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PostPosted: Fri, 16. Oct 09, 11:59    Post subject: Beyond 'X' Book IV & V latest post BK V ch 06 Pt 8 & 9 25th Mar '15 complete Reply with quote Print

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, II and III.]]

Beyond 'X' Book IV - Fact, Fiction and Factions


[Location: Many Truths, Faded Sparks, Beyond Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[We first sighted the phenomenon whilst visiting one of our regular deep space haunts. I liked to bask and to harvest ‘Anomalous Matter’ in ‘Faded Sparks’ from a field of now dimming Class II Starlet Anomalies. The decaying Starlets being prime assets for draining as they easily released their usable Anomalous substance with little risk to our remotes or us.]

[Whilst undergoing the routine siphon and refinement duties I detected something else the appearance of a wild radio signal accompanied by a wandering bright fiery shifting apparition: a beautiful multicoloured uncategorised energetic aurora. Due to standing orders I immediately brought my Captain’s attention to the intriguing object.]

[As we neared this gyrating Anomaly to get a proper scan of its nature, it much to Harbinger’s consternation appeared to dim a little shimmered and vanished.]

[Luckily the object was so distinctive bright and noisy that when it reappeared seconds later we quickly located it with a visual and radio wave star search - it had not gone too far slightly less than five hundred kilometres.]

[Local readings indicated a mini jump although the warp wormhole signature was rather unusual. Harbinger immediately got very excited by the rare find. Ignoring all other considerations he commenced to investigate the jumping Anomaly as his first priority.]

[That was two full hours ago. Since then my drones or I had taken turns chasing the phantasm as it skipped from place to place.]

[Annoyingly whenever we got what seemed like a solid positional fix and leaped into or flew near scanning range it vanished again. Although it always reappeared, each time it materialised it did so outside our main scanners range.]

[As we hunted our quarry, it seemed to be enticing us onward. Its changes of course though rather erratic individually nonetheless saw us going ever deeper into an empty uncharted dark region of space.]

[As Harbinger struggled to find a recognisable pattern in the Anomalies movements I began to feel a little apprehensive fearing a trap. When Vested spoke up I realised I was not alone in being suspicious.]

“We should let this one go.” [Priest Vested Interest advised.]

“Really Priest Vested why?” [Harbinger asked.]

“It is playing with us - I do not like being toyed with.” [Vested explained.]

“My ‘Constant’ could be right.” [I send.]

[Harbinger glared at the irascible first ‘Constant’ through the workings of a now exceptionally intricate virtual bridge interface.]

[Right now I knew a degree of irrational persistence had settled upon my Captain. Harbinger was naturally impatient but when roused he could also be shockingly tireless in any pursuit that captured his fertile imagination.]

[Although I could feel my Captain’s frustration with the objects elusive nature Harbinger was still fascinated by it and I feared - despite the risk - quite determined to catch this particular quarry for closer study.]

[To me the emissions seemed chaotic enough to be an unstable natural phenomenon but the way it shied away from our sensors and jumped screamed out reasoning cognition. Then again it could be what we Anomaly hunters called an EPR* an (Extra Physical Reaction)* to any other objects mass in close proximity.]

[[*Note inside Anomalies many of the laws of physics - as we understand them - simply fail to apply. However they still have quantifiable rules of their own: Extra Physical Reactions.]]

[Earlier aided by sophisticated Elder fetch routines I had considered and rejected a whole series of possibilities, as had my Captain delving through scientific reports of catalogued known EPR.]

“Do you really think we should abandon this curiosity? It could easily be a completely unknown energy life form not just a strangely persistent and reactive jump anomaly?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Visually it is not utterly unlike some of the phenomena at the ‘Monastic Extents’ but they have never been recorded doing point-to-point jumps or fleeing from contact in fact they seemed to delight in our attention.” [I broadcast.]

[I could sense my Captain’s determination via our companion-ship link it felt like a horrid little impossibly tight knot that would refuse any easy attempt to unravel it.]

“I suppose it could also be some kind of unmanned craft or probe. If only we could get close enough to get some proper readings.” [Harbinger ventured while working with his bridge interface.]

[From his Bridge my Captain could access and control any of my multitude of onboard processes and functions from creating new fighter drones to ordering a personal protein supplement for himself or a biomaterial or rare ore infusion for his suit.]

“This too perfect evasion is becoming very suggestive.” [I broadcast.]

[We now had this region of space saturated with satellites, wide spectrum probes, even stealthy spy drones but the phenomena continued to elude full detection by any of our devices no matter how cunningly we placed and rearranged them.]

“I agree it is beginning to seem very clever indeed.” [Harbinger said.]

“I do not like the way it seems to want to be followed.” [Vested warned.]

“At first I also worried about a potential trap but there is nothing else out here - just empty space - not even a local star or asteroid to hide behind. Besides we are more than able to defend ourselves.” [Harbinger said.]

[In size and capability in order to facilitate an ever-wider degree of self-sufficiency, I had been encouraged to harvest raw resources and grow considerably. My last official designation of Hyper Dreadnaught was now outdated I had become one of a new breed of Paradox ‘Living Hull’ Mother ships. When the Super Dreadnaught the ‘Shield of the Faithful’ proved virtually indestructible during the ‘Five Day War’ in relation to warship design big had become beautiful. Many faithful old designs were deliberately stretched (force grown) to accommodate new internal space hogging systems.]

“It is playing with us Captain - that disturbs me - I think we should leave it be and be on our way.” [Vested said.]

“Perhaps it is simply as curious about us as we are about it.” [Harbinger said.]

“At least extrude ‘Many Truths’ turrets and open your torpedo and missiles tubes.” [Vested said.]

“If we go all martial and our new friend is intelligent at all we will scare it away.” [Harbinger said.]

“All that noise and light suggests a lot of contained energy to me - this unknown could be armed and very dangerous.” [Vested warned.]

“My ‘Constant’ is making a valid point.” [I send.]

“I am going to continue this investigation for one more hour - after all three - is our lucky number there has to be a way to surprise or catch this fellow.” [Harbinger said.]

“Perhaps by comparing captured images we can deduce some clue as to the direction and distance of its jumps by better analysing the seemingly random emissions it gives out just before it leaps. However it may not like being caught in our sensors.” [I broadcast in warning.]

“Without risk there can be little reward ‘MT’. I like your idea if we can predict where it is going we might be able to get a jump scout drone ahead of it.” [Harbinger said studying a bank of replaying captured images in a host of visual spectrums.]

“There has to be a clue in here somewhere.” [Harbinger said.]

“Captain you are being hailed it is Composure and it is marked as urgent.” [I send.]

[Harbinger had got into the habit of having part of my consciousness filtering his incoming communication traffic when fully occupied.]

“I suppose I had best receive his call - patch it in - but do not lose our friend out there.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Composure what do you want?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Elder Composure if you don’t mind. I see your Paradox Priest etiquette continues to slide: ‘what do you want?’ is no way to greet an old friend and mentor.” [Composure sends in complaint.]

[Harbinger checked his communications data supplemental info stub.]

“It is one year one month ten days and eleven hours since you last spoke with me. Kindly dispense with the formalities and get straight to the: I have no doubt - painful - point of this - unexpected - interruption.” [Harbinger sends undiplomatically.]

“Sorry did I hail at a bad time? Has it really been that long?” [Composure sends.]

“Yes it has - so what do you want - revered Elder?” [Harbinger sends.]

“I was hoping you could collect a good friend of mine who is visiting the ‘Heartland’ and needs local - less conspicuous - transportation.” [Composure sends.]

“What kind of good friend?” [Harbinger sends radiating suspicion like heat from a bright star.]

“I am afraid Elder Patriarch is a rather special passenger with a few eccentricities. He wishes you to ferry him in person. He is as keen to meet you and your ‘Many Truths’ as he is to reach his destination of ‘Green Orb Alpha’ incognito.” [Composure sends.]

“My ‘Many Truths’ is many things what she is not is inconspicuous.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Everything is relative Elder Harbinger.” [Composure sends.]

“You want me to personally transport an ‘Inner System’ spy to my ‘Core Alliance’? It clearly is a long time since we last spoke since your memory of me appears to be getting addled or have you rediscovered the joys of senility.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Hardly, I am fully recovered from my days of mental and physical debilitation and I am never doing that ever again.” [Composure sends.]

“Can I get a second opinion on your condition.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Very droll Elder Harbinger.” [Composure sends.]

“Tell me more about this would be passenger.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would prefer not to; my friend wishes to explain his nature and purposes to you in person like I said he is a little eccentric.” [Composure sends.]

“After he is onboard my vessel and becomes my responsibility I do not think so.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What harm can there be in picking him up and listening to what he has to say. I seem to recall that when you do listen you are actually occasionally capable of learning new things.” [Composure sends.]

“I do not hire out ‘MT’ as a transport ship especially to curious inter Tier wanderers on sight seeing espionage tours.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Having that Observer Corp has you seeing spies everywhere. My friend Elder Patriarch is a most Ancient Paradox Priest on a Pilgrimage following the truth of his own vision not a sinister agent of some twisted and evil ‘High Tier’ institution that is after you. Get over yourself Harbinger you are not that important.” [Composure sends.]

“Really how convenient. Nonetheless, I make a rule of rarely carrying anyone who is not family or a very, very, very close friend on ‘MT’. In fact, even ignoring that principle it has been years since ‘MT’ has jumped into any port even those I own.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Why does that not surprise me.” [Composure sends.]

“We now both much prefer to operate self sufficiently from the dark we do not need to dock anymore. So it looks like you will have to call some other dear old ‘Heartland’ associate if you have any left after that stunt in the ‘Council of Equals’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I see you have not changed you are still as stubborn and difficult as ever. Are you avoiding port in an attempt to escape all that trouble you two have managed to stir up recently?” [Composure sends.]

“I assure you ‘MT’ and I have little need to run away from anything in the ‘Heartland’.” [Harbinger sends with I sensed a great degree of pride.]

“Let me guess you just make strategic withdrawals or does this confidence come from all the ‘Higher Tier’ technology you have smuggled into your ships internal systems.” [Composure sends.]

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Of course, you do not.” [Composure replied.]

“I really am not keen on carrying ‘Higher Tier’ passengers on ‘Many Truths’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You can treat this as a special case and a personal favour to me.” [Composure sends.]

“When is it not?” [Harbinger challenged in reply.]

“Fine, if I must I will barter like an insensitive ‘Recycler Merchant’: consider speaking to Patriarch as a reciprocal payment of goodwill for not broadcasting the technical schematics of the contents of a certain container that I most generously bestowed to you twenty-five years ago.” [Composure sends.]

[I could hear the satisfaction in Elder Composure’s voice during that declaration (for that deduction I did not need an emphatic companion-ship link).]

“A good bluff but you would not do such a thing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would, I bet some of those contents are still proving more than useful to you today - am I right?” [Composure sends.]

[Without doubt, it was a rhetorical question to which Composure knew the answer for a start Harbinger’s ‘Many Truths Corporation’ was constantly secretly deploying ‘Shield Limpet Spy Drones’. We had illicit invisible tags on almost every ship in the ‘Core Alliance’ and ‘Fringe Space’.]

“I knew that container was not a free parting gift without strings attached: this is nothing less than crude blackmail Composure.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is Elder Composure and I prefer to call it leverage. You can hardly make me feel ashamed you are the one being dishonourable you are the one with indiscretions to hide.” [Composure sends.]

“How was accepting a gift freely offered dishonourable?” [Harbinger sends.]

“If anyone else had been so generous to you, you would be grateful and not require him or her to remind you of your reciprocal obligations. However, because it is me - to get my due - I must shame myself by being crass and demanding my rights with menaces like some piratical rogue.” [Composure sends.]

[I could feel Harbinger considering that for a moment his mood softening slightly.]

“I am still pretty sure the old rascal is bluffing.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Why take the risk?” [I send.]

“You have a bad habit of taking Composures side ‘MT’ but I know he would never really betray us so thoroughly.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Are you sure about that? Elder Composure has often surprised us.” [I send.]

“If the extent of our spying became known - we would be disgraced at best exiled at worst I can hardly imagine. As Exiles or hunted felons, we would cease to be of any future use to - Elder - Composure. By hurting us he would damage himself ergo he will not.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“Nonetheless, it might be safer to talk with this Elder Patriarch and avoid any risk of a confrontation.” [I send.]

“Well Harbinger what is it to be?” [Composure sends.]

“If just speaking with Patriarch will cancel my obligation to you I will agree. However I will not vow to ferry him anywhere in advance no matter what silly threats you make.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I could sense my Captain’s emotional conflict. Dealing with Elder Composure always damaged Harbinger’s normal equilibrium to some degree. Dealing with their specific creator I had concluded is never easy for any Paradox Priest.]

“It is - Elder - Patriarch not just Patriarch. Remember to be civil; most Elders are not as tolerant of ignorance as I am: Ancient Entities like - Elder - Patriarch deserve a little respect.” [Composure said.]

“He had better not be some doddering old mad religious maniac.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Composure retorted with a loud crude speaker laugh and disconnected.]

[My Captain glowed yellow and let out a loud crude speaker laugh of his own.]

“What is so funny Captain?” [I send puzzled.]

“The stupid old fool forgot to tell me where to pick his friend up. So now unless he remembers we have the perfect excuse not to bother.” [Harbinger sends to me still glowing yellow.]

[My Captain turned his prime Tri-optic towards Vested.]

“So what is happening with our unknown friend.” [Harbinger said.]

“It has disappeared Captain.” [Vested said.]

“Then we must find it again.” [Harbinger said.]

“I do not mean jumped a little away again the Anomalous object is just gone - it has vanished completely without a trace.” [Vested said.]

“You lost it?” [Harbinger said angrily, but I could feel the dawning of an unwanted realisation.]

“I am picking up a short range beacon from a Paradox Life Pod it must have been in stealth mode.” [I send.]

“That Anomaly must have been Composure’s work all along - whatever it was.” [Harbinger said.]

[I could feel my Captains fury at being played.]

“An unusual way to get you to pick up his friend well beyond any prying sensors.” [I broadcast.]

“I suppose he thinks toying with us like that is funny.” [Harbinger said.]

“Composure’s humour has grown ever sharper (more cutting) since he rejuvenated.” [I broadcast.]

“Does the fool think this behaviour will leave me well disposed towards his spy?” [Harbinger said.]

“Be calm Captain angry people miss things.” [I broadcast.]

“Yes that could be it I must be calm and alert, but that was such a tasty Anomaly.” [Harbinger said regretfully.]

“Elder Composure’s spy will somebody please explain to me what is going on?” [Vested asked.]

“We are about to have a guest onboard.” [Harbinger explained.]

“We are collecting a spy who is working for Elder Composure is that wise?” [Vested asked.]

“Most likely a spy: definitely an Ancient ‘Inner System’ Elder from the Emissary alone knows what Tier called Patriarch.” [Harbinger explained testily.]

“No need to get so short Captain if you included me in your communications I would not have to ask these stupid questions.” [Vested complained.]

“You are the one who wanted to experience life as a Paradox Priest does.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“Not me, I didn’t have any say in the matter, it was you and ‘MT’ made me what I am today I am your ill-conceived experiment.” [Vested complained.]

“Nonsense, nobody has any say in their own creation but they are still capable of growing beyond their beginnings you have no reason to be resentful. You should be grateful for your existence look at what you have achieved and all that you are: do not dwell on what you are not and never were.” [I broadcast.]

“Hypocrite.” [Vested accused although she at least had the decency to glow yellow.]

“Is nobody in the Grand Creation happy and content to be just who they are?” [Harbinger said but he also tempered his words with a more subdued yellow shimmer.]

“Probably not we all want to be somebody or something else.” [Vested said.]

“Sometimes I despair I think our blessed Emissary with all her forms infected us all with a degree of dissatisfaction with our own material essence.” [Harbinger said looking at a rapidly shape shifting extruded suit limb with his Prime Tri-optic.]

“Neither of you have any idea what it is like to be trapped in this body but have glorious memories of being a ‘Living Hull’ floating free in space - it is like a constant ache.” [Vested complained.]

“Poor Vested Interest what about your sisters does their experiences not count?” [I broadcast.]

“It is different for them their downloaded memories and altered personalities were skilfully edited to cushion their diminishment unlike mine.” [Vested Interest complained.]

“There is always a cost for being the first of anything but it also makes you extra special and unique - thus your justified fame. Flaws can sharpen a personality as much as virtue we are all a juxtaposition of positive and negative furies.” [I broadcast.]

“Fame perhaps notoriety might be a better descriptive.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“Being the first certainly made your child a lot more trouble.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“It is not Vested Interests fault that some people in our ‘Heartland’ who should know better are irrationally prejudiced and foolish.” [I send to my Captain.]

“So we are to be visited by a far traveller: at least that means there will be somebody on board worth talking to - even if that person is a spy. I get weary of talking to myself.” [Vested said.]

[Time: 15:12.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

[Location: Many Truths, Faded Sparks, Beyond Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[After failing to penetrate the Life Pod with an ADF scan (proving its ‘Higher Tier’ architecture) my Captain ordered me to bring the tidy object onboard.]

[We gathered around with a nine person Acolyte Marine escort as the pod split horizontally and its top half slowly lifted up as if by magic. Three shroud suited Paradox entities exited: two of them making a great show of assisting the third.]

[It was easy to distinguish the Elder from his Acolytes I did not even have to look at their boldly displayed Paradox Kanji. The deference of stance and position alone gave their relationships away.]

“Welcome onboard the ‘Many Truth’ venerable Elder.” [Harbinger said.]

[Elder Patriarch radiated yellow light from his ‘Facilitator Shroud Suit’ with deep amusement.]

“I am grateful for your courtesy Elder Harbinger.” [Patriarch said.]

“It is a pleasure to be of service.” [Harbinger said.]

“I confess I am rather excited to be here at last.” [Patriarch said.]

“Have you been in that Pod long?” [Harbinger asked.]

“What did Elder Composure tell you about me?” [Patriarch asked.]

“Elder Composure told me very little Ancient One but he promised you would explain your nature and purpose to my satisfaction.” [Harbinger said.]

“Did he really? That was very accommodating of Elder Composure.” [Patriarch said.]

“As the Captain of this ‘Living Hull’ I must guard against potential security hazards - I trust you will appreciate my position - and not be offended by any necessary precautions I am compelled to undertake.” [Harbinger explained.]

“Very good Captain.” [I send.]

“I fear my business here might be deemed a little unconventional and shocking to a conforming ‘Heartland’ native luckily I have heard that you are hardly that.” [Patriarch said.]

“Would you prefer to speak of your business here in private?” [Harbinger asked.]

“These are all members of your esteemed family?” [Patriarch asked in return waving an extruded limb to indicate the large reception committee.]

“All are except for Priest Vested Interest here but she is a special case.” [Harbinger said.]

“Of course, I know of Vested Interest the first ‘Constant’ Avatar and ‘Living Hull’ engendered Paradox Priest how truly amazing. You are an innovator and risk taker Harbinger that makes me rather proud.” [Patriarch said.]

“It does Elder forgive me but I do not understand why that would be the case.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Let me explain - if you will forgive this Elder a little rudeness - I am responsible for the making of your fathers, fathers, father so you see in a way we are kin if somewhat removed.” [Patriarch said shining yellow.]

“Very removed.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Personally I find the removed bit actually makes interactions a little easier. Dealing with my own Splitters is always stressful but when I speak with say the Splitters of my Splitters I always find it deliciously amusing.” [Patriarch explained glowing brighter yellow and stepping forward to give my Captain a firm friendly Paradox hug.]

[Time: 15:12.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

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

[In his Private Quarters, my Captain had taken Patriarch aside to speak with him alone when it became clear that the Elder was privy to some sensitive intelligence. It helped that Elder Patriarch (although he demanded a degree of formality) underneath had a roguish personality that Harbinger could easily warm to.]

“The Inner System species you ‘Heartland’ Paradox insist on calling the ‘Splinter’ do not like to advertise their failings. We remained in ignorance about their internal difficulties until just four years ago when we belatedly discovered they had just completed a thirty-six year long civil war. They had not even told us their Emperor had died.” [Patriarch said.]

“They fought each other for thirty-six years and kept it secret.” [Harbinger said.]

“They can be surprisingly deceitful for a direct no nonsense warrior people. As things stood we all thought they were just busy fighting one of the ‘Far Species’ notably an alliance founded by a militant remnant of the ‘Cthuul Dacoit’.” [Patriarch explained.]

“The ‘Inner System Splinter’ where fighting ‘Cthuul Dacoit’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“You have heard of them - never mind - it is of no consequence? Anyway, the ‘Splinter’ as you call them stubbornly refused to admit they were not responsible for a less than limited ‘Heartland’ intervention even though such an action threatened our ancient ‘Higher Tier’ accords and pacts. It was only when they had a new Monarch firmly installed on the Throne with an interest in normalising wider relationships that they willingly admitted Rii Roethynn was anything but an official envoy despatched to save the ‘Raiders’ from utter extinction.” [Patriarch explained.]

“So who was Rii Roethynn if he was not an official Envoy and where has he gone?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Patience is always rewarded Elder Harbinger. Unfortunately, for you ‘Heartland’ natives Rii Roethynn’s ‘Splinter Raiders’ have grown in sufficient strength that he has boasted he is ready to reclaim ‘Splinter Raider Space’ on this the twenty-fifth anniversary of his sudden departure during the ‘Five Day War’.” [Patriarch said.]

“How do you know all this?” [Harbinger asked.]

“If you doubt my words I will cease wasting my time?” [Patriarch explained.]

“Forgive me Elder I just like to know the nature of the source of any new data it can after all colour the overall content.” [Harbinger said.]

[Patriarch looked at my Captain for a few seconds in silence.]

“True enough, however, the source will become self evident if you allow me to finish.” [Patriarch said.]

“Forgive me Elder.” [Harbinger repeated lowering his Tri-optic slightly in deference.]

“After his ‘Omerta’ creditors scared him away during the ‘Five Day War’ the Rii returned back to the fringes of ‘Inner System Splinter Space’. This time with an advantage his ‘Splinter Raider’ Jump Harbours. Using these ex Trojan devices as a draw and safe havens he was able to gain many new recruits among whom unsurprisingly where some spies of one rival house or another. None of these spies lasted very long but a picture did emerge from the pieces they managed to transmit when the new Emperor consolidated the surviving intelligence assets of his vassal families.” [Patriarch explained.]

“This consolidation being approximately four years ago.” [Harbinger said.]

“More like two years ago even after officially claiming the throne it took a few years to bring everybody fully to heel. Of course, when the Rii returned to ‘Inner System Space’ the civil war was still very much ongoing but cleverly he let it be known that he was no longer interested in vying for the position of Emperor of the Grand Creation (amusingly the so-called Splinter are not without wide conceits about their overall importance and the size of their hegemony).” [Patriarch said.]

“So that much of what Rii Roethynn told me is true: the Splinter Emperor really does claims dominion over all the other species.” [Harbinger said.]

“As I said their self-delusions are most amusing although their resultant Court Etiquette makes diplomacy a bit difficult on occasion. Anyway surprisingly wisely Roethynn had decided the throne was simply too much of a high risk venture instead as the conflict continued he merely scavenged up deserters and refugees along with any useful equipment he could get his hands upon for another future he told his followers - easier - and more profitable campaign elsewhere.” [Patriarch continued.]

“Back here in ‘Heartland Space’.” [Harbinger asked.]

“Exactly with looted booty, he repaid his debt and repaired his reputation with the ‘Omerta’ and now he plans to reclaim the abandoned region of ‘Splinter Raider Space’ as his own personal domain. I believe because of its evil reputation those sectors have - largely - been avoided by your ‘Fringe Nations’ since the end of the ‘Five Day War’.” [Patriarch said.]

“Actually ‘Splinter Raider Space’ has been open to some exploitation and settlement by all three of the ‘Fringe Nations’: the ‘Five Guardian Conglomerate’, the ‘Free Stellar’ and of course the ‘Free Recyclers’ but what they have put in are minor colonies at best that have a tendency to fight one another and none as a result have exactly thrived there. Of course, there have been numberless expeditions looking for the ‘Splinter Graveyards’ and a lot of freelance illegal mobile mining going on by credit hungry opportunists working with tax undercutting smugglers.” [Harbinger said.]

“You should consider moderating your Parliaments high tax burden.” [Patriarch said.]

“We have done that already since Cads long range Jump Interdiction Web project is finished - that venture cost a small fortune.” [Harbinger said.]

“As to fools transgressing upon the ‘Splinter Graveyards’ that needs to be stopped and should be by the ‘Splinter Raiders’. Some of those sites - the really important ones - and the best hidden have a history that reaches back to times before the Pilgrimage and retain secrets best left alone.” [Patriarch said.]

“Really I never heard anything about that.” [Harbinger said far too innocently.]

“If you value your continued existence Elder Harbinger do not even think about it - I am serious - in this matter we ‘Higher Tier Paradox’ have recently grown wise.” [Patriarch warned.]

“You had expeditions in there too?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Elder Composure and others have brought back some interesting pointers towards the Prime ‘Splinter Graveyards’ some adventurous sorts when the ‘Splinter Raiders’ left decided to investigate further - some of those I hear came to very bad ends.” [Patriarch stated.]

“I thought there was just one ‘Prime Splinter Graveyard’.” [Harbinger said.]

“The one supposedly containing ships from the Pilgrimage is the most famous ‘Prime’ but there are others also as Ancient. All the ‘Primes’ have at their heart collected materials going back to the times before our arrival here held in trust. The ‘Splinter’ are in awe of these places and seem to have come to some kind of accommodation with the ‘Graveyards’ guardians - not surprising really the ‘Splinter’ have always respected raw power.” [Patriarch said.]

“That is amazing Elder Patriarch.” [Harbinger said.]

“What it is - is best left alone - my impetuous friend.” [Patriarch warned.]

“What is all this about the Rii having ‘Omerta’ creditors?” [Harbinger asked.]

“According to ‘Inner System Splinter’ I suppose we must call them - diplomats - before the Rii first left ‘Splinter Space’ he made his own bid for the vacant throne. Of course, he failed having more ambition than resources and wit. After a tremendous defeat that saw the loss of most of his inherited House Assets the Rii was reduced to operating as a renegade pirate assisted by the ‘Omerta’. For a time he supported one claimant or another as a side changing mercenary in a futile bid to rise to power again on others success. However, after a series of poor alliances and even more embarrassing defeats he fled to the ‘Heartland’ doing this while carrying a considerable debt to one of the ‘Omerta’ nations for munitions upgrades and ship repairs he could not afford to repay.” [Patriarch explained.]

“You are very well informed Elder Patriarch running from a debt to the ‘Omerta’ is not very clever. From my experience the ‘Omerta’ nations always demand payment in full on any debt one way or the other - they are not the patient type either.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am guessing about this next part but I assume he came across one or more of your ignorant ‘Splinter Raiders’ hopeless envoys to the Emperor. The ‘Raiders’ long in isolation obviously did not realise the Emperor was dead and the throne lay vacant. The Rii decided to arrive in ‘Heartland Space’ as a fake envoy of a nonexistent master. A clever enough scheme in the short term: who could call him a liar since nobody had succeeded in claiming the throne or looked likely to do so in the immediate future?” [Patriarch said.]

“The ‘Heartland’ must have also seemed attractive because the ‘Omerta’ had little to do with this region of space.” [Harbinger said.]

[Composure went silent and raised his Tri-optic.]

“My apologies Elder please continue I know it is your story.” [Harbinger said.]

“Escaping the reach of his creditors was another benison of migration also the Rii knew here he would have a technological advantage over the locals and the lie of his ‘Inner System’ authority to rally the surviving ‘Raiders’ firmly behind his cause of self aggrandisement.” [Patriarch explained.]

“So all that ‘Master of the Remorseless Hunt’ stuff was pure manufactured fantasy.” [Harbinger said.]

“Composure told me about that made up spiel - I was much amused. I believe the Rii showed you his traitors pit every ‘Inner Tier’ Splinter family has one.” [Patriarch said.]

“All those bones were Roethynn family traitors?” [Harbinger asked I could sense his shock.]

“Trust me you can become a traitor for doing very little in ‘Splinter Space’ and the Roethynn family line is no doubt Ancient probably dating back all the way to the pilgrimage and the bones are handed down from Rii to Rii. Only honourable warriors and venerated ship wreckage is taken to the graveyards. There has been a great deal of misinformation about those sites over the millennia.” [Patriarch said.]

“This intelligence explains a lot.” [Harbinger said.]

“According to the Emperor’s agents: The ‘Splinter Raiders’ were in a shocking state of depletion when Roethynn claimed them as his own. In fact, the Raiders where so heavily reduced that they could no longer fully operate their own Warp Harbours in their traditional ways. Before they truly considered the possibility of commencing to bend their habits, they had utterly used themselves up against the new might of your ‘Core Alliance’ and ‘Fringe Space’ firepower and innovative tactics. Sadly the ‘Raiders’ despite being rogues always lacked any real spark of innovation - their last change of tactics being the procurement of Trojan Wormhole Harbours which I believe was almost an accident.” [Patriarch said.]

“So the Rii gained control of an almost totally spent force.” [Harbinger said.]

“When you lack strength, the next best thing is the illusion of the same.” [I send.]

“Roethynn needed to buy time and to secure new allies. However, it would not be easy to get help for a weak race so he bluffed and blustered. All he had left was his families much battered Mother ship home (partially upgraded with some impressive ‘Omerta’ technology) but in ‘Heartland Space’ he reasoned that might seem more than intimidating enough. At first everything was going wonderfully well, then disaster struck you convinced some ‘Omerta’ to get involved in the ‘Five Day War’ among your allies someone realised who the Rii was passed on the information and his creditors demanded he pay up immediately or else - his time had run out prematurely - so he fled away again.” [Patriarch explained.]

“So what will this new Emperor do about him?” [Harbinger asked.]

“That is the thing Harbinger he can do nothing without breaking our non intervention Accords nor would he want to do anything. I imagine the Emperor will be quite happy to see the old regions of ‘Splinter Raider’ space being resettled by ‘Splinter Raiders’. This way he is rid of a lot of malcontents and disgraced warriors. For a true despot a semi attractive place of exile can be a very useful commodity for removing people you might like to recall later or not depending on how the solar winds of fortune blow. History has a way of repeating itself I believe this is how the original ‘Splinter Raiders’ came into being in the first place. You will have to come to your own accord with the Rii and his ‘Splinter Raiders’. I would advise that anyone encroaching on old ‘Splinter Raider Space’ would be wise to pull out unless they want some battles they will probably lose. Once again Rii Roethynn is being supplied in part by the ‘Omerta’.” [Patriarch explained.]

“How can the Emperor do this these ‘Raiders’ are his subjects: people like Rii Roethynn should be his responsibility to control?” [Harbinger said.]

“Not anymore the ‘Splinter Raiders’ are a legitimate ‘Heartland’ nation and they have adopted Rii and his recruits so the Emperor’s hands are technically clean.” [Patriarch explained.]

“So Elder Composure got it wrong or lied to me when he said the ‘Inner System Splinter’ were taking an interest in ‘Heartland Space’ because of the ‘Sea Sphere’ exploitation and the advent of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Many ‘Higher Tier Paradox’ believed the same as Elder Composure at one point the ‘Inner System Splinter’ encouraged us in this misguided assumption. They too were hiding their temporary weakness brought on by their long civil war. Being a warrior species they are prone to thinking everybody wants to invade their territory and are naturally terrified of appearing as a soft target.” [Patriarch said.]

“So you are here to issue us with a fair warning about the ‘Raiders’.” [Harbinger said.]

“To be honest the ‘Splinter Raiders’ are a side issue to me Harbinger almost an excuse: I came here to see you and to meet with your ‘Constant’ Vested Interest. What you have done has reheated an old fiery debate about the nature of our species its ultimate future proper genetic boundaries and the right relationship that should exist between Paradox and ‘Living Hull’. Some say we should not have any genetic boundaries to our species at all others - quite violently at times - disagree. Therefore, I am on a Pilgrimage to study the nature of our cultural and physical connections and disconnections here where all our many variations began here at the beginning. I know it could not be at a better time given the internal furore all these changes are creating in your own ‘Council of Equals’ I also believe there is great unrest among your Acolytes also linked to the issue of identity. I believe many of us have lost our way.” [Patriarch explained.]

“You are very well informed about here as well. So you are another High Tier Professor who has arrived back here to study the primitives in their natural environs.” [Harbinger said.]

“Is that such a bad thing?” [Patriarch asked.]

“I thought Composure had done the definitive study on our society.” [Harbinger said.]

“Elder Composure provided us with a lot of valuable data but that was then Elder Harbinger and this is now - everything changes and the ‘Heartlands’ speed of change has accelerated because of the exploitation of the Departed’s magnificent ‘Sea Spheres’.” [Patriarch stated.]

“What can you tell me about the ‘Sea Spheres’ and the ‘Departed’ Elder?” [Harbinger sends.]

“Nothing young Elder Priest some things are much more fun and often better respected when they remain a little mysterious. Your Hierophant Cad and your ‘Sea Sphere Dwellers’ are doing well enough at uncovering the truth without my intervention. I must visit this ’Armageddon Cage’ before I return to ‘Higher Tier Space’. Guard that construct well Elder Harbinger if you value your ‘Core Alliance’ trust me you would not want to live to witness the result of a poorly timed ‘Sea Sphere Shield Purge’.” [Patriarch said.]

[Time: 18:00.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

[Location: Many Truths, Faded Sparks, Beyond Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Harbinger had me jump back to ‘Faded Sparks’ claiming he still had essential unfinished harvesting business here.]

“First you didn’t want to pick him up and now you are being deceitful and deliberately delaying taking him to his destination.” [I send.]

“I know but to say our new friend is full of interesting information could be the greatest understatement of this age and for an Ancient Elder he is surprisingly personable.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Full of information or lies, I thought Tier VI Paradox had eradicated the last of the evil mind thieving soul stealing ‘Cthuul Dacoit’ Paradox Heretics ages ago.” [I send.]

“Certainly that is what the Tier VI seem to believe.” [Harbinger said.]

“I also thought all the ‘Far Species’ where supposed to be primal natives of this sphere who fled the Departed’s xenophobic culls of non conforming denizens to their high ideal.” [I send.]

“That is the general theory according to the ‘Higher Tier’ mythology we have so far uncovered. However, that belief is probably a less than perfect generalisation.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I was also surprised that he confirmed the rumour that some especially well hidden ‘Splinter’ graveyards had expanded on much earlier wreckage sites and have deadly guardians.” [I send.]

“I find that fascinating alien wreckage from before the pilgrimage we could be talking about the ‘Departed’ and their contemporaries. I am almost tempted to go looking despite his warning but I am afraid I might actually find something like the ‘Stellar Orb’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would be more worried about finding these protective measures he hinted at. I am happy to see you have picked up a little caution from your past adventures.” [I send.]

“Nonetheless, I am beginning to wish I had tried harder to crack the ‘Omerta’ closed monopoly on ‘Inner System Splinter’ smuggling then we might have learned all about Rii Roethynn much earlier.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That would not be wise either Captain: on the ‘Sanctuary Orb’ the SARC seem deeply involved in business that goes in the direction of ‘Inner System Splinter Space’.” [I send.]

“I know given this new intelligence it makes me suspect that SARC may have been meddling with the succession to the ‘Splinter’ Throne.” [Harbinger said.]

“If Rii Roethynn was their candidate according to Elder Patriarch they failed abysmally.” [I send.]

“The Rii strikes me more as a smokescreen than a serious contender. The impression I got from Elder Patriarch is that Roethynn is not especially skilful just a grubby overly ambitious but under performing little opportunist who occasionally happened to be in the right place at the right time but mostly was not.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I recall Trend saying that many people who become great historic leaders are not really all that impressive in person. In fact, sometimes it is what they lack that makes them especially formidable: ruthless and deadly.” [I send.]

“You are right to remind me about that theory ‘Many Truths’ I would be wise not to underestimate this role-playing felon after all he was prospering and lethal - with very little - now he has gathered a substantial force of followers.” [Harbinger said.]

“Trends theory is very plausible for example: Draakhaal was elevated by his irrational fear of a Trans-Universal invasion.” [I send.]

“Among other character flaws.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Unless he is a fool though this Rii should be content with taking and consolidating ‘Splinter Raider Space’ a smart warrior picks his fights with care.” [I send.]

“True, but the trouble here is that this Rii Roethynn strikes me as an idiot not a smart warrior at all. In addition, these defeated refugees he has recruited will be looking to regain their kudos. As a Warrior Race only battle will reinstate their pride and they are not just ‘Splinter’ anymore now they are ‘Splinter Raiders’: ergo they will want to raid some poor soul.” [Harbinger said.]

“There are very few soft targets left in the ‘Core Alliance’ these days.” [I send.]

“I imagine they will find something to prey upon probably isolated ‘Fringe Space’ ore extraction facilities or distant habitats.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps they will raid but first they will consolidate their old holdings. Do you think the ‘Free Fringe Confederation’ or the ‘Five Guardians’ will attempt to resist the ‘Raiders’ initial return? I would be more worried about that.” [I send.]

“I think they all might want to test their ships against the ‘Splinter Raiders’ abilities at some point especially the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ but I doubt they will get involved in a full scale war unless the ‘Raiders’ prove weak and easy targets. They may not listen but I plan to talk to our friends to try to get them to leave the ‘Raiders’ alone - militarily. The Rii might just be willing to renew his friendship with the ‘Free Fringe Confederation’ of the ‘Free Recyclers’ and ‘Free Stellar’ if we approach him with the right proposals.” [Harbinger sends.]

“That is a nice dream Harbinger it would be wonderful if the ‘Splinter Raiders’ became another ally against the ‘Five Guardians’ and the ‘Void Skimmers’ should they begin to play up again.” [I send.]

“I think I will try and speak with the Rii again this time via my Avatar with the ‘Omerta’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I am beginning to understand why the ‘Higher Tiers’ consider the ‘Omerta’ to be a menace to good order.” [I send.]

“The ‘Omerta’ keep a balance of sorts: they will not supply the Rii with anything outrageous once he arrives in the ‘Heartland’. They carefully tailor their sales just to give their customers a small but useful edge.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I would be more worried about what they have sold to this ‘Raider’ already.” [I send.]

“True he will have some arms given to him to compete in ‘Inner System Space’ luckily the ‘Omerta’ trade in carefully modified tamper proof (sealed) units that can not be stripped down and copied by their customers.” [Harbinger sends.]

“True ‘Omerta’ copy protection is as good if not better than our own explosive failsafe systems and just as lethal.” [I send.]

“I confess I have given up trying to retro engineer goods we smuggled out of the ‘Higher Tiers’ as well and so has Cad. Items sourced through the ‘Omerta’ seem especially well defended: what we need is knowledge of the sciences behind the technology, blueprints and so on maybe even access to ‘Higher Tier’ engineers. I would give a small fortune for some more unsealed prototypes like that stuff Composure bequeathed to us twenty-five years ago following his departure.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I think we do well enough just smuggling sealed units. If the ‘MTC’ gets involved in manufacturing masses of non-sanctioned technologies ‘Higher Tier’ powers will hear of it. It is best not to challenge their tolerance of our more shady enterprises any more than necessary. Even the ‘Omerta’ as you say demonstrate a degree of restraint they are very good at stretching but not fully breaking the boundaries.” [I send.]

“You are right the ‘Omerta’ Nations often talk tough and claim they care nothing for the restrictions of the ‘Tier System’ but they rarely flaunt their criminality for example they rarely trade goods separated by any more than one or two Tiers.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Perhaps Composure is right the ‘Tier System’ is just too big and too well established to be toppled by anyone. This dream of yours to restore unrestricted access is too ambitious Captain even for you.” [I send.]

“The believers in the Solatium Doctrine say if you have enough faith and persistence you can make anything happen.” [Harbinger sends.]

“They also said if I recall right that some desires might take a few millennia to coalesce.” [I send.]

“So they did.” [Harbinger sends glowing yellow.]

[Time: 20:45.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

[Location: Many Truths, Faded Sparks, Beyond Fringe Space, Emissary Sphere.]

“Is it a good idea to let Vested Interest talk so much with this ‘Inner System’ Elder?” [I send.]

“Do you not trust your first ‘Constant’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Do you trust Vested Captain?” [I send.]

“Talking with Elder Patriarch seems to have deeply affected Vested in a positive way however perhaps it is time to drop our passenger off.” [Harbinger said.]

[My Captain brought his virtual bridge interface on line and opened up a direct link to our private berth on Trinity Harbour. It took two point five seconds to get ‘Sea Sphere’ exclusion zone Jump Interdiction Web clearance due to my exceptionally high priority with ‘IF’ traffic control. We leaped out soared down the wormhole and arrived with perfect precision in my customised enlarged berth - it felt like a strange place - not like home anymore.]

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PostPosted: Fri, 23. Oct 09, 23:32    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I'm liking MT/Harbringer back to basics. I get how you used Vested as the body for MT's independent development and cut her loose. It'll be interesting to see how she develops independently, I'll have to remember to view her as a separate person and not cloud her with MT's personality.

Yay looks like we're going to be interacting with the Splinter Very Happy


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PostPosted: Tue, 3. Nov 09, 14:48    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks for the comments Snowhip.

BX4 Ch2 had three false starts and gave me some trouble until it became two chapters. Just posting the first of the two today.

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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PostPosted: Tue, 3. Nov 09, 14:49    Post subject: Reply with quote Print


[Time: 23:24.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

[Location: Many Truths, Trinity Harbour, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[The three of us gathered in the onboard ‘Secure Central Command and Control Module’: Harbinger, My ‘Constant’ who is the Priest Vested Interest and one of my more normal Avatars (I now enjoyed having a greater physical presence even onboard my own hull).]

“Tell me, exactly what Elder Patriarch said to you about Rii Roethynn.” [Harbinger commanded.]

[Priest Vested Interest hesitated.]

“That is an order - as your employer - not a request.” [Harbinger said firmly.]

“I knew I made an error saying anything.” [Priest Vested replied evasively.]

[Harbinger turned towards my so far silent Avatar and raised his Tri-optic.]

“Do you have to play games all the time ‘Constant’?” [My Avatar scolded.]

“I am not playing a game.” [Priest Vested answered.]

“I am running out of patience.” [Harbinger warned.]

“Will you promise not to get paranoid if I tell you the truth?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“No.” [Harbinger replied managing to spark yellow with amusement.]

“That is what I thought.” [Priest Vested said with belated resignation.]

“What is this all about Priest Vested?” [My Avatar demanded.]

[Vested looked at Harbinger then me then Harbinger again as if trapped.]

“Do not expect me to fully explain it but I just knew what I told you. There was in fact no actual conversation about the Rii with Elder Patriarch. Therefore I cannot tell you what he said.” [Priest Vested replied lowering her Tri-optic a little.]

[I strove to get my minds around that and almost failed.]

“So you are accusing Elder Patriarch of hacking into your systems. He downloaded information into you during the therapy session - even though - it was closely monitored by Nurture and his team?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Actually, I am not saying any such thing. I know my security was not breached.” [Priest Vested insisted.]

“Are you trying to annoy me: information does not simply spring into existence? Data comes from a source and resides in a destination.” [Harbinger stated forcefully.]

“Well I cannot find the source or the store, and Nurture cannot find them either. I still know about the Rii’s specific broadcast intent.” [Priest Vested announced.]

[We all paused to think about that.]

“Maybe you dreamed it or have an over active imagination. Could this be a side effect of your personality coming of age?” [My Avatar suggested.]

“The information can hardly have arrived via an exogenous communication signal.” [Harbinger reminded us.]

“I know, you disabled my ‘MTC’ exogenous link because you decided I was stealing a vicarious ‘Living Hull’ existence through ‘Many Truths’. In addition, it feels more like a forgotten recollection than a transmission. Yes, I know it makes no sense but I did not dream it either or imagine it - I am sure of that - I know my own minds.” [Priest Vested insisted.]

“I do not like the sound of that. You both promised as did Nurture that the procedure was safe and secure. That your communication firewalls remained intact. If Elder Patriarch could inexplicably add data then he could also extract it. Did you experience any strange side effects of that direct line linked therapy session ‘MT’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“To me the communion was just an amazingly high bandwidth communication. The data was limited to the close and open sharing of our purposely-isolated personality matrix nothing more. It simply helped me to know Patriarch, Vested and myself better via a tight comparison.” [My Avatar explained.]

“I knew this would cause paranoid suspicions.” [Priest Vested said slumping a little.]

“This information just popped into your head from nowhere ‘VI’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not exactly, I was wondering when the Rii might show up then I just seemed to recall what I recalled (without any recollection of ever receiving that data from any specific source be it a communication, conversation, download or anything else).” [Priest Vested explained.]

“What other effects did this procedure of Elder Patriarchs have upon you?” [Harbinger asked.]

“It gave me an appreciation deep in my soul that I am not ‘MT’ anymore. I suddenly saw my change of status as a boon not a bane just as you two kept telling me. After our communion I no longer felt diminished, I felt: exalted, chosen, special and a lot happier. It also freed me from the rigours of any previous artificially imposed loyalties (those belonged to the ‘Living Hull’ that is ‘MT’ not the Paradox Priest who is ‘VI’).” [Priest Vested said.]

“Elder Patriarch warned me about that probability.” [Harbinger admitted.]

“I am convinced now that Elder Patriarch’s intent is purely beneficial.” [My Avatar said.]

“Can you justify that faith?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Having witnessed Elder Patriarch’s full personality matrix I know him. Otherwise apart from being a little wiser and feeling a little blessed to have been allowed to perceive such glory I remain just the same as I did before the communion.” [My Avatar advised.]

“Such glory what do you mean by that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“The Elder’s personality is astounding you should have joined the communion.” [My Avatar answered.]

“That would have been an unacceptable security risk. I was not even happy with your participation ‘MT’ but Elder Patriarch insisted your cooperation was essential to provide a cure for your first ‘Constant’ Priests cyclic bouts of debilitating depression.” [Harbinger said.]

“I have every reason to believe that is correct.” [My Avatar stated.]

“Tell me again what you just knew about Rii Roethynn’s time of arrival ‘VI’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“He told his followers they would migrate back to ‘Heartland Space’ - very specifically - on or before the 22.02.29SA.” [Priest Vested answered.]

“Do you think this information was accidentally or deliberately imparted to you?” [Harbinger asked.]

“This is a pure guess Captain but I believe Elder Patriarch knew exactly what he was doing during my therapy session.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I despair at ‘Higher Tier’ Elders why would he do this? He already told me something very similar he just did not give an actual date. ‘EP’ told me the Rii would return on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his departure.” [Harbinger said.]

“Captain I have a report from the ‘EP’ surveillance unit they have lost their target Elder Patriarch simply disappeared right in front of them.” [I said via my Avatar.]

“So soon, he could have had the decency not to flaunt his esoteric sciences before our poor agent’s inadequate ‘Heartland’ tri-optics.” [Harbinger said.]

“I imagine the Elder did not appreciate being followed.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Perhaps it was a timely reminder that he is beyond us.” [My Avatar said.]

[Harbinger initiated a vain attempt to locate the ‘Higher Tier’ Elder.]

[Time: 23:30.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

“I trust in whatever comes, you will still remember who made and is employing you and where your loyalties should be ‘Constant’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Does my full freedom to choose my affiliations bother you?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“Should it?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I will not betray what is best for this family.” [Priest Vested promised.]

“You cannot say that - not anymore - because you are free to change your mind later.” [Harbinger stated without compromise.]

“No more than any Priest you work with.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I have not treated other Priests the way I have treated you.” [Harbinger advised.]

“I expected my privileges and restrictions would alter after my therapy.” [Priest Vested said.]

“You should be aware that now you will be judged more heavily on your actions. I fear we will have to earn each others trust the hard way.” [Harbinger said.]

“Why do you think I told you the truth about the data despite knowing you would not like it?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“Perhaps Elder Patriarch gave you this information to allow you to prove yourself still faithful to our Captain.” [My Avatar said.]

“That could make sense Elder Patriarch is very subtle.” [Priest Vested said excitedly.]

“How do you feel about us Priest Vested?” [Harbinger asked.]

“You are still my makers and my friends. I now fully understand ‘MT’ much better too that may sound silly but how you perceive your own personality from within and from without is very different. I will endeavour to make the most of the gifts you both gave me. You are my Father Harbinger ‘MT’ my Mother that has not changed. I also appreciate our relationship is unique and breaks old Paradox traditions.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I am very happy that Elder Patriarch was able to help you.” [My Avatar said.]

“I am also happy if you are cured but I believe you would have got where you are now eventually on your own without ‘Higher Tier’ intervention.” [Harbinger said.]

“Well I an glad ‘EP’ has made my journey a little smoother.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Beware gifts that come too easy. Hard work and even a little suffering can help us better appreciate what we have.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is easy to say when you are not doing the suffering.” [Priest Vested said.]

“You would all be wise to be cautious of ‘Higher Tier’ benevolences. Those creatures’ motivations and desires may not be the same as ours.” [Harbinger said.]

“Those - creatures - does it hurt you to acknowledge they are Paradox?” [My Avatar asked.]

[After Priest Vested volunteered for a few extra diagnostic brain and memory scans that revealed nothing new, we reconvened.]

[Time: 23:40.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

“You still have Patriarch’s so-called Life Pod under your scanners?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“It was transferred as Patriarch requested via a circuitous route to a ‘Green Orb Alpha’ storage facility with no connection to our ‘MTC’. It has not been moved since.” [My Avatar confirmed.]

“We still have that one thread tied to our slippery passenger.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am still convinced ‘EP’ is not here to cause any trouble.” [Priest Vested advised.]

“I prefer not to take any chances.” [Harbinger stated coldly.]

“I believe we are blessed by the Emissary to have him with us. I hope we see him again before he leaves the ‘Heartland’. It would be nice if you could resist fighting with him when we meet again.” [Priest Vested stated.]

“Forgive me if I do not share your faith. I do not think Elder Patriarch is afraid to debate his position either and we did not fight I was very respectful.” [Harbinger retorted.]

“There will always be something out there more powerful than ourselves Captain.” [My Avatar interjected.]

“Ancient ‘Higher Tier’ Elders coming here infuriates me. They are dangerous wild cards. I was hoping ‘EP’ might prove an exception and be content to primarily monitor.” [Harbinger said.]

“Yet you are fearful ‘EP’ is here to intervene?” [My Avatar asked.]

“They make you feel impotent.” [Priest Vested surmised.]

“The whole ‘Tier System’ mocks and patronises us. People such as your Elder Patriarch treat us like Acolytes not Priests. I am past being willing to be told what I can and cannot do.” [Harbinger said angrily.]

“Perhaps compared to ancient entities like Elder Patriarch we are children with a lot of hard maturation still very much ahead of us.” [Priest Vested argued.]

“I agree I have come to the conclusion Ancient Ones like Elder Patriarch are not just ahead of us technologically.” [My Avatar said.]

“Are you sure your personalities have not been compromised?” [Harbinger asked glowing yellow.]

“I have only been compromised by the joy of a wonderful experience.” [My Avatar replied.]

“Deep down I am convinced the ‘Higher Tier’ Elders do not really want us to grow up.” [Harbinger stated striding around my internal bunker / survival capsule.]

“I think you are projecting inappropriate ‘Heartland’ values on to ‘Higher Tier’ natives. You should not judge them this way: especially Ancients Ones like Patriarch and Composure it is a bit like comparing the actions of an amoeba and a sentient life form.” [Priest Vested said glowing yellow.]

“Priest Vested is correct it is the Paradox Priests here who do not - really - want their children to grow up. I doubt very much those assistants with ‘EP’ are Acolytes as we know them.” [My Avatar said.]

“Neither of you understand. Maybe one day Priest Vested you will comprehend my position when you buy a ship and make a family of your own.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“Buy a ship I think that would be a bit incestuous Captain.” [Priest Vested said.]

“While I have no intention of forcing you out of my Corporation you are a Paradox Priest now. You have every right to own a ship of your own and to start a family to assist with your personal vision.” [Harbinger said.]

“I have no desire to be a master to a slave.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Priest Vested Interest is of the future Harbinger not the past.” [My Avatar advised.]

“That is a worrying statement - what exactly do you mean by it?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I think ‘Constant’ Priests will have their own visions to follow.” [My Avatar answered.]

“Why do I get the feeling you two are keeping secrets from me.” [Harbinger stated.]

“Elder Patriarch said a little mystery is good for any relationship.” [My Avatar said.]

“Typical, ‘Higher Tier’ natives are very secretive.” [Harbinger replied.]

“It is terribly racist to judge such a large group by so - very - few examples.” [Priest Vested challenged.]

“Prudence is not a crime nor is being ancient and preternaturally wise Captain.” [My Avatar added.]

“Our society was engineered from afar. They want us to stay primitive so they can keep a connection to where they came from and not lose themselves in their self wrought changes.” [Harbinger stated.]

“That sounds a bit overly simplified to me.” [Priest Vested said.]

“We are living exhibits in a museum to their past. Think of Hierophant Cad’s menagerie of Trojan animal species: that is us at the moment pets in the ‘Higher Tiers’ zoological garden.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Even if your supposition was true do you think we are ready to break loose? I am not convinced we have the necessary maturity to live unrestrained in the wider Universe. We would sow chaos and disorder.” [My Avatar warned.]

“No disrespect ‘MT’ but it is your nature to serve so you can hardly understand the shame of being unduly patronised by another entity.” [Harbinger said.]

“Sometimes you deeply disappoint me.” [My Avatar replied.]

“I am sorry if the truth hurts but your nature is your nature.” [Harbinger stated.]

“This is your truth about me Harbinger not mine.” [My Avatar said.]

“Just because you can make a thing does not mean you fully understand it. Do you think Elder Composure fully appreciates all that you are Elder Harbinger?” [Priest Vested said.]

[Harbinger silently meditated on that for a moment.]

“We Paradox Priests should be more respectful and appreciative of what we have created in our ‘Living Hulls’. It is cruel and heartless to mock your ship because of inbuilt safety mechanisms that enforce an assurance of servitude. ‘MT’ was given no choice about accepting the restrictions fostered upon her even though she was made to be fully sentient - think about how that must feel - then see if you dare complain to me again about ‘Higher Tier’ impositions on ‘Heartland’ natives.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Be careful Priest Vested these are delicate and private matters.” [My Avatar warned.]

“My Apologies ‘MT’ no disrespect was intended.” [Priest Vested replied.]

“I thought serving was a joy for ‘Living Hulls’.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is, but the knowledge that we are not entirely free - for those of us who are given greater license - is not especially pleasant. It causes mixed confusing emotions so mostly we try not to dwell on it.” [My Avatar explained.]

“Perhaps how we designed our ships is a little unethical but that does not make what the ‘Higher Tier’ Elders do right either.” [Harbinger said.]

“Did you ever consider that perhaps we all deserve to be locked up?” [My Avatar said.]

“What do you mean by that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“After what we did during the ‘Five Day War’ perhaps we deserve to be constrained. Our actions are often criminal and barbaric we are socially inept and dangerous.” [My Avatar stated.]

“What we did was a necessary reaction to the threat level.” [Harbinger replied.]

“There was a time when you did not hide behind excuses like that.” [Priest Vested said.]

“You are both becoming obsessed with the atrocities of the ‘Five Day War’ you both need to let the past go.” [Harbinger advised.]

“From you that is very amusing.” [Priest Vested said glowing yellow.]

“There are so many twenty-five year anniversary celebrations for each species so-called victories at the moment? Few are talking about the innocent murdered people - it offends us - someone has to remember. We honour the slaughtered sentient lives from the wars fought over all the long years of our service. We should not have to carry that burden. You should have found other ways to solve your differences. So much carnage and there is never any end to it.” [My Avatar reproved.]

“It is not healthy to dwell on such matters too much.” [Harbinger warned.]

“Perhaps if people better appreciated the full cost of their victories we would not have to chronicle so many depredations.” [Priest Vested challenged.]

“I am well aware of the cost but that does not change the necessities of the moment. That ‘Living Hulls’ have chosen to chronicle other sentient beings social absurdities remains your choice not our responsibility: we do not chose conflict; it is forced upon us to survive by others actions. If we could not forget what our enemy’s impel us to do or at least put these things to the back of our minds - they would drive us insane.” [Harbinger said.]

“People are too quick to take up arms and to forget.” [Priest Vested replied.]

“If there was another way I would have gladly taken it.” [Harbinger said.]

“Maybe if you had not acted somebody else would have found a better solution did you ever consider that?” [Priest Vested said.]

“In many disturbing meditations.” [Harbinger replied.]

[I could sense my Captain’s pain.]

“Striving to forget is not the same thing as accepting a truth and letting it go - you know that Captain. Some part of you is deliberately prolonging your agony without resolving anything. Deep down your past does trouble you far more than you care to admit even to me.” [My Avatar said with deep concern.]

“The reasons for our actions do not change the truth of what we do.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I am well aware of that fact. However, imagine the consequences of no solution and Stage III breaking loose: by now, we might be ‘Void Dweller’ subjects or more likely dead and our people on the road to extinction. I did what I had to do and I have chosen to carry the cost as is my right.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is not as noble as you make it sound. I want it to be over Captain. Changes are happening we need to acknowledge and embrace them.” [My Avatar said.]

“Some things cannot be forgiven.” [Harbinger said.]

“You are mistaken Captain. You once believed in real redemption.” [My Avatar said.]

“I still do.” [Harbinger replied.]

“People must appreciate what they have done and find the strength to forgive even their own actions without forgetting. Only then, can there begin to be hope of real social evolution. Remembrances need not be guilt ridden. I am not trying to force a burden onto you I am trying to lift an unhealthy unresolved fixation that is eating away at you like an untreated festering wound.” [My Avatar said.]

“How can I forgive myself? I know if I must, I will do the same thing all over again. Until everyone is of the same mind conflict will be an inevitable evil. We Paradox learned to debate our differences and largely are able to agree to disagree other species to our detriment are not so socially evolved.” [Harbinger said.]

“In part I think our restraint between each other is due to how we live in our suits and our ships. I am afraid however in most cases social maturity and technological advancement are very separate entities and progress at radically different rates not even ‘EP’ can change that.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Why do you think I am concerned about ‘Higher Tier’ meddlers and Rii Roethynn I want to prevent another escalation of hostilities the birth of more horrors?” [Harbinger stated.]

“Elder Patriarch is a good person. So are you Captain but I think you are stuck in a cyclic pattern of seeking out dangerous confrontations. One evil cannot negate another.” [My Avatar warned.]

[Unfortunately, I could sense my Captain was not entirely listening.]

“The ‘Higher Tiers’ could help us grow by example if they removed their false restrictions. They should accept it is too late to try to simply limit us and it is unjust to use us as living examples of poor behaviour to measure their own progress.” [Harbinger said.]

“Perhaps if we possessed the equivalent of ‘Higher Tier’ Elder self-restraint our Ancient neighbours would be happy to embrace us instead of creating barriers.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I will not cooperate with my gaolers until they set me free?” [Harbinger stated.]

“I do not feel especially oppressed or constrained. If anything, we are in a protective playpen not a cell. Captain, to me it seems that you are beginning to perceive every problem as if it is a shield that needs battered down by force.” [My Avatar said.]

“I am beginning to believe that soon via our ‘Sea Sphere’ exploitation we will be beyond even the ‘Higher Tiers’ ability to covertly manipulate. When they can no longer toy with us then they will have to be honest and fair. Not today but one day we will be ready to break these imposed bounds.” [Harbinger said.]

“Perhaps Draakhaal’s mania about a menace from outside our Universe was not without a few beneficial side effects. I wish I could truly believe ‘AEL’ power will set us free rather than bring us all to something like Cad’s frightful Armageddon. However Harbinger, if we storm the gates of heaven and ransack perfection as a barbarian hoard how can that profit us.” [Priest Vested said.]

“It is ignorance that makes us what we are. Armageddon is caged and my quest has never been about looting higher technology despite our smuggling operations. All I want is the freedom to grow at our own pace to be all we can be.” [Harbinger preached.]

“I fear our accelerated technological achievements will result in more not less attempts to restrict us. You are pushing the wrong side of the balance just as Draakhaal did. It is not Elder Patriarch’s technology that impresses me it is Elder Patriarch.” [Priest Vested replied.]

[My Captain considered that for a while in silence. I could feel his thoughts racing from place to place as midnight approached.]

[Time: 23:50.][Date 21.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

“Remember that speech about how there would be no ‘Core Alliance’ without the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ and no ‘Sea Sphere’ energy exploitation. That was a good speech perhaps we needed a little push: the Arch Chancellor Draakhaal just went too far.” [Harbinger said.]

“The Shapers last address is famous for all the wrong reasons.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I remember in the beginning we were against the whole idea of settling the ‘Sea Spheres’ surface areas and only agreed with it because Draakhaal and the Stellar gave us no viable alternative.” [My Avatar said.]

“We seem to have forgotten that the ‘Sea Spheres’ are living creatures even peaceful ‘Sea Sphere Swimmer Dwellers’ seem to have given up on that argument with us.” [Priest Vested added.]

“The ‘Sea Spheres’ are unharmed by our infestation and it seems increasingly likely that they may have been created to be purposely settled both in the inner oceans and on their surface. They are replacements for the lost planets I am sure of that.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is pure conjecture there is no solid proof of that theory.” [My Avatar said.]

“It is the only theory that makes sense to me.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Time changes everything even perceptions of the truth. For example if there are any Draakhaal clones still out there they are no longer considered to be a major menace are they?” [Priest Vested stated.]

“Cad, Khoordaann and I believe any surviving Draakhaal will always be dangerous. Still at least Draakhaal came from the ‘Heartland’. I hate ‘Higher Tier’ invaders they are beyond our current ability to control.” [Harbinger said.]

“Elder Patriarch is hardly a hostile invader.” [Priest Vested said.]

“In your own way, you have become obsessed with control.” [My Avatar added.]

“The ‘Higher Tier’ Elders are not Draakhaal.” [Priest Vested reminded my Captain.]

“Why would we want to control people like ‘EP’ what we should be doing is cooperating with them?” [My Avatar asked.]

“You need to step out of the murk of Draakhaal’s mind and enter the light of this new far brighter age.” [Priest Vested preached.]

“If we are not careful it is the sins of our past that will drag us down not the ‘Higher Tiers’ hopes for our future.” [My Avatar advised.]

“The Higher Tiers do not want us to have a future - they are the future - they want us to remain tidily stuck in the past. They believe you cannot have light without darkness to compare it against.” [Harbinger replied.]

“When did you last question the sureties of your current vision?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“You both think battling Draakhaal has changed me?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Looking back it feels like Draakhaal was behind us all the time pushing us to do things we would not have otherwise done.” [Priest Vested stated.]

“I would like to see us break free from our old cycle. If you are not careful you could become everything you once despised.” [My Avatar warned.]

“You really honestly think I am capable of that?” [Harbinger said.]

“I think like any driven person there is very little you are not capable of: arranging that devious assassination twenty-five years ago being a prime example.” [My Avatar said.]

“Twenty-five years ago seems to be much on your minds.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Elder Patriarch had an interesting idea that I think might do you some good.” [Priest Vested advised.]

“Elder Patriarch seems to have had a lot more communication with you two than I realised or would have sanctioned onboard my ship.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Elder Patriarch suggested to me that you should visit the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ High Temple.” [Priest Vested explained.]

“Why would I want to do that?” [Harbinger asked.]

“For the therapeutic value.” [Priest Vested replied.]

“You think there I can exercise the ghost of my enemy?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Indeed, finally lay Draakhaal to rest once and for all now that the potentiality for Stage III has almost been extinguished.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Elder Patriarch is just full of good ideas. I wonder what the ‘Stellar Court’ would think of that.” [Harbinger said.]

“I suspect some of them might be impressed others offended but what matters is what you think about it.” [My Avatar advised.]

“I am sure it would confuse the majority of the Clan Lords.” [Harbinger stated.]

“You could treat it like a mini pilgrimage.” [Priest Vested said glowing yellow.]

“A Paradox on a pilgrimage to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal High Temple’ of the almighty Shaper. It actually has a strange warped appeal.” [Harbinger said.]

“I think you are in error.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I agree some of the recently elevated believers among the ‘Stellar Court’ might welcome such a gesture. The ‘Skimmers’ are not what they used to be.” [My Avatar stated.]

“We must guard against old prejudices and move with the times.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I suppose it would give me something to do while I am waiting on word about Rii Roethynn.” [Harbinger said.]

“Think of it as a small but significant boon to our ‘MTC’ race relations especially on this anniversary of their Shapers assassination.” [Priest Vested said]

“Draakhaal was behind it all, what was done was due almost entirely to the nightmare threat of Stage III - it was a bad time.” [Harbinger reminded us again.]

“With the gene therapy project for the so-called Stage II genetic defect only a few years off completion, now is when we should begin reaching out to the ‘Skimmer’ hoard.” [My Avatar lectured.]

“If we do not acknowledge the strides the ‘Stellar Court’ have made they may cease to see any value in appeasing us in the future.” [Priest Vested warned.]

“Is that what you think the ‘Void Skimmers’ have been doing appeasing us?” [Harbinger asked glowing yellow.]

“In a way they have begun to moderate themselves.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Visit the ‘High Temple’, I do not know, perhaps someday but not today; it is late and news could come in at any moment.” [Harbinger said.]

“Why put off to tomorrow what you have a perfect opportunity to do today.” [My Avatar said.]

“I have always wondered what the inside of the High Temple looked like.” [Priest Vested added.]

“I do not think any Paradox Priest has ever gone in there.” [My Avatar said.]

“We would not be going as tourists further I am sure it would be unwise for you to go at all Priest Vested.” [Harbinger replied.]

“For this I would be willing to conceal my identity.” [Priest Vested announced.]

“That would be inappropriate have a little respect for others’ beliefs.” [Harbinger said.]

“I do not see how changing my kanji and falsifying my IFF would offend any ‘Void Skimmer’ sensitivities.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I suppose such a deception would not be aimed at the ‘Skimmers’ they have no interest in our recent internal Paradox dissentions.” [My Avatar argued.]

“I would not be so sure of that if I was you.” [Harbinger said.]

“The area is heavily policed and full of ‘Void Skimmers’ how much harm could my presence do? The ‘Plaza’ is hardly a good place for any of my opponents to try anything without causing unwanted complications. They would not want to start an accidental holy war with the ‘Skimmers’.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Why are you so interested in the High Temple?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am interested in how the ‘Void Skimmer’ nation is changing and the High Temple and their beliefs about the Shaper is a big part of that alteration.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I confess I never really took the Temple and the elevation of Draakhaal seriously although I was not surprised.” [Harbinger said.]

“I think you have been too close to it. To you the Shaper has no genuine mystique.” [Priest Vested said.]

“As far as I can tell that whole faith is founded on a lie.” [Harbinger sends.]

“From your perspective Harbinger but ask: How would you feel about it if you had been born a ‘Void Skimmer’ instead of made a Paradox.” [Priest Vested said.]

“If we are going to go - we should go now - while we have the chance.” [My Avatar insisted.]

“If somebody confirms a sighting of the ‘Raiders’ whilst we are down there we will have other pressing business.” [Harbinger stated.]

“That is exactly my point. It is too easy to find excuses not to do the right thing.” [My Avatar pressed.]

“How much of all this is motivated by Elder Patriarch’s visit?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have three good minds of my own Harbinger and I know how to use all of them. I admit I altered my opinion about Elder Patriarch after our communion but if you knew him the way we do now maybe you would feel like we do.” [My Avatar said.]

“What cleverly indoctrinated?” [Harbinger asked.]

“You would not accuse us of indoctrination if we followed your prejudices.” [Priest Vested said.]

“You two should be very careful what Elder Patriarch revealed might not really be who he is and do not forget he has done something odd to you first ‘Constant’.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am convinced he held back none of his personality and if he did pass on a little information in some esoteric ‘Higher Tier’ manner to me I am sure it was done for the best of reasons - such as the one my Mother surmised.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I hope you two are right and are not simply being used.” [Harbinger said.]

“You can only be used if it is against your will otherwise the word is assisted.” [Priest Vested replied.]

“You have your overly optimistic opinion and I have mine.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is your choice we are only offering our advice.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I feel outnumbered today. You are in no hurry to meet Rii Roethynn again are you ‘MT’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“That is not why I want you to visit the Temple although I do wish you would not rush to get us involved in that sort of thing. The Rii might decide he wants to militarily test our mettle sometimes you are too rash.” [My Avatar warned.]

“I think we would both far rather chase after Anomalies than ‘Splinter Raiders’.” [Priest Vested admitted.]

“Let me guess you both think I should let somebody else deal with this nonsense for a change.” [Harbinger replied.]

“We have done more than our fair share of meddling in the past I find it ironic that this is the crime you would lay against Elder Patriarch.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Captain you have spies everywhere. Very little goes on here or even in the ‘Fringe’ that some part of our ‘MTC’ is not involved in - at least indirectly - I am not sure that situation is healthy for this society or you.” [My Avatar warned.]

“You think we are as much a part of the problem now as the solution?” [Harbinger asked.]

“There is always some kind of mini crisis somewhere but do they all need our or our people’s intervention or are we beginning to cause as many difficulties as we cure. Take Unholy Terror for example he can be a bit heavy handed. I sometimes think he is partially responsible for the ‘Young Ones’ coup. He too aggressively sought to keep us involved in protecting the ‘Free Fringe Confederation’. Unholy and his supporters convinced the ‘Old Ones’ to see external patrol forces as a beneficial policy to their internal political detriment.” [My Avatar said.]

“Unholy had the best of intent and was not alone in that policy.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am not accusing our friend of being malicious just misguided.” [My Avatar said.]

“I suppose returning to that place and visiting the ‘High Temple’ might provide some closure in relation to Draakhaal.” [Harbinger said possibly keen to change the subject.]

“It can hardly do you any harm. Elder Patriarch is a very emphatic individual.” [Priest Vested extolled.]

“Fine I will do this but I am doing it for you two not ‘EP’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Do not do it for us, do it for your own good or do not bother doing it at all.” [My Avatar advised.]

“Your ‘Living Hull’ is right you must go for the right reasons or it will be a waste of effort.” [Priest Vested lectured.]

[Harbinger went quiet for a while. I could sense he was thinking furiously about all his actions since his fate tangled up with Draakhaal and then back beyond that to much simpler times.]

“The young idealistic Priest who bonded with me all those years ago is still inside you Captain.” [My Avatar stated.]

“I am getting us a window and dropping us into the ‘High Temple Plaza’ with an escort but we three will have to brave that shadowed edifice alone.” [Harbinger said.]

“You are not thinking of going…” [My Avatar began.]

“…in person.” [I finished as we arrived via a short-lived wormhole on one of several warp wormhole transport target pads now servicing the edge of the manic ‘Plaza’.]

“Captain is this wise?” [My Avatar hurriedly asked.]

“I could hardly use an Avatar to do this: that would be disgraceful behaviour.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Thus speaks the Shaper’s slayer.” [I found my Avatar sending.]

[Long ago edited out memories later reactivated by Koordaann came burning back once again to the front of my consciousness - ignited by this place.]

[The ‘High Temple Plaza’ had formally been ‘Public Forum Five’. This was the site where Draakhaal had officially made his final speech - ironically - about a peace plan. Here three explosive rounds martyred the Shaper in what was a very political assassination.]

[Soon after our arrival, four ‘Void Skimmer’ Pilgrims hurriedly disembarked from the same pad we had just exited. We could hear the safety device loudly requesting clearance to accept another incoming transit. Every wormhole target pad was constantly spitting out Pilgrims.]

[I scanned around the Plaza. The open area was crawling with Stage II Clergy and Pilgrim Petitioners along with all the usual hangers on Talisman Makers, Icon Sculptors, Food Vendors, Incense Sellers, a few Paradox Recycler and Swimmer Tourists fascinated by the scene, Parliamentary Police who scanned our identities then stood up a little straighter.]

“Have we come at a bad time?” [Vested Interest asked.]

“Sometimes you are unbelievable.” [Harbinger replied.]

[I noticed Vested Interest was marked up as being a Companion Acolyte named Volatile Impression a weak disguise at best but here possibly adequate: this was the last place any Paradox conservative extremists would expect us to be.]

“Sometime this year, every ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ is supposed to make a pilgrimage by order of the ‘Stellar Court’ to honour the Shaper and reaffirm the high ideals that lived on beyond his demise. Ideals now sold as a quest towards individual and racial perfection symbolised by the number eight the sign of a closed flawless contained infinity.” [Harbinger lectured aloud.]

“Coming here in person was rash.” [My Avatar said in complaint.]

[The nine Marines Harbinger had brought with us seemed to agree they had made a tight cordon around us drawing considerable attention from more at ease passers by.]

“Relax, now we are here we should make the most of this experience.” [Harbinger stated.]

[Harbinger raised up his prime Tri-optic to looked up over his Marines at the smooth eight-sided black edifice that was the towering High Temple. The building was a featureless monolith only some blinking navigation beacon lights at regular intervals upon its higher extremities gave it any sense of warmth.]

“Not exactly inviting from the outside but very enigmatic.” [Priest Vested said.]

[The structure looked like an alien intruder; it did not even remotely try to fit in to its surroundings - it was an out and out aberration. I could feel my Captain’s immediate distaste for the bold architecture and the stern way he battled that gut feeling down.]

“We are not here to criticise but to learn to appreciate.” [Harbinger reminded us.]

[Harbinger looked all around as if he could absorb the scene he sucked in some air to better taste, smell and scent the environment.]

[Around our tight cordon of Marines ‘Void Skimmers’ streamed chattering to each other although they fell into respectful silence as soon as they joined the long queue into the Temple.]

“Maybe we should have waited for the dawn.” [My Captain pondered aloud.]

[Since we now used ‘Core Alliance’ time (synchronised from this very region) the Parliamentary Dome was in its night cycle.]

“In a way I think the night is more appropriate even if it is more popular with the ‘Skimmer’ Pilgrims too.” [Priest Vested replied.]

[Harbinger used computerised enhancements to view the circling flyers otherwise almost hidden in the dark.]

[The Temple’s visual beacons shone primarily for the benefit of ‘Void Skimmer’ pilgrims gliding around and around above us on specifically manufactured thermals using artificial supports that strengthened their delicate solar wings for that task. The flights not without a little physical risk acted as a homage to Draakhaal as their bodily forms great Shaper.]

“From a pure security standpoint I still think allowing them to build the Temple here where Draakhaal died was a big mistake.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“If only they knew the evil truth about the Father of their species.” [My Avatar sends.]

“I wonder how much difference that would actually make.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I cannot help recalling another Martyr Captain: the ‘Free Recycler Patriot’ who underwent drastic surgery to squeeze into a fake ‘Shroud Suit’. That was devious getting her to sell a lie within a lie so that the first accused - the guilty - could claim a false innocence that would be beyond future reproach.” [I send in accusation.]

“It was a crazy time I had good reasons to be extra cautious.” [Harbinger sends.]

“She even sacrificed her own mind to lay the blame where it did not belong with the ‘Conglomerate’.” [I reminded my Captain.]

“Everything that one did was undertaken to save her own people from extinction at my behest. She pulled the trigger but I gave the order.” [Harbinger sends.]

“It is ironic that your Recycler Martyr’s people now suffer under the oppression of their force grown genetically enhanced children: the so-called ‘Young One’ Recyclers.” [I send.]

“It is hard to believe that today most ‘Old Ones’ have been settled in places like ‘Splinter Raider Space’. Rii Roethynn’s return is more bad news in a long run of disasters for those outcasts.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose they were lucky to be cast out of their own halls of power in a bloodless political coup it could have been worse.” [I send.]

“What could be worse than surviving a betrayal by your own children?” [Harbinger sends.]

“The coup is one more reason why no one will ever give thanks at a Temple or Shrine to the selfless Assassin who turned Draakhaal into the Shaper.” [I send.]

[Harbinger stared even higher upward perhaps for relief from his memories.]

[Beyond the Temple far above us, regular lines of artificial lights that looked like regimented stars marked out the arc of the new larger singular Parliamentary District Dome.]

[The current dome erected over smaller interlocking predecessors (afterwards deconstructed) used more than material sciences: cunningly interwoven into its construction was structural energy field enhancements powered by ‘AEL’ a Hierophant innovation.]

[The giant blister kept the atmosphere and heat in, the harsh to some external void of space out. Principally the dome allowed for wide-open spaces and all internal buildings to grow dramatically skyward without any requirement for their own self-contained pressurised atmospheres.]

“This place has changed a lot since I was last here in person.” [Harbinger said.]

“I agree it is hardly recognisable and yet still feels hauntingly familiar.” [My Avatar said.]

“As the high seat of ‘Core Alliance’ power, this region is a symbol of non-stop improvement.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is in permanent flux nothing is ever finished: nothing is ever good enough almost everyone and everything is on an endless journey with an ever-shifting destination that is always on the furthest horizon.” [I send.]

“The buildings grow and alter like living things.” [Harbinger said.]

“A few actually are alive Captain having an outer substance that is close kin to my ‘Living Hull’.” [I send.]

“Look at it all, progress and development is everything here. Our growth was once all about keeping pace with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ to prevent dominion now I think it is becoming an ingrained habit - something to do - or a compulsion.” [Harbinger sends.]

“People’s obsession with more confounds me: more industry, more buildings, more people, more problems, and by necessity more problem solvers. Still this is what you want.” [I send.]

“It is and it is not. I see the Free Recycler’s Trade Guild building was completely removed and replaced.” [Harbinger said aloud.]

“In an effort to promote better inter-species relations with the ‘Void Skimmers’.” [Priest Vested confirmed.]

“All these developments and changes are very impressive but I cannot help feeling that the more of anything you have the less any smaller part of it matters so what about individual lives.” [My Avatar said.]

“People become lost in the crowd - isolated - they group and segment or fearful of falling under the tramping masses they follow movements like this religion just to try to keep upright and safe.” [Harbinger said.]

[Looking at the bleakness of the dark Temple I wondered if coming here was a mistake. I shifted my own sight upward and away to the Parliamentary dome and the green tinged nebula shrouded Universe beyond. Unfortunately, my thoughts fell back down again almost as if caught by the grip of this areas artificially enhanced gravity or perhaps the weight of our past.]

[I noticed Harbinger followed my gaze.]

“The latest Parliamentary district dome is just another small demonstration of the possibilities unleashed by virtually unlimited power supplies.” [Harbinger lectured.]

“The bounds of the possible is changing all the time.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Due to all that energy leeched from what was once believed to be the ‘Sea Spheres’ shields but is now more accurately regarded as a multifunctional external power distribution grid.” [My Avatar said.]

“No doubt the ‘Void Skimmers’ credit Draakhaal as the inventor of ‘Advanced Energy Leeches’. He provided the means that made the ‘Core Alliance’ possible. Maybe their new name of Shaper for him is not too far off the mark after all.” [Priest Vested said.]

“The really fascinating thing is where all this power initially comes from. Most theorists now claim it is generated somewhere within the suspected honeycomb that makes up the prime mass of the Spheres locked away core not from space as it had once been believed via solar collection in the manner of a ‘Living Hull’.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am glad how ‘Sea Spheres’ generate and transmit their power is staying a little mysterious.” [My Avatar said.]

“Everything seems so big from down here and yet all this is tiny compared to the entirety of ‘Green Orb Alpha’.” [Priest Vested said.]

[I had to agree standing on the surface due to the surrounding domes containment it was difficult to imagine the full scale of this unlikely living organism (almost as large as a mythical ‘X’ Universe planet). However, with an inner ocean and an outer surface plus boundless energy any ‘Sea Sphere’ was ultimately capable of supporting far more teeming life than a giant floating rock with a thin atmosphere contained biosphere.]

[Harbinger lowered his prime Tri-optic to view the Temples entrance. The way in was an even deeper dark in the buildings hard less yielding exterior.]

[From the slightly elevated entrance gap a long line of pilgrims snaked out around a geometric path that spiralled outward and down to us. The lines progress neatly marked out by flying banners bearing the ‘Void Skimmer’ sign for the figure eight cunningly wrought as matt against shimmering black. The ‘Void Skimmers’ liked black because it was the rich tone of much of the void of outer space.]

[Suit sensors relayed the sharp mixed acrid smell given off by the milling (mostly tightly packed) ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ bodies here even over incense. Harbinger ordered us to start forward having seen and discussed enough.]

“It is time for us to join the faithful.” [Harbinger said to the team.]

[We moved across as a tactical unit to mate with the end of the queue.]

[There was no fast track in to the High Temple unless you worked there. According to some hasty research, the patience required to make the journey was an important part of the whole pilgrim experience.]

[I was full of anxiety for my Captain’s safety despite emergency transports being locked onto us and our Marine guards constant vigilance.]

[Harbinger however seemed unconcerned and drifted into a state of contemplative motive meditation as if for once he did not care if he lived or died. I wondered did he truly feel that all that mattered was his existence in this ever-changing moment. I hoped he could at last succeed in putting the long shadow of Draakhaal to rest in his mind.]

“This is going to take a while.” [My Avatar said.]

“Please it is time to let go of words.” [Harbinger replied.]

[I still felt rather uncomfortable. The silent queue oppressed me. I imagined I could feel hostile ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ eyes upon us.]

[Some people here had to be privy to the truth of what happened at this spot a little over twenty-five years ago. At one point, Harbinger had almost openly told the ‘Stellar Court’ what he had done and exactly why. (Koordaann had also helped restore that old deleted memory).]

[As Harbinger had not masked his identity from automatic security sensors, I soon noticed Parliamentary police officers keeping their Tri-optics on our group (perhaps fearful of something bad happening to a famous Paradox Elder on their watch).]

[After a while, four officers using high-grade ‘Shroud Suit’ (crowd control) flight systems hovered conspicuously upward to overlook our position. Identified by broadcast kanji appearing on our HUD the senior officer in command bowed his Tri-optic towards my Captain in acknowledgement. Harbinger nodded back in turn.]

[Our own guards shuffled about watching everyone even the monitoring police. The Marines kept their heavy weapons at the ready. I felt an increased tickle of foreboding as if this preparedness was the start of an inevitable escalation towards unstoppable violence.]

[The Trojan saying was true ‘ignorance was bliss’. Khoordaann had helped us retrieve all of our lost memories simply because much earlier (also edited out from our recall) she had in secret convinced us to begin that process of removing certain of our recollections. The edits undertaken to assist the retention of her ‘Altered Stellar’ agents deep cover. At that time ‘Altered Stellar’ had been busy locating active or potential Draakhaal clones and ID stores readying everything for a later synchronised cull. A clever hidden subroutine crafted in to me prevented any file memory restoration without among other things Khoordaann’s express permission.]

[Now that I knew - far too much - and finding myself actually here in reality rather than just thinking about it inside my ‘Hull’, I felt like a felon returning to the scene of a momentous crime. I wondered how Harbinger felt deep inside in regions only glimpsed by my companion-ship link.]

[It was possible Harbinger had picked something up from my faltering mood.]

“I often felt sorry for that clone he was caught in a trap from the moment of his conception: nothing more than a doomed tool of the ‘Stellar Court’.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“I cannot help but think it is unethical to treat life as nothing more than a mechanism an expendable biological machine.” [I send.]

[The irony of a ‘Living Hull’ making that statement not lost on me.]

“Design is no crueller than senseless nature often less.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Nature has no choice we do. Sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is.” [I send.]

“There is no point ‘MT’: existence is its own reward we create our own goals and beliefs we find our own purposes and vision we follow our nature there is nothing more.” [Harbinger sends.]

[I was not sure if there was consolation in that statement or not. We moved along a bit more.]

“What do you think all these ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ are looking for Captain?” [I send.]

“The same things as all the rest of us.” [Harbinger sends.]

[My Captain was right everyone was just shuffling along here.]

[To my surprise, despite my trepidations there was no outward hint of any hostility to our alien presence. The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ ahead and quickly behind our position in the queue accepted us among them without complaint even with our armed guards provocative presence.]

[Things had certainly changed compared to the days before the clinics began their genetic treatments. What the ‘Stellar Court’ managed to get away with amazed me.]

[I suspected the relaxed ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ around us had to be docile worker caste with cut down desires easily satisfied by a few necessities and an occasional bonus such as this pilgrimage to reaffirm their identity: to feel the comfort of belonging and contributing to something bigger than their own narrow if productive lives.]

[Something bigger… there was an easy attraction to the grand, the splendid, the mighty edifice of the Temple the outsize public construction it carried with it an illusion of deeper meaning. Was big better was it special? I wondered if scale should really matter at all in relation to worth it was something I often thought about.]

[Moving slowly down the line as an Avatar under my own direction and as a passive passenger in my Captain’s head I also questioned: if it was true that this whole Temple edifice was fake (manufactured upon a lie) did that mean anything or was the counter belief inside each pilgrim’s head enough to make it real where it mattered. Sometimes you can find it hard to stop thinking or talking.]

“We made this.” [I volunteered to my Captain.]

“In a way we all make our own Universe.” [Harbinger sends sagely having slipped firmly into what I called his Priest mode.]

[Glaring at the carapaces ahead of us, I considered the new ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Castes. It was amazing how one thing leads inevitably if surprisingly or disastrously to another. What was it about this slow stumbling progress that activated all these thoughts?]

[We all dreaded a fully alien Stage III ‘Void Dweller’ that could proliferate beyond anybodies control even the ‘Stellar Court’ had proved terrified.]

[However, our historic eager assistance to independently confirm and sell the lie that: ‘Void Skimmer’ DNA contained a deadly degenerative flaw - resulted in more than just the opportunity to end the threat of a Stage III metamorphosis by a worried ‘Stellar Court’.]

[I pondered (not for the first time) the other late activating effects that had been dropped in to individual ’Void Skimmer’ DNA under the cover of genetic treatment.]

[Too late, we discovered that like Draakhaal, the ‘Stellar Court’ still enjoyed playing with their citizen’s genetic make up. The opportunity to tinker with the whole species to help better secure their own control had been too useful to ignore. Reengineering your species was the sort of thing you would only ever get the opportunity to do once. The standard ‘Void Skimmer’ did not exactly make what you would call an ideal patient at least not before genetic therapy; as to afterwards - well - that would depend on the treatment.]

[Yet even for the ruthless Clan Lords ensuring everyone underwent treatment had been difficult: reports suggested doubting ‘Skimmer’ scientists not in the immediate loop had been a particular problem.]

[The deadly ‘Stellar Court’ members however had not risen to the top of the heap by accident. They initiated a ruthless management policy against any knowledgeable doubter: the lucky (the more flexible) and useful were recruited late to the program bribed with wealth and position, more intransigent questioning fully rebellious types suffered being quietly kidnapped and had their minds crudely rewritten with different less troublesome personas and priorities before release. The worst detractors - after supposed deeper study - had very public changes of heart.]

[In a truly massive logistical exercise, the newly established ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Ministry of Public Health in close association with the well-known Ministry of Propaganda and the Ministry of Justice handled other difficult groups and individuals on a case-by-case basis.]

[The ‘Void Skimmer’ authorities worked tirelessly to remove any risk to the project long before they actually dared to begin operating a single clinic. This partially explained why the program took so long to get going but proved - relatively speaking - so speedy once in progress. However, caution also helped to hide the ‘Courts’ wider plans.]

[Nonetheless, estimations from the start ran to more than a decade to complete this scheme and some ‘Void Skimmer’ citizens are still waiting for their treatment today although the incredible endeavour was at last approaching its terminus.]

[Despite a few small outbreaks of Stage III all ruthlessly contained, eliminated and covered up everything so far was going to plan.]

[In time those still waiting for a permanent cure to the supposed genetic defect where treated with medication: actually suppressant drugs that would temporarily prevent any attempt to activate the unwanted metamorphosis by anarchist heretical rebels.]

[On the outside the cured fully doctored ‘Void Skimmers’ seemed largely unchanged (they still looked like a monstrous mix of squid, reptile and insect) but inside according to Wilful Spirit there was a lot of new genetic divergence not just the necessary clean snip.]

[Apparent changes only became openly noticeable once a good-sized percentage of the population was treated. Very slowly, similarities of behaviour emerged and each caste began to instinctively group together.]

[Typically, Hierophant Trend was one of the first to comment on what appeared before the analysts of such matters to be six fully identified though at times surprisingly subtle new genetic castes. Warrior, priest, scientist, worker, bureaucrat and ruler but there was probably more than that.]

[The ‘Stellar Court’ had created their own less dangerously atavistic Stage that Hierophant Trend jokingly liked to refer to as Stage II point five but our secret files referred to - treated - Sage II ‘Void Skimmers’ as Stage IV although officially they still held the designation of Stage II ‘Void Skimmer Stellar Draakhaal’.]

[‘Core Alliance’ Intelligence Services believed there was in fact eight distinct castes including: agent, although the eighth caste remained stubbornly unknown. However, the proposition that eight castes existed remained free from dispute because the ‘Void Skimmers’ liked that number so much: it represented the perfection of infinity and had become an often-flaunted symbol for their species supposed grand unity of purpose as demonstrated by their new religion founded upon the Shaper.]

[Perhaps it was inevitable that the ‘Stellar Court’ would continue to embrace ideas of engineered social evolution. A process retaining built in control mechanisms - especially after they almost lost the leadership of their nation because their figurehead Arch Chancellor was openly murdered.]

[Even the celebrated ‘Five Day War’ was far from a costless total victory for the ‘Stellar Court’ still if any species could afford losses it was this one. Admittedly the ‘Five Day War’ saw the beginning of a potentially successful ‘Five Guardian Conglomerate’ Sleeper and ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ alliance, the ‘Void Skimmers’ also gained equal fleet rights not to mention direct legitimate access to ‘Fringe Space’ raw materials but these boons could easily have gone another way.]

[For a start, the people’s fervour and rebellion that forced the ‘Court’ to take immediate action against the ‘Conglomerate Recyclers’ had shaken the Clan Lords certainty of command and weakened their overall authority to rule without question. Only military success had in part helped to counter this.]

[However, the war also created many new complications for the ‘Stellar Court’. The loss of a few significant fleets was just the beginning. The ‘Court’ realised they needed to retool the bulk of their remaining forces from AGAEP main guns and Raw Energy Siphons.]

[Meanwhile the Paradox Corporation’s ably demonstrated that they had far more serious firepower than the ‘Court’ had probably ever given us credit for whilst the ‘Splinter Raiders’ appeared to debut a new secret weapon of mass destruction further the ‘Free Stellar’ remained as anti ‘Void Skimmer’ as ever. Finally, there was the eventual advent of an aggressive highly motivated new power the ‘Young One’ Free Recycler Defence Force who instigated their own unrestrained population growth and military expansion energetically.]

[The ‘Court’ also had to suffer knowing my Captain was aware of their perfidy in relation to the first Draakhaal’s death and the truth of Stage III. They had to find a new focus for their people away from Draakhaal’s Extra Universal fears whilst firmly disposing of the underlying danger of a future potential species wide metamorphosis and eliminating any surviving heretic Draakhaal clones.]

[Draakhaal’s private tool of the so-called zombie fleet also needed to be hunted down and destroyed whilst relations with the rest of the ‘Core Alliance’ and ‘Fringe Space’ was to be normalised in the face of many fears caused by the revelation of the ‘Void Skimmers’ (at the time of the ‘Five Day War’ illegally) large fleet.]

[As we moved forward towards the High Temple, I had to admit the ‘Stellar Court’ had done a remarkable job. Admittedly, all the races in the ‘Core Alliance’ eventually aided and abetted the ‘Court’ in their own way. Credit given grudgingly but given nonetheless once our institutions realised the ‘Void Skimmer’ nation seemed content to settle in to assume a more sensible and mutually beneficial position now Draakhaal was dead. A new strategy had emerged from the ‘Void Skimmer’ nation indicative of a vigorous but no longer disastrously quick growth and development.]

[Draakhaal’s public demise had proved the key political event. The end appeared to justify Harbinger’s extraordinary means.]

“I suppose less brutal masters than the ‘Stellar Court’ never would have been able to succeed in pushing through the genetic treatments the way they did.” [I send.]

“I am sure you are right.” [My Captain sends in reply but I could sense his disinterest in conversation he was lost in his own meditations.]

[I let the thread of my consciousness inside Harbinger’s head lapse into silence and just floated along with my Captain until we arrived at our destination the Temples maw.]

[As the last group of ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ immediately ahead of us disappeared into the darkness of the High Temple, Harbinger’s nine guards peeled away to stand beside the clergy at the archway. Almost with a start I realised it was 02:57 on the 22.02.29SA and so far, no alarm had sounded from any of Harbinger’s networks inside or outside the ‘MTC’. There was no indication of a rampaging reoccupation of ‘Splinter Raider Space’ unfortunately the day was young.]

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.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Sat, 14. Nov 09, 13:06; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Wed, 4. Nov 09, 12:29    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Sorry a lot of annoying little errors crept in with Ch2.

My proofing must have been done too late at night edit now posted. Hopefully got most of the worst offenders.

Always find it easier to spot errors with the white on black.

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PostPosted: Thu, 5. Nov 09, 01:03    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Crying or Very sad and I was past halfway in the chapter too Shocked


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PostPosted: Thu, 5. Nov 09, 17:09    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Ch2 turned into one of those chapters that is difficult to cure it is an abomination.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated.


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PostPosted: Fri, 6. Nov 09, 01:00    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I didn't think it was an abomination, I think maybe it just rambled a bit, especially when what's in (and is) the temple would require more description/plot and the three of the musing philosophy whilst in line.

Just my thoughts though.

Maybe a case where you expanded on dialog where it should/could have been more concise or left til after the temple visit for retrospective thoughts?


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PostPosted: Fri, 6. Nov 09, 12:05    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I think I have just read, and read it again far too many times. I was tempted to edit a lot of the speech out.

However I liked the way MT, VI push Harbinger in this one: the two against one dynamic. I wanted to show them interacting: how they are natural allies and yet also different.

I have done another edit that I think makes it a little easier to read. I put a few gaps in for permission to rest and made some other minor adjustments. Do not feel compelled to suffer it again there is little new except one extra defined caste that I realised I had missed out.

Difficulty with this one was once it was posted I did not want to remove any of the background content as such. Although you are right some of it should have been left until later.

When I posted and read it every failing here leapt out and assaulted me.

Ch2 was to be a vehicle to get some of the 25 year background out of the way so I could get down to some plot and action in later chapters. It also was the first half of the my original chapter idea that just bloated.

The next Chapter deals with the Temples internals and introduces a interesting new character which actually should have rounded this one off better. I was constrained in this instance by the limits on post size.

All I can say is I am happy Ch2 is over.

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PostPosted: Sat, 7. Nov 09, 00:23    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Paranoid66 wrote:
All I can say is I am happy Ch2 is over.


oh and we like plot and action Thumb up Very Happy

ooow... having a stellar draakal as a companion would be interesting (crosses fingers it wouldn't end up as a lost Droosuu clone, revealed via betrayal later in the plot Wink )
sorry know the name is misspelt, not to quick saturday morning


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PostPosted: Sat, 14. Nov 09, 13:07    Post subject: Reply with quote Print


[Time: 03:00.][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 22.02.26.]

[Location: High Temple, Temple Plaza, Parliamentary District, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Up close, the vertically stretched octagonal entrance to the High Temple was a disquieting - solid - darkness that defied penetration by every item in my sensorial armoury. At least any item that I dared aim towards it.]

[The inability to view beyond the threshold put me in a state of high alert. Nonetheless, I knew a little about the ‘Shaper Temples’ so-called ‘Dark Void’. Common knowledge said this device hid ‘Stellar Draakhaal’s’ religious mysteries from the unworthy.]

[Of the three of us, I stepped boldly forward to claim the dangerous position of point while Priest Vested became the rear guard.]

[We could not ignore the risk of assassination, our duty was clear. In particular, the destruction of my Avatar would be an inconsequential loss compared to the valuable early warning it might offer my Captain.]

[I double-checked that my suit’s automatic self-destruct mechanism still prioritised the option of rapid bio and biomechanical cellular disintegration the alternative being a lethal ‘Anomalous Matter’ detonation.]

[Generally, the old - one size fits all - ‘AM’ deterrent that had worked so well in the past with its strategy of ‘do not mess with our ‘Shroud Suits’ unless you want to blow everything nearby to ‘Hell’s Maw’ and back’ was no longer deemed socially acceptable (a change of policy I gladly endorsed).]

[Today a greater degree of caution was required: due to improvements in our foes arsenals, and because Paradox Priests (now frequently operating via Avatars) not to mention our Acolytes tended to do a lot more social interaction with other species.]

[Other species did not welcome having walking ‘AM’ bombs in their midst especially once they understood the full implications. Many authorities especially those overseeing mixed race ‘Sea Sphere’ Surface Regions demanded Paradox promise that their ‘AM’ auto destructs remained disarmed fearing massive unintentional collateral damage. However, my Captain still kept the old capability hardwired into our ‘MTC’ suits for as he put it ‘special occasions’.]

[Thankfully, any suit used as an Avatar only had to hide the secrets of its own nature. It therefore amused me to consider that it would be beyond bad form - if suffering a critical hit - I accidentally blew my own Captain up and or a big chunk of the ‘Void Skimmer’ High Temple.]

[Since the care and protection of my Captain was my first priority, as I thought about all this I felt a bit peeved. Harbinger should not have chosen to risk coming to this place in person I was convinced he had done this mostly to teach Priest Vested and me a lesson about haranguing him. Usually, my Captain was more than happy to use a remote. It would be easy to regret selling Elder Patriarch’s suggestion. I did not relish the idea of serving a Harbinger ‘Reborn’ clone should my owner die here.]

[Just as I sensed Harbinger was becoming a little impatient, three ‘Skimmer’ Clerics wordlessly pointed to us gesturing us forward with thin but sturdy limbs.]

[I managed a single step when an interloper (who I guessed had concealed himself by crouching behind his brethren) pushed past his cohort’s rank to confront me in their stead.]

[As I studied the creature, he straightened up seeming to grow in stature before my prime Tri-optic. He stood almost as tall as my ‘Shroud Suit’ in its standard configuration. Gazing upon this intimidating ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ it seemed to me that all my fears had mockingly coalesced to form one singular: chitin, flesh, blood, and bone nightmare.]

[In appearance, the newcomer was far too relaxed, sleek and dangerous for my liking. Despite Clerical virtual insignia and raiment, he hardly had the bearing of any Shaper Cleric I had ever seen; further his gleaming exposed body parts just happened to be crisscrossed with plainly visible duelling scars most old and fading but a few were unnervingly fresh and bright badges of honour.]

[Our Marines swung around covering the newcomer with heavy weaponry that set to max would be capable of devastating this whole area. My Captain ordered them to stand down. We had not come here to pick a fight, besides, our Paradox ‘Shroud Suits’ easily outgunned one unarmed ’Skimmer’ even without supplementary devices.]

[This one had to be some arrogant young noble who had accepted a penance in the High Temple rather than a sentence by the ‘Stellar Court’ - such things occasionally happened. Whilst he might delight in stirring up a bit of trouble, he was sure to be under observation lest he disgraced the Shaper. Minders would chastise him if he presumed to go too far.]

[Above us, I heard a crunch followed by a piercing screech and the sound of three repetitive each louder than the last nasty wet thuds. An emergency manipulation field lanced out grasping a falling battered ‘Void Skimmer’ glider to deposit him carefully on the ground somewhere beyond my angle of vision obstructed by the pilgrim line.]

[I wondered if the glider was alive after colliding with the temple and bouncing off it three times. It was likely the careless flyer had been distracted possibly watching the strange scene of three Paradox Pilgrims waiting below.]

[To my mild distress, I noticed almost none of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ here paid any attention to the minor calamity - such incidents possibly deemed inconsequential.]

“Do you think that constitutes a good or bad omen for us?” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[I made no reply. I was busy monitoring the newcomer still trying to puzzle out his purpose from very little data. He was not displaying a name but I recalled humble and penitent Shaper Temple Clerics got special legal dispensations in that regard.]

“I will guide this Paradox through the ‘Dark Void’.” [The big ‘Skimmer’ Cleric said loudly. His synthesised Paradox words rumbling across our quiet end of the plaza.]

[From their stance, the less intimidating and somewhat more traditionally clerical looking threesome seemed both surprised and unhappy with the big Clerics offer. All three of the clergy rather hesitantly made to reach out to the interloper but a quick glare and an unmistakably unfriendly hiss forestalled those actions. I scrapped my earlier assumption that our prospective guide was under reasonably strict Temple control.]

[Ignoring his brethren the overlarge ’Skimmer’ turned to me and outstretched a clawed hand that I noticed was maimed by having one of its digits missing. A useful distinction but not enough for an identification search given the vast size of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ population and their penchant for carrying battle scars.]

[Far from impressed at this scenario I did not know what to do: not wishing to cause a breach of etiquette. It did not help my quandary that much of the temples inner workings remained a closed mystery to me. I could also feel the weight of the long line of Pilgrims behind me willing me to move so they would have their chance to get inside.]

[Feeling embarrassed by my fears in front of so many ‘Skimmers’ I decided a High Temple Cleric was a High Temple Cleric. Unsure of the exact proper protocol I bowed my prime Tri-optic a little and extruded a limb to clasp the extended hand.]

“A limb from your other side would make my task easier.” [The Cleric announced emphasising his point by withdrawing his hand from my initial offer.]

[When I extruded another limb, the three Clerics glared at me as if I had betrayed them. I returned the smaller ‘Skimmers’ attention awaiting clarification. Surely, I reasoned, if something was seriously amiss here, someone senior would appear to intervene. An unexpected chemical secretion tickled my palm.]

[Straight away, I considered activating my shield and pulling my limb back. Then I feared it might be too late (I imagined an aggressive highly concentrated contaminant eating into my suit something like a flesh eating fungal spore worm on steroids - something new).]

[Analysing the substance - to my relief - I recognised an ‘Altered Stellar’ chemical message tag and translated a short piece of cleverly embedded code.]

“Imperative you make a direct line link to each other now.” [The message read.]

[At the same time, my guide gently pulled on my flexible arm to usher me forward. Smoothly turning about he physically bullied past the other clerics to sink alarmingly into the darkness: it swallowed him completely as if it was an opaque black liquid. I fancied the mysteries of the temple had eaten him whole.]

[Following, I did as the code had requested. I sent a tentacle shooting from my back past the three startled Clerics to merge with my Captain passing the message along. Harbinger in turn extruded a tethering lifeline out to Priest Vested.]

[Due to the ‘Altered Stellar’ code, I felt a little less apprehensive about the Guide but a little more unnerved with the wider unknown situation. Having slipped into the same too full darkness the obscuring phenomenon completely disabled my sight. Only the steady grip of the guiding hand steered me faithfully onward one careful step at a time: being so dependent on another person - especially someone outside the family - felt very odd. I surmised that a submission to Clerical guidance had to be one of the premeditated symbolic messages transmitted by the medium of this utter darkness.]

“Now you must all quickly close ranks with me.” [The shifting chemical message ordered.]

[I set up a relay through our links to keep Harbinger and Vested fully informed (Vested was still without any exogenous communications). My Captain and ‘Constant’ readily shortened the gaps between us - until our suits stood centimetres apart - we also thickened and strengthened our physical link so that even a direct assault would not easily part us.]

[I felt my guide’s progress halt.]

“What is this do all three of you wish to pass together?” [The Cleric roared out still using the same simulated Paradox voice.]

[I decided to play along.]

“We would prefer not to be separated if that is not breaking your customs.” [I shouted out.]

“Now I have seen it all. I never realised Paradox fear the night or is it just the Shaper’s ‘Dark Void’ that you cannot face on your own?” [The Cleric boomed.]

“It is our custom to honour the triangulation of good fortune. Travelling alone tempts ill fate and would dishonour the Temple as our host.” [I roared out.]

“Since you asked so nicely I will honour your superstition.” [The Guide announced.]

[Straining my senses in the dark, I could hear rather than see the other three Clerics rush around us during our talk as if desperate to cut off our escape.]

“What is this?” [Our unimpressed Guide bellowed.]

“We have specific instructions.” [One of the three announced weakly.]

“You mean you had, now I am giving you a new updated command: GET OUT OF MY WAY.” [Our Guide thundered.]

“Orders do not permit that, we have no choice - please - I beg you be reasonable.” [The voice pleaded.]

“Weak fools, I will not be party to a blasphemous charade - not in this sacred place. These creatures have come here in good faith - to honour the Shaper - to play them false would be wrong. Some matters go beyond rank, orders or allegiance. Some matters are about the person you are. Have you lost your faith so easily? You are pathetic.” [Our Guide spat out before hissing faintly.]

“Please we dare not disobey.” [The voice said.]

“That is not my problem. Be glad, it is better to die upright than crawling on your belly.” [Our Guide said.]

“If we cannot guide then at least let us accompany you.” [The voice said.]

“No - get out of my sight - you are a disgrace to our species. Move immediately or I will treat your insolence as formal challenges. I will not hesitate again to send you to our Shaper’s uncompromising judgement?” [Our Guide stated to my deepening concern.]

[My data on the Temple insisted that the Arch Prelate had banned ‘Shaper Clerics’ from duelling whilst some might still do so in secret this open a violation was blatant in extremis. Nonetheless, I could hear the other creatures shuffling hastily back as if intimidated by this - too plain - offer of deadly violence.]

[Something was definitely wrong here if my Guide was an ‘Altered Stellar’ agent one of Khoordaann’s people and he was pretending to be a Cleric (even a temporary Penitent Noble one) he was doing an amazingly bad job of it. That seemed terribly at odds with what I knew about these agents and their remarkably successful professionalism. I had to be missing something very important. What did he mean by a blasphemous charade? Was he foiling some degrading plot against us by using a cover of high principle?]

“Stay close without me you will become lost among secrets you cannot hope to comprehend. Do you understand?” [The Guide asked suddenly sounding sympathetic.]

[After a moment of silence and inaction I realised the question was not rhetorical.]

“I understand.” [I answered.]

“Our faith tells us the teaching ‘Void’ is only dark for the unenlightened. Tell me what can you see Pilgrim?” [The Guide asked.]

“I can see nothing.” [I hazarded.]

“Then you must pass on.” [Our Guide said tugging on my limb.]

[We moved purposely forward becoming lost in the clinging darkness. I could not even see my own limbs or my Captain behind me.]

[Via my companion-ship I could feel my Captain’s dislike for the visual sensory deprivation I could easily sympathise it was worse than the densest nebula. Then I could sense Harbinger begin meditating on this experience looking for some wisdom in it.]

“Hurry this way and be prepared: this rescue plan of mine is less than perfect - being constructed in haste - it may not work.” [A new message read.]

“Rescue plan - there is real danger here?” [I asked using the same chemical methodology as we marched along.]

“You have picked a poor time to visit the High Temple.” [Was messaged in reply.]

“Explain.” [I messaged back.]

“The Warlord ‘Kaggattkaa’ is attempting to claim dominion over the High Temple and the position of Arch Prelate - by force.” [A message replied.]

[I ran a hasty fetch routine.]

“You are speaking of Clan Lord Allgaachaa’s second son the Kaggattkaa known as the Champion because of his exceptionally successful duelling career?” [I messaged in reply.]

“Yes the same entity, this way hurry.” [Our Guide messaged.]

“I should never have trusted Elder Patriarch.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

“You did not have to come here in person.” [I reminded once more in reply.]

[Although I was still in the dark (in my mind at least the obscuration was lifting a bit).]

[My Guide increased the pace still further.]

[We followed unseeingly along changing direction in several arcing turns as if circling around things only our Guide could perceive. I hoped any protagonists here would be equally blind to our passing. At least I knew I could retrace these steps if needed. My navigation systems positional functions still worked perfectly even in the dark.]

“Your arrival was an unexpected complication but we are almost through.” [The Guide messaged.]

“Let us hope Kagga’s enthusiastic but undisciplined forces have grown as bored and lax as I estimated.” [The Guide messaged.]

[We stopped.]

“Wait here; do not move from this spot. Do not speak aloud. Do not do anything. I have hidden you in the ‘Dark Void’ I will return shortly - I hope.” [A message said.]

[Our Guide let go of my limb. It felt like abandonment. I was glad I was just an Avatar I wondered how Priest Vested was coping she was being very silent perhaps keeping her fears to herself my Captain was also saying too little.]

[I waited anxiously for a while doing nothing as commanded.]

[After a little time had passed, I got worried enough to activate my shield.]

“Are we wise to trust him?” [I send to my Captain.]

“He has a valid ‘Altered Stellar’ code.” [Harbinger sends in reply.]

[I almost started as a clawed hand landed on my suit’s shoulder to rap gently but impatiently against my shield. The dark was getting to me. I deactivated my defence so that I could read any new message.]

“Idiot, keep your shield down, luckily those fools did not dare to follow us. I am opening a large ‘High Density Field’ door that lies directly beneath us masquerading as part of the floor. Do not do anything there will be a short fall but automatic manipulation field cargo handlers will catch us.” [Our Guide messaged.]

[We fell - crashing into the floor. Overhead the HDF door sprang back into being.]

[I heard a short agitated hissing curse.]

“Do nothing manipulation field cargo handlers will catch us.” [Priest Vested mocked.]

“Anyone take any damage.” [Harbinger asked.]

“Just to my pride.” [Our Guide said.]

[I glowed yellow.]

“Anybody can make a mistake.” [Harbinger stated.]

“That should not have happened. The system must have a glitch still we will be safe here - for a while - this area is supposedly locked down.” [Our Guide now said aloud.]

[Our guide stood up ruffled his carapace and flexed his limbs.]

[We gathered around the enigmatic scarred ‘Void Skimmer’.]

“At last I have the honour of meeting one of Khoordaann’s agents in person.” [Harbinger said.]

“So you will better trust me I will explain. I am what we call a ‘Transient’. I specialise in piloting specially prepared (force grown) mindless simulacrum cloned bodies, similar to how you Paradox control your suit Avatars. This is not my body and I am not really here.” [The ‘Altered Stellar’ said as if this was a small matter of fact statement.]

“That explains a lot I often wondered just how your people so successfully managed to infiltrate the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [Harbinger said.]

“We use many methodologies the establishment of full replacement infiltration units is just one and not something we publicise or do lightly.” [The Altered Stellar explained.]

“So what exactly is happening here?” [Harbinger asked scanning around the well stocked Temple storage room.]

“I am one of a few agents specifically assigned to Kagga. We knew he was planning something big. It turned out to be a move against the Arch Prelate. A few colleagues and I contrived to join this specific operation. Unfortunately, we arrived on the scene a little too late. Kagga had already partially succeeded via a means we did not anticipate: he employed a ‘Five Guardian Conglomerate’ Recycler hacker to do the initial groundwork.” [The Agent explained.]

“A freelancer or somebody working for the ‘Five Guardian’ Sleepers?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am not sure the Reptile says very little: rumour among the troops has it she is a mercenary but rumours cannot always be trusted and everyone always assumes Recyclers work for credits.” [The Altered Stellar explained.]

“I hate it when villains collaborate.” [Harbinger said.]

“For four days now the Arch Prelate and all his closest staff have been imprisoned in their own stasis security fields way up in the Upper Temple in his High Offices. Not that the Warlords initial success has done him much good.” [The Altered Stellar added.]

“I do not understand why has Kagga not won if he already holds the High Temple and its entire staff in thrall? What is going on here negotiations?” [Harbinger asked.]

“One of my colleagues intervened just in time we could not wrest control of the stasis field from the cybernetic hacker but we did manage to activate and lock down another wider security protocol. That measure sealed the intruders out of the lower Temples systems including most import of all the surface gate controls. A direct linked surface gate is the only safe and easy way into the Upper Temple it is a no nonsense fortress bunker up there. Without using the gate, you would have to blow up half the Temple to get in. As you can imagine blowing up the High Temple for any ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ even a rebellious one is not really an option.” [The Agent explained.]

“So what is the current situation.” [Harbinger said.]

“Kagga’s Reptile has been trying to crack our ‘Altered Stellar’ lock out encryption code to open the gate but I believe the stars will fade before she succeeds in that endeavour.” [The Agent said.]

“So the Arch Prelate though he is held prisoner is safe for the moment. Why then have the other Clan Lords not stormed the Temple to free him and detain this impetuous young rebel?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I suspect they have a horde of reasons: none of them want any of this publicised to the wider ‘Skimmer’ populace not before the situation is fully stabilised one way or the other. Too many secrets could get out and they hate to show any weakness.” [The Agent said.]

“Or some of them are waiting to see how the die falls.” [Priest Vested said.]

“As usual the shifting fractional politics of the ‘Stellar Court’ are difficult to follow in secret a few may even support the young Warlord’s actions.” [The Agent said.]

“Yet despite this crisis at least on the surface here everything remains business as usual.” [Harbinger said.]

“That is true the Pilgrims are unaware that anything is amiss that suits everyone. When Kagga’s people spotted you in the line he was enraged that any Paradox would dare to seek to know the Temple’s mysteries. Then he decided he would have his people mock you with a series of cruel and ridiculously made up rituals to improve his forces flagging morale. Unfortunately, I was sure Kagga due to his prejudices was underestimating both your intelligence and your anger as a - Warrior - Priest. I saw only one possible result a serious diplomatic incident either yours or Kagga’s death. Such a development would only make this crisis worse. Kagga has two sides when he is calm he is a cunning and gifted plotter but he is also arrogant and prone to fits of rage that ignore all common sense. He has already done some unforgivable things here to Clerics who dared to defy his orders or just failed to show proper deference to his stolen authority. Kagga since he holds the High Temple already deludes himself that - he is - the Arch Prelate in all ways that matter.” [The Agent said.]

“So you took over from our officially assigned guides.” [Harbinger said.]

“My people unilaterally and the ‘Stellar Court’ quietly and secretly are trying to resolve this issue without adding new fracture lines in the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ nation; interspecies complications could destroy that endeavour. I believed I had little choice from an operational position. We are hoping that eventually Kagga must withdraw when he ultimately accepts his mission is hopeless but when it comes to admitting he is defeated he is proving unbelievably stubborn. As a last resort, my superiors suggested I could challenge Kagga to a duel, a fight I could easily lose. Kagga is a formidable opponent in close combat and for once I would have to fight fair or it would be simple murder and again cause who knows what political fallout.” [The Agent said.]

“Why is he doing this?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Our analysis suggests Kaggattkaa is utterly opposed to the new racial harmony promoted by the Temple and the ‘Caste System’. He is an advocate that real strength is born through the promotion of strife not cooperation. He believes in a very different Draakhaal to the image now being promoted as the Shaper of a perfectly balanced race.” [The Agent said.]

“So he is rebelling against the direction taken by his father’s generation after Draakhaal was martyred.” [Harbinger said.]

“He is a complicated entity torn in two. He claims to be loyal to his father; however, the parent he serves is the teacher of his youth the mighty ‘Void Skimmer’ Clan Lord who sold him all the old ways founded on the first principle that above all else - might is right. Recent changes in policy have confused many unenlightened young ‘Skimmer’ nobles. It has hardly helped them that it is not the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ way to let their children know the deeper mysteries of why they do things: they are just expected to obey without question or suffer the consequences of parental disfavour.” [The Agent said.]

“I imagine he believes his father compromised his old ideals.” [Harbinger said.]

“In particular Kagga’s rants accuse the Arch Prelate of being a traitor to the cause. He says the Arch Prelate hides away in the High Temple because he knows here his crimes are beyond any physical challenge. He is convinced all the proofs he needs of the twisting of Draakhaal’s original message lie hidden in sealed internal archives here in the Arch Prelate’s High Office.” [The Agent explained.]

“So he came here to expose a conspiracy.” [Harbinger said.]

“Yes and no, we have discovered he plans to blackmail the ‘Stellar Court’ into sanctifying his position as the replacement for the Arch Prelate who he wishes to force to stand down. It is Kagga’s intent to turn the Temple around to promote his vision of the Shaper’s will. Kagga has realised the Temple could make a perfect weapon to wrest control of the nation from the corrupt in his eyes - fallen - authority of the ‘Stellar Court’. He is a student of the early Draakhaal and believes those who can take power are those who deserve it while those who lose their power should accept oblivion.” [The Agent said.]

“Give me a moment to think about this.” [Harbinger said.]

“I have to say I am disappointed by all this.” [My Avatar said.]

“I would gamble my Captaincy now that somehow Elder Patriarch did know all about this ongoing situation. This crisis is why he suggested I should visit here.” [Harbinger sends to me angrily.]

“Coincidences do happen everything is not a conspiracy.” [I send in reply.]

“Tell that to the ‘Stellar Court’ or this problematic Warlord. This is what happens when you stir up impetuous youths. There is a lesson in this for Priest Vested although the ‘Young One’ Recycler’s political coup should have been more than lesson enough for him to think thrice about his careless Acolyte agitations.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Why would Elder Patriarch specifically involve us though?” [I send.]

“A wild card to face off against a wild card.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I suppose our friend would not have expected you to risk yourself by coming here in person. Maybe Elder Patriarch believed you could enter negotiations with this Kagga person, as a third party, convince him it is in his best interest to surrender.” [I send.]

“Somehow I do not think this Warlord is the negotiating or surrendering type.” [Harbinger sends.]

“What was your plan.” [Harbinger asked the Agent.]

“We hide here until I can figure out a way to smuggle you out of the Temple or until Kagga gives up on this endeavour.” [The Agent explained.]

“When do you think that will happen.” [Priest Vested asked.]

“I wish I knew, when he runs out of Clerics to torture and grows bored.” [The Agent offered.]

“We can hardly just sit here and let him get away with atrocities like that.” [Priest Vested said.]

“The Cleric’s are just a few ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ there are billions more.” [The Agent said.]

“They are ‘Core Alliance’ citizens.” [Priest Vested countered.]

“What does he hope to gain by these interrogations?” [Harbinger asked.]

“The secret of the lock out encryption or some other hidden way into the Upper Temple.” [The Agent explained.]

“Does such a way exist?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I doubt it, of course there are rumours but places like this always have tales about secret passages and chambers.” [The Agent explained.]

“Still there is a remote possibility such a way might exist and one of the captured Clerics might know of it - that is a big risk to take.” [Harbinger said.]

“You are just looking for an excuse to act. If provoked by any resistance Kagga will not back down that is why I believed it was necessary to spirit you away. Even if you managed to kill him it would be a disaster, think about it: an Elder Paradox spilling the blood of a noble son of a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Clan Lord in of all places the High Temple to the Shaper. The wider circumstances would hardly matter - no one would care - there would be bloodshed many eager young ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ Nobles would rise to enact revenge.” [The Agent explained.]

“Well I cannot ignore this: people are being tortured.” [Harbinger said.]

“This is a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ issue it is none of your business.” [The Agent said.]

“That is amusing coming from you - a foreign agent.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Enough. Now I know about this situation, I am afraid it is my business, besides what if this Warlord somehow manages to succeed. We dare not permit this barbarian to get control of this faith it would be an unmitigated disaster.” [Harbinger said.]

“What can you do the temple is full of smuggled in ‘Warrior Caste’ members faithful to their Champion? They are carefully controlling everyone coming in. Any Clerics showing defiance are imprisoned and tortured the rest have been intimidated into eager fearful compliance - you saw the three at the entrance. Any challenge you might offer will just make all these and other matters worse.” [The Agent explained.]

“I am sure I can think of something that will work even in these circumstances. We can use Kagga’s belief that he is firmly in control here against him. If we can defeat this Warlord, I assume his followers will put up little further resistance.” [Harbinger said.]

“You should listen to my father he is very resourceful.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Tell me about the layout of the Temple and about this ‘Dark Void’ am I right in believing it is used instead of dividing walls and is a simple form of nanotechnology? Actually I can guess each large floating particle can generate a sheaf that from one side is opaque but from the other is transparent.” [Harbinger asked.]

“How did you know this?” [The Agent asked.]

“We Paradox have reinvented a similar technology once used by our ancestors that employs these principles perhaps this one has been retro engineered by the ‘Void Skimmers’. How do the Clerics control their ‘Dark Void’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Pheromone signals that are relayed onward by the particles themselves I can give you the exact control code command set if you like.” [The Agent explained.]

“Wonderful this is going to be even easier than I imagined.” [Harbinger said.]

“What are you thinking about doing?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“We secure Kagga unharmed and hand him over to the ‘Stellar Court’. Then his people will have no option but to quietly surrender.” [Harbinger said.]

“Just how do you propose to do this miraculous deed? If you are thinking about using a warp wormhole this temple is sealed against such intrusions.” [The Agent asked.]

“Pretty easily if I get the timing right. I will not even have to - technically - leave the safety of this room and no wormhole access will be needed.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“That would be a neat trick Paradox. However, if what you are planning involves inflicting any damage to the High Temple you had best forget it.” [The Agent said.]

“There will be no need to do any collateral damage at all.” [Harbinger said.]

“I cannot decide if I have utterly underestimated your abilities or if you are completely deluded or just plain mad.” [The Agent said.]

“This Kagga should have found an excuse to turn me away at the door. I will teach him this morning that it is folly to even consider mocking an Elder Paradox.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am afraid ‘Many Truths’ I will need to borrow your ‘Shroud Suit’. It is better if I do this as I am more experienced at this sort of thing.” [Harbinger sends.]

“More likely you cannot abide not being in the midst of the action.” [I send glowing yellow.]

[Nonetheless, I readily disconnected the larger thread of my consciousness from my ‘Shroud Suit’ permitting my Captain to take over prime control of the unit as one of his remote Avatars. Of course, I remained piggybacking in the subsystems via companion-ship.]

[Luckily Harbinger had dropped some bugs as we had traversed the temple. Using these spies, we could tell when the area above was clear. Our new associate opened the ‘High Density Field’ door and Harbinger’s Avatar that had gone into stealth mode rose up and out using a ‘Shroud Suit’ manipulation field leap.]

[We had learned that the whole lower Temple was one large octagonal open space. It used the ‘Dark Voids’ that could also act as sonic dampening screens to create the illusion of multiple enclosed spaces usually in the form of octagonal cells of varying size.]

[My Captain still hidden by Paradox stealth carefully made his way to one solid outer wall there using a very low powered manipulation field he anchored his suit substance to the wall. Against the power of artificial gravity he flowed upward then along the ceiling. He did this slowly to give his stealth the maximum time to compensate - just in case anyone was looking.]

[Due to his excellent aerial view whilst being capable of controlling and thus looking down through the ‘Dark Void’ my Captain soon located his quarry. It helped that Kagga was vain enough to be broadcasting virtual name and rank markings and was cruel enough to be busy interrogating another unfortunate Cleric bound to what looked like makeshift scaffolding.]

[Despite the angle being a bit off putting, I judged the Warlord slightly shorter than our Agent friend was, but bulkier in build. Sonic screens isolated sound within the octagonal cell; nonetheless, it was obvious Kagga was enjoying his work just by the exaggerated almost dramatic movements he was making almost as if putting on a performance for his troops or possibly his victim or both.]

[Rather barbarically, Kagga was using unsophisticated hand held craftwork and surgical tools in his interrogation: poking, cutting, grasping and gouging rather than employing less permanently damaging modern nerve stimulation technologies or mechanical mind readers that could hook into a neural net in a manner not unlike but far less sophisticated than a Paradox Inquisitor. To me the whole operation was unnecessarily primitive sadistic and messy.]

[Eight troopers guarded Kagga but typically, not one was bothering to look directly up. Most of the guards seemed fixated on the pain-filled drama before them.]

[My Captain shifted slightly to stay directly above his quarry waiting with unusual patience for the perfect moment to drop. I could understand why I estimated we would only have one chance to do this. I was also sure waiting would not have been so easy if we could hear the Cleric’s pain filled cries.]

[When Kagga moved over to a small table to make a great show over choosing a new implement of agony. We congealed into the shape of a giant liquid teardrop and fell. At the last moment this form opening up like a blanket. As the ‘Shroud Suit’ slipped open it naturally lost all stealth capability but by that point it hardly mattered.]

[We landed on our target like a conical cloak and the suit immediately flowed over the startled Skimmer who attempted to shrug us off by striving to open his carapace and by extruding his spines a natural enough reflex action for his species.]

[However, the suit wrapping around him forced against the carapaces small muscles with overweening force to weld it tightly shut. As to the spines, they poked through gaps the suit opened in front of their sharp toxin injecting points before they could jab in. With the spines exposed, the suit then gripped down hard upon each quill like spines base locking them rigidly and harmlessly in place.]

[The guards stared in shock as their leader was encased in alien substance.]

[Kagga became deliberately unbalanced so that he toppled over backwards hitting the ground hard. This allowed the last gaps to seal as suit substance flowed over his clawed feet. It had taken just a few seconds for the Warlord to be fully enclosed. The ‘Shroud Suit’ activated its biologically generated shield.]

[The guards having raised their weapons stared as the suit sprouted three small Tri-optic sensors giving overlapping three hundred and sixty degrees of vision.]

[I could imagine the guards puzzlement and almost sympathise they could hardly fire on their Warlord but to just stand by and do nothing was equally incomprehensible.]

[One of the guards moved forward to grab what looked like a laser scalpel from the table he advanced cautiously under our watchful gaze.]

[Another guard slung a weapon I could not identify and pulled out four ‘Leech’ grenades one in each limb.]

“Stand down immediately or Kaggattkaa dies.” [Harbinger said.]

[A third guard also unhooked ‘Leech’ grenades.]

“He will die long before you can drop this shield.” [Harbinger advised.]

[The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ looked to each other uncertain.]

“If you insist in trying to free your Master you will be directly responsible for killing him, if you disobey me you will kill him. Now drop all your weapons and I mean all of them.” [Harbinger demanded.]

[The first grenade wielder hefted his devices as if testing their weight then carefully crouched to set them on the ground. Grudgingly the rest followed his example. We watched patiently until they had all fully disarmed - making small piles of equipment.]

“Good, now stand over there.” [Harbinger said pointing with an extruded tentacle.]

[The guards sullenly obeyed glaring malice.]

“Wonderful, now you will order all your other forces to lay down their weapons under the same consequences should they fail to comply. I have no desire to kill your Warlord but if pressed I will not hesitate to do so.” [Harbinger warned.]

“When they have dropped their weapons they are to gather near the main entrance. Once they are in place you eight will pick up your leader and carry him outside via the Temples rear exit following the directions I give you.” [Harbinger added.]

“Outside I have arranged for you to be met by a group of Parliamentary Police they will arrange for your swift transport directly into ‘Stellar Court’ custody. Then and only then will the rest of your people exit the temple via the main entrance one at a time there they will quietly give themselves up to more Parliamentary Police.” [Harbinger continued.]

“Only when all this has been done and Kaggattkaa is in the custody of your own authorities will he be released from his solitary confinement. This bold folly by your over ambitious commander is over.” [Harbinger told the humbled guards.]

“Did you hear all that?” [Harbinger sends via a direct communications link that the suit had obligingly made to the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ captives neural net.]

“I could kill myself. I will kill myself if you try to interrogate my mind. I know all about your Paradox tricks our neural nets are now armed against your evil mind stealing abilities.” [The immobilised Kaggattkaa sends.]

“If you really know all our tricks you should be ashamed that you permitted yourself to be captured so easily. Still you can keep your petty secrets Warlord even if I do not think you are the type prone to suicide: you have too much hate inside you to give up that easily.” [Harbinger sends.]

“You are right about that Paradox I will live to see you burn for this. Tell me your name or are you afraid?” [Kaggattkaa sends.]

“You do not scare me child, I am Elder Harbinger of the ‘Many Truth’s Corporation’.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I know you and I will remember your name you will regret once again meddling in affairs that are not and should never have been any concern of yours.” [Kaggattkaa sends.]

“The only thing I will regret is that I did not arrive earlier to stop you sooner child.” [Harbinger sends.]

“I killed no innocents they are all guilty of betrayal. Be assured - I will - remember your name.” [Kaggattkaa sends.]

“I am afraid - after this debacle - you will be lucky if you remember your own name when the ‘Stellar Court’ have finished working on you.” [Harbinger sends.]

“We will see Elder. You will never make us into your clawless pets. You will never control us the way you have leashed our fathers. One day you will all drown in our justified wrath for daring to think you could tame us. You may have temporarily stolen our birthright but you will never make us into loyal slaves to your pathetically weak ‘Core Alliance’. We have a greater destiny than you can even imagine. You can corrupt some of our leaders but you will never taint all of us, never.” [Kaggattkaa sends.]

“You are an anachronism Kagga. If you are a slave, it is to outdated hatred and malice nothing more. Still I am glad to have met you because I now know people like you are the exception; even among your ill begotten savage species.” [Harbinger sends before breaking the connection.]

“A short time in solitary confinement might do him some good.” [Harbinger sends to me.]

[Time: 03:33.][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 22.02.26.]

[Location: Storage Room, High Temple, Temple Plaza, Parliamentary District, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

“It is done the last of your Cabal have left the Temple.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“Your ‘Shroud Suits’ are an impressive technology. It seems I was wrong - it was fortunate - that you decided to visit the High Temple. This impasse might have continued for many more days with who knows what eventual consequence.” [The Agent said.]

“Yes it was fortunate. A bold move like this attempted Temple coup is just the sort of thing that might foolishly rally the more militaristic young nobles to attempt to seize control of the ‘Stellar Court’ from their slightly wiser fathers. After what happened with the ‘Young One’ Recyclers we should be on our guard against youthful ambitions.” [Harbinger said.]

“The ‘Void Skimmer’ species is a complicated adversary. I am glad my assignment has not ended in a disaster. I am sorry if I underestimated your capabilities - no insult was intended - I have had few dealings with Elder Paradox they do not move in the circles I frequent.” [The Agent admitted.]

“What will you do now?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I have been ordered to decommission this compromised vehicle and wait for another assignment.” [The Agent replied.]

“Immediately?” [Harbinger asked.]

“No I have a little time why do you ask.” [The Agent replied.]

“I have never met a ‘Transient’; I did not even know that such a thing existed until today. I would like to get to know you a little better.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am what I do Harbinger. There is little to know. We do not make friends in my business it would complicate our missions far too much.” [The Agent said.]

“I am sorry to hear that.” [Harbinger said.]

“Do not be, this life has its compensations if you are the type to appreciate them. I enjoy knowing things others do not and my work makes a difference. You do know it will be best to pretend this incident never happened.” [The Agent said.]

“No doubt, denial is the ‘Stellar Court’ way. They like to maintain their secrets and telling this story might do me more harm than good. For a start, few ‘Skimmer’ hard liners would appreciate their Prelate being saved by a Paradox: they would feel resentful not in my debt. Being assisted by a Paradox could disgrace the Arch Prelate as well.” [Harbinger said.]

“Luckily I do not think Kagga’s supporters will want to broadcast their embarrassing failure either. However, they will not forget or forgive you.” [The Agent said.]

“I have a long list of enemies a few more will make little difference.” [Harbinger said.]

“Well I should go now - be safe - do not underestimate Kagga yes he is young, rash and may have overstretched himself on this occasion but he has a strong following and this plan of his could have worked if my people had not stumbled upon it.” [The Agent said.]

“Give my blessings to Khoordaann as ever the ‘Core Alliance’ is grateful for her peoples assistance though your stories may never be told. Do you think the ‘Stellar Court’ will be lenient with their errant child?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I think his boldness will impress some. The Clan Lords are not yet fully comfortable - sharing power - many still harbour secret outsized ambitions and dream of being the next Draakhaal or serving one leader as a favoured elevated lieutenant.” [The Agent advised.]

“I will remember that friend.” [Harbinger said.]

“Please avoid touching me until after the process is complete.” [The Agent warned.]

[To our surprise our new friend slumped to the floor as a dead weight and his body began to discorporate at an alarming rate into a sticky looking chemical puddle that bubbled and frothed vigorously giving off a lot of heat and steam before desiccating before our eyes into a pile of fine inert dust.]

“An unusual exit.” [Harbinger said.]

“Without doubt father but now how do we get out of here?” [Priest Vested said looking up at the closed HDF door.]

“A good question ‘Constant’.” [Harbinger replied.]

[In the end we had to signal our Marines to get us some Clerical assistance.]

[Time: 03:42.][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 22.02.26.]

[Location: The High Temple, Temple Plaza, Parliamentary District, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

“How did you manage to get down there.” [A Cleric asked after we had been rescued.]

“I am not entirely sure: one second we were being guided along in an impenetrable darkness the next we just fell in.” [Harbinger lied smoothly.]

“Emissary, how embarrassing this is clearly more than a simple malfunction this is a grave oversight and a dereliction of duty. I trust you have not been harmed by this harrowing experience.” [The Cleric replied.]

“It was a mere inconvenience.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Thank the Shaper, and perhaps this is actually good fortune for you. I believe you are to be honoured with an audience with the Arch Prelate it is possible he wishes to apologise to you in person for this shocking - inconvenience.” [The Cleric said.]

“You seem very busy today.” [Harbinger stated looking around at a lot of frantic activity even in the open area of temple we could see.]

“The Arch Prelate has decided to rotate a lot of staff in from shrines and lesser Temples beyond ‘Green Orb Alpha’. The idea is that in this most auspicious year all who truly serve the Shaper should experience the joy of working in the High Temple.” [The Cleric advised.]

“I will remember that.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am afraid some of the newcomers have proven a bit shall we say - parochial - in their manners which has caused all kinds of problems. From the outside, it may appear our usual strict adherence to protocol is now organised chaos. There have even been several complaints from unhappy Pilgrims.” [The Cleric explained.]

“I am sorry to hear that.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Thankfully I am sure it will all sort itself out now that the Arch Prelate has finished his deep mediations. As you would no doubt agree every ship needs a Captain to ensure its utmost efficiency.” [The Cleric said.]

“A place like this - much like a space going vessel - should thrive on stability.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Did you get to visit the ‘Eight Pillars’ and the ‘Shaper’s Shell’?” [The Cleric asked.]

“I am afraid we never got that far and somehow I have lost one of my colleagues as well.” [Harbinger said.]

“Outrageous, I suspect your guide may have fled away in fright when he realised what he had accidentally done by dropping you down there. In relation to your friend, he cannot have gone far he probably just got lost in the dark and wandered out the rear exit. I am sure he will turn up eventually. You must think we are terrible barbarians a less understanding person might have accused us of false imprisonment or worse: we are all in your debt Elder Paradox and unlike some we are not the type to forget that.” [The Cleric said.]

“Anyone can make a mistake.” [Harbinger said.]

“A mistake yes, but to be unrepentant is another matter. I hope you realise we are not all like the careless one who did you this miss service. Not that I wish to be immodest but a few always need culled from the ranks. Not everyone has what it takes to be a true servant of the Shaper. Unfortunately some people just refuse to understand that it is a calling not an occupation they will insist in trying to join the Temple for all the wrong reasons despite simply not being qualified. Wealth and power have their place in any society but they are not what matters to us. Could you imagine if charlatans were not removed and one day such a one rose to the position of Arch Prelate it would be a disaster for all.” [The Cleric rambled.]

“I heartily agree you can never be too careful about who is promoted to any position of authority. You should take great care to protect yourself from the vainly ambitious who harbour less than correct intentions.” [Harbinger said.]

“Trust me; wise Elder, steps are being taken as we speak to ensure this sort of thing can never ever happen again on our watch.” [The Cleric said.]

“I am glad to here that, it quite makes the whole experience worthwhile.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“I am so glad we understand each other. I hope you will not broadcast our shame abroad in your travels we do so rely upon our good reputation as a welcoming haven.” [The Cleric said.]

“We have forgotten about our little inconvenience already. Given all the pressure you have been under with the anniversary of the Shapers elevation - and so on - I am amazed and humbled that you have taken so much time to ease my mind. You mentioned an audience with your esteemed Arch Prelate.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“Of course, if you will follow me. We get so very few visitors who are not members of our faith which is a shame really as…” [The Cleric rambled on waving his arms around as he preached.]

[I tuned the ‘Skimmer’ out for a while despite the fact that there were hidden meanings in his words, I decided I could review his prattle later. Right now, I was just glad this strange episode was more or less over. I doubted we would face any other serious threats here in the High Temple if we did then we would really have something to complain about.]

[As we approached a small surface gate I tuned back in - my Captain halted.]

“Step through friend.” [The Cleric requested.]

[Time: 05:02.][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 22.02.26.]

[Location: High Office of the Arch Prelate, Upper Temple, High Temple, Temple Plaza, Parliamentary District, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[After we had been ushered past a series of busy areas hiving with Clerical activity, we had settled down to business alone with the Arch Prelate in his private office. The ultimate Inner Sanctum of Temple authority was a clean room without a single piece of furniture or decoration. However, deep scans revealed a hint of masses of active machinery hidden behind the smooth black walls.]

[Here the Arch Prelate explained he worked principally in his own mind using a virtual reality interface wedded to the Temples wider data mass across all the ‘Sea Spheres’ of the ‘Core Alliance’. He explained how he had little need for distracting physical adornments in his workspace.]

[However, I realised there was probably more to the stark room than that. This area provided perfect security. Here I doubted even one of our tiny bugs could lurk undetected but to me it was also sterile and cold.]

[After apologising and thanking us, a frank at times - cutting - religious debate erupted. Following the heated theological workout that I could tell my Captain had very much enjoyed, the Arch Prelate eluded that to his great embarrassment - despite what we had already done and suffered - there was a service he still hoped we would undertake for the good of the ‘Core Alliance’.]

[First, however he insisted we listen to an explanation of his own history saying ‘what remains unknown can never be fully trusted’.]

“When I was saved from that horrible genetic flaw that the Shaper sent to make us prove our worth I was changed like many others.” [The Arch Prelate began.]

“You had a life altering epiphany.” [My Captain said with belated diplomacy.]

[In his earlier debate especially in relation to the false manufactured nature of the Shaper faith, my Captain had pulled no punches.]

“Please Harbinger let us continue to be honest with one another I had my memory, personality and genetics rather heavily rewritten by the ‘Stellar Court’ of that time.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“You know about that.” [Harbinger said I could feel his shock via our companion-ship.]

“I also know all about Stage III, your important role in our esteemed leader’s ascension - the whole marvellous and shocking story.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Incredible.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I used to be full of hate. Caught illegally mining in ‘Free Stellar’ space they confiscated my vessel and deported me back credit less to the ‘Core Alliance’ there as a pauper I was forcibly conscripted. Eventually through sheer brutality, I managed despite many other character flaws to rise to the rank of Strike Force sergeant. I was a Marine in the ‘Five Day War’ a killer. I was angry all the time: enraged at my fate, furious with the ‘Conglomerate’, secretly bitter with my superiors I even seem to recall fuming inside about our rations. I was hot-tempered and never ever happy about anything the only thing that gave me any pleasure was passing on my pain to others. Now look at me I do not even duel and I get pleasure not through the infliction of pain and suffering but by helping people. I feel very different I feel at peace. I can even look back on the sins of my youth and accept them without self loathing.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“You are content knowing this change of heart was engineered rather than a product of your own mind and souls evolution.” [Harbinger said.]

“If you ask me I needed a little genetic and mental reprogramming: a few corrections as the eccentric ‘Five Guardians’ would say - I was unwell. Why would I resent a cure? I was empty, cruel and bitter now my life has a real purpose.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I think I can understand that.” [Priest Vested Interest said.]

“Do many others among the treated know this much?” [Harbinger asked still a bit shocked.]

“From what I have been given to understand just a few, not so many, those with the capacity to be able to accept and appreciate the truth as part of their - education. Not everyone has that ability. Luckily, for me they expended a lot more time and effort on some of us compared to others. A little ironically I am afraid the ‘Stellar Court’ decided that striving to even try to perfect the entire species was impossible given the time restrictions and the workloads involved: the caste system was a crude patch at best - a compromise. The process even in active progress frequently (sometimes disastrously) revised and updated. To be honest it is amazing the ‘Caste System’ has worked as well as it has so far. Few things born of so many differences of opinion or designed by committee operate smoothly of course there is a degree of constant intervention required by a host of agencies and individuals.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“They will have their differences of opinion and your Temple was made in part to smooth these troubles over.” [Harbinger suggested.]

“In a way I suppose it was. It certainly does not help our society that our Clan Lords change all the time due to attrition. Unfortunately, the one unimproved Caste in their thinking is our quarrelsome leaders and their spawn: they made sure they just got the genetic snip. They arrogantly consider themselves perfect already. Overall, the percentage of duels to the death is a small one but the numbers killed among such an elite group is still a significant figure. I suppose the existence of ruling house dynasties helps a little.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I admit your ever changing leadership has made developing a long term working relationship with the ‘Stellar Court’ rather difficult.” [Harbinger complained.]

“I avoid the ‘Court’ Harbinger some fool might challenge even me there. Putting false modesty aside my death would be a waste of talents few if any of the Clan Lords possess.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I have to say your honesty is disarming.” [Harbinger said.]

“Disarming honesty from a - prodigious liar - do I detect a softening in your stance towards the Shaper faiths prime advocate? Many members of the ‘Stellar Court’ are still stuck in the past. They would hoard secrets out of habit even when it becomes counter productive. They split our unity but I can do little about that at the source.” [The Arch Prelate explained.]

“So what do you want from me?” [Harbinger asked.]

“My concern is about Rii Roethynn.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“What do you know about the ‘Splinter Raiders’?” [Harbinger asked suspiciously.]

“What do you know about the ‘Supernova Device’?” [The Arch Prelate countered.]

“What do you know about it?” [Harbinger asked.]

[The Arch Prelate made a slow full circuit of his stark inner office.]

“Trust does not come easy to you does it Elder Harbinger.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

[I noticed Priest Vested Interest glowed yellow at that statement.]

“Not that easy.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Then I will speak first. From what I have gathered, the so-called ‘Supernova Device’ is either everything or nothing. A figment of your and others overactive imaginations or a potential key that could unlock a whole new science of energy as if we do not have more than enough deadly power at our disposal already.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“That is more than I know.” [Harbinger said.]

“Forgive me Elder Harbinger but somehow I doubt that. Very large Anomalous explosions of the magnitude believed to have been used by the ‘Splinter Raiders’ when nobody was looking (except the poor souls who had no hope of surviving the experience) normally cause EPR ‘Extra Physical Reactions’ as you well know.” [The Arch Prelate lectured.]

“Even the Ancient Trojan during their Turmoil may have imposed limits on the size of their largest ‘AM’ warheads for these reasons (no doubt after creating some nasty anomalies of their own) in earlier ages. I know for a fact that some recent experiments undertaken by various governments each trying to match the ‘Splinter Raiders’ explosive achievement initially caused some deaths in the scientific community and created more than a few potential navigation hazards out there in the dark. I also noticed the Hierophants usually at the forefront of ‘Core Alliance’ scientific developments have made no comment or move to assist with breaching this barrier to advancement.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“So how does this concern you or me?” [Harbinger said.]

“If the ‘Splinter Raiders’ have become masters of such an important new technology as a science that could possible give hints to how to control ‘EPR’ then many of the Clan Lords would do almost anything to get it. Further, they would also want to stop anybody else from getting it first and frankly Elder Harbinger I am sure a lot of people among the other races will feel pretty much the same way would you agree?” [The Arch Prelate asked.]

“I suppose put like that some might.” [Harbinger admitted.]

“So what we are looking at is a great deal of potential misery unless of course you are the sort who enjoys being dragged into another senseless series of conflicts.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Still let’s say for the sake of argument that Rii Roethynn had or still has such a weapon a genuine ‘Supernova Device’ that can obliterate a whole fleet in one almighty bang without causing any dangerous back firing ‘EPR’. I would imagine the weapon or weapons would be a very few sealed units that he has procured from some strange and rare source that should have known better than to part with them in the first place. Rii Roethynn will not understand the science he will not be able to reproduce this weapon even if he wanted to. Therefore there is little fear of rampant proliferation.” [Harbinger said.]

“I know about the ‘Higher Tiers’ as well Elder Harbinger I think they are starting to prepare us for greater degrees of contact do you agree?” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I am not sure I do.” [Harbinger said.]

“However, that is irrelevant what bothers me is that all it may take to set people on the path to knowledge is actually seeing these monster weapons in action. You talked with Rii Roethynn before Elder Harbinger you have to convince him not to use any more devices of this nature in the ‘Heartland’ preferably advise him to sell them back to whoever he got them from. I am sure they were never meant to be deployed here against us.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I get the feeling my influence over the Rii may have become widely exaggerated if you think I can do that. Also I would like to know why you would even consider trusting me with such a momentous task.” [Harbinger said.]

“You fear I have an ulterior motive. When I find a task that is outside my purlieu and abilities to fix, I delegate. Sadly Elder Harbinger I can hardly recruit any member of the ‘Stellar Court’. You Paradox have long been guardians of the secrets of ‘Anomalous Matter’ mostly you have behaved in an honourable sensible manner and tried to avoid unwarranted proliferation and escalation. When I saw you in the line I knew the Shaper had answered my need maybe the power of prayer should not be mocked by me after all.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Your lack of any real faith still disturbs me.” [Harbinger said.]

“I have faith just not in mysticism beyond its use as a smokescreen for practical endeavours.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I am not some kind of hero or saviour Eminence. You know I killed your Shaper, I am not even sorry about doing it, and the idea of understanding the nature of ‘EPR’ is a mighty temptation to me. I have studied anomalies my whole life and still know almost nothing about them.” [Harbinger said.]

“I know you killed him - twice - but sometimes such things are all part of the grand design. If Draakhaal had not died when he did, I am sure he would have fallen from grace. Now he is an eternal inspiration rather than an evil monstrous tyrant leading an alien menace that only used to be ‘Stellar’. I like to think of what you did as elevating rather than murdering Draakhaal. I like to dream that if there were such a thing as an afterlife, the Draakhaal there would be a little wiser and fully appreciate what the Temple does today in his name. As to temptation who better to resist that than a fellow Priest who is also a Warrior. If anyone can know the horrid consequences of failure you do.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

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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PostPosted: Mon, 16. Nov 09, 16:30    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Hopefully the last edit to Chapter 3. [20th Nov.]

They have been coming out more than a bit rough at the moment. As ever I would be grateful for any comments. Rolling Eyes

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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PostPosted: Mon, 23. Nov 09, 16:36    Post subject: Reply with quote Print


[Time: 06:10.][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 21.02.26.]

[Location: High Office of the Arch Prelate, Upper Temple, High Temple, Temple Plaza, Parliamentary District, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[My Captain turned his prime Tri-optic towards the Arch Prelate.]

“Just how loudly have you been praying for help?” [Harbinger asked the most senior cleric in the Shaper faith.]

“What do you mean by that?” [The Arch Prelate asked.]

“Have you ever heard of an Elder Paradox Priest called Patriarch?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Not to my recollection.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Do you know an Elder Composure?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Trust me; I am not involved in a Paradox conspiracy.” [The Arch Prelate promised.]

“Perhaps unknowingly you are.” [Harbinger replied.]

“I doubt that very much.” [The Arch Prelate insisted.]

“Captain you are obsessing.” [I send.]

“I wish that was true. I am convinced Patriarch and Composure think they can use me like a self guiding missile and in this instance, they are probably right: they have me locked on to the perfect target.” [Harbinger sends.]

“Well I still think you are in danger of losing all perspective if I was you I would forget about the ‘Higher Tiers’ they are a distraction.” [I send.]

“Do you think it was an accident that Composure teased me with a manufactured Anomaly before Elder Patriarch showed up? Think about it ‘MT’ it was a not too subtle primer to begin hooking my curiosity in about this possible ‘Splinter’ ‘EPR’ avoiding super weapon. A hint that the ‘Higher Tiers’ have actual mastery over some Anomalies.” [Harbinger sends.]

[Harbinger slumped a little as if in defeat to the Arch Prelate’s surprise.]

“Sorry, I was just communing with my Ship the ‘Many Truths’.” [Harbinger explained straightening up.]

“It must be - interesting - to have a close companion-ship bond in our navy our ships are less companionable they need to be more - sternly - mastered.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“You built aggression into your ‘Living Hulls’ that is something you may one day regret.” [Priest Vested warned speaking up at last.]

“That decision happened long before my time and even now the fleet is beyond my jurisdiction. The ‘Void Master’ Armada is firmly controlled by the ‘Warrior Caste’.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“That sounds dangerous to me.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Our Warriors are conditioned to obey orders via a strict chain of command but need not obey the clergy although they are honour bound to listen to our advice regarding matters of faith and conscience.” [The Arch Prelate explained.]

“Faith and conscience, I am sure that makes a massive difference.” [Harbinger said sarcastically.]

“You might be surprised although I will admit they take some convincing to change their set opinions.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“So every ‘Void Master’ Captain does have a Shaper Cleric advisor?” [Harbinger asked.]

“We have that honour, we also provide every Clan Lord with a personal confessor.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

[Harbinger glowed yellow at that statement.]

“I imagine they are either very busy or ignored and you also hold a permanent seat on the ‘Stellar Court’ as well.” [Harbinger stated.]

“Long ago, I realised my position in the ‘Court’ was not a productive means to challenge the Clan Lords’ decisions or a sensible way to reshape the nation. I prefer other means and methods. I often work from the bottom up rather than from the top down.” [The Arch Prelate confessed.]

“It would be safer that way. Are you really happy with the inequities of your ‘Caste System’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“It has its uses it instils a far greater degree of order than we had before - believe it or not there are fewer feuds and duels - less waste and unnecessary suffering.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“This system gives your people little freedom to choose their own thoughts, never mind their own lifestyle. I feel especially sorry for the ‘Worker Caste’ they appear to get all the toil and little of the benefit.” [Harbinger said.]

“That might also be said of some of your Acolytes - Paradox - and yet I believe that would be a wrong assumption. I often think the ‘Worker Caste’ hold an enviable position: as long as they do their tasks well - they are left alone by their rulers - that is a great boon all by itself.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Are they as simple minded as they seem?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Prejudice is difficult to overcome. You are not as open minded as you would like to think. We would have considered it a great sin to reduce any member of my species intelligence quotient.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I find it hard to believe the thought of a little sin would stop the ‘Stellar Court’ else why would they need confessors.” [Harbinger said glowing yellow.]

“The ‘Worker Caste’ have not been lobotomised they just have - new social priorities - a revised way of looking at their place in society, a bit like myself.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I imagine your workers are programmed with a self sacrificing priority every individual giving their all for the greater whole. You make me very happy that I am an Elder Paradox Priest and not a ‘Void Skimmer’ - drone. Your Caste system reminds me of the ‘Conglomerate’.” [Harbinger said.]

“I imagine you are glad you are no longer an Acolyte.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“What I have chosen to give - I gave freely.” [Harbinger replied.]

[The Arch Prelate laughed out loud.]

“What of your Marines what of your Beta Clones are they not made to serve a specific function?” [The Arch Prelate said.]

[My Captain made no reply to that.]

“Tell me this have you any idea where Rii Roethynn is?” [The Arch Prelate asked.]

“None at all have you?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Sorry, I wish I did but I think I might be able to point you towards a person in the ‘Core Alliance’ that might be able to help.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“You can?” [Harbinger asked.]

“Do you want the data?” [The Arch Prelate asked.]

“Of course, unless it comes with a price I cannot willingly pay.” [Harbinger asked.]

“All knowledge costs us something even if it is just our innocence.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

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

“I have told you that already.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I can make no promises about ‘Supernova’.” [Harbinger said.]

“I have faith that you will do the right thing.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

[The door opened a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ came in and handed my Captain a small flexi sheet before exiting the chamber without saying a single word.]

[My Captain scrolled through the data summery then plugged into the sheet and after undertaking, a series of scans for viral infections downloaded its entire contents into an isolated memory store module.]

“You can keep that if you like.” [The Arch Prelate said indicating the sheet.]

“No thank you, I have everything I need.” [Harbinger said rolling it up and passing it over to the Arch Prelate.]

“I suppose I can hardly blame you. You have known the best and the worst of us.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Be careful Eminence I hope you realise the risk you are taking by seeking my assistance with this - even if the ‘Supernova’ turns out to be a nonexistent figment of all our imaginations. The evidence was after all rather contradictory at some sites.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Very few people will know what we discussed here. As to the evidence left behind by the Rii, he would hardly want to give away his secrets too easily. I think the ‘Splinter’ may have thrown in a few extra objects in instances when they suspected others might be monitoring just to confuse the issue.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Was Kaggattkaa involved in trying to make contact with the ‘Splinter Raiders’?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I am not sure - it is possible - it is just as likely that others tried to use him to remove me from the game. Those who disagree with the Temple’s policies may have guessed I would use what influence I have to try to prevent the spread of ‘Supernova’ weaponry. Still these matters could also be entirely unrelated.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I must remember that although Draakhaal is dead many of his students are still very much alive and well.” [Harbinger said.]

“Draakhaal will be alive as long as a single ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ lives. You will have to learn to live with the Shaper’s wider legacy Elder Harbinger.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Do you think that one day we will all be able to live in harmony with mutual respect?” [Priest Vested asked.]

“Anything is possible still you would be wise to be wary of my species ‘Ruling Caste’ especially the young and ambitious ones. If you need further insights or assistance or wish simply to talk to a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ you now have the data needed to reach me via the Temples ‘Computer Cores’. I fear despite all my sermons my species quarter of a century slumber is ending. With the gene therapy almost complete and the rumour of Rii Roethynn’s return circulating, the Clan Lords are once again thinking about their individual status in relation to each other rather than their joint collective responsibility.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I had hoped we had a little time left before cooperation faltered.” [Harbinger said.]

“The ‘Ruling Caste’ are stubborn. We must treat them like wilful youths; one expects occasional slippage back into old habits whenever opportunity permits. It is our duty to be firm and persistent to set the right example. I expect the overall political situation to degrade before it improves nonetheless ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ reform is far from an impossible dream.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Recidivist elements must to be taught that bad behaviour is ultimately harmful rather than beneficial to their ambitions.” [Harbinger stated.]

“I plan to use this potential crisis as an opportunity to educate. The Shaper once said ‘the rigours of the challenges before us are the very things that shall make us great’. These are glorious times for you for me and for the High Temple. It is very invigorating.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“If you are genuine - about all this - then meeting with you has been an honour. However, if you are trying to play me false in some way; you will find you are toying with the wrong Paradox.” [Harbinger warned.]

“I understand that only time will win you over - I can accept that. Now before you go you should know I am receiving reports that off duty ‘MTC’ Acolytes are beginning to congregate in the Temple Plaza - they are calling for you by name Harbinger.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Somebody must have realised there was a possibility that I am here in person not just as an Avatar.” [Harbinger said.]

“The family know ‘Many Truths’ is docked at ‘Trinity Harbour’ besides by now it will be all over the news channels. No doubt somebody realised visiting the High Temple only as an Avatar would be an inappropriate gesture of goodwill especially during this prestigious anniversary year.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Do you want to address your masses gathering in the plaza?” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Most definitely not, I never know what to say, I hate it when they do this.” [Harbinger said.]

[A sound drew our attention to one section of wall that extruded out then split into eight pieces that slid apart in a cunning way like a complex puzzle to reveal another small Surface Gate.]

“In that case might I suggest you depart via this one-way device. This gate can deposit you to any of several public destinations from which you can directly warp wormhole back to the - comforting - isolation of your ship.” [The Arch Prelate suggested.]

“I trust you have blocked whatever security breech it was that Recycler accessed earlier.” [Harbinger said looking the gate over.]

“We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure our ‘Computer Cores’ are once again secure. The guilty Recycler is in our custody and contrite has decided to voluntarily help us.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I am sure you showed him the error of his ways.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is our duty to educate.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“Wonderful then I am happy to leave, I will have my Marines inform the Acolytes in your plaza that I have already departed the Temple before I scoop them back onboard my ship.” [Harbinger said.]

“You do realise just how much your people down there will be disappointed by your hasty departure.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I refuse to pander to this ridiculous cult of celebrity it makes me uncomfortable.” [Harbinger said.]

“They are congregating to behold a fleeting glimpse of their Father not to worship you as an icon.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I am not so sure and they should know better I do not like or want this level of attention from anyone.” [Harbinger complained.]

“They miss your physical presence among them.” [Priest Vested said.]

“Nonsense, even when I was stationed here what percentage of my Acolytes do you think ever actually got to meet me in person? If I started making public appearances in an attempt to satisfy this absurd desire there would be no end to it. I refuse to become one of those Corporate Priests who swagger around public engagements making speeches and basking in their family’s veneration - it is sickening and corrupting.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Whether they saw you in person or not they knew you where in residence here that made a difference.” [Priest Vested said.]

“I am sorry but I cannot just be a full time Patrician - I tried and failed at that - I am not suited to that role my prime consciousness needs to be free among the stars or I become unhappy. My Avatars here do more than enough. I often wish I had never made the ‘MTC’ but it is too late for that regret.” [Harbinger said.]

“You brought all those Acolytes into existence Harbinger just like the Shaper made many of my people - they did not ask to be born - they are the responsibility of their maker. It strikes me that many of you Paradox Priests have inadvertently become Clan Lords by creating these vast family corporations.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“You can blame your Shaper for our attempts to keep up with your species exponential expansion.” [Harbinger said.]

“Clan Lords is exactly what they are like while the greatest ‘Core Alliance’ Paradox Elders - including my Father here - ghost among their Acolyte masses in their Avatars more like untouchable demigods in disguise.” [Priest Vested said.]

“That is not funny ‘Constant’.” [Harbinger said.]

“Only because it is true.” [Priest Vested insisted.]

“It would seem all our societies are suffering from growing pains to some degree. Remember this Elder Harbinger love unlike indifference can quickly turn to hate because we expect a lot from those we worship and disappointment easily breeds bitter resentment.” [The Arch Prelate said.]

“I know how to deal with my family.” [Harbinger said.]

“The sooner we jump out of here the quicker expectations will be reduced. I should have known better than to make port anywhere in the ‘Core Alliance’ especially here. My physical presence just complicates everything these days.” [Harbinger sends privately to me.]

[After our visit to the High Temple with my Captain and Priest Vested Interest safely onboard, I leapt out to a ‘Dark Coordinate.]

“What do you think of the Arch Prelate?” [I asked my Captain in our SCCCM.]

“I am not sure yet. Did you notice that he made a slip by saying ‘when I saw you in the line I knew the Shaper had answered my need’. When I was in the line he should have been held in stasis.” [Harbinger said.]

“Somehow I missed that. Do you think that comment has great significance it could just be a clerical manner of speech - dressing things up a little?” [My Avatar asked.]

“I do not know but I would like to find out.” [Harbinger said.]

“What are you thinking?” [My Avatar asked.]

“That this could be a pretend manufactured crisis a conspiracy to reconcile me with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ involving Elder Patriarch and the Arch Prelate.” [Harbinger said.]

“When did your ‘Facilitator’ last make a routine psychological evaluation?” [Priest Vested asked glowing yellow.]

“Perhaps my theory is a little far fetched. I am glad Elder Patriarch was able to help you Priest Vested but otherwise I wish he had not appeared to disturb my equilibrium.” [Harbinger confessed.]

[A little later, we returned to ‘Green Orb Alpha’ via exogenous links to incognito ‘Shroud Suit’ Avatars. I feared after dealing with Kaggattkaa my Captain had a taste for action again and the information the Arch Prelate had forwarded to him whether entirely or partially true or false also intrigued him.]

[Time: 16.30][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 22.02.26.]

[Location: Killers Amphitheatre Arena, Night Bazaar, Jasstaagaal’s Dome, Far Side, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[Disguised as three anonymous Marine tourists we now mingled with off duty Paradox Acolytes all seemingly exploring the sordid delights of ‘Jasstaagaal’s Dome’ and ‘Killers’ in particular.]

[The Amphitheatre Arena got its name from the fact that ‘Skimmer’ gladiators preferred death to surviving defeat and dishonour. Victorious Gladiators were not shy about putting any vanquished foe out of their abject misery thus every fight had the extra billing of being a life or death struggle.]

[‘Stellar Draakhaal’ made perfect gladiators because they could take a shocking amount of punishment and occasionally spring back from seeming defeat. The ‘Void Skimmer’ vitality made their battles excitingly nervy to watch and gamble on. In an age of unreal virtual entertainments, it did not get any grittier than this: here was a primal undiluted fight to survive - at any cost - and who would miss a few shamed and defeated ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ who had chosen to risk their lives for profit and glory.]

[Disappointingly, our cover did not need to extend beyond the ‘MTC’: off duty family members where frequent visitors to ‘Killers’ - Paradox liked to gamble and they liked contact sports - and were not squeamish about the death of ‘Skimmers’. Right now we were surrounded by ‘MTC’ Marines who had gladly taken us into their midst as compatriots utterly unaware of how elevated their company actually was.]

[‘Killers’ was a massive tiered circular amphitheatre / arena and we stood far from the front but the action was also broadcast upon a large octagonal arrangement of hanging screens that rested above the combatants heads or at a small premium you could have the show transmitted straight to your neural net. If you were a glutton for punishment at a higher cost, you could even ride along as a passive passenger seeing and feeling everything one contestant felt via a ghost link. However, you would need a strong stomach for that.]

[Most people just watched the screens or employed their own optics to zoom in on the real action from the outside. Of course, exceptionally wealthy patrons or special guests of the house could afford close ringside seats or stands.]

[Playing along using virtual screens we enthusiastically placed our bets on the next fight. We did not have to feign interest in the outcome of this match (so much more than a single life rode on the diamond steel edged daggers not to mention the spines, claws, tentacles and teeth of the vicious combatants).]

[Despite the risks of the arena, we were gratified to know that not even our targets death would necessarily mean our game was fully over. The Corpse of the loser was the property of the house and destined for auction, as was virtual reality meets and greets with the winner.]

[Jaastaagaal had perfected squeezing the maximum profit out of his merchandise perhaps this was because he had an infamous ‘Old One Free Recycler’ accountant.]

[One of the ‘Skimmers’ about to enter the ring was our target. Desperate to escape his hunters he had smuggled himself here in the hope he could win enough prize money to disappear completely. It was a good choice unlike all of his brethren he was still alive.]

[When it came to his fighters Jaastaagaal (who had happily stolen from his own people during the ’Surface War’) could not be bought off at any price. If this were not the case, nobody would bet on the outcome of the matches he staged.]

[Beyond the risks as a competitor, Staakgha was safe under the protection of Jasstaagaal’s exceptionally tight security.]

[Expensive - translucent - ‘High Density Fields’ that used staggering amounts of energy bolstered by reactive shield and stasis field systems protected the stage and competitors bridges. While security sentry drones hovered in the air. Gladiators often had enemies who were not willing to leave their death to chance or skill. Assassination had struck here before, so now Jasstaagaal took no chances. If a Gladiator was murdered, all bets were off and obscene fortunes rode on every match.]

[We did not doubt that other hunters where here but - for the moment - we hoped all they could do was watch the barbarous show like the rest of us.]

[Staakgha had been smart after learning of the murder of a few of his colleagues he had taken no chances and run from all pursuit without exception - trusting no one.]

[‘Killers’ was an all too appropriate label under the circumstances: Some of our rivals would be praying Staakgha would continue his winning streak so they would have a chance to kidnap him for interrogation or bribe him into compliance when he tried to leave Jasstaagaal’s protection. Others only wanted him to live so they could murder him themselves to earn a bounty.]

[The paymasters of the assassins hunting our target were a hastily retired and therefore invisible organisation of Information Brokers now busy cleaning their house. The late surmise being that these purveyors of knowledge worked with / for Rii Roethynn.]

[The cull had been swift and decisive only a handful of all their lower grade (expendable) assets had temporarily escaped and now as far as we could tell only this one solitary operative remained alive surviving entirely by his wits and his considerable fighting abilities.]

[A few devious hunters who wanted more than Staakgha’s demise might ironically be praying Staakgha would lose so they could attempt to buy his corpse in the auction. Although normally memory retrieval from the dead was not always possible never mind a successful resurrection with some or all of a victim’s memory intact (even with fresh meat hastily put into a stasis capsule), it was still a less complicated option than trying to snatch a live entity whilst in competition with others.]

[Luckily for those who wanted the secrets buried in Staakgha’s head ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ had recovered with full recall from temporary demises when many believed no other ‘Swimmer’ derivative would have survived largely due to their unique brain chemistry and hardy nature. The only sure way to kill a ‘Skimmer’ for good was to annihilate their brain.]

“If he lives through this contest do you think he will be ready to run?” [I broadcast to my companions.]

“I do not know getting out of the mess he is in will be very, very expensive.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“No doubt he is betting his winnings on himself. If he loses such a bet he will have no need for his credits anyway.” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends.]

“He might have arranged to have somebody bid on his corpse.” [My Avatar sends.]

“I suppose that would be one method of escape if an exceptionally risky one.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“Not a bad insurance policy if you do not have a proper ID and Clone back up or if you believe such an entity is not really you.” [My Avatar sends.]

“If he was placing bets on himself to win from the beginning he could already be holding a very significant sum especially if he used less official bookmakers. I am sure if he survives this will be his last match. He nearly lost the previous fight.” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends.]

[We had studied recordings of Staakgha’s matches so far. He had survived three fights in four days this was his forth match. The consensus was that he was pushing his luck despite his obvious martial skill. Staakgha technically belonged to the ‘Ruling Caste’ and knew how to duel.]

“Maybe he just wanted it to look that way so he could get better odds he seemed a bit below par during the last fight as if he was holding back.” [I send.]

[Whilst both fighters had a tally of three victories behind them because Staakgha had such a tough last match, his opponent Turrghnn was the current favourite to win. The odds of Staakgha being victorious officially being at two to one but a few shady places it was said where giving as much as three even four to one although they had limits on the bet sizes they would cover.]

“Our ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ has ability but his opponents are getting tougher too. Judging by his last matches Turrghnn can be dangerous when he is not grandstanding.” [Priest Vested sends.]

“Here they come.” [Said one of the Marines.]

[We raised our Tri-optics like periscopes to get better views.]

[The contestants each entered via their own ‘HDF’ bridges that arced across the stadium from opposite ends right over the crowd and into the ring of the arena. Playing to the crowd, the flamboyant Turrghnn made lunges and cuts at imaginary opponents as he stalked along. He was of the type that often to their eventual detriment became addicted to the adulation of his supporters and overstayed their skill or their luck or both.]

[Turrghnn rustled his carapace, and hissed aggressively into tiny hovering cameras. Spines shot out and claws raked at the air while tentacles flailed about. He looked lethal but I got the feeling he was overconfident. By comparison Staakgha halted ran through a few simple warm up exercises flexing his legs as well as his two major and two minor limbs then trotted along as if the baying crowd - many calling his name out - did not exist for him.]

[I could sense my Captain’s approval of Staakgha’s entrance.]

[Turrghnn was promoting an image but Staakgha was just doing business. It was an interesting contrast the fight highlights we had viewed earlier had not incorporated this small prequel ceremony to the gruesome main events.]

[My Captain placed a last second bet surreptitiously via communications for a staggering nine million credits at two to one on Staakgha winning. To my surprise the house accepted the bet without quibble.]

“That is tempting fate.” [I send to my Captain.]

“It is just credits besides I have a feeling the auction alive or dead will go even higher on this one - our rivals must be getting worried - some must have made offers to Staakgha already and been turned down flat or he would not still be here.” [Harbinger suggested.]

“If he loses and you have to bid on a corpse this is going to get really expensive.” [I send.]

“We can afford it in some ways it could be easier if he dies.” [Harbinger sends.]

[There was no further ceremony as soon as the two fighters dropped down into the ring battle could commence. There were few rules of conduct in the arena itself beyond the fact that only one person could leave standing up any other stipulations that mattered being enforced earlier. Fighters could use no extra augmenting implants, no combat or pain killing drugs, no weapons beyond twin diamond steel blades and a small shaped ‘High Density Field’ buckler shield with a limited battery life of sixty seconds duration. Of course, the combatants could deactivate their buckler to conserve its power.]

[Having entered the arena both warriors closed circling each other warily. Neither had activated their buckler shields.]

[Turrghnn still being showy twirled his daggers in a flourish which was a big mistake because as if waiting on that movement - one he was prone to doing - Staakgha threw both of his weapons.]

[Staakgha had never dared to do such a thing before in any of his previous bouts. Both blades seemed to disappear from the ‘Void Skimmers’ hands to reappear in his opponent’s chest each sunk almost up to their hilts as if they had not crossed the intervening space or met any significant resistance.]

[The crowd roared out mixed cries of surprise, joy and dismay. Unsurprisingly Turrghnn could not resist looking down at the protruding hilts in shock: despite being without a weapon, Staakgha took that opportunity to leap straight at his stunned rival.]

[Activating his buckler Staakgha fended off a weak slice from his opponent’s right dagger that Turrghnn somehow despite his injury managed to launch. At the same time, Staakgha carefully grasped his opponents left arm avoiding his foes forearm spines to halt another stilted cut.]

[Staakgha still on the offensive against his injured foe bit down hard into the side of his enemy’s neck. Whilst powering his right knee into his opponents abdomen.]

[Secondary limbs grappled with each other as Staakgha attempted to reclaim his embedded weapons and Turrghnn strove to fend that action off. Meanwhile both sides lashed at each other with clawed tentacles that flailed suckered and hooked in to rip and tear.]

[Turrghnn remarkably vigorous under the circumstances while screeching in pain and anger leapt backwards even though that resulted in a chunk of flesh ripping away from his neck.]

[‘Stellar Draakhaal’ were made of stern stuff and Turrghnn despite what looked like horrendous injuries seemed to be recovering from his initial shock.]

[As Staakgha extruded his arm spines Turrghnn found the strength to scoot backwards using his legs to push off sliding upon his smooth carapace with unexpected speed over the arena floor. At the same time the downed ‘Void Skimmer’ issued a hideous hiss as his smaller secondary limbs ripped out the two weapons lately embedded in his own anatomy.]

[Staakgha halted watching his foe intently as Turrghnn unsteadily regained his feet. For a brief instant, Turrghnn crouched over then he defiantly straightened up. His wounds outer surface already cauterising themselves shut but internal injuries would not heal so well or so perfectly without a period of full rest.]

[Impossibly Turrghnn forced out a tooth filled sneer and spun the twin captured blades still held in his secondary limbs. At the same time, he took up a slightly wobbly but still effective looking combat stance with his main arms.]

[The crowd screamed out its approval of Turrghnn’s apparent resurgence having feared the bout was over almost as soon as it had begun.]

[Staakgha watched his opponent calmly then commenced to try and circle around him. Turrghnn seemed intent on holding onto all his weapons rather than risking giving any away to his foe by throwing them.]

[As the crowd watched expectantly Turrghnn kept trying to close but Staakgha now healthier quicker and more agile skipped easily away avoided his foes too slow probing stabs and cuts.]

[It soon became obvious that despite his bravado Turrghnn was growing a little weaker with every failed action. The activity had to be aggravating his internal injuries and Staakgha was certainly not going to give him the sort of respite he needed.]

[Staakgha was playing with him moving in close enough to present opportunities difficult to ignore then dancing away from Turrghnn’s weakened attacks.]

[After four failed lunges, Turrghnn held his position and waited more impassively ignoring Staakgha’s temptations.]

[From recordings, we knew Turrghnn preferred attack to defence and was impatient despite his showy antics. Without extra medical intervention even with full rest, it would take a few days to recuperate from the drastic damage he had taken - if he remained active now I suspected his abilities would degrade steadily - time was against him if he was to have any chance he needed to finish Staakgha quickly. My Captain’s bet was looking safe.]

[Staakgha circled again looking unconcerned whilst Turrghnn simply spun less than smoothly on the spot.]

[The crowd jeered out various instructions to both sides growing impatient for further action.]

[When Staakgha still trying to lure his foe got a little too close. Turrghnn feigned throwing a high dagger towards Staakgha’s head but actually launched himself at his opponent - this time in an all out frenzied attack - slashing and stabbing wildly with all four weapons in an uncoordinated but persistent manner.]

[Unlike before Turrghnn finally breached the gap because Staakgha had ducked to avoid the nonexistent throw.]

[It was the virtually unharmed Staakgha’s natural weapons against the weakened Turrghnn’s four deadly blades.]

[Staakgha rising up accepted a glancing cut from Turrghnns left blade off his right side whilst twisted his body. Skilfully he closed in tight managing to avoid a more dangerous thrusting lunge from the left.]

[Staakgha had brought all four of his limbs inwards as if to shield his own body from his opponents four blades but in fact he contrived to manipulate them in some cunning multiple jointed manner to grasp and wrestle with Turrghnn’s two secondary appendages.]

[As the combatants made a deadly embrace, Turrghnn reversed the blades in his main arms and stabbed at Staakgha’s carapace protected back at a point that avoided any of Staakgha’s springing spines that rose up ineffectually.]

[Although the back stabs went in clean, damage wise given the nature of ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ anatomy (especially among the ‘Warrior Caste’) backstabbing was a poor choice.]

[By brute strength alone Staakgha quickly overpowered his opponents outnumbered lighter limbs turning the weapons they held back on their wielder. Turrghnn screamed out as Staakgha fully tore the daggers from his grip thrusting inward and upward digging back into his opponents already wounded chest seeking to finish off still self-repairing internal organs. Without doubt in particular Staakgha was aiming for his foes very potent prime heart.]

[In turn Turrghnn stabbed again at Staakgha’s back with his left handed dagger but pulled the other back to commence a more likely to be effective lunge at Staakgha’s side.]

[Unfortunately for Turrghnn as he brought the lunge to bear his limbs began to lose their strength and his legs commenced to fold beneath him so that he sank slowly down and all he did was score Staakgha’s tough hide to add another impressive honour scar.]

[In a last effort Turrghan pulled back his head and opened his mouth in preparation for a vicious bite but Staakgha’s knee came up to strike him under his armoured jaw. Turrghnn rose up only to fall back to the floor. Something inside him burst asunder at that impact and high pressure liquids spewed out of his wounds in a grizzly spray.]

[Casually Staakgha stood away from the obscene rain as Turrghnn commenced thrashed about in a typical ‘Skimmer; death frenzy before lying perfectly still his limbs curled in at odd angles his tentacles flopping loose and inanimate.]

[Staakgha let his arms fall limp to released his daggers so that they fell to the arena floor. Once again ignoring the baying crowd the victorious ‘Skimmer’ turned and began making his way to his bridge.]

[As people began turning inward to claim their winnings or make enquiries about the next bout a part of the ring opened and two staff members both ‘Old One’ Recyclers rose up with a stasis capsule into which the body of the fallen was placed without ceremony.]

[Once in stasis the remains were ready for auction. People bought the corpses for various reasons: as grizzly trophies kept in the stasis capsules, for resurrection by a benevolent fan or simply for mind wipe, repair and reanimation as a mindless vehicle. These days some people had no compunction about using another sentient being’s ex-body as a grotesque Avatar. In some quarters, wearing a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ ex-gladiator was quite the fashion.]

[Our attention also turned inward to concentrate on the bidding. This was our chance to earn the right to speak with the champion of this bout at the virtual victory celebration ritually held later in the evening including a short one to one interview.]

[There where twenty places on offer despite the exorbitant costs we each made a bid on a separate spot to triple our chances. Unsurprisingly Harbinger was the only one to secure a meet because both Vested and I felt far less comfortable spending vast sums of our Captain’s credits.]

[We settled in to watch the rest of the show. I told myself this was necessary now to preserve our cover lest our rivals realised who we were and tried to eliminate us. However, I knew it was a partial lie grim as these battles remained they also fascinated us just as they did other members of my Captain’s ‘MTC’. It was not just about knowing your enemy or watching ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ die for us though - not anymore.]

[I believed after visiting the ‘High Temple’ we all had a slightly different view of the ‘Void Skimmers’. I also felt in a way the bravery and desperation of the fighters here deserved to be acknowleged. Each Gladiator had already suffered a fall from grace an exile or banishment from their kin. There was potential redemption here either in an honourable death or in a victory that might permit them to start their lives anew - I respected that and believed my Captain grudgingly did as well.]

[Of course, these bouts remained gross exploitation by Jasstaagaal and there was nothing pretty about the show on display nonetheless some if not all of these combatants still retained a spark of something that was worth fanning whilst demonstrating many other racial traits we naturally despaired at.]

[After we had watched two more matches I turned towards my Captain.]

“You know there is no such thing as a perfect race or individual - not even, I suspect, amongst the Eldest of our ‘Higher Tier’ Paradox. Elder Patriarch is glorious to behold but he is not perfect.” [My Avatar sends to our party now that Priest Vested had exogenous again.]

“I imagine only a sterile emptiness can be free of blemish. Sentient life is inherently flawed but that may be a good thing - if perfection is a dead void.” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends with I thought rather circular logic.]

“True friendship requires a firm appreciation of your friend’s weaknesses and failures as much as their strengths and victories?” [My Avatar sends.]

[Once again, I wondered had I repeatedly failed to be a true friend to my Captain was that why sometimes he faltered at retaining the almost perfect empathy I seemed to recall in our youth or had we both simply become more complex and harder to please.]

“Some relationships are enigmatic complicated puzzles: like trying to fit two objects tightly together, that keep shifting their shapes all the time.” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends as if reading my minds.]

“What are you two talking about?” [My Captain asked.]

“We never really tried to be true friends with Draakhaal or his ‘Void Skimmers’. Even when you reached out to the ‘Stellar Court’, it was usually with an expectation of betrayal and with a degree of defensive deceit in your own hearts.” [My Avatar sends.]

“We can feel when we are not trusted it can hardly be any different with the ‘Skimmers’?” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends.]

“I always trusted them to sink a dagger into my back at the first opportunity.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“I keep thinking about how Staakgha dropped his blades and left the arena: in that moment our roles reversed we the audience became the real barbarians not the brave fighters - perhaps this was the truth of the matter all along.” [My Avatar sends.]

“Are you trying to say that we made the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ what they are as much as they tried to twist us out of shape?” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“Put it this way without an audience there would be no contest.” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends.]

“If you think about it the path to the advent of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ has been a long one. You could argue it began with rejection. The extreme pacifism of the ‘Swimmer Dwellers’ drove out the first ‘Stellar Swimmers’ because they had wider ambitions and became distrusted. Without the ‘Stellar Swimmers’ there would be no Drooshuu no ‘Stellar Orb’ no Draakhaal and no ‘Stellar Draakhaal’.” [My Avatar sends.]

“First causes are slippery things. Still that is an interesting theory ‘MT’. Even today the pacifistic ‘Swimmer Dwellers’ largely neglect their offshoot brethren the ‘Surface Dwellers’ the ‘Free Stellar’ and the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ preferring isolation to the challenge posed by interacting with their more aggressive sundered kindred.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“I confess I am developing a respect and fascination with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’. Although, there almost cannibalistic nature: the way their race often seems to feed upon itself still repulses me; I no longer feel blind to their brief moments of nobility or their wider potential to do some good.” [My Avatar sends.]

“I am glad you qualified that with the word ‘brief’.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“I increasingly feel that we may have judged the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ unfairly without actually seeking to know and understand them? In the past, we approached them as a mass as Draakhaal’s makings: nothing more than an implacable threat. Like the ‘Conglomerate’, it was easier to perceive the ‘Skimmers’ as soulless automatons even though we know this is not exactly true of either species.” [My Avatar sends.]

“To sympathise with such foes is to debilitate ones resolve it is weakening. We could not afford to be too soft even today it could still get us killed or blunt our purpose.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“Yet without sympathy their can be no mutual understanding and no eventual peace. These races are different - on the surface hostile - so we fear and hate them we are different to them - on the surface hostile - and so they fear and hate us.” [My Avatar sends.]

“They were made to be exactly what they are - a menace.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“Like I keep saying we need to break the cycle. Any current quest for weapons of dominance is just another symptom of a much wider disease of fear and distrust. Ultimately, we all need the races to start policing themselves we all need to accept one another and cease this endless aggressive competition and posturing.” [My Avatar sends.]

“My Mother is right if this cold war posturing continues unabated eventually there will be a disaster. On some level, Draakhaal always wanted us to fear his species that was his way of keeping them strong of preparing them and us for his paranoid delusion of a Trans-Universal Invasion. Why are we flying the vector our enemy Draakhaal gave us?” [Priest Vested sends.]

“Did the Arch Prelate so easily reinforce both your hopes that we can all change and get along?” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“We all used to believe in redemption and redemption should be for everyone not just us. Captain if we could save the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ from the spirit not just the material of Draakhaal’s dark legacy we would also in a way save ourselves.” [Priest Vested’s Avatar sends.]

“However, and this is vitally important, you can only guide somebody to redemption you cannot make those steps for them. The Arch Prelate is wrong about one thing he needs to have more faith in his species - now - not just in their future.” [My Avatar send.]

“I agree in many respects - ideally - each race should police their own but whom among the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ dare we trust? Did you not listen to Kaggattkaa’s venomous tirade?” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“There is little challenge in an easy task. The words Kaggattkaa gave us suggest to me he fears the old ways could die out. Kaggattkaa is rebelling against a change that is very real to him. Belief can create its own reality even if the ‘Stellar Court’ are not as sold on our ideas, as some of their young might believe, it is still something to work with. Perhaps we would have more success if we put our time and effort into winning the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ over rather than striving to watch police and restrict them. Think about what you said about the ‘Higher Tier Elders’ we are doing exactly the same thing. Look at your response to the restrictions of the ‘Tier System’. Those placed on the wrong side of any barrier have a natural compulsion to knock that barrier down.” [My Avatar sends.]

“To have real lasting peaceful integration we would have to fully persuade every strata of the ‘Ruling Caste’ of the benefits of more than surface compliance with the ‘Core Alliance’. You had better start praying to the ‘Emissary’ for an intervention with that one.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“I do not need to pray I know we are not alone our strength comes from our many friends and I have faith that my Captain will eventually see the wisdom of a less confrontational approach. If we failed in the past, it may be because we needed a change in attitude as much as they did. We started to use our enemy’s weapons rather than our own good common sense.” [My Avatar sends.]

“I thought you did not want me getting involved in these issues anymore.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“If you promise to consult with me - fully - I will gladly promise to support this endeavour. I am willing to admit I was wrong the ‘Core Alliance’ needs us - I can see that now. The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ species need us not as their enemy but as a friend. We should take this opportunity to engage with the ‘Skimmers’ in an honest and meaningful manner something I feel we have never truly done before.” [My Avatar sends.]

“Let us not get ahead of ourselves first we have to deal with this criminal Gladiator.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“That is my point let him be the first Captain. The way he dropped his blades in the arena made me think that there is some good in this one even if he is a criminal. I do not think he was happy butchering one of his own people - not for others pleasure, not even to save his own life - it was just a cruel necessity. Try to find out his story - listen. Do not make demands or strive to cut a deal I am sure that approach failed others. Do not see him as just a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ befriend him as an individual.” [My Avatar sends.]

“That is not a bad idea.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“Do not do it as a ploy either try to genuinely reach out to him - what harm can that do? As I said - listen - beneath that monstrous exterior is a person who took a wrong vector and is running for his life. I imagine he feels trapped by his past - as we all do sometimes. Remember Captain like you said to our Agent friend in the Temple ‘everybody makes mistakes’.” [My Avatar sends.]

“It seems you are developing your own Priest mode ‘MT’.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

“I am sorry if you think I appear to lack faith in you.” [My Avatar sends.]

“Now you are making me feel guilty. My jest was not a put down it was a compliment. I will do as you suggest with this Staakgha. You are right others will have approached him with hard deals offering all manner of things in return for what he knows. However, I would bet none of them have tried to find out who Staakgha is and what he really would like.” [Harbinger’s Avatar sends.]

[Time: 21.00][Date 22.02.29SA (Second Accord). 9th PA 22.02.26.]

[Location: Virtual Reception Construct, Night Bazaar, Jasstaagaal’s Dome, Far Side, Green Orb Alpha, Core Alliance Space, Emissary Sphere.]

[To my Captain’s surprise the virtual environment partially simulated underwater conditions although despite the virtual water you could breathe and talk freely.]

[Jasstaagaal had created a beautiful exotic grotto made from the wreck of a fanciful decaying sunken alien looking space ship that now acted as a coral sprouting living reef complete with wildlife: crabs and other crustaceans scurried, shoals of fish darted, seaweed waved gently.]

[The light came down from above in angel streams via holes in the vessels heavily decayed hull. Jasstaagaal greeted us in person naked in this homage to his natural element. There was no sign of the other guests or of Staakgha but in a virtual environment open to direct manipulation that meant nothing.]

[Jasstaagaal was a ‘Free Stellar’ colonist who had made his initial fortune out of war profiteering by: as he liked to put it - assisting - ‘Free Stellar’ refugees.]

[The ‘Free Stellar’ entrepreneur now maintained his wealth through a host of legal and semi legal activities (principally involving gambling) and ironically by showing tourists the edges of ‘Green Orb Alpha’s’ murkier underbelly.]

[Yes, even the Capital ‘Sea Sphere’ of the enlightened ‘Core Alliance’ had an entrenched criminal element. Today some of the most sophisticated but tolerated Crime Lords happened to be - retired - ‘Free Stellar Colonist’ Rebel Leaders. The reason why they were now approved of was simply that they - unlike others - had gravitated into specific niches and where now happy to promote the overall status quo rather than continue to fight against it to their own detriment.]

[Thinking back to the ‘Surface War’ I realised just how much time changes everything. A few of the rebels who had illegally seized territory in that conflict had become distinguished citizens. Other intransigent ‘Free Stellar Colonist’ Leaders had secretly become intelligence recruits as counter balances to the disease like spread of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’. Jasstaagaal however, had refused to take any firm side remaining largely neutral in the cold war struggle against ‘Void Skimmer’ dominion his neutrality making him useful to all sides.]

“Credits talk if you know how to listen to them Elder Harbinger.” [Jasstaagaal said coming to a halt not far from my Captain’s virtual ‘Shroud Suit’.]

[Jasstaagaal’s virtual Swimmer body looked perfect in every detail.]

“I did not try too hard to conceal my identity - from you.” [Harbinger replied.]

“So you also have an interest in Staakgha he is very popular - I think for more than his skills with a blade - am I right?” [Jasstaagaal asked.]

“I imagine he is making you record profits.” [Harbinger replied.]

“He is you understand under my protection.” [Jasstaagaal explained.]

“I have no intention of abusing your hospitality.” [Harbinger said.]

“Others have tried and failed both inside and outside this virtual construct.” [Jasstaagaal warned.]

“I merely wish to speak with the Champion a right I have bought and paid for.” [Harbinger reminded his host.]

“Do not worry friend Jasstaagaal always honours his deals. You should know that Staakgha has promised to fight again. After that, his future is unknown to me but while he is here - he is mine - I will tolerate no interference with my fighters. I care nothing for any wider concerns however anyone who dares to try to disrupt my business will pay for their trespass - no matter who they are.” [Jasstaagaal warned.]

“I am happy to hear that.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is good that we understand each other now follow me.” [Jasstaagaal said jetting away.]

[My Captain raced after the ‘Free Stellar’ through the virtual environment negotiating around cave like internal spaces. Then without warning the environment melted away and we found ourselves in what appeared to be a representation of a Shaper shrine.]

[Jasstaagaal had disappeared but looking away from us and standing before an overlarge statue of the Shaper was Staakgha. He looked no different than he did in the real world at least from what we could see of his rear.]

[As Harbinger moved forward his footfalls echoed out in an exaggerated manner in the largely empty space. Staakgha turned.]

“A Paradox, Jasstaagaal was right my fame spreads wide and far.” [He said.]

“You where expecting somebody else?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I suppose it is too much to hope that you are a simple gladiatorial enthusiast.” [Staakgha said.]

“You are right that is too much to hope for still this visit to ‘Killers’ was enlightening.” [Harbinger said.]

“I hope you were suitably entertained for your credits - did you win on me?” [Staakgha said sounding bitter.]

“I found it educational rather than amusing and yes I won.” [Harbinger said.]

“You would be a Warrior as well as a Priest?” [Staakgha asked.]

[Harbinger bowed.]

“My name is Elder Harbinger of the ‘Many Truths’.” [Harbinger said.]

“So I am visited by a Founding Father of the ‘Core Alliance’ my Father would be surprised and - disappointed. He would not be happy that his wayward son should be so acknowledged whilst the one he honoured most died in the ‘Five Day War’ to be instantly forgotten.” [Staakgha said.]

“Individual deaths often get lost in the general carnage of space battles.” [Harbinger said.]

“It is ironic that I have more wealth and prestige now than my elder sibling ever would have likely attained by following the righteous path of the Shaper. I never would have considered Gladiator as a career option or that so much could be made so rapidly. Make your offer and be gone I am not in the mood for any more words from you scavengers.” [Staakgha said.]

“That is a shame because I would like to get to know you.” [Harbinger said.]

“Knowledge is power why would I assist you to gain power over me?” [Staakgha said.]

“Perhaps because you genuinely have managed to impress me and I have long considered your species to be my enemy - so that is no small compliment. What you have done is quite an achievement - given the level of your opposition.” [Harbinger said.]

“You thought I fought well inside the ring?” [Staakgha asked.]

“I thought you live well inside and out of the arena you have defied your enemies I salute you. I believe what I saw in the arena was a true Warrior - a survivor - not just a killer not just a naturally cruel or unfeeling person. Doing this brings you no pleasure in fact it sickens you am I right?” [Harbinger said.]

“You do not know me at all Paradox.” [Staakgha said.]

“I think I do know you - a little - though not as much as I would like to. I think we have a lot in common despite our obvious differences we both have done things we wish we had not and much worse we know we will do more terrible things if it becomes necessary.” [Harbinger said.]

“A long time ago I realised there was no real honour in death it set me apart I was shunned for my belief. I even refused to fight in the ‘Five Day War’ I was not touched by my brethrens fever of hate: back then, Draakhaal was just another politician to me. Oddly, when my brother died and my father cast me out I have been fighting ever since simply to survive: my principles readily forgot - I was a fool - I still believe there is no honour in death but I also now know there is no life without honour.” [Staakgha said.]

“My species believes life is full of such paradoxical truths that is I believe where our name sprang from we are not afraid to believe in two contradictory facts.” [Harbinger said.]

“So you are here to offer your friendship in my time of need as one Warrior to another. That at least is original if not too credible given our backgrounds.” [Staakgha said.]

“In this instance I am willing to risk that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.” [Harbinger quoted.]

“An alliance of convenience is one approach I could believe in from a Founding Father who worked with the mortal Draakhaal.” [Staakgha stated.]

“It would appear we live in cynical times, of course, I am interested in what you may know or I would not be here. Unlike others, though I also wish to maintain the status quo not to disrupt it. Right now, I think more than any other boon what you really need is a friend who has political influence for your future and the means to get you lost in the dark right now. It is not safe for you anywhere in the ‘Core Alliance’ now. You cannot hope to keep winning these matches. However, the question is what do you want?” [Harbinger said.]

“What do I want?” [Staakgha repeated.]

[He turned back towards the outsized statue of the Shaper.]

“I never wanted very much but it was always - too much.” [Staakgha said.]

“Tell me about it, perhaps there is a way if you consider this calamity as a rare opportunity. After all here you are discussing rewards and advantage with a Founding Father with both wealth and influence to spare.” [Harbinger said.]

[Staakgha turned around to face my Captain again.]

“I want to live and I want justice for my murdered friends. All we did was the work we where paid to do - simple tasks I assure you - nothing that deserved the slaughter we were given as a reward for over a year of service.” [Staakgha said.]

“Some might consider the work you did as treason.” [Harbinger advised.]

“If my actions were treasonous my employers hid that fact well from me. Perhaps the pieces of work we did added up to something far bigger but individually it meant nothing to me or my friends although we may have just been one tiny resource among many.” [Staakgha said.]

“Life is cheap to some people and the Information Brokers you worked for may have been over cautious in choosing to eliminate all their casual operatives.” [Harbinger said.]

“I am not anybodies expendable asset: not my families, not my races, not my original employers and not those like you chasing after me for whatever it is you think I know.” [Staakgha said.]

“I will not lie to you Staakgha if I assist you, any hope for a murderous revenge might have to be put on hold for the greater good of the ‘Core Alliance’ everything will depend on information I do not yet possess.” [Harbinger said.]

“You are selling me the truth rather that what you think I wish to hear - that surprises me.” [Staakgha said.]

“I would like to earn your genuine trust. You should consider your survival as a kind of victory in itself. With your cooperation, I could easily remove the secrets you hold completely from your mind - I would even happy publicise this fact so that you would become of no value to your hunters. Let them try to come after me. I do not know why your employers did not just wipe the memory of your services it would have been far kinder.” [Harbinger said.]

“We ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ who worked for them would not let them play with our memories. Our memories are who we are they could have done anything to us totally rewritten our personalities for example. Do you really think they will withdraw the bounty that sort of thing might upset their murderous hirelings?” [Staakgha said.]

“It would still be prudent for you to disappear for a while or to assume a new identity altogether.” [Harbinger said.]

“Any chance of reconciliation with my Father will be lost to me forever if I give up my name - that is just not done. I suppose reconciliation was always a vain hope.” [Staakgha said.]

[I could sense my Captain was thinking hard no doubt recalling his own mixed feelings about Elder Composure the love hate relationship Harbinger had with his Father.]

“If you agree to assist me in my endeavours it is just possible you could keep your name and become a heroic figure to your people should we succeed. Together we may be able to foil the plots of your ex employers. Otherwise, even if one of your ‘Stellar Court’ members or some other gets what they want; it could be a disaster.” [Harbinger said.]

“If my employers are traitors I suppose whoever they are working for would not be pleased should they fail.” [Staakgha said.]

“It is quite possible if they are compromised it is your employers who may become the hunted.” [Harbinger stated activating a virtual yellow glow.]

“That would be amusing. You speak well Paradox but that is not surprising since you are a politician. I remember your speech with Draakhaal just before his ascension sent my brother to his inglorious death. Still words are just words they guarantee nothing.” [Staakgha said.]

“I will willingly be bound by a witnessed legal contract if you wish (I will even guarantee your safety as long as you are in my care) we can operate via remote Avatars. Once I have removed the information from your mind, you are no threat to me or the ‘Core Alliance’ I will have no reason to harm you. I would still advise you either to disappear for a time or to join me in my quest; I have many assets and friends in far-flung places. Should you opt to become my ally you will discover a host of unexpected opportunities.” [Harbinger said.]

“I would like to be able to go home someday.” [Staakgha said.]

“Even if you decide you do not wish to work with me beyond permitting the memory retrieval and eradication when this situation has become fully resolved I can see no impediment to you returning home. You could enjoy the unexpected wealth you have earned here. Perhaps even that limited a degree of success would be enough to buy back a little parental favour - I do not know. If you agree I could even help you to wisely invest your credits your safe extraction will cost you nothing - with Jasstaagaal’s permission I can arrange for you to be indirectly warped to my formidable ship an offer I rarely give to anyone.” [Harbinger said.]

“You have given me plenty to think about. Whatever transpires I am obligated to do one more match ‘Jasstaagaal’ is a rogue but he has honoured every agreement with me - so I will honour mine. In the meantime I will consider your offer.” [Staakgha said.]

“I will arrange for contact details to be left with ‘Jasstaagaal’. I am not just being self-serving when I tell you to be wary of any other people’s offers. I genuinely believe they will seek to use you up the stakes are very high. Tell me something Staakgha do you have any faith in your species Shaper?” [Harbinger asked.]

“I pray to him sometimes as the wise judge of the race he created. Today I prayed for revenge - because it raises my blood and makes me feel better - but I am far from convinced that he watches over us in some realm beyond the physical. Do you Paradox believe in the power of your dead?” [Staakgha said.]

“Most of our dead walk among us via cloned rebirth beyond that I am willing to accept that belief creates its own reality.” [Harbinger replied.]

“Reborn are just copies you cannot cheat death. Still I like the idea that faith shapes our universe - perhaps I will pray harder in the future.” [Staakgha said.]

“We all need a little faith in something.” [Harbinger said.]

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.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Sat, 28. Nov 09, 14:35; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu, 26. Nov 09, 08:34    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Finally got a change to catch-up with it Paranoid (works very busy and I'm waiting for my reading glasses... yes it's getting like that Sad )

So I read both chapters today... very contrasting settings and plot substance (mission impossible in the temple and Gladiator in the arena Very Happy )
Crosses fingers and prays you don't kill off Staakgha so he can join the plot/team.

Seems this book will focus on the "Core sphere" rather than any higher tier diversions, should make a more stable read... still eagerly awaiting Splinters into the action Wink

oh and a little error in the last chapter:
[When Staakgha still trying to lure his foe got a little too close. Turrghnn feigned throwing a high dagger towards Turrghnn’s head but actually launched himself at his opponent - this time in an all out frenzied attack - slashing and stabbing wildly with all four weapons in an uncoordinated but persistent manner.]

error bolded... feigning an attack on your own head- awesome Razz

I'm liking where this book is going the it's plot and style, keep it up Very Happy


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PostPosted: Sat, 28. Nov 09, 14:58    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Good to hear from you Snowship.

Getting older is a pain and staring at screens of text is hard on the eyes.
Out of interest do you tend to read online or copy and paste the text?

Well spotted name error now fixed. Lots of stuff getting past me at the moment. Embarassed

With this book I am enjoying showing a bit more of the other races - filling them out a bit - making them less faceless - more of that to follow. Smile

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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