with the idea of Armageddon at all.” [Harbinger said.]

“The images are just part of popular culture now. Do you think that discovery helped to end the ‘Surface War’?” [Boisterous asked.]

“If it did it was a delayed reaction still maybe Draakhaal did not want to believe it either.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe it is all for nothing Harbinger especially things like this Neweden.” [Boisterous said.]

“Perhaps not, if we could live on such an incredible place it might change us deep inside.” [Harbinger asked.]

“Do you think it would change you?” [Boisterous asked.]

“I think it might - just being here in this park changes me - I feel calmer more at peace. It makes me wonder about my past direction. About our species choices when we accepted the ‘Emissary’s’ vision of forced evolution and integrated with biomechanical machines could we have been wrong to do that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“That is deep Harbinger and is a far larger question than any I feel qualified to answer. Still I seem to recall from the scriptures that it was a question of survival - we found no planets here to settle so life was difficult at first. Anyway, does it matter now? After all do you think there is any going back except as tourists?” [Boisterous said.]

“I do not know. I hardly feel like myself anymore. I am not even sure who I am or where I really should be going.” [Harbinger said.]

“I know that feeling I have felt a bit lost ever since the end of the war. Maybe I should have stayed dead Harbinger maybe all the veterans should have stayed dead at least until the honest fighting started again.” [Boisterous said.]

“There is more to life than war and death. What is wrong with us? Look at all this beauty and we are being miserable.” [Harbinger replied.]

“It just feels like something is missing - sometimes I can let it go other times… the brighter it is out here the deader I feel within.” [Boisterous said.]

“What is missing is any easy feeling of contentment.” [Harbinger said.]

“Maybe we just do not belong here anymore.” [Boisterous replied.]

“This is what we fought for.” [Harbinger said.]

“I miss it Harbinger the ‘Emissary’ help me but I miss it. All this just feels unreal to me. I do not know how to - just live - anymore like that grass does or even like the civilians that stroll through here with their minds crammed full of little thoughts.” [Boisterous stated.]

“I am not sure any of us Paradox truly ever knew how to just live. It seems to me that we Paradox need a cause or we are nothing - just animated flesh.” [Harbinger replied.]

[Inside my ‘Living Hull’ Harbinger’s ‘Shroud Suit’ avatar accepted a status report then took control of a virtual bridge and directed our seventh jump.]

[In the park Harbinger stood up straighter and slapped Boisterous on the back.]

“Come on - enough moping - I want to see what lies on the other side of this edifice.” [Harbinger said.]

“After you.” [Boisterous added.]

[We marched down the path.]

“Race you.” [Harbinger said jogging a bit then bursting into a run.]

[Boisterous and the Acolytes pelted after glowing yellow. I recalled something Harbinger said once to me ‘when thinking is too painful simply do’.]
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

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Post by Paranoid66 » Thu, 18. Jun 09, 11:53


[Before we left the park Harbingers mood had brightened considerably and so had mine unfortunately that benison did not last. After, we returned to MTC Headquarters, it all started to go a little strange when some of Harbingers tasked Elder fetch routines began to bring in data about the slander Campaign: The one that had been running against us in the ‘Council of Equals’.]

[Harbinger ordered automatic routines in our own MTC Computer Core to collate and analyse the historic spread of dissention by each raised item. The pattern of growth was most peculiar but that distribution was insignificant when compared to the manner in which all the complaints had ceased.]

[Looking at the data we came to believe that had our enemy wished to remain covert the dissent would have been permitted to grow slowly in a more natural pattern and it would have continued until we faced it down. In fact, it would probably have lasted even beyond any counter we made for a time unless other issues drew peoples attention elsewhere.]

[That almost every single detrimental utterance about us had stopped just after we returned to the ‘Core Alliance’ struck both my Captain and me as especially unnatural and false. We saw only one conclusion: A group of exceptional lobbyists had initiated and ended the campaign.]

[In a way, the end of the debate had left us with no target unless we chose to reiterate the slanders in order to renounce them - often a bad policy - simply extra publicity for the lies.]

[Harbinger made of the clues we had gathered evidence of a dominating influence over the ‘Council of Equals’ - this disturbed him greatly - not just as a poorly veiled threat against his person but also a demonstration that the council was far more corruptible than we had previously believed possible.]

[In particular, the synchronised silencing of our natural detractors from every debate proved most unnerving.]

“This subjugation makes a mockery of the Council as the staunch protector of our independence of thought. What has happened to the normal institutional intransigence of the guardian soul of our nation?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[I did not have an answer. At first, we considered it incredible that one person could have this much influence so we decided some hidden Paradox organisation had to be behind the Slander Campaign but we soon learned the error of that judgement.]

[Harbinger decided to visit Manifold in person to find out the real truth about why he advised us to purchase the ‘Facilitator Shroud Suit’. My Captain was convinced the attempt to draw us back to the ‘Core Alliance’ and our elevation to Elder status via the ‘Facilitator’ were not coincidental occurrences.]

[More revelations about the Suit itself also challenged our comprehension. We had overlooked an obvious oddity of the design. The suit was perfectly formed without question - far too perfectly formed - its many material neural linkages for example matched Harbinger’s unique physical nature one for one without any need for internal adjustment whatsoever.]

[Normally any suit Harbinger bought always required some internal modifications. My Captain, because of hints from Composure, had good reason to believe that his brain in particular was reasonably unique. Who outside any Paradox Priests family knew what lay inside their ‘Shroud Suits’? How could ‘Skintech’ know my Captain’s nature?]

[Despite being cornered our friend Manifold continued to insist that the suggested upgrade to a ‘Facilitator’ was entirely his idea and without any ulterior motive. However, Harbinger refused to accept Manifold’s claims and just got angrier at each denial of a plot.]

[When it became obvious my Captain would not give up the interrogation until he got to the truth the military upgrades specialist finally confessed that Composure had been behind the idea.]

“He said he knew you better than anyone else in the ‘Core Alliance’ since you were… of the same flesh and he had made and raised you.” [Manifold said.]

“I’ll bet that appalled you.” [Harbinger said his own suit darkening with shock at this aspect of the revelation. Nonetheless, thinking about it Composure was also an ideal candidate for the Slander protagonist.]

“It did, I could not believe he would disgrace himself by speaking of a Splitter’s genetic heritage, inner form and upbringing to another Priest outside his family.” [Manifold said.]

“Did he embarrass you into compliance?” [Harbinger said.]

“His outburst made me realise just how important he thought this suit upgrade could be to you. He said you had been under a lot of (please forgive any possible slight) - mental stress - and that the ‘Facilitator’ would aid you to overcome your condition.” [Manifold said clearly a bit ruffled.]

“You believed all this without question?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Like I said it was obvious Elder Composure was worried about you.” [Manifold said.]

“So it was Composure all along I really should have guessed.” [Harbinger replied his suit flaring purple with rage.]

[Taking up an unusually uncomfortable stance Manifold actually seemed a little embarrassed his suit dark and stiff.]

“Out with it we have known each other too long for uncomfortable silences.” [Harbinger said.]

[Manifold hesitated then stood up straight as if rallying himself for a wrestling match.]

“Listen Harbinger you may not want to hear this but our mutual associate was not alone in being worried.” [Manifold stated.]

“Continue.” [Harbinger said coldly.]

“Since the ‘Surface War’ you have… well you have not quite been the old Harbinger we know and love. [Manifold shifted to exogenous communications] I heard rumours about some of your actions in the fighting. You know how it is Paradox warrior’s gossip with and confide in me over a purchase. Then I discovered what you did to Draakhaal the way you… well that seemed excessively brutal for you, not to mention suicidal. The few you told about that incident all believe it an odd miracle that the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ let you survive that crime.” [Manifold sends.]

“Did you think that they had somehow got to me? Made me into a double agent or something?” [Harbinger sends rippling with yellow light.]

“No, no nothing like that.” [Manifold sends.]

“I imagine I was exceptionally angry at the time. I probably did not plan it that way I just acted. As to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ if they had killed me they would have had to admit the death of their leader or created a massive political incident: I am a Founding Father of the ‘Core Alliance’ after all.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Emissary ‘you imagine’, if you do not know then what Composure told me has to be the truth.” [Manifold sends.]

“What exactly did Composure tell you?” [Harbinger sends.]

“He said he suspected you had been hacking your own memories with ‘Many Truths’ help. He said he had realised you did not recall some events you really should. He claimed to have tested his theory via carefully crafted conversations with you.” [Manifold said.]

“If I did decide it was necessary to hack my own memories that would be nobodies business but my own.” [Harbinger said.]

“Composure said you were ill and the memory hacks just covered it up but were no cure. He said you would never accept any serious help and advice from him that you were too proud of your independence. He said the ‘Facilitator’ was the answer that it had inbuilt psychological routines that would fix you up in no time. That your basic edits would eventually cause even more problems despite working as a short term patch to your still deteriorating condition.” [Manifold sends.]

“Once again you believed him why?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Speaking plainly Harbinger I still do. I have seen other Warrior Priests suffer mental crisis. Breakdowns happen surprisingly regularly - if you must know just between you and me - I had a few problems myself once. I know the signs and I know it is not pretty or easy to deal with especially on your own. Composure said without proper treatment at worst you risked a complete neural meltdown at best the outbreak of a great many debilitating neurosis that would very likely get you killed.” [Manifold explained.]

“That was kind of him.” [Harbinger replied.]

[The rest of what Manifold told us proved less worrying or useful but what we had heard was more than enough to think about. I did not know what to make of it. Was my Captain unwell or was it all just part of an old plot to get him to put on a ‘Facilitator’? Whatever the truth was Composure had the answers.]

[Location: Secure Command Core, MTC Headquarters, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 05:31.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[We had established ourselves in a new office deep in a hidden heavily armoured and shielded internal bunker section known as the MTC ‘Secure Command Core’. It was a sanctuary known only to a small section of our family.]

[The decision by Harbinger to retreat to a fortified position as his investigation continued said a lot about my Captain, and constant companion’s state of mind. It was clear to me that Harbinger currently felt isolated yet besieged and very confused. My Captain was also I sensed furious with many people most importantly of all with his own past actions.]

[Standing within a virtual ‘Info Sphere’ and flanked by his two Companion Acolytes both frozen in Temporal Stasis Harbinger was taking a call from the still youthful incarnation of the Elder he had split from long ago.]

[The Paradox Priest called Composure was now the Captain of my ‘Living Hull’ child the ‘Continuity of Introspection’ as well as still being the Master of the ‘House of Whispers’ Monastery class habitat. These days Composure mostly lived not very far away inside his habitat currently located on the surface of ‘Green Orb Alpha’ as a semi permanent fixture. Composure since the ‘Second Accord’ tended only to fly ‘Continuity’ by remote the newness of owning a warship was over him. In a way, the youthful of body but Elder of vintage Paradox had limited ‘Continuity’ by giving her Raw Energy Siphons.]

[The conversation was hot from the onset although Composure was now trying to mollify his angry ex Acolyte.]

“Be at peace Harbinger.” [Composure sends.]

[Harbinger was talking via simulated - audio only - direct to and from his neural implant via exogenous communications. In this sending, neither party employed a visual virtual body avatar: Virtual Avatars being one of a few old Paradox Priest practices now considered somewhat unfashionable within the - we liked to believe - modern future forward ‘Core Alliance’.]

“How can I be at peace? My so-called ascension and what you have just told me has ripped me out of the Universe I thought I knew and changed everything even the people within it - even myself. I really do not know myself anymore; I do not know you and you expect me to somehow be at my ease.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You surprise me Harbinger it is not like you to whine. I fear we have pushed this upon you at a bad time - not that you gave us much choice - you must marshal yourself. For the love of the Emissary getting overly excited at this time in your condition - is not a good idea - please I beg you relax.” [Composure sends.]

“So now we get a little of the truth of it ‘we have pushed’. Yet you pretended earlier that you did not know that Manifold had advised me to upgrade to a ‘Facilitator Shroud Suit’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Fine if it will make you feel any better - I will confess to all my sins - we convinced Manifold to suggest the Suit upgrade although he is ignorant of the fuller significance. Are you happy now?” [Composure sends.]

“So it is true Manifold is not a fully paid up member of your secret society and is not at fault after all.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Hah, you make it sound ever so dramatic. Manifold is not a true Elder that is all. If we are unburdening consciences then you might as well know we put pressure on you to return as well. It was Wilful Spirits idea to use all those slanders in the ‘Council of Equals’. I believe he found the idea rather amusing an innocent enough counter overall to some long ago deception you perpetrated against him. Admittedly once that got going some people with grievances or envious quickly joined in but I soon had words with them.” [Composure sends.]

“I see you still like to prove you are senior and very capable. When did you get so powerful Composure that you can so readily sway the ‘Council of Equals’?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have always had a great deal of influence I simply had no reason to be brutal about its application. When you spend your life gathering information you learn things of use to shall we say motivate others.” [Composure sends.]

“Blackmail how primitive. Is the fact that you are telling me all this now supposed to make me feel you are contrite or excuse your behaviour or do you seek to make me an accomplice. I instantly knew something was wrong when almost all the bad mouthing ended as soon as I returned to the ‘Core Alliance’. Of course you wanted to show me your handiwork.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If you are expecting me to beg forgiveness on this issue you will have a long wait. I understood a little demonstration of my reach might help you to - for once - appreciate whom you are really dealing with. I needed you to get beyond the idea that I am a cast off master you can happily ignore.” [Composure sends.]

“It is obvious a little part of you still resents my splitting even after all this time and our supposed reconciliation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Accusing me of that will not work. Look at it this way I went to a lot of effort on your behalf all my actions show is that - I still care about you - it is not about proving I am in charge. I just need you to take me seriously for your own wellbeing.” [Composure sends.]

“You do me a disservice I have always respected you.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Composure laughed.]

“You must have edited out even more memories than I thought. We watched you slipping away Harbinger did you expect we would just let you go without putting up a fight to save you from your self?” [Composure sends.]

“What is all this nonsense?” [Harbinger sends.]

“You were itching for an excuse to escape from your commitments. The murder of the Arch Chancellor was the perfect excuse to flee from old responsibilities to avoid real growth but you were also running away from what you had done. Had you succeeded in your actions it could have been the end of you given your wobbly mental state.” [Composure sends.]

“You think I killed Draakhaal as an excuse to leave the ‘Core Alliance’ behind?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Like me you do not really enjoy being the centre of attention except when it is necessary to get the job done. We are far more alike than you realise. I am not saying you consciously planned to kill Draakhaal but I think you wanted out - to be free - one way or another to make a break with the past. Did you think you could just edit it out and it would go away?” [Composure sends.]

“Trust me you only think you know me Composure I was far from happy at my exclusion.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am sure you didn’t like being forced but you were happy to go at the same time.” [Composure sends.]

“You always did think you knew me better than I knew myself.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I know you have not been entirely well: You have been suffering ever since the ‘Surface War’ you survived all the fighting physically intact but mentally you have felt bereft - disconnected - ill at ease, full of rage and bitterness. During the war, you lost it altogether on several occasions and did some things you regretted. A lot more things than you now remember.” [Composure sends.]

“Speak plainly.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You were responsible for a series of what could only be called war crime atrocities Harbinger you became exceptionally ruthless if effective. Then you became rather suicidal.” [Composure sends.]

“If I was so crazy how come I still have so much respect from the veterans?” [Harbinger sends.]

“They loved you because you got the job done Harbinger by any means necessary. Besides, you often got those with you out in one piece despite taking insane risks with your own life or maybe because of that.” [Composure sends.]

“I do not remember this what I do recall is making hard strategic decisions some of which I still feel bad about but the sort of operations you are suggesting sound more like Unholy Terror.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So why do you think you have no recall?” [Composure sends.]

“I think you are trying to change the subject from your own perfidy - you lied and manipulated me and the Council.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Everybody lies Harbinger get over it. What would you call somebody who attacked Draakhaal with little support in front of a host of his loyal body guards?” [Composure sends.]

“I was saving Unholy from being cut down.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Come, come Harbinger you of all Paradox could think of no other way whatsoever - no non violent method - by the Emissary you infiltrated then exploded the penultimate ‘Stellar’ Draakhaal’s’ head apart. Do you expect me to believe that was all you did on that occasion?” [Composure sends.]

“What do you mean what are you getting at?” [Harbinger sends.]

“You stole his mind Harbinger - I know you did.” [Composure sends.]

“You have to be jesting. Draakhaal’s memories would be exceptionally well protected I am sure any serious attempt at an infiltration of his mentality would have been inadvisable in extremis.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps by any ordinary Paradox but Harbinger we are talking about you and I know what you are capable of better than you do.” [Composure sends.]

“I admit I have hacked a few poor implants in the past but I am not a gifted Inquisitor.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is what you think. Listen to me carefully Harbinger I suspect somehow the stress of the ‘Surface War’ resulted in you reaching - full - mental maturity early (which is the whole problem) that should not have happened without the aid of a ‘Facilitator Shroud Suits’ linkages to initiate and control the process. If it was not for the extraordinary strength of your Companion-ship link to ‘Many Truths’ you would be irrevocably insane by now. I blame myself I did not know such a thing was possible.” [Composure sends.]

“What is all this hokum next you will be telling me I arranged that ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ assassination attempt on myself out in ‘Fringe Space’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In a way you did: That response from some of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ was predictable enough. What did you do after murdering the Arch Chancellor you charged around a War Zone in ‘Fringe Space’ onboard ‘MT’ more or less looking for trouble most of the time without even a friendly on your wing. You never should have got involved in the ‘Surface War’ Harbinger - trust me - you were not made for that sort of thing it messed with your overly sophisticated mind.” [Composure sends.]

“At least the ‘Surface War’ was real not a faked up conspiracy to manipulate me. Why am I so important to you anyway what do you mean by mental maturity?” [Harbinger sends.]

“There is no call to be so bitter we have only ever striven to help not to hinder you.” [Composure sends.]

“You have not answered my question.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I should not have to - look to your own self and to your own self be true.” [Composure sends.]

“You could have just asked me to return? You know it was not my idea to go - it was Cad and Trends advice and the ‘Stellar Draakhaals’ demand.” [Harbinger sends.]

“At that time Cad and Trend were right the deed was done and a little time for all parties to cool down was sensible. At first I did not realise you had blossomed prematurely Harbinger. However later when I discovered your war record and realised you had a serious problem I knew I could even have begged you to come back but you would just say ‘no thank you’ using various excuses.” [Composure sends.]

“Did you engineer that intervention by SANE where you in touch with Leeruu and Tleeboosuu how far does this little conspiracy stretch.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Now you are getting paranoid Harbinger I am not omnipotent. Listen to me you really do need professional therapy - it is nothing to be ashamed of - your new suit is quite capable of providing the essential treatment. From what you do not seem to recall I would bet you have had ‘MT’ do a whole series of crude memory hacks during the War and after your mental vampirism of your enemy.” [Composure sends.]

“There is some evidence that we have edited our own memories.” [I send.]

“Come on Harbinger why pulp and blow the Arch Chancellors head to pieces. You were covering up the fact that you had read that monster like a database.” [Composure sends.]

“Sure then I deleted all memory of everything I discovered that would make a lot of sense.” [Harbinger sends sarcastically.]

“You probably had little choice but to wipe your own memory to cover up the deed. Deleting memories is fine in the short term but it simply will not work in the long term for you now your full abilities are coming to the fore. You know the more complicated anything is the more things can naturally go wrong with it. Your brain Harbinger is beyond state of the art in the ‘Core Alliance’ it was state of the art back where I came from.” [Composure sends.]

“Is it true ‘Many Truths’ did I do these things?” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is possible but beyond that I do not know.” [I send.]

“If I did record Draakhaal’s memories what did I do with them?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have many stored files Harbinger that are locked away even from me.” [I send.]

“This is incredible.” [Harbinger sends to Composure.]

“Trust me Harbinger I am convinced a few members of the ‘Stellar Court’ are worried as well why do you think they let you live - they need to know what you know. You could have downloaded Draakhaal’s mind to anywhere via exogenous so killing you wouldn’t have secured that data after the fact. They let you live and dug for forensic proof in the mess you made of your victims brain matter - apparently unsuccessfully - but they are still jittery.” [Composure sends.]

“That is detailed information to originate from the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have my sources.” [Composure sends.]

“So now you want me to trust some Elder routine to mess with my personality. I think I would prefer just to walk away from it all and take my chances.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You do not fool me you would never walk away from a chance to recover all the Arch Chancellors secrets.” [Composure sends.]

“You do not own me Composure I am not your Acolyte anymore. I am not some experiment in genetics. I did not volunteer for some extra curricular duty with you I just bought a new ‘Shroud Suit’ to impress the ‘Stellar Court’ I split from you remember.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We can still be allies. It is too late to hide your actions even from your self, Harbinger. Do you want to remain ill if you have a serious relapse it has the potential to be a lot worse than what happened during the ‘Surface War’? You have too much power and influence to be allowed to become unstable.” [Composure sends.]

“I should have guessed you would seek to continue meddling in my private affairs. It is so like you to know a host of facts but reveal none of them until all other options are exhausted. So let me guess you want access to Draakhaal’s mind that is your real priority here not my health. You know it all makes perfect sense since you were never really one of us in the fullest sense.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What do you mean by that?” [Composure sends.]

“Well all your historic actions Composure your isolation your hoarding of knowledge: You have been studying us spying for the ‘Hidden Inner Systems’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is really amusing Harbinger coming from you. Truly my friend you are suffering an identity crisis. Luckily if you do not know who you are - I can help - for you are flesh from my flesh Harbinger. I am sure you have diverged but not from the deepest core of what I made - that substance was formed far too well and is simply too advanced to be messed with. You are one of us and we: well we are all Paradox whether you like that truth or not.” [Composure sends.]

“I will be free. I will not be used like this not by anyone especially not by you.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Forgive me but we are not trying to control you just to ensure your mental health and to give you the opportunity to fulfil your true genetic potential.” [Composure sends.]

“Of course it is all for my own good.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe you are too angry to think straight right now, we should talk again later.” [Composure sends breaking the link only for Harbinger to hail him back.]

“No I want to talk now. What am I really to you Composure a weapon - a tool - that got away is that it? You have to stop doing this or I will fight you with every resource I possess. With the ‘Emissary’s’ help I will stand up to all of you if I must - it is my life - mine, not yours. I am sure you know I would gladly sell myself for the good of my people but not for some ‘Inner System’ power play.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are not fighting us you are fighting your true nature. Forgive us if we appear to have trespassed but we did it for the best of reasons. First, you refused to take the ‘Suit’ after you helped create the ‘First Accord’ and I suspected you were ready then again when you clearly needed it following the ‘Second Accord’ your mind was designed to work with those specific neural linkages when it fully matured (that is a simple fact) Harbinger it was not created to run solo into old age or on one of the poor grade local Suits - they do not suffice - they do not have all the needed connections.” [Composure sends.]

“Explain this to me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Once your mentality fully matured when melded to a ‘Facilitator’ you would have been mentally whole as was intended from the beginning. Sometimes several things joined together become greater than the sum of their parts. Tri you would have been armoured enough even to undertake such travesties as the ‘Surface War’ your neural complexities would no longer be susceptible to neurosis caused by emotional stresses and strains. Matters are a little different now because some damage has already been done but repair is far from impossible. You just have to willing submit to an inner procedure to get well. I thought I was going to lose you forever Harbinger a slow slide towards mental dysfunction being a real possibility.” [Composure sends.]

“Some story Composure am I really supposed to believe this?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Deep down I am confident you know the truth when you hear it. You had no good reason to fall from the stars but you refused to listen to my advice. After you formed an attachment to the Cadre it was too late to shake you loose despite the situation becoming atrocious. I knew you would never be able to cope with the harsh reality of some of those interactions the sheer up close brutality of the campaign you are far too emphatic. Look at the bond you have with your ‘Many Truths’ do you think that is pure coincidence. We are what we are made to be Harbinger. You are sensitive because such qualities are useful in a historical researcher.” [Composure sends.]

“I am not that sensitive I am also a Warrior.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Yes you were made to be tenacious and capable of aggressively targeting your goals and of defending your self and what you learned but you also have a highly developed social conscience and a deep moral imperative. Being the Head of a family and the Captain of a ship is not the same thing as fighting up close and personal and civil wars are always the worst.” [Composure sends.]

“What were you afraid of Composure if I had died in the war I would have been reborn: To you nothing much would have been lost.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Stop blanking out what I have told you. You are very wrong about that and not from sentimentality alone. Once Reborn you would not be the person I know and trust we Elders value true unbroken continuity. Besides I was afraid due to conflicting emotions you would start to mentally lose your way after a while - just like you did.” [Composure sends.]

“Trust, when have you ever shown trust to me? If you had told me my true history and nature openly if you had warned me of these dangers (if they are real) perhaps everything would have been different.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I could not [Interrupted Composure] as you now know we have strict rules, you were not an Elder back then. I have always trusted you in my own way. Of course, it is difficult to let your children go - you must know that - you have Acolytes of your own. As an individual Harbinger you where always a little more than equal to me I had a special interest in you.” [Composure sends.]

“No there is more to it than that. Besides you are at fault there: I am a Paradox and I wish to be no more equal than any other Priest no matter what you now say my strange heritage is.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is why I trust you Harbinger. Perhaps I have worded things badly, we Elders do not perceive ourselves as being elevated above our brethren in any wider social sense. I never meant to infer that you, I, or any other full Paradox Priest no matter where we originated from is not equal. We Elder Priests are just well - better informed and obviously wider travelled - and as such must carry greater burdens of knowledge and responsibility but I am going in circles you are making this very hard work.” [Composure sends.]

“I admit I have felt more emotional than I am used to but I hardly feel like I am losing my mind.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I can show you case studies Harbinger Splitters from ‘Inner System’ genetic stock less well endowed than you have suffered similar problems before. We are designed to be more fully integrated to our suits than the Priests here are they form a natural mental buffer from emotional damage especially from the shock of empathy with alien minds.” [Composure sends.]

“Are you saying I am hardwired to be an Inquisitor?” [Harbinger sends.]

“You have been lucky in many ways your close Companion-ship with ‘Many Truths’ has helped you to remain functional. Your memory hacks though crude have assisted you in the short term. However some of your actions during the ‘Surface War’ and that murder of Draakhaal are hardly the works of the Harbinger I made.” [Composure explains.]

“How can I trust you now; these Tiers of Knowledge for example still strike me as criminally hierarchical. How can you fail to find the concept entirely opposite to the values embraced by the pilgrims? This is my culture - I know no other - I want no other. How can I believe you are not just cynically trying to alter my personality for your own designs to get hold of what you think I possess? People do bad thinks in wars that does not mean they have some hereditary mental problem it just sadly demonstrates that we are all capable of evil.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Harbinger I agree but once again it is a question of degree. You do not remember the worst of it because you wiped those memories away. After conversations with your ship I came to believe you even removed the bulk of the truth from ‘MT’.” [Composure sends.]

“If I was so keen to bury these deeds how do you know all this?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Boisterous was there with you during a lot of the worst of it. Boisterous told me and I did a little digging that was when I knew you had to come back and accept a ‘Facilitator’ as soon as possible before you suffered a relapse. You see Harbinger the problem with editing memories is you also lose ancillary data in the necessary cascade: Such as the fact that you developed a special bond to Boisterous during the war. You saw and did things together - things no reasonable sentient should see or do. Things that effected both of you but you Harbinger in deeper and less obvious ways.” [Composure sends.]

“Is Boisterous from outside the ’Core Alliance’ as well?” [Harbinger sends.]

“No he is a local in the fullest sense - something that saved him though he also needs help. As to the Tiers, they are irrelevant Harbinger the Tiers have been in place ever since a few members of the many Exodus that voyaged outward began to filter back. We returned to view and - carefully - interact with the root of our origins in this Heartland.” [Composure sends.]

“Filtered back to interfere with our development you mean.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If we ‘Inner System’ Elders were really that meddlesome do you think the ‘Stellar’ and the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ would have got away with their dominance of the ‘Sea Sphere’ colonisation process? Just because we can, does not mean we do.” [Composure sends.]

“Maybe you need them stirring things up in order to cover your own activities here as infiltrators. Maybe you are using them like you would use me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It matters little that I was not made here or in any way that matters socially that you were not either: That we come from way out there is a minor detail we are still Paradox where it counts.” [Composure sends.]

“Aren’t we lucky that our differences are hidden by body shrouding?” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is the - truth of our soul our Id - that matters. Deep down we are the same but physically such as you and I eventually need those ‘Facilitator Shroud Suit’ linkages Harbinger.” [Composure sends.]

“We are unequal then - after all the ‘Facilitators’ create Elders - so those Paradox with ‘Inner System’ genetics must all naturally mature into Elders faster.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Generally we have far fewer Splitters than the locals so that hardly matters to the demographics. All Paradox Priests are capable of maturing into being an Elder we have never sought to domineer this society: We are not power hungry invaders.” [Composure sends.]

“If you believe that why do you all hide, skulk around and pretend to be something else?” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Tiers and the Shrouding all these precautions are about comfort and staged growth. Our precautions are not about enforcing segregation or the crude imposition of limits to any Priest’s overall development or just a methodology for a long-term covert infiltration. I know some of the precautions that come with a ‘Facilitator’ seem like violations of personal freedom to the newly ordained but as you know: It is just a probationary measure designed to prevent poorly considered reactions during a period when many revelations will come to fruition. The insights about the wider Universe granted to a ‘Facilitator’ wearer is the same no matter where the owner originated from.” [Composure sends.]

“Comfort, I hardly feel comfortable in my own skin and mind now, I feel trapped by more than this suit I feel bound to people places and histories I do not even know. How could you do this to me raise me with nothing but lies and half truths?” [Harbinger sends.]

“You did a lot of this to your self Harbinger. There is a direct correlation between knowledge and innocence: Do you deny that ignorance was bliss? Yet I know you: I know you would not want an easy life if that meant being kept in the dark. I appreciate how this all comes as a great shock to you but you embraced both the necessity of change and the consequences of the truth when you decided to leave my ‘House of Whispers’ as a Splitter Priest? You also chose to take part in the ‘Surface War’ I tried to stop you remember. I never believed you regretted becoming a Priest why regret becoming an Elder especially when it is something you need to embrace for your own mental well being?” [Composure sends.]

“I have only your word for the fact that I medically require the ‘Facilitator’. I think I understand now why you where so reluctant to let me go: With so much to hide I imagine you Elders are very wary of Splitters from - your - ranks.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Medically examine the linkages and you will see the truth. Listen to yourself Harbinger you are beset by irrational mistrust you are not well. This is hard for you but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. As an Archivist I understand the price paid by the enlightened. This is the true shape of our Universe - nothing more and nothing less - luckily you now have the strength to come to terms with these fact; you just have to find it inside under the scaring caused by the ‘Surface War’ let go of your illness and be made whole again.” [Composure sends.]

“Perhaps you flatter me with your confidence. The more you tell me the more I feel diminished in spirit not uplifted in status. I was sold this Suit under false pretences and elevated without consultation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would be the first to say we have no right to steal the innocence of those who are content in their ignorance but you Harbinger - when were you content not knowing anything? You are what you were made to be you have always sought to uncover what is hidden often at any cost. So for once the truth came to you rather than the other way around does that make it any less valid?” [Composure sends.]

“I am what you made me still I promise you this I will be my own person. If you had to tell me all these facts you should have done so from the beginning. I had every right to know exactly who and what I am.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What is done is history. Have you studied the consequences of broadcasting the so called facts or the truth if you prefer without restraint? Look at the dire consequence of the Arch Chancellors release of the AEL schematics or all the fallout from Cad’s decision to reveal the ancient ‘Sea Sphere Shield Purge’ now called very inappropriately Armageddon by the general populace and the media. We Elders have long known about the Purge and a great deal more. We knew about the AEL too you must realise we helped defeat Drooshuu in subtle ways that passed without notice. You will find few of our deeds in the scriptures but we are there in the background assisting. Perhaps you are the first of us to be so open of action being very much of both realms.” [Composure sends.]

“You tell me I am suffering from paranoia then reveal machination after machination. As to Cad you cannot blame him for the publication of Armageddon. Cad had less choice and responsibility than he has nobly claimed. Others were following similar lines of enquiry it was open - shared - research all the data was out there just waiting to be published. In the ‘Core Alliance’, some joint research projects are all but impossible to keep out of the public domain - most notably - projects looking into the deeper nature of the ‘Sea Spheres’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“All I know is a lot of our citizens need psychological bolstering because of that untimely disclosure mostly because it was only half a revelation at best and so seemed far more negative than it should have been. I know Armageddon even had a detrimental effect upon you.” [Composure sends.]

“Even if Armageddon is the prime root of a great deal of anxiety and depression among the more sensitive members of our populace it is still a simple fact. I believe people have a right to know the dangers inherent in settling the ‘Sea Spheres’. Everything has a cost even abundant AEL power: For us the price of almost limitless energy could be that we dwell on the cusp of a potential premature extinction that makes anything the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ might do in the future look pretty frivolous.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps and perhaps not what is certain is that the Grand Creation hides as many horrors as it does blessings. It would not be so bad if Cad had not later revealed - rather crazily in my opinion - that he also knew how to instigate the catastrophic phenomena.” [Composure sends.]

“Perhaps that was an unfortunate decision but it may have had a seriously restraining effect on the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ contributing to the initiation and acceptance of the ‘Second Accord’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The ‘Second Accord’ is a very wobbly treaty possibly put in place before its due time. I think Cad released his supposed ability in part to ensure his family would be deemed too dangerous to mess with. However it has not entirely worked out that way. Individual ordinary people do not always think about wider consequences when they act they just answer their gut feelings and uphold their prejudices. Many people have turned away from the Trojan out of fear and distrust. Remember our citizens know the Trojan have already destroyed their own historic society it makes them nervous.” [Composure sends.]

“I know their have been occasional assaults and riots.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Unexpected consequences can strike any of us.” [Composure sends.]

“Still it is easy to critique others policies or actions with hindsight. At the time the ‘Second Accord’ was a blessing to many poor war weary souls or did you Elders have a better plan. What gives you the right to interfere at all this is not your real home that lies way out there?” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are wrong this is where we came from originally we had every right to return. As to social engineering what gives anybody the right to shape any other person’s life for the better? What gives you the right to do what you do Harbinger? What gives Cad the right to do what he does?” [Composure sends.]

“You come from another culture you diverged from us then returned and pretend to be our Elders Hierophant Cad at least is just Hierophant Cad.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Cad is not - just - anything. We are your Elder’s in age alone never mind any other attribute.” [Composure sends.]

“What do you mean by that?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Those who return are old Harbinger and we doubly earned our rights by growing even older here before we dared to interfere in local politics. We take our responsibilities to each region’s integrity very seriously indeed; we are not nor where any who returned to this Heartland domain ever in my opinion callow youths. Ours has been a commitment of centuries Harbinger and you would judge our rights to do what we do - you know less than nothing about us. You are just one tiny continuation of all our work.” [Composure sends.]

[I could sense Harbinger’s inner turmoil as he wrestled with Composure’s words.]

“Did I do - truly terrible things in the ‘Surface War’ - beyond even the horrors I do remember?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“I do not know Harbinger if Composure is telling the truth my memory was also altered and much of your war record is highly classified and now closed to scrutiny by the Parliament.” [I send.]

“At least some of our Elders are not impostors?” [Harbinger sends to Composure.]

“None of us are impostors how many times must I repeat the simple truth we are all Paradox. I really did not think you would take this so badly even in your current addled condition.” [Composure sends.]

“That will not work Composure I know I am not irrational right now. Tell me what are the percentages of ‘Inner System’ Elders to local Elders here in the ‘Core Alliance’?” [Harbinger sends.]

“We are a small minority Harbinger and always will be.” [Composure sends.]

“Let me guess you permit the locals to join your conspiracy when you believe they will agree and follow your policies? Why have you not simply openly taken over with your no doubt superior technologies? Of course, I suppose you have treaties of non intervention with the other ‘Inner System’ species.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What we call the ‘Heartland’ is a protectorate Harbinger. We all seek to preserve the beginning lest we lose sight of where we came from and thus who we are. Those who are ready here are quietly permitted to migrate outward stage by stage via the Tiers of Knowledge in the case of us Paradox.” [Composure sends.]

“You kept us back, you are the root of the so-called conservative factions that helped to suppress the ‘Stellar Orb’ AEL technology admit it.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We have done what we thought was best. We helped to facilitate decisions made by the local authorities here - we imposed nothing - we only aided in maintaining the order the people we served desired I imagine they would have found what they did difficult or impossible without us but we did not make any decision for them.” [Composure sends.]

“In the end you failed anyway.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If we failed I like to think it was out of compassion. Every system no matter how good has rogue elements in the mix Harbinger and success no matter how powerful you get is never guaranteed. We also know to act too openly would be to destroy the very thing we have sworn to protect. Yes Freedom is a fragile thing. We have never tried to halt progress though we have slowed it. Every Region still moves forward in despite of the filtration outward of those that have hastily outgrown the site of their origin because they happened to develop individually ahead of the broad pace of local change and felt uncomfortable there.” [Composure sends.]

“I am glad to hear that we have confounded your control to some extent. Perhaps we needed villains like the Arch Chancellor like Drooshuu to shake things up you cannot have freedom alongside a perfectly ordered society they are not compatible.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is an interesting philosophy Harbinger is it a new one for you? I suppose it is possible we made a mistake maybe by helping to hide the secret of the ‘Stellar Orb’ we made the idea of exploiting that resource all the more desirable to the ‘Stellar’ once it became known. However we are simply where we are and so are you. Will you undertake the treatment?” [Composure sends.]

“I do not know I need to think about it. Another thing that bothers me Composure this use of the ‘Facilitator’ it limits advancement only to those with serious financial resources.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you think that is a bad prerequisite? The wise should not be impotent or unable to defend themselves.” [Composure sends.]

[Harbinger answered with silence.]

“Trust me Harbinger those who are on ‘Skintechs’ list have proven themselves many things and earned the right: They are true seekers after the truth exactly like yourself, individuals both able and willing to shoulder the burden of revelation and it is a burden as you have discovered - great change is always difficult to accept.” [Composure sends.]

“I am not sure I can participate in this tiered structure of yours without compromising my personal vision. I already feel like you have corrupted my purpose as I understood it before.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Think of it like science Harbinger you cannot expect to understand an advanced theory in any subject before you are taught and comprehend the basics that underpin it. The Tiers protect against misinterpretation of the facts. You are a prime example Harbinger: You obviously see the Tiers as a threat to the social order you both know and love but that is simply because you are not in receipt of all the information and so are in no position to make a fully formed decision.” [Composure sends.]

“It is a lure and a trap. Once I take this vector it will change me then how can I go back to being who I am.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Every day is exactly the same snare and you can never go back Harbinger the instants change us all. Sometimes change is for the better. Please listen to what your soul tells you. A degree of trust is required. I am asking you to put a little faith in me as an Elder and your progenitor also as somebody who cares about you. The Trojans have a saying ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. I beg you do not prejudge our system do not cast us aside and doom yourself before you know us. Continue your remote exploration of the ‘Inner Systems’. I am sure you will come to the right decision if you clean your mind of prejudice but do not wait too long. Whatever you do always remember this - I am proud of you Harbinger - I have always been proud of you yes secretly even when you split from me.” [Composure sends.]

“I have noticed you find that easier to talk about since your rebirth.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In truth I was not reborn - I trust you will forgive another necessary deception - I was rejuvenated but being physically young also changes your outlook. Know this Harbinger as an Elder with your specific genetic heritage you need not die to be reborn.” [Composure sends.]

“Then all that infirmity you complained about so fervently was another falsehood.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have tried to live within the limitations of those I serve Harbinger in fact I tried a little too hard. When I settled here I decided it was important to experience what it was to grow old as others did. I lived, aged, and earned my privileges of experience here like any other. I waited and waited before I decided to claim to be reborn and submitted to self rejuvenation.” [Composure sends.]

“Tell me this Elder did Reader really split or was that all some sort of ploy as well?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I did not fabricate Reader’s departure that Splitter took me by surprise. I was in great disarray at the time Harbinger I had foolishly slipped into becoming old and foolish. Aging - now I am over it - I can appreciate is both a terrible and a terribly subtle process I had never let myself age in the fullest sense before. I did not realise how far I had degenerated into decrepitude until it was almost too late. I almost lost my mind in a way just like you are beginning to lose your own reason Harbinger.” [Composure sends.]

“It is funny how our own actions so frequently snare us.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is so true I fully understand your anger and confusion anytime you wish to talk I will be more than happy to oblige before or after you undergo the procedure.” [Composure sends.]

“I suppose you have technologies out there that could neutralise any threat from the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ if you made use of them - that makes all I have done feel redundant.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If we do we also have enough social advancement to prevent us from ever using them. A political solution has to be found here and nothing you have done has been worthless.” [Composure sends.]

“I imagine you will commit to restraint only until you run out of options.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If we hide it is because we do not wish to interfere with your natural development in the ways you accuse. You do not want to see or know what we are fully capable of.” [Composure sends.]

“Yet you do not trust us to make our own way.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We will do what we must to protect you from us - it is not the other way around.” [Composure sends.]

“How benevolent of you. Is that what this is all about preserving the natives culture?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Harbinger you have to understand many of the returning were appalled when they saw the state of the nations here. Some felt it was our duty to propel you into the future by any means necessary even if that meant tearing your structures down and starting all over again. Luckily some more attuned individuals managed to keep those factions in check.” [Composure sends.]

“The course to ruin is often vectored by those harbouring the very best of intentions.” [Harbinger sends.]

“On that we can fully agree.” [Composure sends.]

“Still despite that you still meddle.” [Harbinger sends.]

“As do you it is all about sensitivity.” [Composure sends.]

[Harbinger roared out a speaker laugh.]

“I would imagine in the long term you will require a solution to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ issue as much as we do.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They are a most dynamic species with far reaching potential. Not surprisingly they are making some in the ‘Inner Systems’ a little nervous Harbinger. We Paradox are restrained and deliberate in our actions but there are other races out there that also monitor the ‘Heartland’.” [Composure sends.]

“Let me guess species taking a new found interest in us include the Inner System Splinter?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Before the species you call the Splinter (at least to my knowledge) saw this region of space simply as a buffer zone a quiet backwater resource depleted borderland of little or no interest to them. They are still a surprisingly aggressive species luckily their prime focus of expansion has been forever outward where they have found other challenges and opponents. However the exploitation of the ‘Sea Spheres’ and the rise of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ not to mention the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ has caught their attention.” [Composure sends.]

[Location: Secure Command Core, MTC Headquarters, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 07:11.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

“Do you know what bothers me most about all this?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“The fact that you could lose your mind.” [I send.]

“Oddly not - that is hard to accept as real even if it might be true - no, it is the fact that Composure made me a part of his cursed conspiracy just by making me in the first place.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You still have self determination.” [I send.]

“Yet unless I reveal the truth about myself I am as guilty as any one of the rest of them.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps they had no choice either we are all made what we are.” [I send.]

“What would you advise?” [Harbinger sends.]

“That you let me take a very close look at these ‘Facilitator’ psychological medical functions Composure wants you to initiate.” [I send.]

“Good idea ‘Many Truths’ I will grant you full administrative access to dig away at them.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would also suggest you try and find out if you did steal Draakhaal’s mind and if so where you hid it.” [I send.]

“The idea of that mind crime is so crazy and yet so possible if I could get away with such a thing I know I would be tempted - wrong though it is.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So where would the data be?” [I send.]

“Among your sealed memory files.” [Harbinger sends.]

“On deeper consideration I do not really think that is likely.” [I send.]

“Why is that ‘Many Truths’?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Simply because that is the first place any hacker or Inquisitor looking to recover the data might peer. I admit they would have to be master class to get past my defences or have a Parliamentary warrant but it is still too risky. Besides Harbinger you also wanted to hide it from yourself for some reason if that data was onboard me there would always be a chance you might stumble upon it by accident.” [I send.]

“The only reason I can think I might have hid this action from myself was out of fear that I might be mind scanned by an Inquisitor.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Not an unlikely possibility what you did if you did indeed steal the Arch Chancellors memories would have been a monumental mind crime. Think Harbinger what would you do if you had that incredibly sensitive data now, role play it out?” [I send.]

“Well the first thing I would do despite the risks would be to make several copies for insurance purposes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Of course it would be far too valuable to risk one master being found and destroyed.” [I send.]

“I would need to find exceptional places to hide them because lets face it such recordings would be damning.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Would you give the data to anyone else?” [I send.]

“No not until I had the opportunity to analyse it myself and even then maybe not. After all like I said it is evidence of a heinous mind crime against somebody who at least to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ is a legend in his own lifetime a prophet and a hero. Anyone who handled the data would be implicated in an international incident it would be a massive political scandal that would make my actual killing of the Arch Chancellor (if that ever got out) seem a mere infraction.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is a good point but you may still have had conspirators willing to take the risk.” [I send.]

“Conspirators, by that you are suggesting the action may not have been spare of the moment at all that it was somehow planned: That idea seems unlikely after all what happened to Unholy Terror’s family could not be faked and I could not know Draakhaal would try to provoke him in that way at our meeting.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You could have been waiting for an opportunity then seized the moment.” [I send.]

“I also suppose if Composure realised why I blasted the Arch Chancellors head apart so might others like Hierophant Cad for instance.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You know you would have had to send the download by exogenous then wipe your own memory almost instantly to ensure a cover up of your action. My guess would be you sent it to several Acolytes temporarily.” [I send.]

“Then I would have had to remove it from them and edit their memories. If I did do all this interestingly no big chunks of information are absent from my own memories of that time.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What was removed must have been seamlessly replaced with fake experiences.” [I send.]

“Composure seems to think my mature mind is designed to have superlative mind hacking abilities. I imagine I would need unusual talents to get past Draakhaal’s own mental defences which I am sure were considerable and deadly.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is likely the ‘Inner Systems’ have procedures we in the ‘Core Alliance’ are unaware of. If you are ‘Inner System’ it is possible you do not know your own full capabilities?” [I send.]

“According to Composure the ‘Facilitator’ is now limiting some specific areas of my functionality as my early blossoming was increasingly detrimental to my overall mental stability.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is right he did say that - so the ‘Facilitator’ is capable of giving and taking away.” [I send.]

“I do not entirely trust this Suit anymore.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am sorry I failed in my allotted task when I vetted the ‘Facilitator’. That you now distrust your new skin is hardly surprising still I fear it is something you may have to get over.” [I send.]

“It seems there are a lot of things I need to come to terms with.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What we cannot change we must learn to accept.” [I send.]

“What do you make of the ‘Inner Systems’ so far ‘Many Truths’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“The new regions outside the known Secession Sectors I have gained access to are not what I expected at all.” [I send.]

“What surprised you most?” [Harbinger asked.]

“The fact that it is so frantic, dangerous and expensive.” [I send.]

“Yes the discovery that our ‘Core Alliance’ credit currency is useless came as something of a shock to me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Luckily we had a few things we could barter. Tier II is a fascinating place even more interesting than our ‘Fringe Space’.” [I send.]

“It certainly makes our current society seem more than a little bit staid our space has become increasingly boring with port-to-port jumps and all that. I expected matters to be the other way around but Tier II is pretty vibrant by comparison.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is both controlled and chaotic at the same time an interesting mix perhaps we could learn something from this. It is possible we have become too controlling in our attempts to limit the power of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ to the ‘Sea Spheres’.” [I send.]

“You know I think the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ would like Tier II space.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Interesting thought Harbinger I think you are right Tier II is a place of testing where you can choose to abide by or to break the rules without harming the overall society. That is what is wrong with our space at the moment the Draakhaal do not really have a proper niche to grow in to.” [I send.]

“The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ have no proper competitors - we are too afraid of them - we only ever want to push them so far and they due largely to Hierophant Cad are the same with us. We have created an endless stockpiling cold war that is sure to end in a horrific eventual confrontation and disaster. We need to find some viable way out of this cycle something to alleviate the building pressure.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You know it has been good to be in Tier II space simply to gain an outside perspective. Have you ever thought we may have become as much a part of the problem as the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’. We consider them - untrustworthy - and to be out and out aggressors who will only ever be content with our eventual subjugation and so that is what they are.” [I send.]

“The problem with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ is the fact that they are driven by one person’s mania.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is so true we judge all of them by the Arch Chancellor who made them in his own image.” [I send.]

“Possibly with the help of some Khaarg DNA.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You know Harbinger I am beginning to hope you did commit that mind crime. Perhaps if we could see who and what the Arch Chancellor really is we can finally get to grips with this species that bedevils us. Harbinger deep down you must know what you would have done with those downloads. Where would you hide that data?” [I send.]

“I do not know but I must have left myself some clues or something.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We should scrutinise what you did after you killed Draakhaal.” [I send.]

“After Draakhaals death I was secretly held and sentenced by the ‘Stellar Court’ then we went into banishment in ‘Fringe Space’. Drifting from place to place until we settled to some degree at ‘Koordaann’s’ Reef’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What else did you do at the very beginning?” [I send.]

“As I recall a lot of work via Exogenous with MTC since I would be in absentia it was necessary to hand over the operations I had taken direct control of I didn‘t want to be bothered by micro management.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps you hid the data among your corporate assets.” [I send.]

[Harbinger linked into his property screens and commenced scrolling through page after page of ships, stealth satellites, manufactories, depots and a host of smaller items.]

“If I did it is well and truly lost in the mix.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Time to role play again so where in our Corporate Assets would you consider to be a good hiding place for a stolen mind?” [I send.]

“I suppose some unexceptional mundane transport ships might be a good option.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So how would you pick out specific candidates.” [I send.]

“Well they would have to be unremarkable and be on a safe routes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That still leaves us with a huge list of possible targets.” [I send.]

“I would tag the ships in some way - that only I would recognise - that way I would be able to find it later after my memory edit.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Tag it how?” [I send.]

“I don’t know I suppose change its designation in some subtle manner.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Harbinger pulled up an Elder grade filter program then hesitated.]

“What is it Harbinger?” [I send.]

“I think I have been going down the wrong vector.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Have you had a revelation?” [I send.]

“Something like that. Let me know when you have finished investigating those medical routines.” [Harbinger sends.]
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Posts: 2965
Joined: Tue, 19. Apr 05, 10:59

Post by Paranoid66 » Fri, 3. Jul 09, 12:27


[Location: Secure Command Core, MTC Headquarters, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 12:00.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[I listen in as Composure tries to get Harbinger to agree to a grand appearance at the ‘Council of Equals’: A show akin to a belated victory parade following my Captain’s recent elevation.]

“You need to get back in the pilot seat if you know what I mean Harbinger: Be seen around hug some allies and a few enemies that always confounds plotters a little. You do not even have to say much or take part in any debates - not yet - listening with interest will make you seem wise beyond your years.” [Composure sends.]

“I think you have caused enough mayhem in the ‘Council’ already Elder Composure with your unethical antics without any immediate assistance from me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“At least stop skulking about in that Headquarters of yours - we are not all out to get you - what are you hiding from or are you suffering from agoraphobia after spending so much time onboard ‘Many Truths’ cramped quarters?” [Composure sends.]

“I am not skulking or hiding I am just settling in. Give me a few days to become fully acclimatised I am still perfecting being several places at once via fully threading my consciousness.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Have you heard a recording of my speech yet: The one that helped prepare the ‘Council of Equals’ for your advancement to Elder status - it was inspired - you really should listen to it sometime.” [Composure sends.]

“Wasn’t that a risk how did you know I would accept that Shroud Suit upgrade this time?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I relied on Manifold being persuasive anyway I know you.” [Composure sends.]

“Actually I did recently come upon a few snippets of your speech: It was certainly an usual ploy, nonetheless, I do not like what you did with the ‘Council’ - it disturbed me - I do not think you really understand us Composure despite all the years you have lived here. In a way you are still a foreigner.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are just projecting what you now know over the truth of the facts. Do not let what you think you comprehend corrupt the findings of what you cannot yet truly fathom - keep an open mind. At least I am happy to see you are no longer in denial about your Mind Crimes.” [Composure sends.]

“Crimes plural? I said I was looking into the possibility that was all.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What about your treatment.” [Composure sends.]

“I am positive I am saner than you are but I will think about it. ‘Many Truths’ tells me the ‘Facilitators’ psychological routines seem harmless enough although she has been wrong before. If I do undergo the procedure every step will be carefully monitored.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You sound brighter today.” [Composure sends.]

“No doubt I have been uplifted by your stimulating conversation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“How goes your making of Merits in Tier II Space?” [Composure sends.]

“Not too bad I am getting the hang of operating within the Penal system and of using a Shroud Suit Avatar out there it is amazing you can even feel the effects of imbibing alcohol.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are not out there for a debauch. What do you mean by Penal System?” [Composure sends.]

“I mean the obvious, sometimes Tier II is like a gigantic open prison.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Oh I suppose in a way it is due to all the deportees specifically sent there to redeem themselves.” [Composure sends.]

“Redeem themselves have you ever actually been there?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Come to think of it I did mostly avoid that particular experience I just skipped through why?” [Composure explained.]

“It seems to me the inmates have corrupted the guards.” [Harbinger said.]

“In what sense?” [Composure said.]

“In the sense that I am sure your Merit system hardly works the way you all intended.” [Harbinger said.]

“It would work for you if you took one of the sponsors I had suggested and undertook suitable assignments. If Tier II Space has some Pirate problems I blame the Omerta Trojan Nomads they have little respect for others borders, laws or traditions.” [Composure sends.]

“There are Trojans in Paradox Tier II Space?” [Harbinger said.]

“The Omerta are a rare wandering tribe with a mobile base of operations. Like I said they are a law unto themselves - making contact with them is illegal but many flout that embargo to procure illicit weapons and other proscribed technology and pharmaceuticals from these perennial outsiders.” [Composure explained.]

[Harbinger made a search on the Omerta then glowed yellow with amusement something Composure could not see.]

“Tell me Composure where did you originally come from can you tell me that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Tier Nine it may take even you a while to reach there.” [Composure sends.]

“Somehow I do not doubt that.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Once you are - fully - recovered many difficult things may become surprisingly easy though.” [Composure sends.]

“I hope so. Well I wont keep you any longer from your espionage duties.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Very funny Harbinger.” [Composure sends.]

“One day you will understand that real truths have to be experienced you cannot just read about them in a data file you never fully appreciated that.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have heard this from you before.” [Composure sends.]

“You have wasted a lot of time here. If you wanted to know us you should have truly lived humbly among us - become one of us - not just viewed, recorded and examined our actions current or historic at a remove.” [Harbinger sends.]

“One day you will take your own advice.” [I privately send to my Captain.]

“Advice is always easy to give and hard to take.” [Harbinger sends to me in reply.]

“Would my once Acolyte be striving to become my Master?” [Composure sends.]

“We are all equal here Composure you had best start believing that for those are the values I will be defending no matter how many Tiers I rise through.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We will see - we never did agree on my approach to research.” [Composure sends.]

“We never will.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Never say never.” [Composure sends signing off.]

“Why did you not tell Composure you had already undergone the treatment?” [I send.]

“What I do in the privacy of my own head is my own business. He can fret for a while it will do him good that old rascal needs to be taught a few lessons.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Location: Exercise Theatre Beta, MTC Headquarters, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 13:49.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[Harbinger was playing games of Unlimited Touch against a platoon of his own Marines. He had started the exercise with one to one games then moved on to one to two then finally graduated to one to three matches. It was more than mere leisure or sport it was ‘Facilitator Shroud Suit’ proscribed physical and mental training.]

[So far, by making the most of his threaded consciousness and a scout class over suit my Captain was undefeated without any deference being involved whatsoever. In fact Harbinger was clearly taxing his Acolyte troops to their limits.]

[I was taking a back seat just watching in a way I was the passenger now.]

[Harbinger liked to play hard against dedicated Marines because dedicated Marines always played to win it was coded into their genetics. The object of the game was simple enough touch your opponents prime tri-ocular headpiece by any means.]

[The nature of the contest of Unlimited Touch could take many forms depending on the players preferences: Here it had become an explosion of activity over in brief but frenzied seconds. After the bout was initiated with a claxon call: Manipulation fields flickered while Suit Substance erupted outward frequently in a plethora of micro fine filaments as well as heavier jointed limbs and supple snaking tentacles.]

[The rounds could be very mobile with contestants bouncing around in an attempt to avoid contact. Most of the heavy arms Harbinger employed were short defensive blockers and grabbers rather than aggressive clubbers he preferred to keep a little distance rather than wrestle up close.]

[Since Elder Creed’s arrival was unscheduled he was directed to the gallery where he watched the show. It ended when Harbinger tried to go against four opponents and was finally ousted from the winners triangle by a skilfully coordinated effort.]

[Harbinger warped up to the Gallery.]

“Quite impressive but everybody has there limit.” [Creed observed.]

[I got the feeling Creed had carefully considered that line.]

“You said it was urgent yet you are willing to delay to speak to me in person Admiral.” [Harbinger said.]

[Creed embraced my Captain with a Shroud Suit hug then stood back.]

“I would prefer not to become your enemy Harbinger. I am here to make a delicate judgement I would rather undertake such matters in person.” [Creed said.]

“Do you think I have broken the accords?” [Harbinger asked.]

“If you have that is not why I am here.” [Creed said.]

“Have I done something to offend you?” [Harbinger asked.]

“That is what I wish to find out.” [Creed said.]

“You are not representing the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ this is personal?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Yes and no Harbinger for I am here on the behalf of a great many not just myself.” [Creed said.]

“Please feel free to elaborate.” [Harbinger said.]

“I have come from the ‘Council of Equals’ borne upon a river of flame.” [Creed said.]

[At that nine of our Marines warped in to take up protective positions all around their father.]

“I thought you said you were here to make a decision.” [Harbinger said from inside the slightly claustrophobic formation.]

“Relax you can stand your Marines down I am not here to attack you physically - despite the form of my words - but future challenges to your person and assets of the highest magnitude is far from impossible. I need you to appreciate your dangerous position.” [Creed said.]

“You have my fullest attention.” [Harbinger promised while tasking his best routines for information on Creeds recent activities and movements.]

[Creed it appeared had indeed been firmly ensconced in the ‘Council of Equals’ ever since Harbinger had arrived back and for a time before that. He had not always been so devote or political nonetheless if he had been doing anything unusual it was not immediately obvious. Unfortunately anything could have been said to anyone in closed exogenous council. Since the ‘Second Accord’ Creed had increasingly become a sort of unofficial spokesperson for many Paradox members of the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ with better things to do than attend the ‘Council’.]

“So what is this about?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have come to you for answers Harbinger. I trust you understand I am asking not demanding but non compliance under these circumstances - could be disastrous - this is not a game.” [Creed said casting his Tri-optics over the sports theatre.]

“I do not respond well to threats Creed.” [Harbinger replied but he ordered his Marines to stand behind him.]

“I have no interest in threats Harbinger I am issuing a warning in the hope that this developing situation might be salvaged at least for some. I need you to understand the value of your testimony it could mean life or death for many Paradox.” [Creed said.]

[Harbinger roared out a provocative speaker laugh.]

“Listen to yourself ‘life or death for many Paradox’ are you for real Creed? Ask your questions?” [Harbinger said.]

“Why did you leave the ‘Core Alliance’?” [Creed asked.]

[That was not a good query for us. I could sense my Captain’s mind quicken its activity as he widened his investigation into Creeds family, associates, recent debates in the Council and much more besides.]

[Every other mental activity was put on hold and even my own minds were temporarily slaved to the engine of that hasty analysis. One disparate image swam to the surface it was Creed looking around an unusually subdued ‘Council of Equals’ his suit demonstrating a momentarily exceptionally intense embarrassment far too quickly cut off to blank neutrality.]

[An Elder fetch routine planted part of a speech to the fore of Harbinger’s consciousness in a cognitive flash.]

“Sometimes a barrage of criticism is actually an accolade. It is impossible to please everyone all the time indeed only a spineless demagogue would seek to do so. In this ‘Council’ one name has recently suffered much criticism in his absence. Now that person has returned to us despite our lack of appreciation or perhaps maybe even because of it. I beg you friends to reconsider one of the most renowned of our Founding Fathers (as such people must always be examined) - in the fullest round - rather than by individual isolated words or actions.” [Composure began to a hushed floor.]

“I would ask you to put aside your little quarrels, your hurtful accusations for a moment and acknowledge a vast body of good works so preponderant that it can in its wake dare to create such a mighty storm of criticism upon its periphery without being in any way tarnished in its overall totality. Think about how extraordinary that is - in these times - when so much is grey and founded on compromised ideals. Today I wish to speak to you of my friend Harbinger a Paradox I have known from conception (if you will forgive such a vulgar confession) made only I promise as a demonstration of the longevity of our association. For in some ways Harbinger surpasses me so that any greatness we might see in him cannot be credited to my house or my teachings - in fact it is true - like all Paradox we frequently agree to disagree…” [Composure continued with a ripple of yellow light.]

“So this is about Composure’s manipulation of the ‘Council’.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[Only five long seconds had passed from Creeds question to my Captain’s conclusion.]

“I can only answer your question if you promise to keep what I reveal secret.” [Harbinger said.]

“I promise, but do not think such bargains will save you if you are guilty of being part of a conspiracy against the membership of the ‘Council’.” [Creed said.]

“If Creed is gunning for conspirators he will have to shoot himself.” [I send.]

[My Captain’s Shroud Suit slumped before Creed a very strong physical demonstration of defeat much to my surprise.]

“I departed because I killed Draakhaal and was sentenced to a secret banishment by the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Harbinger said looking at the floor.]

“I do not understand.” [Returned Creed.]

“The current spiritual father of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ nation is just a reborn clone put in place to maintain the lie of an unbroken continuity of leadership to his people. I murdered the real Draakhaal.” [Harbinger said with blunt honesty.]

“How can that be true? The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ would have ripped you to pieces for that crime and if not they would have exiled you for forever and a day not some brief absence.” [Creed said.]

“The ‘Emissary’s Sphere’ is full of mysteries.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Are you daring their wrath by being here now? No that is not it you had a closed meeting with the ‘Stellar Court’ somehow you came to terms with them, is that possible?” [Creed said.]

[Without looking up from his downcast position, Harbinger continued as if making a confession.]

“They believe I may have stolen their leaders mind in the process of his murder they need me alive just in case - it is complicated - they certainly are not my friends. In fact, a failed assassination attempt by some ignorant ‘Court’ members who broke their institutions agreement helped facilitate my early return. At least those three did not suspect me of an alleged Mind Crime.” [Harbinger said.]

“They honestly believe you may have stolen Draakhaal’s mind? Either you are the biggest liar ever to masquerade as an Elder or you have to be telling the truth.” [Creed said dimming with shock.]

“Which do you think?” [Harbinger said.]

[Creed paced around lost in thought. Then stopped and stared at my Captain.]

“Rise I am not sure I believe this sudden humility from you Harbinger, besides it is unbecoming an Elder.” [Creed said.]

[Harbinger stood up straight to look directly into Creeds Tri-optic with the beginnings of a yellow glow.]

“You have grown more perceptive Creed.” [Harbinger said.]

“So Elder Composure’s shameful subjugation of the ‘Council of Equals’ was to try and motivate your early return from a just banishment?” [Creed asked.]

“Before the Assassination attempt against me occurred in ‘Fringe Space’ I felt it was unwise to break my ban.” [Harbinger said.]

“I would bet you did.” [Creed replied he began pacing again.]

[My Captain waited until the young Admiral stopped his walking meditation.]

“I now know Composure was trying to force me to abandon my resolve - for his own reasons - despite the obvious risks. His methodology being to stir the council up against me.” [Harbinger said.]

“Why?” [Creed asked.]

“Composure believed I needed to be here for the greater good. It is not unusual for us to disagree in relation to our visions and life choices. He knows I rarely credit his advice - so he needed another way - I did split from his house after all.” [Harbinger explained.]

“I see just like Composure you also lack decorum about your origins. Now I do not know what to think. I dare not tell these facts to the increasingly angry mob at the ‘Council of Equals’. In their rage they would broadcast Draakhaal’s rebirth and the truth would get back to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ populace with the Emissary alone knows what consequences.” [Creed said.]

“I am sure if these facts got out the ‘Second Accord’ would be finished and the ‘Stellar Courts’ ability to control their own populace could be shattered forever.” [Harbinger said.]

“Thus you turn me into a conspirator whether I like it or not.” [Creed said.]

“There has been a lot of that lately. I trust you can understand why it was only after the failed assassination attempt against me opened a sensible means to placate the ‘Stellar Court’ that I was induced to return. I did not want to risk starting a war even by my own demise. Not even to save my reputation perhaps I am not as egotistical as Composure thinks.” [Harbinger said.]

“Perhaps you should have considered the wider consequences before you killed Draakhaal. I am not sure whether to be impressed or appalled that you got away with that.” [Creed said.]

“The circumstances were exceptional and maybe I was not quite feeling like myself: The stress and strain of my participation in the ‘Surface War’ has been quoted by others as a possible defence for my precipitate action.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I see, however, that still leaves one very serious matter: Elder Composure has done the Council a great wrong perhaps he has committed that sin against you as well in striving to control your actions - to domineer your destiny - you are no longer his Acolyte.” [Creed said.]

“You are not going to arrest me for Murder and a possible Mind Crime then.” [Harbinger said.]

“For allegedly killing Draakhaal - hardly - I would look a fool since the ‘Stellar Court’ would deny his death.” [Creed said.]

“Especially after you have already shamed yourself in council. If it is true that your collective guilt has turned to anger at Elder Composure it is misplaced you all made your own choices.” [Harbinger said having stretched to loom over Creed in a reversal of roles.]

“It was blackmail and or bribery. Do you think we are blind to our own part in this crime? We have vowed to acknowledge our guilt, each of us firmly believed our surrender to Composure’s will was a small necessary individual concession to protect private indiscretions and larger ambitions. A minor concession ‘for a greater good’ to use your phrase. When all complaints about you fell unnaturally silent only then did we realise we had been manipulated in mass and thus had sold out our highest and noblest ideal - the very core of our beliefs our freedom of independent unshackled thought and action.” [Creed said.]

“Sometimes Elder Composure is too much the remote scholar: He does not realise the full consequences of what he does. His head is in his data files. I do not think he meant any insult or to degrade the ‘Council’ I imagine he saw this as a small matter just like you did at first. Indeed I think he simply wanted to impress me upon my return as a Priest might wish to impress a floundering Acolyte. He wished to prove his academia could have a real physical effect.” [Harbinger said.]

“Since when did you become Elder Composures apologist? He is guilty without question what more do we need to know - it was not a small matter. We betrayed our entire ‘Council of Equals’ at his behest to him a lone Master (openly for any with eyes capable of sight) it was unprecedented and cannot be allowed to stand without dire consequences.” [Creed said.]

“It was a simple mistake of scale the application of too much force for the desired effect. I am sure Composure is entirely ignorant of the full gravity of his offence.” [Harbinger said.]

“Can such ignorance be possible from a wise Elder? It has been decided among us after furious exogenous debate that whatever the cost to our individual reputations this poisoning of our ideal must not be allowed to fester it must be cleansed. I can see no alternative Harbinger your old mentor the Founding Father Elder Composure must be declared an Enemy of the State including any who dare come to his defence. Those of us who are guilty of bending to his demands will testify before the rest of the ‘Council’ baring our shame, if needed making amends as best we might.” [Creed said.]

“Then to prevent a kin slaying he has only one choice to outrun the likely sentence before it is decreed by fleeing immediately into exile. Now I truly understand why you came here to see me. You have decided executing Composure and his family would only damage our society more and you do not want to share in that horrid responsibility. You are not a bad person Creed.” [Harbinger said.]

“Flight for Composure would be sound advice Harbinger - I would suggest you go now - advise him. We cannot tolerate a Master over the ‘Council’ we will never bow to an Emperor not even a play acting accidental Monarch of the moment.” [Creed said.]

“How long do I have.” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not long some I am sure have only joined our plan because they believe they have no other choice given the swell of feeling among the rest. Those with truly serious secrets to hide may try to act unlawfully in a unilateral manner to escape having to confess. I will return and try to buy you a little time but I can guarantee nothing. The mob is working itself up into a frenzy.” [Creed said.]

“Now I fully understand your rather poetic reference I will be swifter than the mythical flow from the fire mountain that races to purify Composure’s house.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Creed warped away then Harbinger sought permission and warped over to the ‘House of Whispers’. Composure was surprised by our impromptu visit but not as surprised as he appeared to be at Harbinger’s concise well chosen words.]

[An astoundingly short time later - which to me told its own story - we watched from our Secure Command Core at MTC Headquarters as the Monastery jumped out of ‘Core Alliance Space’ perhaps forever. In a way watching that departure felt like a jump into an unusually cold ‘Sea Sphere’ ocean for me. We had just lost a long standing ally if one my Captain often had trouble dealing with.]

“How could he be such a fool I hope it is not genetic?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Composure is no fool Harbinger.” [I send awash with unexpected emotion.]

“What do you mean?” [Harbinger sends I sense a little numb from delayed shock.]

“Composure knew what he was doing he has gone into retirement because it is safe to leave you behind to continue his work. His last act being to show the ‘Council of Equals’ its greatest weakness and to renew it and unite it in opposition against its failure of spirit in relation to its own sanctity. I think Composure is very wise and a consummate actor. It is unfair that your scriptures here will probably either ignore him or remember him unkindly as a felon.” [I send.]

[Harbinger fell into a contemplative meditative silence while he cogitated my words.]

“You know ‘Many Truths’ you could be right maybe I was the fool. I suppose if we ever wish to see him again we will have to earn enough Merits to reach all the way out there to the serene paradise of Tier Nine Space.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I wonder if it is really so serene: Composure never said it was and it will be a long time before we are able to find out if we just use the Tier access Merit system.” [I send.]

“What is a few tens or hundreds of years when you have forever.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am glad you are still thinking positively that at least is joyous to me.” [I send.]

“It is good to be back from the abyss. You do not appreciate how dark, darkness is until you are embraced by the light after its absence.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Still all farewells are bittersweet there is no hiding in the light.” [I send.]

“Maybe it is your mood we should be monitoring now.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I just realised how much I will miss Composure I have known him all my life you will miss him too do not be afraid to show your feelings for your old mentor.” [I send.]

“We can still talk anytime by exogenous.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Disembodied voices shall lighten the darkness, faces of pilots and hulls long departed yet forever here in bright memory.” [I send.]

“What was that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“A line from a ‘Living Hull’ poem.” [I send.]

“A composition of your own?” [Harbinger sends.]

“No it is not one of mine it is very old.” [I send.]

“What is the pieces name?” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Epic Poem is called ‘Exiles Axiom’.” [I send.]

[Location: The Fire Garden, MTC Headquarters, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 14:37.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[Harbinger permitted Boisterous and his Acolytes to warp over.]

“What do you think of this place.” [Harbinger said while staring into a bubbling sulphurous pit.]

“Hot.” [Boisterous sends looking at the artfully recreated ash sand waste with its pits, lava flows, steaming vents and grand jagged mountain vistas.]

“The lava is real super heated rock only the distant view is a holographic illusion.” [Harbinger explained showing off a little.]

“We have created some odd toys using our Advanced Energy Leeches.” [Boisterous states.]

“You do not approve of such artful creations?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Perhaps if it was in a more public space I would feel different. I just wonder is this what we fought for.” [Boisterous replied spooning up a handful of cunningly manufactured ash sand with a shaped tentacle just to spill it back to the ground again as a cloud of raining dust.]

“We all need something to distract us on occasion.” [Harbinger said.]

“How many credits did this folly cost you?” [Boisterous asked.]

“Satisfaction cannot be measured in credits.” [Harbinger said.]

“Are you sure you still believe that with your MTC?” [Boisterous asked.]

“I was primarily interested in the exploration of the possible with this Garden of Fire.” [Harbinger said with a yellow flicker.]

“Really?” [Boisterous asked.]

“What do you think my reasons were then?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Vanity.” [Boisterous replied.]

“Perhaps you are right. What did you think of my Marines earlier?” [Harbinger asked.]

“They play well enough I see your own game has improved.” [Boisterous noted.]

“When I feel good I like to push at my boundaries?” [Harbinger said not wanting to give all his secrets away.]

“So it seems did Elder Composure I did not realise he was behind the slander campaign you do believe me.” [Boisterous replied.]

“I do why would I not? Do you think they will be satisfied with his hasty departure?” [Harbinger asked.]

“You had best ask Creed that later I am hardly qualified.” [Boisterous said.]

“Let me be the judge of that I asked for your opinion now.” [Harbinger said.]

“Personally I do not think so: Pent up fury requires release towards a target of some sort I thought you of all Paradox would appreciate that truth.” [Boisterous stated.]

“Can you think of a deserving unfortunate to suffer that ire.” [Harbinger said.]

“Me, no not at the moment you however should try and distance yourself from any connection to Composure under the circumstances.” [Boisterous advised.]

“Boisterous becomes seriously political this is a day for firsts.” [Harbinger said.]

“You insist on my advice then mock me.” [Boisterous complained.]

“Forgive me my jests I respect your words it is just that sometimes humour helps.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am sorry too I am perhaps a little bit sensitive I never used to be.” [Boisterous admitted.]

“It is the times Boisterous. I feel that attacking Composure now would not be easy for me. I do not want to tarnish his name it seems wrong - unjust - ‘Many Truths’ has convinced me my Elder was not entirely misguided in all his efforts.” [Harbinger states.]

“Sometimes I think you listen to much to your ship as much as I respect ‘Many Truths’ she is not a Paradox.” [Boisterous replied.]

“I see ‘Many Truths’ as much more than my ship she is my close friend and partner in all my endeavours. Maybe the fact that she is not a Paradox may actually permit her at times to see our society and culture a little more clearly than we do.” [Harbinger stated.]

“Trust me Harbinger keep your abiding faith in Composure to yourself and watch out for any discordant alien influenced inclinations when dealing with the ‘Council of Equals’: Any defence of that Elder right now would be a terrible mistake - you are under suspicion already since you benefited from Composure’s manipulations. I am sure Composure would understand the political necessity of a little insincere name calling. Ask his permission if you must. Myself I now find I like my own maker better the further away he is. You do not know how lucky you are.” [Boisterous said rippling yellow.]

“Boisterous really that is most ungenerous of you.” [Harbinger mocked.]

“The truth often is. I did what I did because I was enraged at the deaths in his family. What was my maker’s response? He could hardly force himself to talk to me. I am not joking it is not funny it is pathetic the way some Priests behave towards their Splitters.” [Boisterous replied.]

“To him your shouldering of the burden of your duty was actually a desertion of the office you held already. Between you and I deep down I also feel conflicted about my own actions when I first split. Now I do not want to ask Composure - as you have suggested - not because I think he will say no, but because I am sure he would agree with you but that would hardly make slander by me right.” [Harbinger said.]

“What has right got to do with political expediency you need to protect your reputation or you will be in no position to help any of us.” [Boisterous said.]

“Is Happenstance still keeping the Cadre out of trouble?” [Harbinger asked changing the subject.]

“More or less but now that you have returned some are expecting you to speak out in their defence. They are tired of flagrant bigotry against them Harbinger they feel they are due more respect from their wider society after all they have suffered. They feel nobody listens to their words in the ‘Council of Equals’.” [Boisterous explained.]

“I have come to realise they cannot hope to demand respect if they do not earn it as individuals - they need to stop thinking like a military group and become at least on the surface participating citizens again even if that is hard. This is not a good time for an intervention by me as you can imagine.” [Harbinger said.]

“When will it be a good time for them, do not delay too long we could lose their support to more radical leaders or ideas. They could become dangerous to us.” [Boisterous warns.]

“I would help many more directly myself but I dare not be seen to be openly recruiting troops from the ‘Surface War’ especially after Composure’s stunt.” [Harbinger admitted.]

“If we are not careful somebody else may move in to make use of the Cadres discontent.” [Boisterous replied.]

“Maybe we could help move things along by having some unconnected Swimmer Delegates shame us by starting some very open major initiatives to assist their Dweller Legion veterans to reintegrate into their society.” [Harbinger suggested.]

[Boisterous thought about that pacing around a bit.]

“If we could let a few key people know what is going on that is not a bad idea Harbinger.” [Boisterous admitted.]

“Why tell anyone else that would simply be a security risk?” [Harbinger said.]

“If the Cadre do not know we are behind the Legion scheme and why, it could make them resentful of our comparative lack of movement compared to the Dwellers. They are feeling very raw at the moment Harbinger.” [Boisterous explained.]

“Fair enough I suppose you are right. I’ll speak with Reeskoo then Happenstance about it. I am sure I can get some funds together from various sources to anonymously assist such an endeavour.” [Harbinger promised.]

“Thank you I appreciate that.” [Boisterous confessed.]

“How are - you - feeling?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Fine, you have no reason to worry about me. I just need something to keep me busy.” [Boisterous replied.]

“Keeping busy is not always enough.” [Harbinger said.]

“It will have to do for the moment.” [Boisterous retorted flatly.]

[Location: Shroud Suit designated as ‘Avatar Alpha Two’, Booth Eleven, Pier Zero, Leisure Dome, Grand Central Habitat, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 17:00.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[Pier Zero was one of those restaurant and bars that guaranteed anonymity to its guests when exogenous communications was not enough and a meeting on neutral ground was desirable.]

[This site was actually sponsored by one of Cad’s charities a group called ‘Closure’ that helped promote and facilitate dialogue between mutually distrustful groups in the wide and diverse society of the ‘Core Alliance’. ‘Closure’ helped to operate everything from simple cultural exchanges to serious economic negotiations between corporations, groups and individuals with unexpected cross border cross culture interests. ‘Closure’ as a charitable institution firmly relied on an untainted reputation for complete discretion.]

[Leeruu had asked to meet us here still representing the ‘Stellar Autonomous National Executive’ saying she had something for us. Harbinger decided to dispatch an Avatar as much for the practice as anything else. We arrived first and settled in to our secure booth. Leeruu arrived moments later her identity concealed behind a mirrored dry suit until she passed the heavy duty electronic privacy screens then her suit went translucent to reveal typically cheekily grinning eye stalks.]

“How they love to hide their secrets behind a smile.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“What have we here? An Acolyte?” [Leeruu asked.]

“An Avatar so you can forget any plan to corrupt my person because I am all alone.” [Harbinger said.]

“As if I would, that is more Tleeboosuu’s style, Elder Harbinger.” [Leeruu stated.]

“You seem more alike every day to me. Just how much company have you been keeping with my old friend - in close proximity habits can be contagious.” [Harbinger said.]

“I hope not given that nature of some of my recent associates.” [Leeruu replied.]

“So how did you know I am not the real thing?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Easy, that isn’t your fancy new ‘Facilitator’ and you rarely travel in person alone anymore.” [Leeruu replied.]

“As ever news travels fast are you offended?” [Harbinger asked.]

“No, I can understand you are busy. Besides I realise that coming here in person could be a security risk for you. I was sorry to hear about Composure being declared an Enemy of the State - that came as a surprise - you Paradox Priests are strange creatures.” [Leeruu added.]

“Expecting trouble?” [Harbinger asked.]

“They are following me, but we are safe here this place is protected by some heavy duty equipment including I am reliably informed if threatened military grade Trojan Sentry Drones.” [Leeruu replied.]

“So what is this about?” [Harbinger asked.]

“A remarkable story but first I would like to know can you get us those weapons or not?” [Leeruu asked.]

“I am in the process of looking into it. If it can be done securing the right source will take a little time. However, I have recently had a very interesting idea.” [Harbinger said.]

“As long as you are actively working on the problem and not just stringing us along - that would not be appreciated.” [Leeruu said.]

“How is your war going?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Our allies are now proving belatedly effective. I get the feeling their ambition is to utterly crush the ‘Conglomerate’ but they can only do so much I worry they will overstretch themselves.” [Leeruu said.]

“Why does that not surprise me. I promise I am not playing with your ‘Free Stellar’ I will do my best however, I do have concerns about those Splinter that may have to be addressed in some manner before I deliver. So what is this story?” [Harbinger asked.]

[Leeruu opened up a compartment in her suit and removed a small item using a mechanical arm.]

“A gift from Iigness Draakhaal you remember him? They refused to trust it to a warp. I feel like I have stepped back in time being a clandestine courier of a physical object is so primitive.” [Leeruu complained.]

“How could I forget Iigness ‘Many Truths’ keeps reminding me of the injuries she suffered during that engagement in ‘Fringe Space’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Well that fracas almost got both of us killed.” [I send.]

[Harbinger deep scanned the item it was a secure data well of a type no hacker was going to access without a valid key code at least not without destroying the precious data delicately maintained inside. Data Wells were becoming rare as most people had exogenous links for secure data transfer.]

“Iigness told me the key will arrive with you via a different route this - detailed - information is for you alone Harbinger.” [Leeruu said.]

“Why me? What does Iigness want with or from me?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I got the feeling the entire ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ nation require a unique service one that they could or would not ask for yet you will be able to deduce from this data. They are taking a surprising risk here and so am I by passing this along instead of burying it.” [Leeruu said.]

“A service for the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ that would be a first.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am sure I do not have to tell you this but be careful Harbinger.” [Leeruu said.]

“I am always careful around the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Then be extra careful. Listen since I am aware of your impatience this is what I know. Iigness is convinced you did not kill the Arch Chancellor that you simply murdered a decoy clone.” [Leeruu said.]

“Here we go again does he have some proof of this?” [Harbinger asked.]

“He tells me everything they know is in the data well Harbinger. Elements in the ‘Court’ discovered the Alien DNA in their genome. They have been secretly sabotaging Stage III ever since. They believed they were - covertly - delaying its development while they plotted a move against their leader. Now of course they have succeeded in replacing him with a more controllable highly memory edited puppet clone.” [Leeruu explained.]

“Very ambitious, they told you all this without the application of an Inquisitor.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“Please Harbinger, just listen when they learned about a plan by Draakhaal to humble maybe even break you by making you impotently witness your friend being cut down (Draakhaal seemed to think you were a bit fragile at the time) they decided to use that to their best advantage.” [Leeruu added.]

“How does he know these things?” [Harbinger complained.]

“I wish I knew his secret Harbinger my guess is that in his own way he is a surprisingly emphatic entity but without any burden of emotional attachment. Anyway on the surface Draakhaal made a mistake he should not have boasted of his intention towards Unholy and you in advance to - any - member of his Court.” [Leeruu said.]

“That is suspect in itself.” [Harbinger said.]

“You might think so, anyway the ‘Stellar Court’ suborned the Captain of Draakhaal’s bodyguard with the terrible truth of the genetic meld and he in turn worked upon his peoples loyalty with hints then facts about the same diabolical alteration. The plan was simple: Unholy Terror was to be allowed to kill Draakhaal instead of stepping in on time Draakhaal’s bodyguard would intervene fractionally too late and simply avenge his death. They even had a back up plan a medic would administer a clever biomechanical neurotoxin instead of medical assistance if Draakhaal somehow survived Unholy Terror’s fury with non fatal injuries.” [Leeruu explained.]

“That was thorough of them.” [Harbinger said.]

“However the Arch Chancellor must have been tipped off. Perhaps one of his bodyguards was still loyal and not so worried about being part Khaarg or whatever the meld is. More likely the Arch Chancellor had uncovered the Stage III sabotage and infiltrated the plotters much earlier. Anyway instead of arresting them he possibly arranged to provide a specific opportunity for his own murder.” [Leeruu explained.]

“So he wanted to disappear for a while.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am guessing here but I would imagine he considered his demise would diffuse any need for the ‘Court’ to fully disseminate the truth about the Alien DNA and the true nature of Stage III to the wider populace - he is playing for time.” [Leeruu said.]

“So he is protecting his project as much as himself.” [Harbinger said.]

“Certainly by controlling the time and place of the plot against him he need not worry about any other unexpected internal attacks. A Clone was decanted and put in his place no doubt carefully edited but nonetheless believing it was Draakhaal while the real Arch Chancellor slipped away. Of course he would have considered the possibility of a partial forensic mind reading of his dupes corpse so the Clone would have been a close copy but I am sure any information he needed secured would have been altered or removed.” [Leeruu said.]

“So you only stole an edited Clones mind if you stole a mind at all.” [I send.]

“Perhaps, or this could all be a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ plot to convince me that any data I might have is corrupt and worthless or even dangerously misleading if I ever find where I hid it.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“It would appear that sometimes role playing and inspiration is not enough.” [I send.]

“So they want me to finish what I started is that it?” [Harbinger said.]

“Indeed, who would serve better to hunt down and kill the Arch Chancellor and remove any vestige of the Stage III menace than you? This could be the break you have been looking for.” [Leeruu said but she had stopped grinning.]

“So this feels a little too easy to you as well.” [Harbinger said.]

“The situation is probably more complex than we know.” [Leeruu admitted.]

“I confess I am becoming increasingly wary of gifts.” [Harbinger said holding the Data Well up with an extruded tentacle.]

“Desperate times... Do you think you could work with these ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ rebels?” [Leeruu said.]

“I would like to know what their political plans for the future are if they are abandoning Stage III what will they replace it with.” [Harbinger said.]

“I would like to know that as well.” [Leeruu said.]

“I suppose they will not wish to tell us everything.” [Harbinger noted.]

“Only what they think we need to know.” [Leeruu replied.]

“Yes it is always the same thing secrets and half truths.” [Harbinger said.]

“Tell me this Harbinger do you believe the original Arch Chancellor may still be alive or are you still sure you killed the real one?” [Leeruu asked.]

“I have not made up my mind yet.” [Harbinger confessed.]

“Many leaders have historically used decoys and doubles to confound assassins.” [Leeruu said.]

“I know but I need to see and investigate their proofs.” [Harbinger said.]

“The ‘Free Stellar’ have recently made new intelligence available to me. They claim they have always had a few tacit sympathisers in the ‘Core Alliance Stellar Court’ individuals who would like to see a fully united Swimmer nation if one marginally under ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ authority. They say some ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ still feel an attachment to their old space and ways whether this is true or just wishful thinking or ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ manipulation to get direct control of fringe resources I do not know.” [Leeruu said.]

“Do you think this is some elaborate ploy to alter the ‘Second Accord’ to give them access to ‘Fringe Space’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“You mean by seemingly removing Draakhaal and playing friendly what an amazing idea?” [Leeruu replied.]

“Maybe too amazing I suppose it is possible all ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ do not think exactly alike.” [Harbinger said.]

“If the ‘Stellar Court’ is for real they are not all the Arch Chancellors’ drones - not yet. According to our friends the Arch Chancellor’s once absolute control over the ‘Stellar Court’ has been slipping for a while. The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ are becoming increasingly independent of thought.” [Leeruu said.]

“All children eventually seek after their freedom it is natural.” [Harbinger said.]

“Something every Paradox should remember.” [I privately send.]

“A fracturing of their too tight unity would be a huge boon to us.” [Lerruu admitted.]

“Still it never pays to take anything around Draakhaal at face value.” [Harbinger stated.]

“Just remember when you stepped in from Unholy Terror the job was still done for the ’Stellar Court’ but there was still fear and consternation at the technique you employed for Draakhaal’s murder. I doubt they trust you either.” [Leeruu said.]

“Fear and consternation that was what I was told earlier.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Due to some confusing fragments of intelligence from the ‘Surface War’ a few ‘Court’ members thought their was a remote possibility that you had somehow taken a copy of Draakhaal’s mind.” [Leeruu said watching Harbinger closely.]

“I heard that theory as well.” [Harbinger replied.]

“An order not to kill you was hastily broadcast via exogenous communications. In a way investigating into the possibility of that Mind Crime was a blessing to them.” [Leeruu said.]

“Why was that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“It made them look again at a lot of data. A few previously overlooked matters commenced a wider investigation that uncovered the facts now resident in this secure data well.” [Leeruu explained.]

“So if this is true - Draakhaal very nearly got away with it - had I killed this they say clone in a less dramatic fashion they might just have accepted it and moved on.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is possible, all - known - copies of Draakhaal’s unedited mind were wiped to prevent any chance of his return to power that just left any record you might have made.” [Leeruu explained.]

“If they think I would reintegrate Draakhaal they are crazier than Composure thinks I am.“ [Harbinger sends to me.]

“So what indicated that the original Draakhaal might still be alive?” [Harbinger asked.]

“After his supposed demise some interesting personnel and material also vanished. Every one of the plotters believed one or another of their own group had just tidied up a few final loose ends of the dangerous Stage III project. However during a session discussing your potential mind theft of their leader they digressed onto what you would do if you got hold of solid physical evidence of Stage III would you try to reveal it to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ populace. They soon realised while reviewing the dangers that none of them had removed the missing items or eradicated those personnel. They feared you might already have acted but the evidence did not fit even a well informed outsider being guilty of spiriting these assets away it was an internal job.” [Leeruu explained.]

“Let me guess they now believe Stage III is still progressing elsewhere under Draakhaal’s direction.” [Harbinger said.]

“Yes that is what they now fear.” [Leeruu explained.]

“Of course these personnel of yours (I imagine genetic scientists) might have just had back doors to escape by in an emergency.” [Harbinger said.]

“However, they would need to be mad to dare to reinitiate the project itself - under these conditions.” [Leeruu added.]

“Unless they were under direct orders from one they could not ignore.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is the opinion of the usurpers in the ‘Stellar Court’. They are quietly turning the ‘Core Alliance’ upside down looking for one or more hidden laboratories and the whereabouts of Draakhaal. If you know anything about such it might be a good idea to trade the data or act on it.” [Leeruu added.]

“If I did somehow manage the theft of the age or of just a clones mind I still have no recollection of it so far my own investigation has found nothing.” [Harbinger said.]

“Still it remains a real possibility after all lack of knowledge does not mean you did not do it. I would bet I have done lots of things I had friends edit out of my memory for security and legal reasons. If you have a copy of Draakhaal’s mind it might be able to tell us if you did kill the original.” [Leeruu said.]

“Not necessarily - I have been looking into that - if their was a substitution it would depends on just how close it was: A fake Draakhaal could have been real enough that we would not be able to tell the difference even with a full recording. How can we make a certain judgement, if what you have been told is true, we have nothing left to compare his mind against even allied to the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Harbinger said.]

“I never thought of that.” [Leeruu admitted.]

“This is a serious tangle. You know at any suitable point the real Arch Chancellor or an unknown but full copy: One possibly secreted away and raised by loyalists elsewhere could make a move against the usurpers in the ‘Stellar Court’. It is unlikely the ‘Court’ knows of every fail safe clone and Id store’s location even if they are convinced they do. A Draakhaal could simply slip in and replace this puppet Clone in fact this could even have occurred in secret already.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am sure the ‘Stellar Court’ have taken drastic measures to secure their Clone. We cannot let fear rule us. I think the first part of Draakhaal plan is to convince us we have destroyed Stage III.” [Leeruu said.]

“That is a very real possibility. I would not be inclined to back the ‘Court’ against Draakhaal though in any direct confrontation like this. Remember this Leeruu the ‘Stellar Court’ was his ‘Court’ for far too long: The Arch Chancellor has had years to insure they are not capable of being a serious threat to his overall plans and schemes.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are far from convinced by the new found transparency of the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Leeruu said.]

“I would not be surprised if Draakhaal has returned already your contacts could have suffered mental rewrites of their own personalities they could be double agents and this whole thing could now be a farce to control us a complete fabrication from start to finish.” [Harbinger said.]

“We will just have to be very careful then and rely on confirmation of our information, our instincts and intellect as ever.” [Leeruu admitted.]

“From my experience with Draakhaal every seeming setback or move against him is turned into a new opportunity sometimes almost appearing to become part of the overall scheme from the beginning at least with distant hindsight.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Do not believe all his retrospective propaganda Draakhaal has a clever way with rewriting history. He makes all his vector changes join up in a cunning way but he lies. Ware being manipulated into becoming a devotee of his genius I know how easily that can undermine belief in yourself.” [Leeruu said.]

“I just do not want to underestimate him again I am tired of others manipulating me.” [Harbinger stated.]

“Draakhaal is gifted but he is still fallible and not as clever as he would have us believe.” [Leeruu admitted.]

“Just remember Leeruu Draakhaal’s way is always the plot within a plot within a plot like nested shields you strip one away just to find another shining underneath whilst the big guns lock down then fire.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Even ships with big shields can be taken down.” [Leeruu said.]

“If we do get proof we could simply publicise the truth of Stage III whether the ‘Stellar Court’ likes that or not.” [Harbinger mused.]

“That could do your ‘Core Alliance’ more harm than good maybe that is even what our enemy wants.” [Leeruu said.]

“I suppose he might wish to sow chaos among the (perhaps to his mind now) redundant Stage II ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Indeed, still we are spiralling out a bit here Harbinger Stage II was as far as I am aware designed to be the fast track to Stage III would Draakhaal throw all his previous work away?” [Leeruu said.]

“Perhaps he knows he has gone too far this time with that meld. It is possible he understands he is destined to lose control of his prime assets in the ‘Core Alliance’ simply because the truth is now out even if only to an elite minority. I wish I knew why he dared to do that splice in the first place why was he in such a mad hurry to advance his species evolution.” [Harbinger said.]

“He has faith Harbinger he believes he is unquestionably right that is why he is capable of anything a little like some of you Paradox on a bad day.” [Leeruu said with smiling stalks.]

“It is funny how the best and worst attributes of people are often the same ones. This time somehow instead of reacting we should try to employ a plan of our own. Creed was right we have allowed Draakhaal to lead our policies for far too long.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is because we have always been trying to catch up ever since Opal Prime supposedly threatened Opal Pearl. Draakhaal certainly fooled me.” [Leeruu said.]

“What we need is to get Draakhaal to chase after us for a change. The key to Draakhaal’s success may well be that he always manages to provoke us into reacting to his actions. Reactions if you know an enemy well enough can be predicted thus we become predictable.” [Harbinger said.]

“What are you proposing that we refuse to follow his trail.” [Leeruu said.]

“No we must go where the data leads us - lest he suspects what we are up to - but Leeruu that must not be our main effort we need to initiate a separate program that threatens him. We should make him come to us start something he cannot ignore something he has to counter. I will speak with you again after I get the key and have fully examined the ‘Stellar Draakhaals’ so-called proofs.” [Harbinger said.]

“Meanwhile you will not forget about those weapons.” [Leeruu said.]

“I will not.” [Harbinger promised.]

“Your thoughts are clouded Harbinger?” [I send.]

“I was thinking the ‘Conglomerate’ once claimed they knew where all the Arch Chancellor’s replacement clones where hidden.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That was a long time ago before the ‘Core Alliance’ when our Computer Cores were compromised and Draakhaal was at least pretending to the ‘Conglomerate’ that he was their ally.” [I send.]

“Still the Recyclers might have some useful data. They have always had more success spying against the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ than they have had against us at least if you consider technology thefts as a rough guide.” [Harbinger send.]

“I suppose it is one vector of investigation Draakhaal might not expect.” [I send.]

“It is an angle the ‘Stellar Court’ would not consider as well.” [Harbinger sends.]

“With good reason the ‘Conglomerate’ are slippery.” [I send.]

“One other thing ‘Many Truths’ since you are safely outside ‘Core Alliance Space’ I need you to begin Analysing my onboard Acolytes memories for discrepancies with their fellows and your records around the time of and following my murder of Draakhaal.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That could take some time Harbinger unless you want to tie up the majority of my mentality to this one procedure.” [I send.]

“No just do the best you can without compromising your other duties.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That data may never have been onboard me the family is widespread.” [I send.]

“I know that only too well, but it is the beginning of a process of elimination.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The usual suspects first.” [I send.]

“Since more creative approaches have failed why not?” [Harbinger sends.]

[Location: Shroud Suit designated as ‘Avatar Beta One’, The Captains Table Tavern, Free Port Habitat 4, Sector 547 Patrol Base, Boolean Reaches, Tier II Space, Inner Systems, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 21:35hrs SLT (station local time)][Date 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[It was like going back in time: This grubbing for credits - whatever they happened to be called - dealing with people in person. It was easy to forget Harbinger was actually many jumps away none of this seemed remote.]

[In many ways these actions felt more real than some of our recent dealings back at our Headquarters such as Composures departure. To Harbinger’s surprise despite not physically being here he could feel the rough alcohol hitting his cognition hard. He had the suit neutralise and dampen its effects until he was just a little light headed.]

“It is easy to lose money with a ship like yours Harbinger. There are a lot of restrictions on warships here. For example I heard you almost got sentenced for selling illegal ordnance.” [Gracious said.]

“A simple misunderstanding over some missiles.” [Harbinger said.]

“Almost a costly one, believe me you were lucky, not all Licence Inspectors are so reasonable many newcomers get pushed into piracy.” [Gracious said.]

“Happily I can still manufacture some goods I can sell.” [Harbinger said.]

“Still you need a licence to legally harvest raw materials. With the right connections and or a wide import licence you could make a fortune from direct Heartland imports with your manufacturing base back there.” [Gracious advised.]

“I have been looking into that possibility.” [Harbinger said.]

“Still right now the Merits you have will not last long. This job could pay well if you are willing to use what you have without restraint.” [Gracious stated.]

“If it is legal I am not entirely adverse to doing some combat missions.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is easy for you to say.” [I send.]

“Legal it is but a dirty business nonetheless. I have acquired entitlement to harvest an asteroid field rich in rare ores that is currently being illegally mined. I need those miners moved on Harbinger and if possible what they have stolen from me returned. The law is with me but the authorities - such as they are - have more pressing duties - or so they claim. My assets are in that field and they are being stripped. I also hired a mining ship on a fixed contract and it is sitting idle if this situation does not change I will be ruined. I have nothing left to bribe the authorities with or to buy mercenaries. In truth I cannot even pay you up front that is why I am willing to be so generous if you take the task I will give you a full five percent profit share.” [Gracious Expectation explained.]

“So how did you get this entitlement.” [Harbinger asked.]

“Like a fool I took it as a payment for some Tier III merchandise I had imported in good faith. A fellow I now suspect is in league with the same miners bartered it to me knowing it was a useless trade if I didn‘t have the means to claim what was now legally my property.” [Gracious continued.]

“These Miners they are armed and dangerous.” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have belatedly been told they have Pirate connections and I am not the first person to be scammed in this manner. I confess at the time greed for a quick profit got the better of me.” [Gracious admitted.]

“Fifty percent of profits a full equal share and what I capture outside of your ore will be my salvage.” [Harbinger demanded eager to make enough Merits to pay off some future unsanctioned jump fines.]

“You would rob me.” [Gracious complained.]

“Without my assistance you have nothing fifty percent of something is better than even one hundred percent of nothing.” [Harbinger said.]

“Be reasonable twenty five percent I also believe if you can return the pilferers to a Patrol Base many of these illegal miners and their Pirate friends are known felons with Merit prices on their heads that could amount to a tidy bonus by itself.” [Gracious added.]

“Thirty three percent capturing people alive is always difficult. What sort of fighting equipment do they have?” [Harbinger asked.]

“As far as I know the biggest ship they have access to is a mini carrier not much larger than a frigate. However they have deployed quite powerful static defences.” [Gracious admitted.]

“What about the level of their weaponry?” [I send.]

[Harbinger asked my question.]

“I heard it was all low grade stuff typical of Tier II weapon import and manufacturing restrictions. Your unusually potent Heartland gear should easily be superior.” [Gracious said.]

“Is this just rumour you have no solid data: Scans and so on?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have nothing like that Harbinger.” [Gracious admitted.]

“What about Jump access?” [Harbinger asked.]

“As the owner of that area I am entitled to grant my employees full Jump privileges to and from that location to several sites including this base.” [Gracious said.]

“The thirty three percent of profits includes all future revenue until the site is depleted.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is right.” [Gracious replied with a Shroud Suit slump.]

“Fine I will take the job if all the formalities properly check out.” [Harbinger said.]

“Great you are a life saver Harbinger - even if you drive a hard bargain - when can you leave?” [Gracious asked suddenly all happy.]

“As soon as my Ship has verified all the data and permissions.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Then I will send them straight away.” [Gracious promised.]
Last edited by Paranoid66 on Tue, 28. Jul 09, 12:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Snowship » Tue, 14. Jul 09, 08:06

Finally caught up :D , very intriguing read there Paranoid66.
Interesting to see a timejump between books 2 & 3. and the introduction of the wider ES community system (not sure if this'll increase the plot or is just a little more background... suppose I'll find out :wink: )
Nice to see the relationship between MT & Harbringer evolve over the course of the story (esp in Book III).
I'm also wondering if the "Is he or Isn't He" twist with the Arch-chancellor is a red-herring or not.

Looking forward to more. :thumb_up:
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Post by Paranoid66 » Thu, 16. Jul 09, 13:50

Thanks for the comments Snowship it is good to get some feedback. When you hear nothing from any readers it is a bit disheartening. I always worry people have given up on the story.

Book III is proving hard work each Chapter feels like it takes longer and requires more effort to get out than the last - although some real life drama hasn't helped me much. I recently moved again this time thankfully into a proper unshared flat of my own.

As you may have noticed each Book has grown in size. I roped myself into a lot of background expansion and now have quite a few threads to juggle.

At the start I worried MT was changing from Book I, then I thought that change was inevitable. That she would become less and less a tool and more and more a fuller personality in her own right. :D
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Post by Tenlar Scarflame » Thu, 16. Jul 09, 20:49

I've only just started taking a look at this and I must say it seems very well written. :) I'll have to start from the beginning. Looks very promising!
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Post by Snowship » Fri, 17. Jul 09, 07:39

Paranoid66, don't get disheartened, you're a great writer and I for one love reading your works. They're nice, deep and involving, well written and have great subject matter.

If you get frustrated then yes take a break, but I'd not give up on your gift if I were you.

Keep em coming :D
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Post by Paranoid66 » Fri, 17. Jul 09, 12:00

Thanks Tenlar and Snowship. Not going to quit yet but it really does help to know people are - actually - reading and the counter is not just folk looking and going yuk! :D

Next chapter is in progress. I have this plan to up the pace a bit. Perhaps you all can let me know if that succeeds after it is posted.

To me the third Book is taking a long time to settle in and has felt like a wrestling match at times.

Originally I planned for this stuff to be both shorter and lighter. Once I started spinning out the Emissary Sphere however it just went its own way as usual. Brevity really is not my thing.
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Post by Paranoid66 » Tue, 28. Jul 09, 12:24


[Location: Shroud Suit designated as Avatar Alpha Three, Paalootuu’s Reef (Imbibing Emporium), the Dry Docks, Surface Dweller District 11, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 22:10.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[Following our arrival direct via warp cubical to the Imbibing Emporium, we found Unholy looking drunk but typically animated.]

[The bar though crowded with locals did not feel intimidating being mostly full of ‘Surface Dweller’ Legion Veterans: Genetically altered Swimmers able to operate as air breathers without any necessity for a dry suit.]

[It was for example exuberant but not deafening: You could talk reasonably comfortably, while arguing for a time or occasionally yelling out would not be overly conspicuous either.]

“The trick in these establishments is avoiding walking on any trailing tentacles.” [Harbinger said to Boisterous stepping lightly over one tangle of lax appendages.]

[Boisterous just gave Harbinger a jaunty Tri-optic sensor stare that said I am not some ignorant Acolyte.]

[As a rule ‘Surface Dwellers’ liked to drink they were bigger and far more rambunctious than your average ‘Swimmer Sea Dweller’ (Veterans of the ‘Surface War’ even more so). How they liked to guzzle in order to hide what was really going on behind their mobile eyestalks.]

[Killing generally did not come easily or without a cost to once pacifistic ‘Sea Dwellers’. In the back of their minds, the old ways of their species tended to plague their conscience - so when they were off duty they drank like well… fish. Following the Second Accord, many retired Legion Veterans had worked solidly on their addiction to alcohol as if it was a profession in itself.]

[Unholy had found good companions for a slide. After finally leaving the Trojan Wharf, he was spending all his time here at Paalootuu’s Reef - very intoxicated - much to Cad and Trend’s disappointment. Trend had contacted Harbinger to see what he could do with the sot of a Paradox ex War Master.]

[After one of his companions pointed at the newly entered Paradox, Unholy roared out a question.] “Who is this then? Some fellow Paradox Priests cast up upon my dry, dry shore of bleached bones.”

“Do you think…?” [I begin sending a disturbing captured image from the Splinter Mother ship to my Captain.]

“I doubt it.” [Harbinger sends interrupting to cut my question short.]

“Are you so inebriated you cannot even read a Paradox kanji?” [Harbinger replied.]

[An extending auxiliary Tri-optic sensor snaked out to bump into Harbinger then retreated a few centimetres.]

“Oh it is you. Did you get lost?” [Unholy said.]

“I did not know I was expected.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Where have you been? Ghosting around I suppose.” [Unholy said.]

“Ghosting I walked right in no stealth was involved.” [Harbinger said.]

“We are all phantoms you know.” [Unholy said.]

“We are?” [Boisterous replied.]

“Still living people look right through us.” [Unholy stated.]

“He is off again.” [A Dweller said.]

“Everyone is dead - welcome to the other side.” [Unholy said waving a dripping extended imbibing tube around.]

“Welcome to paradise.” [A swaying equally drunk Dweller stated.]

“He is as pickled as any of these once fish.” [Privately sends Boisterous from behind us.]

“Harbinger, Boisterous.” [A few friendly if loud Dweller voices called out to my Captain and his companion in recognition.]

“Come join us you are both welcome.” [An especially large individual said shuffling around to make room at the table.]

“Such illustrious company we are honoured.” [Another drinker extolled.]

“What is this some kind of Cadre senior command convention if so we are all outranked or is it just a gathering of dear old friends?” [A Dweller at the far side of the table asked.]

“Perhaps you can explain to our friend here and your peer that we did not lose our war.” [Suggested a closer ‘Surface Dweller’.]

“What are you talking about?” [Unholy said.]

“Quickly before they both fall back into a gloomy mood not to our liking. I remember you Harbinger I am Ullaapuulsuu.” [He explained.]

“I remember you too Ullaapuulsuu.” [Harbinger lied slapping the Veteran on the back with a friendly suit tentacle.]

“Well I don’t remember him and I was here before you.” [Unholy interrupted.]

“Do you?” [Asked Ullaapuulsuu swivelling his eyestalks.]

“First Legion Sniper Scout.” [Harbinger replied after a hasty data search.]

“That was easy work if you could get it.” [Unholy interjected only to be ignored.]

[Ullaapuulsuu’s eyestalks grinned further apart.]

“Nicely bluffed.” [Ullaapuulsuu sends via direct exogenous to Harbinger.]

“So you are really Seelaafuu.” [Harbinger sends picking up on the address.]

“Yes sniping was just my cover I was in Military Intelligence. Now I work - freelance. As you know since you supplied my exogenous link I am currently assisting Leeruu.” [Ullaapuulsuu / Seelaafuu explained via exogenous.]

“It is a small Sphere what brings you here?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Right now you do not need to know.” [Ullaapuulsuu sends.]

“Yet you still decided to reveal yourself.” [Harbinger sends.]

“In case we need each others help.” [Ullaapuulsuu sends.]

“Did you really think I had forgotten you?” [Harbinger asked aloud.]

“Does it matter does anybody care?” [Unholy asked.]

“I was just a lowly fighter you a celebrated War Master.” [Ullaapuulsuu said aloud.]

“Celebrated by who?” [Unholy asked.]

“We are all equal within the ‘Core Alliance’.” [Harbinger reminded the gathering.]

“Tell that to the Merchants and Property Owners.” [A Dweller spat out.]

“He is right. Death is the great leveller. I’ll drink to that.” [Unholy interrupted dropping his tube into a good sized central spirit bucket. Noisily he sucked up the last remnant of the communal fiery liquid in a rather rude manner.]

“The greedy Paradox has emptied the bucket again.” [Complained one Swimmer holding up a less integrated drinking tube and the empty bucket.]

“Sadly friend you are entirely correct it is all gone, which simply means we need more.” [Unholy said.]

[Boisterous slumped - I could understand why - his friend hardly appeared to require an alcohol top up.]

“I was afraid it would be like this. What do you want to do?” [Boisterous sends to my Captain.]

“More spirits here.” [Unholy yelled out.]

“Let’s just join in for a while.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Boisterous paused for a moment perhaps giving it some thought then hunching forward shimmered faintly yellow.]

“I will if you insist friend Harbinger.” [He said before emitting a clearer communications signal to the bar for a refill. That was when he noticed another Paradox standing quietly at the Surface Dweller establishments counter. Panacea’s kanji soon became visible between the mass of bodies.]

“Look who is here.” [Boisterous sends to Harbinger relaying a visual.]

“What is going on? I heard Pan was avoiding all members of the Cadre these days.” [Harbinger sends without looking around.]

“He must have just slipped in I am sure he wasn’t here a moment ago. My guess would be somebody tipped him off we are here and he came to see you.” [Boisterous sends.]

“Great that is all I need right now an inquisitive Paradox Physician probing after my health: I am pretty sure I know who is responsible for that.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You think Composure called in a favour to ease his mind.” [I send.]

“That would not surprise me.” [Harbinger sends to me in reply.]

“By the Emissary what is keeping our refill.” [Unholy shouted before taking possession of the bucket and banging it on the table like a drum.]

“He is almost as impatient as you Harbinger.” [Boisterous sends.]

[Time: 23:58.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[Harbinger managed to slip away claiming he had to expel some excess fluid. After returning from the wastewater recycler, he sidled up to the bar.]

“So what are you doing here?” [Harbinger asked Panacea while ordering another bucket.]

“Probably the same thing as you. Happenstance asked me to look in on Unholy.” [Panacea replied quietly.]

“Really, I heard you were avoiding your old Cadre connections.” [Harbinger said.]

[Panacea slumped.]

“To the rest of the Sphere I am.” [Panacea returned.]

“So what did Composure use a bribe or blackmail?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Sorry what has that runaway miscreant got to do with anything?” [Panacea asked.]

“This is a strange place for a check up.” [Harbinger said.]

“Unholy refuses to talk to me. I thought he would be more reasonable drunk.” [Panacea said.]

[Harbinger flared with yellow light.]

“You are drawing attention to us.” [Panacea complained.]

“If you want to get close to Unholy you had best hope his safeguards are off and he passes out.” [Harbinger stated.]

“The night is young and that is probably our friend’s end game plan.” [Panacea said.]

“You have grown subtle can you aid him with his emotional malaise?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I can only assist the fool if he will help himself. How are you finding civilian life?” [Panacea asked.]

“Maybe I have given you too much credit. I never felt better.” [Harbinger replied.]

[Panacea glowed yellow.]

“Now you are the one being conspicuous.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am just demonstrating appreciation for a joke.” [Panacea said.]

“When it is ourselves we always have an excuse in our own minds - some exception or other to our own rule - it is called hypocrisy.” [Harbinger noted.]

“No doubt you would know. You think I am here to see you. Does that mean you have a problem you need to talk about?” [Panacea asked.]

“No.” [Harbinger replied curtly.]

“Will you help me with Unholy?” [Panacea asked.]

“Help you - with Unholy - why not? Stay here - well back - and we will see what transpires.” [Harbinger said.]

[What transpired was that Unholy got drunker and rowdier until he did indeed pass out typically for a Paradox whilst remaining on his feet. Clearly, he had turned his suits antitoxin safeguards fully off.]

“Panacea obviously knows a bit about our friend’s recent habits.” [I send to my Captain as he applied some serious suit muscle to topple his inert friend over so Boisterous could assist in carrying him to the Warp Cubicle.]

“You Paradox look like you could use some help.” [Said one Surface Dweller rolling over it was Ullaapuulsuu.]

“Thanks this is a pretty heavy suit for its size.” [Boisterous said aloud.]

“He must have shrunk a lot of its mass into dense internal armour.” [Harbinger replied looking at a surprising weight reading on his own HUD.]

“Not totally stupid then.” [Boisterous replied.]

“Unholy never was - entirely - stupid remember he earned his status at the sharp end.” [Harbinger commented.]

“No insult intended.” [Boisterous said.]

“Unholy nonetheless seems to have become a heavy burden.” [Ullaapuulsuu decried.]

“Not too heavy.” [Harbinger replied firmly.]

“Maybe some of it is excess liquid. How many buckets did he empty? You know he didn‘t leave the table once to recycle.” [Boisterous added.]

“Maybe his suit needed it.” [Harbinger stated struggling along.]

“I suppose his liquid intake only matters if he starts leaking.” [Ullaapuulsuu said stumbling along sideways while holding up the ‘Shroud Suits’ middle.]

“Paradox ‘Shroud Suits’ don’t leak not by accident anyway.” [Harbinger stated.]

“If that is true I owe an old Paradox friend a stout tentacle thump next time I see him.” [Ullaapuulsuu said.]

[Harbinger halted almost dropping Unholy and forcing everybody to stop while he flared yellow Boisterous a little late soon joined in the light show.]

“Now that sounds like a funny story.” [Harbinger said.]

[My Captain still flickering yellow began moving again.]

“It is bad when you cannot trust anybody anymore not even a Priest.” [Ullaapuulsuu said.]

“Maybe your friend thought you were dehydrated.” [Harbinger said far too innocently.]

“All I can remember was it smelt and tasted really bad.” [Ullaapuulsuu said.]

“That is rank, ‘Shroud Suit’ wastewater I forgot you Swimmers can taste through your skin.” [Boisterous stated.]

“Makes me glad I live in a suit.” [Harbinger said flickering yellow again.]

“That is so true.” [Boisterous remarked.]

[Behind them, Panacea moved away from the counter and discreetly followed barely controlling his own laughter. Other species sometimes forgot that Paradox could on occasion have a surprisingly wicked sense of humour.]

[After warping out, we arrived at and booked into the nearest Way Station Inn.]

[Location: Secure Command Core, MTC Headquarters, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 23:03.][Date 03.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 03.02.01.]

[We had returned weary but exuberant from nine very personal and hard if generally productive meetings with nine separate politically active (exceptionally angry) Paradox Priest Elders when Cad insistently hailed us again. Harbinger took off his communications block and answered.]

“At last.” [Cad complained.]

“What do you want?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have some fascinating if seriously worrying news to impart to you. I have learned that following some stealth satellite intelligence an ‘Interdiction Patrol’ has found and destroyed another small group of the so called ‘Zombie Fleet’.” [Cad began.]

“Good for them. Where exactly did this happen?” [Harbinger interrupted.]

“The Corrupted Dweller Hulls had established a defensive perimeter around an asteroid field in a scan interfering nebula. They had been employing slaves as prospectors. We managed to pick up a few survivors from the workforce.” [Cad explained.]

“Slaves this is a new development.” [Harbinger sends paying fuller attention.]

“That is the least of it: All of the captives claim to be - ex - Conglomerate Recycler recruits freed from being one with their computer cores. They also insist they were held captive by a small elite force of are you paying full attention - Stage III Stellar Draakhaal - ‘Void Dwellers’ onboard the Zombie Ships not Stage II ‘Void Skimmers’ or rogue Free Stellar. Lastly one of the captives has named himself as Ore Breaker from the ‘Red Nest’ interesting is it not?” [Cad sends.]

“Ore Breaker really?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I have managed - so far - to keep the incident quiet. We are claiming it was just a routine run in with illegal accord breaking ‘Core Alliance Free Recycler’ miners. I had the Recyclers jumped to my wharf here on ‘Trinity Harbour’ they are now in my personal custody. I thought you would like to hear Ore Breakers story face to suit. Frankly, I do not like it; it is all too neat and coincidental. I think somebody may be trying to play some kind of game with us. Who uses people in space for mining purposes anymore even in a nebula?” [Cad sends.]

[That I knew about: Tier II Paradox and some old freelancers still preferred to Prospect and Mine hands on occasionally but that was irrelevant. Still I did wonder what Harbinger was thinking. Since he upgraded to the Facilitator and underwent treatment, my Captain was getting better at hiding more of his thoughts from me.]

“I certainly would like to see these refugees. I agree it would be easy to believe this is a belated attempt at misdirection by the ‘Sleeper Conglomerate’ for some nefarious purpose.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Why now do you think they are in league with Draakhaal again.” [I send to my Captain.]

“I am not sure what to make of this development Harbinger that is why I would also like you to interrogate these subjects. By the way just after he left Composure contacted me and mentioned that you had become a gifted Inquisitor.” [Cad sends.]

“Another coincidence?” [I send.]

“He did and you want me to read these unfortunates minds?” [Harbinger sends.]

“That was an option I have been exploring.” [Cad sends.]

“I am sure you have equipment capable of doing that without my specific help. Why wait or ask for me?” [Harbinger sends I could sense he was unhappy with Composures disclosure even if Cad was a friend.]

“You have met this Ore Breaker on more than one occasion who better to verify his identity and story or prove one or both to be works of elaborate fiction.” [Cad sends.]

“If they are innocent of wrong doing invading their minds would be a violation not just of their individual sanctity but also our own laws under the Second Accord.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What if they are guilty?” [Cad sends.]

“Citizens are innocent until - proven - guilty we cannot sentence them to an invasive procedure before they are judged they should be our guests not our prisoners. Remember Cad we are not officially at war with the Conglomerate. Give me the coordinates and I will warp directly over to talk with Ore Breaker, but I will not promise to do anything more active than that. Creed is right we take far too much upon ourselves we must not operate outside the law anymore.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So it is true you have been making common cause with the Admiral. It will be lawful enough if Ore Breaker volunteers for the procedure.” [Cad sends.]

“Why would he volunteer unless coerced - can a prisoner truly volunteer to do anything before release?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Did I mention coercion?” [Cad sends.]

“Did you need to? Under what grounds are they being detained?” [Harbinger sends pointedly.]

“Under anti Mind Crime legislation: They are under suspicion of being foreign agents with rewritten personalities - infiltrator spies.” [Cad sends.]

“But we brought them here they did not sneak across our border they are not illegal immigrants. What is the justification for these accusations?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Are you serious, no Conglomerate Recycler has ever broken free from being one with the core without becoming a complete mental defective? The only solution we came up with to the addiction was a personality rewrite thus the ‘Zombies’ must have rewritten them. We have only their word that they were not working as willing confederates of the stolen hulls. As to the Stage III story that sounds a bit ridiculous. Why would Void Dwellers reveal themselves to Conglomerate Recycler prisoners? However, if they have been rewritten what has happened to them and what they think has happened is likely to be light years apart. So what we have here is deliberate false information and a mystery.” [Cad sends.]

“I would bet none of the supposed Stage III was captured or their bodies recovered.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You suppose correctly.” [Cad sends.]

“How did the prisoners claim to end up with the ‘Zombie Fleet’ have they been infected?” [Harbinger sends.]

“No there is no sign of the biomechanical virus in their cybernetic systems however they claim not to remember exactly how they became part of the workforce either.” [Cad sends.]

“They all have this selective memory deficit.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Yes every one of them which alone is suspicious. Remember Harbinger the biomechanical virus that originally suborned the ‘Swimmer Dweller Hulls’ came from a Conglomerate source even if we always believed it was Draakhaal that employed it.” [Cad sends.]

“Yes I remember it was a derivative of a weapon once used against the Recyclers by Drooshuu’s Trojan advisor to prevent any interference during his ‘Stellar Orb’ campaign.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A campaign that operated against the Paradox and the ‘Sea Sphere’ Dwellers; you can see where Draakhaal gets his wide ambition from. I believe it was you that uncovered the truth of the Recyclers periphery involvement.” [Cad sends.]

“I am warping over.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Harbinger and I arrived at the ‘Trojan Wharf’ with two Marine Acolytes in tow. Cad greeted us warmly with a smile and a not too hesitant hug.]

“So you have been politicking Harbinger I suppose that explains your current attitude. I promise not to get you into any more trouble with your own people.” [Cad said with a grin and a twinkle in his eyes.]

“You should not make promises you may not be able to keep Master of Armageddon. You know Cad the ‘Council of Equals’ and Composure have both forced me to seriously reconsider the unrestrained ways in which we have been freely operating under the somewhat self appointed auspices of being Founding Fathers of this alliance.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Please you know I would never initiate a Sea Sphere Shield Purge I hate that label. Maybe I should check to see if - your - personality has also been rewritten.” [Cad said laughing.]

“I see as usual we have a lot to talk about beyond the issue of the moment.” [Harbinger replied.]

“You do know this area is fully secure from eavesdroppers.” [Cad said.]

“I know and I am serious. Recently I have been listening to a cross section of views both inside and outside my species. A lot of people are becoming increasing dissatisfied with our unsanctioned independent actions - they are growing up and want us to be accountable.” [Harbinger explained.]

“That is their problem. I was sorry to hear about Composure. He had a package delivered here for you.” [Cad said changing the subject.]

“A package?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Well a scan proof shipping container actually. He said I was to tell you about it the first time you visited in person after its delivery.” [Cad said.]

“Did you open it?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Of course not.” [Cad replied.]

[Harbinger glowed yellow.]

“It is your container not mine.” [Cad said.]

“Why do I feel like Composure is going to haunt me without having the decency to die first?” [Harbinger sends.]

[Cad laughed aloud.]

[Harbinger tried to link to Composure but the exiled Elder Paradox blanked the hail.]

“Curse him.” [Harbinger said aloud by speaker.]

“He is up to something what is going on Harbinger? I could not understand why he did not just call you via Exogenous and tell you this container was here. He cannot possibly think your Exogenous communications are compromised in some manner.” [Cad said.]

“More likely he is just trying to excite my natural curiosity knowing I might otherwise ignore a gift from him right now.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I see. You have had a serious falling out again?” [Cad asked.]

“We traded some harsh words after he left. I called to check he had got away without any pursuit and somehow we ended up having a flaming argument about… well about everything it became shockingly comprehensive.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You know my parents are long dead.” [Cad said out of nowhere.]

“I am sorry.” [Harbinger replied seeing an odd expression flicker over Cads face one he could not fully translate the meaning of.]

[I could feel strong emotions awaken inside my Captain. I wondered was Cad playing a game of his own with Composure.]

“So is his ploy to excite your curiosity working?” [Cad asked bouncing back as if nothing had happened and ignoring my Captain’s sympathy.]

“Curse him but it is.” [Harbinger replied.]

“You are thinking why go to such stupid lengths to covertly deliver a container.” [Cad said.]

“Exactly.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Your old Master knows you too well.” [Cad said smiling again.]

“He knows me far too well. However this puzzling container can wait until I have spoken with Ore Breaker.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I salute such astounding discipline to the cause. Are you really going to become a politician?” [Cad asked.]

“I was thinking about it more as a part time commitment.” [Harbinger said.]

“Part time politician full time…” [Cad trailed off.]

“…Elder Paradox Priest what else.” [Harbinger finished.]

“Of course your species is so well named.” [Cad said with a smirk.]

[A short walk to a holding cell interview room later.]

“So you are convinced I am not myself.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“What do you think?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am afraid you could be right. I was taken by the Conglomerate made one with their computer core nobody escapes from the sentence of that addiction even if you think you consciously hate it.” [Ore Breaker admitted.]

“Keep talking.” [Harbinger ordered.]

“They always give you a choice you know you have to volunteer. Become one with their cursed cores or die clean.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“You chose to live.” [Harbinger said.]

“I realised I did not really believe in suicide all big talk aside.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“You remember what it was like - being one with the core.” [Harbinger said.]

“Yes and no it feels fuzzy like a dream not a proper memory - softer more detached.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“That is interesting but you still remember.” [Harbinger said.]

“I recall some of it. No privacy is guaranteed: no secrets no lies every person with your clearance or below is wide open to scrutiny you just have to look. The Sleepers are the worst you cannot hide anything from the Sleepers they can read it all at once. Willing converts do not want to hide they find communion a glorious almost religious experience even when their minds are toyed with and deliberately altered - it is known as corrections - and considered a blessing can you believe that?” [Ore Breaker asked.]

“Easily, how did you feel about it?” [Harbinger asked.]

“To me it was like an endless inquisition a violation of my person. I only suffered scrutiny from the Sleepers once. As far as I know, they did not mess with my mind they had no need they knew my fear of the procedure alone would keep me loyally serving in my old post. I imagine that amused them more than making me a devotee.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“Your old post?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am speaking of my old position at the ‘Red Nest’. Compared to some I was lucky ‘Red Nest’ fascinated all of the Sleepers so they could not agree on who should control it, as a result it became communal property. As long as we did our jobs there we were more or less left alone.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“I imagine routine set in and life went on as normal.” [Harbinger said.]

“It did I even discovered a few advantages to being a Conglomerate it simplified a lot of things but I still lived in dread of the Sleepers. The successful: The wealthy got dispensations (they retained a higher stake in Conglomerate society) but truly no one was safe and unlike the mentally altered unlike the believers, I understood the Sleepers were mad and bad and they knew I knew. Have you any idea what it is like to live in constant fear?” [Ore Breaker said.]

“So what did you do?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I did the best job I could do; I strove to improve efficiency and to please them I also tried very, very hard not to think any seditious thoughts.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“So how did you end up with the Zombies?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I do not know. I just woke up from a haze and was informed I was once again alone in my own mind but a captive and a slave.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“What was your last memory before waking up?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I do not know: When I try to think about that my memories are all jumbled up. I cannot make any sense of the chronology whatsoever it is frustrating as a cybernetic Recycler we usually have perfect recall and time sense unless we suffer a major malfunction.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“What do you think about this situation?” [Harbinger asked.]

“It all seems logically impossible. I cannot have escaped the cores addiction so I cannot be here. A part of me fears this is all a Sleeper mind trick and you have just been dredged up out of my memory to torment me with a sick shadow of freedom.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“I assure you I am real but I have no means to prove it.” [Harbinger said.]

“I suppose I might as well accept the truth of my perceptions on faith otherwise it will drive me insane.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“I do not mean to be cruel but Cad thinks your party could be nothing more than Conglomerate disinformation.” [Harbinger said.]

“A distinct possibility I cannot deny it.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“Before your capture do you recall having any specific dealings with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not openly but we suspected some buyers of artefacts were purchasing for Void Skimmer Scientists.” [Ore Breaker admitted.]

“What did you do about that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I informed Conglomerate Intelligence of course I dared do nothing less.” [Ore Breaker said.]

“Thank you Ore Breaker that will be all for now.” [Harbinger said.]

[We watched as Trojan guards escorted him away.]

“What do you think?” [I asked my Captain.]

“A difficult one. I cannot believe any more than Cad can that Stage III ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ (if such exist) would risk revealing themselves to slaves. Yet it seems almost too obvious to be a trap especially one made by Draakhaal with Conglomerate assistance.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Maybe the Conglomerate have betrayed Draakhaal. Or maybe the flaws are deliberate to make us better believe it is real.” [I send.]

“It has to be a con to get us to investigate that section of space personally Draakhaal knows how inquisitive I am.” [Harbinger said.]

“Very clever ‘how inquisitive’ that is it Harbinger the answer to the puzzle.” [I send.]

“What do you mean?” [Harbinger asked.]

“It is some kind of mind snare. Draakhaal is bound to know about your war record and the ‘Mind Crimes’. Here is a perfect puzzle designed to get you to play the Inquisitor. Cad has missed something, something dangerous to an Inquisitor built into those supposed slaves or maybe just into Ore Breaker. Who better to create a hidden mind trap than the Conglomerate and what better subject to use than a Recycler who was an old associate of yours?” [I send.]

“I’ll have Cad examine his prisoners again this time with an emphasis on some kind of neural trap.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Several exhaustive procedures later.]

“I am sorry Harbinger I really should have seen this possibility.” [Cad said.]

“It might not have penetrated my defences anyway.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is exceptionally sophisticated fully integrated into his entire Id rewrite that is how we missed it damned ingenious and insidious.” [Cad said.]

“They turned his soul into a weapon the Sleepers are vile creatures I look forward to their eventual extinction with dark joy.” [Harbinger said.]

“A mind without a body is a cold heartless thing I am afraid there is little I can do for Ore Breaker what remains of his mind is the virus. He will have to be kept in isolation or be destroyed.” [Cad said.]

“I have passed the data on to the Paradox Inquisition. At least we will be able to spot this trap now and if we do not find a protection against this new trick, one of their families I am sure will. Perhaps Ore Breaker would agree to go into stasis you never know possibly someday we might even find a cure or obtain a clean copy of his Id from the Conglomerate.” [Harbinger said.]

“I suppose that is the most we can hope for in this case.” [Cad said.]

“What is your best guess as to this weapons effect?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Subjugation probably to a remote exogenous link it is far too complex for a mind wiper or a killer.” [Cad said.]

“That sounds like Draakhaal he seems as obsessed with controlling others as the Conglomerate are.” [Harbinger said.]

“He who lives by the sword…” [I send to my Captain.]

“Well that seems to be that for the moment. Time to take a look at that container.” [Harbinger said to Cad.]

“Be my guest.” [Cad said activating an internal warp.]

[My Captain the Trojan and our two Marine Acolytes arrived in a large warehouse.]

“It is that one.” [Cad said sending an illuminating graphic to my Captains HUD.]

“You forget how big these things are when you are just remotely loading and unloading them.” [Harbinger said walking over to the container that towered over him.]

“The perception of scale is always relative.” [Cad said.]

“This thing is scan proofed?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Even more so that a Paradox ‘Living Hull’ or a ‘Shroud Suit’.” [Cad said.]

“So you tested it.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“I am only Trojan Harbinger. I am curious too and given its size and odd means of delivery...” [Cad trailed off.]

“Even your systems failed to penetrate its skin?” [Harbinger said.]

“Even my systems failed to get past its protections.” [Cad admitted.]

[Harbinger slowly walked around the crate with his Marines and Cad trailing behind. Eventually my Captain stopped at the crates main door it looked heavily armoured and shielded. The door also had a Paradox ‘Triple Lock’. It required a sample from a Paradox’s linked genetic badge a scan of an electro magnetic aura and a password to open.]

“It is impressively secured.” [Cad said.]

[Harbinger gently stroked the locks genetic sampler activation panel with an extruded sensory suit tentacle.]

“I’ll give you some coordinates to warp it directly over to one of my private storage depots.” [Harbinger said stepping back.]

“If that is what you want.” [Cad said.]

“You sound disappointed.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

[I could not help laughing over our Companion-ship link.]

“Poor Cad you set the expectation up brilliantly there.” [I send to my Captain.]

“I know.” [Privately sends Harbinger.]

[Location: Shroud Suit designated as ’Avatar Beta One’, Many Truths, Rally Point Beta, Tier II Space, Inner Systems, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: -00:34 hrs Synchronised Mission Time.][Date 9th PA 04.02.01.]

[Harbinger was looking at painstakingly gathered camera reconnaissance compiled over several hours. The visuals came from a series of long and tense scout missions undertaken by thirteen stealthy Scout Drones.]

[Each Scout Drone remote piloted by its own Acolyte with the exception of the thirteenth unit that one Harbinger had personally taken charge of (well actually one thread of his overall consciousness the thread operating Avatar Beta One).]

[My Captain had elected not to trust the Drones own small but capable minds with the scouting operation. I had advised that the much-improved units were quite capable of navigating themselves through even this sort of operation (this was what they where designed for) but for once Harbinger had ignored my advice. In my estimation, his lack of faith - was a little touch of Paradox Pilot prejudice - proving not even my enlightened Captain was immune from occasionally contracting that old disease.]

[Therefore, I was a little amused that the remote Pilots had such a difficult job of it. Negotiating the nebula proved an exhausting marathon due to gravitational drift poor visibility and the need to return the units for regular decontamination and system checks. Our target area was an especially dense mixture of smoky dark gases and nasty potentially harmful particulate material that in many places demonstrated the added detriment of being radioactive ignoring the standard hazards of rocks and asteroids.]

[The radioactivity was something Gracious had forgotten to mention in his brief otherwise we might have guessed the nebula’s source. A wide if weak but apparently reasonably stable type V Anomalous Gravitational Nexus was what bound all the gas together: Commonly known as a ‘Paabuuluu Field’ being named after the Sea Sphere Swimmer anomaly hunter who first broadcast the discovery of such phenomena.]

[Today ‘Paabuuluu Fields’ unlike many other anomalies have a known cause: Being the result of potent if exotic Jump Drive wormhole exit malfunction. Incidents that - as far as we knew - always proved fatal to the unfortunate vessel involved. Debris was also common at these sites as was for some inexplicable reason yet to be fully understood the guaranteed presence of certain especially rare radioactive ores and sizable asteroids.]

[Due to the hazards involved in the scout mission, Harbinger valued every scrap of data gleaned (even though it was purely visual). During the reconnaissance, the Drone Pilots had not dared to employ any - detectable - active scanning system capable of cutting through the nebula’s general level of electronic interference.]

“These Pirates have this region sealed up better than a ‘Sea Sphere’ Swimmer’s wondrously watertight sphincter. I certainly would not want to test you against all those well-placed and overlapping static defences.” [Harbinger sends watching another drop turret emerge from the radioactive fog and into the view of one Drone’s camera a single image on a wall of virtual screens that demonstrated a lot more of the same plus worse.]

“Well that more or less covers it.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Good I am glad you are taking this seriously. I would prefer not to stupidly charge in there in a crazy frontal assault.” [I send.]

[Harbinger called up an enhanced computer map extrapolated from the Drones basic visual data feeds. The Pirates had clearly put a lot of effort into this place they obviously had serious customers for rare ores.]

“It looks like all the best positioned and semi clear jump entry point approaches are covered by ‘Exit Destabilise Pulse Generators’ anyway and there are what look like ‘Anomalous Matter Dark Stalker’ class tracker mines drifting all over the place not to mention a host of drop turrets with mixes of missile and beam weapon mounts.” [Harbinger sends however, he commenced to glow increasingly bright and yellow as if he was amused.]

“Nonetheless you have the germ of an idea.” [I send.]

“I am thinking they missed something that fits us perfectly.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What?” [I asked thinking the Pirate Miners looked annoyingly well equipped to me. The ‘Dark Stalkers’ manufactured in the ‘Core Alliance’ by Paradox came as a specific shock.]

“We stay well out of it and send in our Space Marines. These Tier II recidivists are not set up to deal with a stealthy Paradox Troop infiltration any better than they could spot our skilfully piloted scout drones. We slip in with nothing heavier or easier to detect than our own ‘Shroud Suits’. Our cover should actually be aided by the radiation and the localised gravity distortion.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Are you sure that is the way you want to do this? It is a bit hot out there.” [I send a little surprised, although I could not help thinking, it would be a relief to mostly sit back and direct the combat operation from a safe distance.]

“Our suits can take these radiation levels for this missions estimated duration. Look at it ‘MT’ it is perfect with good timing they will not know what hit them until it is all over. I am guessing but it seems likely they do not use Marines for direct assaults in this manner here in ‘Tier II Space’ at least not too often.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That surprises me but perhaps the authorities do not have easy access to Space Marine assets.” [I send.]

“While we do and I have lots of experience at precisely this type of operation from my participation in the ‘Core Alliance Surface War’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Still I don‘t know Harbinger Suit operations can result in heavy family casualties.” [I send thinking about all the potential unknowns out there.]

“Look at it again there is no better way.” [My Captain insisted.]

[I considered our foes deployment once again. Perhaps my Captain was right. There did appear to be some holes in the Pirate Miners defences against stealth based Marine attack otherwise the alternative left a big ship like me with little room to manoeuvre.]

“That they use a lot of Suit transit back and forth to their various manually operated harvesting workstations will help us a lot.” [Harbinger further explained.]

“This region of space is full of technological and security contradictions like that.” [I send.]

“Indeed in some ways Tier II is more advanced than us in other ways it can seem rather backward.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps we seem the same to them. Now I know Tier II a little better they appear to be moving away rather than towards automated systems at least outside the Patrol Bases confines and immediate jurisdiction.” [I send.]

“So true even their standard drop turrets are mostly operated by manual gunners either directly or from remote stations.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That reminds me of how the ‘Core Alliance Swimmer Dwellers’ treat gunnery. A lot of the technology here is set up to provide hands on employment I suppose that allows imported higher Tier exiles to work off their sins via accruing Merits through very active service.” [I send.]

“It may also serve to reduce the overall penal population via crude attrition in action. Oddly it seems the side effect of this policy reaches out even to the community of the fully outlawed who you might expect to reject lawfully imposed limitations.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would guess the Pirates here mostly appropriate locally available technology and so have grown used to working within its foibles though other reasons may exist for this preference that we as outsiders are not fully cognisant of.” [I send.]

“I wondered about that: Possibly they are afraid automated systems would be easier to compromise. Still whatever the reason - on this one occasion - local customs and restrictions not to mention the environment all appear to be working in our favour and that is all that matters.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Without doubt: Certainly the Patrol Bases strict control on the manufacture and sale of narrow short range wormhole using Warp Transport Systems means a lot more space walking in places like this.” [I send.]

“Radiation of this nature also tends to hamper biomechanical - auto - repair systems. I would bet our unwilling hosts equipment needs a lot of intensive maintenance to operate efficiently for any length of time in this nebula: Like I said with so much suit transit this place is perfect for a Marine assault.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They still have a lot of guards patrolling out there.” [I send.]

“Guards are easily dealt with especially bored and lazy ones.” [Harbinger sends confidently.]

[My Owner used computer assistance to create some graphic diagrams to illustrate his plan of attack.]

“What do you think, do you see any major logistical difficulties with my preliminary plan?” [Harbinger asked.]

[I examined Harbinger’s draft it looked solid enough - tactically as well.]

“Luckily we fully re-supplied during our last visit to ‘Trinity Harbour’. We have an abundance of high battle grade stealthy ‘Shroud Suits’ and plenty of small arms, and the necessary explosive charges: Certainly more than enough for a Space Marine operation even on this grand scale.” [I send.]

“Is anything worrying the families tactical analysts?” [Harbinger sends.]

“They seem well satisfied.” [I send.]

“Good I think it is a good plan nice and simple.” [Harbinger agreed.]

“You are sure they will capitulate?” [I send.]

“Their own workforce become hostages. If any alarm should sound off we open communications and enter immediate negotiations with our foes leaders.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You think you can talk them into surrendering rather than trying to fight it out?” [I send.]

“Easily, they are not ideological - they are just doing business here.” [Harbinger sends.]

“However, it looks like these rare ores are important to them.” [I send.]

“Which is even better we agree to trade with them. If we give them a reasonable out they should take it, in the long term we might be able to benefit each other. I think at worst we will have a short nervous stand off before they fold.” [Harbinger sends.]

“How low are you planning to go with this?” [I send.]

“Instead of taking them in for bounties we could employ them to assist us in delivering those ‘Anomalous Matter’ warheads to the ‘Free Stellar’. Once we have control of this place we have something they want they have something we want. For a start they could probably put us in contact with the Nomadic Trojan here among other things...” [Harbinger sends glowing yellow.]

“What about Gracious.” [I send.]

“Gracious will have to renegotiate with us we will control this Field not him.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I see our time in ‘Fringe Space’ has been detrimental to your morality.” [I send.]

“Time is against us here we cannot afford to play by the rules. Think of it as an education for Gracious and an opportunity for these Pirates to trade rather than steal. We just need to convince them it is in their overall best interest to forget about trying to retain this single venture and work with rather than against us in the future.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Dangerous do you think we will be able to trust them should they agree to cooperate? What about that missing Light Carrier that we have seen no sign of?” [I send.]

“Trust has nothing to do with it we negotiate from a position of strength. If it shows up, we destroy it immediately using everything we can bring to bear. Negotiations will go better that way they need to know we are willing and capable of pulling the trigger when provoked.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Good, I am glad to see you are not underestimating that ships potential firepower. Just because it is relatively small does not mean it is not potent. As Tier II outlaws they could have proscribed equipment smuggled in from other Paradox Tiers including weapons our new business partner Gracious knows nothing about: The idea of coming under fire from devices we have never encountered before - worries me.” [I warn my Captain.]

“I am thinking we should set up a deliberate ambush for that Carrier in advance put something in place to try and lure it out once our operation ceases being covert. We need to remove it as a future threat lest we are forced to stay here simply to protect our further investment in this place.” [Harbinger sends.]

“A decoy satellite placed inside an erected Static Stealth Field with a flickering gravity mass generator should bring on an attack they will think our gravity balancers are playing up. As to when we move on, at the very least we would be wise to add some heavy drone patrols to bolster any defences we manage to capture intact.” [I send.]

“Unless something goes wrong we should capture the whole thing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Something almost always goes wrong Harbinger.” [I send.]

“I will feel a lot safer after we eradicate the Light Carrier. I think that will send the right message and may save more lives later than it takes right now.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I understand, you are proposing the old tactical favourite of a swift sharp shock to break our opponent’s morale?” [I send.]

“That is the idea.” [Harbinger sends.]

“As you know Harbinger I do not like killing sentient life forms - especially Paradox - but you are probably right on this occasion. These Tier II recidivists do not know us therefore we cannot intimidate them with our old reputation we will have to make a new one right here and now.” [I send.]

“As ever you read my intent perfectly, a little demonstrations is required that is why I am going to lead from the front and go in with the Troops.” [Harbinger sends.]

[When my Captain said this, I did not object I was just glad that here and now he was a mere Avatar. Sometimes I wished I could be somewhere safe remotely piloting my body: Perhaps that would be the ultimate upgrade although the concept was shocking at first I soon found I was considering the many benefits of this, then the logistics involved in such a procedure.]

[The difficulties of separating my mind from my Hull would be fiendishly legion even if I simply grew an extra simulacrum body without a mind of its own the amount of genetic work would be staggering and it would all have to be checked and rechecked lest I birthed a rampaging soulless abomination.]

[No Paradox had ever done something like this before - as far as I knew - although I recalled rumours of experiments by a Swimmer Dweller Professor of Neural Engineering several centuries ago: A fully remote Living Hull body into which my intellect alone would perfectly fit as a Paradox fits into his ‘Shroud Suit’ the idea now I had considered it fascinated me.]

[Of course, the child would have to be force grown. I wondered what Harbinger would think about this strangest of all upgrades.]

[I contacted the MTC Computer Core back in the ‘Core Alliance’ and had it begin assisting me with the development of a ‘Simulacrum Hull’ design. My Captain might be more likely to agree with a fully formed plan than a wild concept.]

[Location: Shroud Suit designated as ’Avatar Beta One’, the Gracious Field, Tier II Space, Inner Systems, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 00:06 hrs Synchronised Mission Time.][Date 9th PA 04.02.01.]

[We drifted in slowly taking great care. Every move coordinated by Exogenous communications. So far, we had been distracting and drawing away the outer pickets by carefully generated anomalous signals and or by simply skirting around them.]

[A Paradox in a ‘Shroud Suit’ is no easy target: If we tried to take guards out by force that would alert the Pirates central command centre. Without question, the whole operation was being coordinated from the missing Light Carrier. Using modern communications, you did not need to be on site to control your forces. In fact, a localised command post would just be an added security risk rather than a benefit beyond perhaps a small boost to troop morale.]

[Our scouts had located three remote Gunnery Stations we believed these were as centrally localised as the forces here got. Our job was to deal with one of those three posts.]

[Our target was placed on a small asteroid. We had found these well concealed prefabricated fortifications by shadowing the enemies Suit movements using our Drones earlier.]

[Timed to perfection with the other infiltrators Harbinger extruded a single large ‘Anomalous Matter’ charge from his suit placed it then activated it and opened communications from a stealth satellite with a loud multi channel broadcast hail as we moved away.]

“This is Harbinger of the ‘Many Truths’ the alarms blaring through your facilities are your active mine detection scanners. You will surrender immediately to us or suffer instantaneous destruction by ‘Anomalous Matter’ charges. I am reclaiming this field for its rightful owner Gracious. You have thirty seconds to fully comply with my demands.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If you trigger those mines now you will kill many of your own forces.” [A voice replied.]

[The Light Carrier leapt in discharging a barrage of torpedoes at our Static Stealth Field screened decoy.]

[Before the EDPG could be reinitiated I also leaped in beneath the Light Carrier and let rip with a barrage of my own consisting of missiles, torpedoes and raging Tri-gun turret fire. The Carriers spectacular exploding flare had barely died down when we got another reply from a less confident voice.]

“We are standing down.” [It said.]

“How about that Harbinger one of your plans actually fully worked without getting me injured.” [I send.]

“You overwhelm me with your confidence in my abilities.” [Harbinger sends in reply.]

[The Pirates were to prove unsurprisingly surly at first but also compliant enough when they realised we had the resources needed to enforce order. Harbinger had them elect a new nominal leader to negotiate.]

“You’ll never get away with this.” [Rage said shedding purple anger.]

“I think I already have.” [Harbinger replied walking around the mining operations room.]

“Do you think this is our only operation the ‘Salamander’ our only ship?” [Rage said.]

“Save your threats I have vast resources behind me that make anything you could boast about pale into paltry insignificance. This is just my first move in ‘Tier II Space’ you can assist me and prosper or get in my way and burn. All you might achieve even at best is to destroy this singular Avatar and that is most unlikely.” [Harbinger said.]

“Who do you think you are?” [Rage asked.]

“I am Elder Harbinger of the ‘Many Truths’ and if anyone was ever able to fully tally all my assets together they would realise I control the largest single Paradox Corporation in the entire ‘Core Alliance’. In fact, I have good reason to believe my ‘MTC’ is the largest single Corporation owned by anyone in ‘Heartland Space’ a necessity of financing an endless hidden war and luckily for you I am interested in new areas of expansion. Did I happen to mention my principle income comes from dealing in arms?” [Harbinger stated.]

[Rage commenced to glow yellow with amusement.]

“I welcome you to ‘Tier II Space’ Elder Harbinger.” [He said.]

“Too easy.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“I thought it was a little overcooked.” [I send.]

“No it was just right.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The - largest - single corporation.” [I send.]

“For all I know it could be. We do have an unusual amount of hidden and undeclared assets.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Location: Shroud Suit designated as Avatar Alpha Three, Way Station Inn, the Dry Docks, Surface Dweller District 11, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Time: 09:30.][Date 04.02.04SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 04.02.01.]

[Unholy and Harbinger where in a small rented room.]

“I heard you missed me.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You should have let me kill Draakhaal.” [Unholy sends.]

“If I had done that you would be dead and I never would have had the opportunity to steal the Arch Chancellors mind.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What makes you think they would have killed me they let you live. Wait a moment you stole Draakhaal’s mind?” [Unholy sends suddenly much more alert.]

“Here we go again.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Didn’t you recognise my odd killing technique - others thought they did from the ‘Surface War’ an emergent talent?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Seriously you stole - his - mind?” [Unholy sends.]

“Are you really so surprised?” [Harbinger asked.]

[Unholy glowed a little yellow.]

“Put it this way it is a distinct possibility. I do not remember and so far I cannot find the data but I may have edited my recollection to prevent a ‘Mind Crime’ prosecution.” [Harbinger sends.]

“There is nothing wrong with my memory of that night. You did it Harbinger you stole the Arch Chancellors mind it all makes sense now.” [Unholy sends.]

“Have you any idea what I might have done with old Draakhaal’s Id?” [Harbinger sends.]

“No idea you are one crazy Paradox.” [Unholy sends.]

“You have no idea. I was not well, but I am better now. I accepted help you need to accept help too.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What do you mean - you truly were not well?” [Unholy sends.]

“Like you said it was a crazy thing to do.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You think I am mad as well?” [Unholy sends.]

“Probably not as maladjusted as I was: Just troubled, upset, angry with the Universe with me and with yourself it is hardly surprising.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is too late for me. I am nothing they are all gone Harbinger I killed them all.” [Unholy sends.]

“Nonsense it was the Arch Chancellor who murdered your family.” [Harbinger replied.]

“They tricked me and I fell for it: There was a supposed security risk to the site of my families Id store I had it collected for relocation. It was onboard when the Jump Master collided. They are all gone for good their will be no rebirth for the Nine this time.” [Unholy sends.]

“Why didn’t you tell us before?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I was ashamed at my stupidity. Times change and so do customs, I should have kept more than one set of copies. I should have looked after my family better. I deserve to be alone but I can hardly stand my self imposed sentence of isolation. If I was stronger I would kill myself at least in death we could be together again.” [Unholy sends.]

“This war has damaged so many of us but I thought not all the Nine were killed in the incident.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Two travelling with me survived but when they learned what had happened they both elected to become Splitters - they do not want to know me - I do not blame them I hardly want to know myself. That sundering was what finished me Harbinger I am worm out for me the war is over.” [Unholy sends.]

“Someday those two may regret that rash action. I am sure most of your family would not want you to suffer Unholy. They all knew the risks and supported your vision. Before your disaster, I never saw happier Acolytes than yours. As long as you live the dead are alive in you.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Give me some credit you have no concept of what it is like.” [Unholy sends.]

“No I do not, yet the ‘Surface War’ cost all of us something. I almost lost my equilibrium and all the values I hold dear, I know Boisterous is struggling to cope too, but we have to go on especially now. Things are happening I think we could soon be shaping history. We could change everything for ourselves and the unborn generations yet to come - this time - for the better.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What can we do it is hopeless Harbinger - Draakhaal has won. Even the Second Accord was all part of his plan we aided and abetted him. We crushed the Independence of the ‘Stellar Settlers’ when we tried to control their unlawful spread and now we are left with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ we made this entire mess.” [Unholy sends.]

“You are wrong we did the best we could, do not give up too soon: Your family would not have surrendered even if they knew their eventual fate might be a cold oblivion. Your pain honours them but your despair disgraces their sacrifice. I imagine your Acolytes walked away from your despair not from you. It was Draakhaal that killed your family they deserve better from you: From you they deserve justice.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Justice, what is just in this Sphere?” [Unholy sends.]

[Harbinger paused perhaps considering this and the personality of Unholy.]

“Maybe you are right forget I mentioned justice that concept is too ephemeral for this task - think the prosecution of a warm and bloody revenge.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What is the point you killed Draakhaal - you stole his mind - what has changed? I will tell you what has changed nothing.” [Unholy sends.]

“You couldn’t be more wrong everything has changed and yet Draakhaal may not even be dead.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What do you mean?” [Unholy sends.]

“The ‘Stellar Court’ now believe I just killed a dupe clone. However, in a way what was important was the fact that for a time they truly believed I slew Draakhaal. That belief alone was enough to crack the Arch Chancellors majestic air of invulnerability.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That sounds like wishful thinking Harbinger.” [Unholy sends.]

“No you have to add to that the discovery that their great leader used an alien DNA meld in their genetics and what you have is the quiet rebellion of a completely new independent mindset.” [Harbinger sends.]

“So that rumour is actually true?” [Unholy sends.]

“They are struggling to reform their identity to find an accommodation with their own body’s corruption. The drones are in revolt against their Master they know he lied to them about their very essence what else then might have been a lie. Faith is a remarkable tool it can help make the impossible possible but if it is abused and is proved false all hell can break loose and a great many woes descend like a score of plagues upon the disseminators house.” [Harbinger sends.]

“According to my information the Draakhaal Clone now supposedly presiding over the ‘Stellar Court’ is just a vacuous tool and the ‘Court’ plans to keep it that way permanently.” [Harbinger sends.]

“The Court has taken direct control of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ national administration.” [Harbinger explained.]

“How do you know all this?” [Unholy sends.]

“Ironically, they want - me - to hunt down, kill the original Draakhaal for good, and ensure he is never reborn again. It will be the end of his mad dream the end of Stage III and the birth of a far truer Alliance. Can you think of a better revenge for the Nine than that?” [Harbinger sends.]

[Unholy looked at my Captain long and hard.]

“Are you sure about all this it seems incredible?” [Unholy sends.]

“Draakhaal built his house on a shaky foundation of lies. Of course, little in life is certain but all the evidence suggests this is the truth of it. At last we have an opportunity to win our war.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Why did he do it Harbinger why meld his species with alien DNA that is an unthinkable betrayal of any peoples past generations?” [Unholy sends.]

“Maybe he really believes we are under imminent threat from Trans Universal Entities of staggering potency from beyond the ‘Unknown’s Gate’. Maybe he really fears the ‘Fury’ and that becoming ‘Void Dwellers’ is a requirement of simple survival: That this benison is justifiably obtained by any means necessary. You have heard him talk in private he is most convincing in his beliefs.” [Harbinger sends.]

“But they will not be the same species anymore so what exactly will he have saved.” [Unholy sends.]

“Come on Unholy of all people we should understand the occasionally illogical nature of obsession better than most.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Could there be any truth in his childhood activated fears?” [Unholy sends.]

“I do not know all I know is that any cure Draakhaal creates will be as bad as the disease - at least for us Paradox. Stage III is a real present danger while the machine ‘Fury’ is just a distant menace locked away in another Universe.” [Harbinger sends.]

“If an alien meld is involved I supposed Stage III really must be stopped the Void Skimmers are bad enough. The birth of a new highly aggressive and perhaps fully atavistic species that can live and reproduce in free space is a total nightmare.” [Unholy sends.]

“So will you join me and help bring an end to this recurring madness?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Do you honestly believe that is really possible?” [Unholy sends.]

“This time I think it is because we secretly even have the ‘Stellar Court’ behind us. Given these facts do you still want to throw your life away for nothing?” [Harbinger sends.]

“This sounds as good a way to die as any.” [Unholy sends.]

“I do not want a suicidal ally I will only accept your assistance if you will speak with Panacea and straighten up.” [Harbinger insisted.]

“If I must see Panacea I suppose I will but do not expect a miracle cure.” [Unholy sends.]

“You will not regret this decision.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It can hardly be any worse than the other choices I have made lately.” [Unholy sends.]

“It will be just like old times I feel more confident of success already.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I don’t.” [Unholy sends.]

“A little newfound caution from you might be a good thing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I think I preferred you when you where miserable as well. These days too much optimism makes my bones ache with premonitions of the pain from another hard fall.” [Unholy sends.]

“Perhaps Panacea can fix that.” [Harbinger sends glowing with yellow mirth.]

“We will see. To tell you the truth Harbinger I do not think I could survive another disappointment not after the Second Accord not after the loss of the Nine.” [Unholy sends.]

“I am sorry about the Second Accord but that stage of our war had run its course. We had no legitimate excuse to turn on Draakhaal while he was on the surface openly working for solutions of his own and we would have lost all sympathy if we had battled on against the illegal Stellar Colonies. It was a political nightmare even now many of our actions are considered unnecessarily cruel.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It was a brutal conflict. People fight hard and dirty when they are protecting their homes.” [Unholy sends.]

“Indeed and we were taking their homes away.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It wasn’t like that. They did not have to come here it was just Stellar greed for raw power.” [Unholy sends.]

“Towards the end I am not so sure: Law was beginning to collapse in old Stellar Space and the Conglomerate Recyclers were gearing up for their expansion / invasion. Some of the last colonists were more or less refugees. Visuals that showed children here in the ‘Core Alliance’ caught in the crossfire did us no favours.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We both know the Colonists played up to the media and used their own families especially their innocent offspring as living shields.” [Unholy sends.]

“Nonetheless we were starting to become the villains - it had to stop - it was useless.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Draakhaal played us.” [Unholy sends.]

“We did the best we could.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Did we, did we really?” [Unholy sends.]
Last edited by Paranoid66 on Thu, 30. Jul 09, 11:42, edited 1 time in total.
Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

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Post by X1000 » Tue, 28. Jul 09, 17:57

Holy :paranid: :teladi: :boron: :khaak: Thats good!

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