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3010 Pt 4

By Jon brown

Force Born of Vortex

Seated aboard the humid bridge of an aged T6 in command, his face stamped into a mask of fury, General Gregan waited impatiently for the guard to re-emerge on the steps of ship F161, only to experience his second bitter taste of disappointment when the monitor suddenly turned blank in front of his eyes, lighting the touch paper in Gregan's ever-explosive mind, as he paused before delivering the blow, to scrutinise the other crew members around him, with a look of suspicion.

'Typical,' he fumed, 'First you lose radio communication with X4. And now I can't even see him,' 'I trust this show of incompetence is not contagious,' he warned them all, 'I'm sure I have no need to remind you that your credits depend on the total success of this mission,' he said, though he knew realistically, and to much disgust that problems were always to be encountered with the older T series ships to which he'd recently been demoted. The once rugged sophistication all around him on the crescent shaped bridge, looking waxier now than he remembered aboard T-5.

Nearby the hobbit twitched and covered his face with a hand, appearing startled by the sharp snap sound, and taking the defensive, baring his primate teeth, and peering between his splayed fingers as the impatient General smashed one fist into his steely palm, and stared first at the hobbit, and then out of the pressurised glass beyond him, as he caught site of the conical nose of the sister ship T-7, as she adjusted her stationary position in near space.

 

'Move it, lieutenant,' he growled more sternly, as the hobbit quickly recomposed himself, and hurried to resolve the malfunction. Barely a week had passed by since Hix had been released from the Eye prison to join the crew of probationaries here aboard the bridge of T6. Comprising of four level two droids. Gregan. Old friend Daien, himself. and of course a third shortage of guards. Though already Hix knew details of his latest stealth missions from his correspondence with Klade, by disc. Updated insight enough, into how much more volatile and ruthless General Gregan had grown from aged greed. A level three comandroid of the first wave, he was notorious for the trail of destruction which was always left in his wake, with no respect for colony or the living, in his quest for victory. It was also common knowledge that his prison harvested crew were destined never to last beyond the third mission. And so, for Hix, the opportunity to infiltrate and sabotage T-6, though risky, had been made so much the more probable.

 

Gregan leant forward in his chair, the impressive V shadow of his armoured upper body flaring over the small ball of a man below him, 'Do I sense the need to make myself clearer, Hix?' he whispered sinisterly in to the ear of his subordinate, his fingers stroking over the barrel of his laser, his black eyes narrowing to slits, 'Well?' he pushed.

'One moment please General,' Hix blurted out his apology as he worked, 'But I'm trying my best to rectify the malfunction, sir.'

'Not good enough, versatile' he hissed, 'I told King Eye, that hiring an ex-con with your despicable record would be a mistake. But believe me. for your sake, I hope I'm wrong,' he warned as he switched to slow mo vision, and watched every digit with suspicion, as the quick fingers of the Hobbit still continued to elude him with efficient dexterity over the keypad.

A moment later ship F161 reappeared again on the monitor, though X4 was now nowhere to be seen.

'Malfunction rectified sir,' Hix spoke clearly in the trained affirmative tone of a seasoned pilot, as they both stared at the empty view of the cargo hold, while Hix zoomed in on the damaged lock, though no warbot guard appeared to be seen.

'Storm damage. Pah,' the General spat incredulously, 'Obvious malicious tampering,' he hissed contempt. 'Where is X4 damn it?' Let me see the rear hatch, immediately,' he ordered as Hix changed view and homed in on a close up still of the fastened doors above the back of the empty platform, the numbers 161 stamped in bold black on the sheen surface. A recording in fact taken by Hix at the moment of its touchdown barely a minute ago. For at that very moment he knew Klade and the humans were making their way cautiously inside escape bay six situated immediately beneath the bridge.

'I suspect he may be filing in with the others, already sir' he suggested, playing for time, to ensure their escape route was covered, trusting in a measured amount of fear, to make himself sound more convincing.

'Hix you are not paid to guess,' Gregan challenged him, 'Show me the A2 line,' he ordered, 'Show me X4 now. I need to see that detailed damage report no matter how small.'

With deft hands, Hix showed him what his eyes wanted to see, as he worked methodically over the keypad, once again, secretly punching in a delay lock, causing the A2 line flashing by on the screen before disappearing into blackness again only moments later. All the time Hix in control, and hiding his disgust for the Generals pathetic though predictable pettiness. After all, here towering above him, was seven and a half foot of comandroid with the highest destruction tariff in the known universe, upset it seemed, over a damaged lock. 'This ship is past its prime General,' he stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

'Do not insult my intelligence you impman,' Gregan growled as he left his chair and pushed Hix aside to punch methodically, though in vain at the keypad himself, , before he leapt into the centre gangway and paced up and down in front of them all, 'I might as well be flying with a crew of level one rejects.'

Though his fit of rage was short lived, as Hix seized the opportune moment to strike again as he fed a view of the stingers to the overhead screens, forcing back a sneer as he covered his face with his hand again, watching between splayed fingers as Gregan forgot his scowl. A fleeting expression of anger, which vanished, even before Hix could fake a look of exasperation. The General, once again preoccupied with the bounty of new pifs in front of him, 'The finest addition to our King's reserve yet,' he said, his mighty barrel breast threatening to swell as he allowed an arrogant smile to turn the corners of his thin lips, and then returned to his throne at the back of the bridge. His every movement measured under the watchful eye of Daien, a one man band and closer prison acquaintance of Hix amongst a more humanoid crew, and also a member of the walking dead: a human pilot with Donde blood pumping through his aboriginal heart. A man who'd killed more dealers (droid and otherwise), and cracked more safes, than the 198 year lines he had had the underground surgeons renurture on his swarthy face. Looking in need of replenishment now where long scar canyons and tiny shrapnel craters mapped his fleshy cheeks like a ship welders bench, from past battles His huge bare forearms through his overall suit, covered in tag tattoos, flexed involuntarily as he mentally kissed goodbye to his measly Gonde account, even with the increase due to him on completion of this mission. How, indeed could it be missed when a far grander loot awaited him around every corner through his profession. Donde, to be spent on 'sxin' at the latest underground facility. Then maybe a few more neural implants just to keep him sharp. A man now ready to join Hix on the escape, if he could get past the six warbot guards remaining here around the bridge, half the usual company (and soon to be three less) he thought, valiantly hiding his anticipation for the right moment, as he waited tactfully for the General to be seated again before he made his, 'Cleared and primed' announcement.

Course set for seventeen degrees north east by aura one. The level two droid on navigation confirmed: an updated humanoid named Couda nurtured by the underground labs, and nearly as physically daunting as the General. A droid addicted to rebel upgrades at whatever cost. Here at work now aboard a ship he was far more used to hijacking. Though he usually went for the more nimble TT series himself, with its efficiently cool bridge, increased fire power, and sharper interface. Shortened life that TT-22 had had under Gregan's brutal command. Couda prided himself for taking better care of his stolen ships. Even whilst under pressure from Eye stinger pursuit. Yet another good reason for him to despise the butcher, Gregan, all the more.

'Destination Guilbertine, sir,' his lieutenant confirmed, another droid by the name of Flox, a level two of cracker intelligence, and a midfield CR player, whose underground payouts enabled him to afford a superior endoskeleton, though at present on a measured dose of CR based antidote following recovery from a recent virus attack, sparked following a fall from a hundred foot silo which smashed his cerebellar cortex. A resourceful droid looking forward to his gonde credits in order to continue his course of repair at the pricey Eye labs. with no idea that danger would not fall so well on the side of the humanoids this day.

 

Next came the artillery check, level and affirmative as always, given by two standard Eye droids who, along with the General, and half a finely spaced battalion of Eye troops and warbots, quartered in the belly below them, were all that remained of the original crew of TT-22.

'Engage thrusts to cruiser and build to maximum drive precisely two digits beyond aura one,' Gregan confirmed, as the engines rumbled into life beneath his feet, and he imagined for a brief proud moment how pleased King Eye would be, especially with himself. Surely now, he hoped, despite the earlier heavy loss of ships and crew under his past four commands, The King would make The Order forgive him when they all saw this fine haul of light stingers, the seventh commandeered fleet in fact. Claimed at minimal cost, this was one of his smoothest stealth operations on data record.

The F161 damage report and the communication glitch put to the back of his mind by the saboteur and master of deception, Hix the man himself, seated below the General, his quick small eyes filled with hatred as he quickly read the smug look on the mask face.

Sitting himself down, Gregan flexed his steely fingers over the two button consoles recessed into the arms of his chair, as his brain took him back over memory data to be logged on return: the pathetic airfield security chief Zefan, whose swift disposal had been a mere preliminary. Gregan found it hard to believe that a level three comandroid could sink so low, and he recalled the feeling of humiliation at the undeserved association Zefan had with himself, and more unthinkably, his father, King Eye. Unfortunately for Militia Earth, like those bought, and sent there before him, addict Zefan had been but a pawn. Yet another pathetic CR slut for The Eye and their stake out of PIF security. It had not been hard to intercept enough of the smuggler craft, and assure the addict droid suffered his subsequent withdrawal as planned. Just as the chiefs, in charge of, airfields sector west, four, five, and six had been made to suffer for their addiction. Though much as he hated to admit, non of those chiefs had been as addicted as Zefan and the missions had reaped dear reprisal to little gain. Of course he always dismissed the onus which was passed to him by discourtesy of The Order and the inferior court of attendants, all of whom had reassured him of fallen banners and zero resistance on the last three sour missions. He disgruntled with himself as he reran the moments of the latest mission for the log: the scene just moments after the radar was scrambled and they'd landed on the air field via the dropship, and had to run for the cover of the bunkers, in order to narrowly avoid a swarm of Bullets. Then, how they found Zefan, slumped behind the open security door at the nerve centre. A simple entry code taken from the sick comandroid, and a flick of a switch and the unmanned laser bunks and watch towers were completely disabled. Free then were they, to help themselves to the PIF key cards which lay in a bomb safe down in the vault below. As Gregan listened to the engine thrusters final engage, and continued to log events, he recalled the moment Flox the cracker had nodded, and the door of the safe had opened, that had been a moment before, a loud crash tore the deathly silence behind them. He and the Eye troops had turned with their lasers at the ready, suspecting another heavy ambush similar to the one on sector six just days ago when he lost two companies and a dropship. Though they'd had no need to arm their lasers, when they found the broken body of another 'sucked' warbot guard, tumbled from its gun turret. Defunct like the two companies they'd passed by as they marched through the open century gates of both outer perimeters, all level two warbots drained of what little CR they contained in order to feed Zefan's raging habit. When Zefan had surfaced sufficiently from his torpor, Gregan had tortured him with a full shot of the chemical rope dangled above his bounty, head. The humour of that moment past, returned once more, and he chuckled heinously to himself remembering the horrified look on Zefan's face after he'd dropped the phial to the floor in front of his feet. Then, the closing moments as the addict droid had fallen onto his face to grovel pathetically at the evaporating liquid. Gregan smiled remembering how he'd taken one step back and swiftly beheaded the junkie droid with his zword. Knowing he had completely disobeyed the wishes of The Order, and feeling no pity for the selfish fool, who would hardly be missed by Militia Earth and the dealers he owed. A failure, who'd become progressively addicted to CR, whilst he served as head bodyguard within Eye's inner circle. It had only been a matter of time until he was caught red handed by an attendant as he'd administered his fix. The court of attendants were hard, as was the merciless law on the incurable CR addicts, Then like all those before him he was reprogrammed accordingly, and then his trade issue number was duly served, before finally, he was administered a fix of slow release CR and sent off with other addicts, to the slave markets. Off the log, it was Gregan's view, that he'd done the junkie an honourable favour by way of swift execution. Though he had to admit the addict droid's life had certainly been worth the three young Hobbit Broads with which he'd been traded. Militia Earth, unaware of any immediate danger, and so blind to the insidious outcome. All in accordance with The Order, of course, he realised as he mentally saluted the law of greed under which he and all those on Guilbertine served. His only real loyalties lay with his maker, King Eye himself. Unaware as he sat absorbed in pride of the infiltrator Klade descending the nylon ropes with them as they swooped down from the dropship hatch. A disguised cyborg in league with the small human by his side, and the dedman, Daien.

'All communication systems fully functional again, sir,' Hix interrupted, before requesting to be excused for scheduled protein requirement number two.

Gregan scowled as the view of the stingers disappeared from the overhead screens, and gave a reluctant nod, regarding Eye time with annoyance, and then ordering three warbot guards to escort him. He watched the hobbit leave toward the protein bay disgusted by the thought of having to eat to sustain life like he and the humans. Proud to be a level three comandroid in need of nothing more than strategy updates to feed his purpose in loyalty to his Planet. But as the hobbit glanced quickly back at him, with what looked like a sneer, he was overcome with suspicion.

Barely two minutes had elapsed when the post, still remained unmanned, and the security alarm was raised, which confirmed his fears: 'General.Sir, this is A2 level, X4 has failed to return at the checkpoint,' the droid corporal announced through to the bridge, 'He has failed to arrive at his station post.

'

Realising he'd been fooled the General roared with self denigration, before he left his screen and followed after Hix, 'No.tricked by an imp,' he roared, 'More guards and a TT ship I told them. But no I get this crate instead,' he redirected his blame at The Order, 'Put out a standby alert to all station levels. Now,' he bellowed into his radio mike, as the remaining two warbots immediately armed their hip lasers, and took up a more ready stance in synchronisation with the Eye troop who stood a pace forward from them.

Gregan's departure was an added bonus, and Daien made short work of the warbot guards and the Eye troop with a deadly lightening attack, after causing a minor electrical explosion on the artillery pilots secondary level data pad, and taking out the first distracted investigator with a leg sweep, followed by a customary shiv strike through the rear of the head as he came crashing down. Using the stolen zword to finish the other three in swift succession, disabled even before they had time to fire. Then taking all weaponry and access cards Daien laser jammed the lock on the other four humanoids, Flox and Couda trying desperately to follow after his barrel as they pleaded with immediate, though unwanted offer of comradeship in the mutiny of which they'd suddenly all become a part. The Eye droids G-1 and 2 remaining at their gun control posts, lost without a programmed response to the mutiny situation. Unable to spot any enemy approach on their monitors. Both desperately in need of better ventilation and sharper updates. Though Daien was unaware of Gregan's stealthy approach, as he finished checking his handy work on the door, and began to load himself up with the stolen arsenal. Opportunity enough for the General as he flew back up from an empty escape bay one, and threaded around the broken and twitching bodies of three broken guards, their heads crushed between the ramp hydraulics by the protein bay where Hix had quickly finished them. Laser drawn at belt level, at the sound of the bridge alarm, which had just been raised by one of the droids trapped inside the bridge. Though he'd had no need to waste his ammunition, seeing the clean break advantage, as he reholstered and moved with purposeful fluidity catching Daien unawares with a foot to the back of the knee and a rear choke hold, before breaking Daien's gun hand open with a chop, and then pulling him, compliantly, away from the large arsenal in order to press talk of what mutiny was afoot.

Though Daien was quick to seize control again, as the trapped droids on the other side of the doors began to get it together, and smashed with everything at the buckling metal. Including floor plates, which tore through the rhenium doors like spiked shredding fins, G-1 and 2, accidentally pulling balancer wires from their sheaved sockets, in their clumsy haste, and causing the ship to veer starboard into a bank of tiny asteroids.

As a result Gregan was caught of balance by the unexpected shift as Daien used his weight and speed to add momentum taking full advantage of the General's moment of unbalance, and executed a reverse lock before smashing his head into the wall enough to leave an imprint. Wasting no more time as he followed after Hix to make his escape, screaming manically about the bomb he hoped would kill him and his troops, as he fled below. It would either be that or meet his end in one of the four sabotaged capsules remaining, he thought without pity and much pleasure. Though Daien did not leave Gregan that much insight, despite his pain and anger.

The word bomb stuck in the General's mind as he heard escapebay two release its capsule with Daien inside. Though even as he raised the red alert his mind was on abandoning, taking his bagged trophy from the bridge chest, and saving ammunition, before entering capsule three. Leaving the doomed ship even before the four droids had completely tore through the bridge door.

***

It was barely three minutes later within the belly of the sister ship T-7, the sound of victorious cheers rose as the freed prisoners viewed the explosion of T6 on the monitor above their heads. All around them, the warbot guards and Eye troops standing limply by their posts, with their heads bowed in metal shame, their systems overridden. Their comandroid, captain Jenchax, imprisoned in one of the empty cells below. The latest arrivals, Rhys and Elisha embraced each other deeply as they had not felt able to do in such a long time since their escape from the Eye camp, their hourly fight for survival leaving little time to release suppressed physical emotions. 'This is surely a dream, Rhys,' Elisha cried with liberated joy, as she smiled at Leilani safe in the bosom of another mother near her own age.

Despite the fate of her own infant, in the cruel hands of the Eye camp, the woman found courage to return the smile, tears of elation stood in theirs and the eyes of others stood around them whilst the infant fed from the milk which her dead boy no longer needed, realising how fortunate any of them were to be gathered here alive, like the other hundred prisoners around her in the hold, rescued by Klade, and the resistance.

Elisha turned to smile at the woman, 'Thank you,' she said before rejoining her husband in a long meaningful embrace, which made even the weaker of the survivors around them feel a renewed strength.

Meanwhile, just 200 miles above them, waiting on stealth mode as escort, along the lower tier of AURA 1, comandroid Zeed of pif squadron sixty seven had seen the explosion in a much graver light: first like a tiny fire fly mirrored in his canopy, then as a vanishing dot on the radar. Another few moments, and the order to deploy in Batcat mode was affirmed.

 

Within the cockpit of the tiny escape capsule, General Gregan slammed his fist against the jammed communipad. In fact the only thing left partly functional, working only on receive, with no way of manually being turned off as far as he could make out from the array of frayed wire harnesses which dangled from under the main interface modules beside both his legs For the saboteur, with his primate teeth. had made it this way, foreseeing in his mind the General as he squirmed, as indeed he did now: the effort of containing his utter frustration impossible behind a permanent mask of anger, as he resisted the urge to pull out the remaining wires. Forcing himself instead to wait until the jubilant cheers drifting from the impostors aboard T-7 ended. His solely for the purpose of Eye data log. Incensed by the sound of triumphant. Never had he felt so impotent, having not even the power to reclaim a single phial of CR from the pirated bounty, A guttural snarl his only strike at Captain Klade. Gone was the richly mixed cargo of human prisoners, along with the industrial refrigerators , which sat along six tiers. Each container full of security sealed CR decanters, which each held fifty thousand new phials. A crate store full of Cc's, discs, and of course some surplus Pifs which were an overspill from the most recent haul. It was obvious someone aboard the flight deck wanted him to listen, tormenting him. And there was no doubt in his mind who that tormentor was. Hix with an invisible twisted knife, no fear of revealing the plans to a one in his helpless position. Anger led him to thoughts of Klade in his warbot disguise, authentic though it had been. For there was no doubt in his mind now that impostor X4 and the cyborg were one in the same. Sickened now by the thought that their paths had crossed many times before, yet there had been no clash of zwords. Otherwise he would have finished him by now. Just as he'd slain the resistance leaders before him. Though this was the ultimate insult to himself and the King, he disgusted. Deciding that he would deal with the cyborg as a personal first, as the choke thick, smell of betrayal suddenly grew more noxious with his realisation. If only he had took time to study the feint scent of mutiny aboard T6, following the communication breakdown aboard the bridge. So obviously a ploy, which he could see clearly now, no longer blinded by conceit. Though now he wished he'd let captain Jenchax take command of the first dropship, as he indeed had offered. Realising bitterly, that orders of The Order were to blame once again, in reaffirming his decision to refuse the request of the captain. His disgust deepening again, as he unplugged himself from the blank navigation screen, and booted up the independent shuttle manual to pore back and forth hopelessly, over workshop footage of danger simulation tests, as he boiled with indignation, 'Fools. All of you. Fools ' he found cold nerve to bellow aloud, despite his own peril. After all, he was he not a level three comandroid, and was it not something of which he was most proud of, he considered agreeably. His CNS like his sxin, the finest self regenerating cultivations in his superior universe. Polymer and silicon could not compare, if even meet a close match, without their organic counterpart. And ah, the strength which fed of his tireless level three positronics . No Frankenstein level one was he. The seamless one, reassuring himself in the knowledge that if other more organic beings than he had withstood such extremities, then so too could his own robust and sophisticated insides. .After all, he realised he really had no choice, as he began to plan the torture of, Hix, in order to keeping himself sharp, superficially blinding himself from the bright den of the black hole, drawing ever nearer now, as danger flashed red all around him, illuminating the two droid faces, as the capsule began to fold itself like a pretzel Now it seemed, the game of cat and mouse might have been turned around for good, though he refused to lose will, as he braced himself for whatever he was about to receive, and then pulled out the remaining wires from the radio, before he roared like a warrior, at the face of nature's adversity.

***

Aboard T7, navigator lieutenant Yoni caught site of Gregan's doomed capsule, 'Sir, come quickly please,' she beckoned him. Though it was too late, as the tiny spec on the ships radar vanished into the bright den of Vortex.

'What was it?'

'It was there a moment ago sir,' she said with concern pointing a finger at the now empty scanner, 'Another capsule I'm sure of it,' she was convinced, as she pointed at the identity log on the 3D viewer where a small vessel flashed blue. Identical in detail to those attached to all T, and F series ships. Though lieutenant Yoni was helpless now, to guide it back from Vortex. The black hole had beaten Hobbit Yoni for all her intelligence, driven by a primitive hunger for any ships who should be unfortunate enough to stray high in the space, above Equator sectors five to twenty. The first of the two capsules had come close, as it led the way, carried by the explosion ripple of T-6, only a few minutes before, when the crest of the blast threw Klade, and the small family travelling with him, off course, and nearer to the bright den of Vortex, 'Could it have been Gregan, sir?'

'And Daien?' he asked for position.

'He is home free and moving at speed sir,' Lieutenant Yoni confirmed.

'And the fourth ship?'

'Heading for the pacific ocean, but I'm afraid it will burn up before re-entrance into the earth's atmosphere is complete.'

Klade, stroked at his chin thoughtfully, 'Impossible, Gregan won't survive a blast like that?' he dismissed, unable though to shake a sudden foreboding, 'He deserves nothing better than to die,' he muttered with disgust.

'Shall I still set course for Sector ten, sir?' Lieutenant Yoni asked as she listened, and studied his preoccupied expression, 'Sir no one has ever survived a black hole,' she reaffirmed, 'He is nothing but a level three droid whose roots lie in a Petri dish,' she said.

 

'Like you yourself once did Lieutenant Yoni,' he reminded her.

'But sir, there is a difference between chemical synthesis, and the blood roots of my ancestors,' she pointed out with a cool snobbery, 'And besides, we did not remain in the lab beyond the first stage of .' she caught herself from using the term reincarnation, and quickly rephrased her thoughts: '.our preordained return to humanity.

Either way he will die sir'

'True,' he agreed with empathy, for his heart was still human, whereas the same organ of other cyborgs his age had long since been replaced, sometimes with transplants, though usually with the synthetic copies. While the latter was often more effective than its human patent, it seemed after monitored observation, that following the operation to fit the new pump, the aftermath clearly showed that two out of three of the replacements left the cyborg of significantly lower self esteem.

'Do not worry,' she sighed, 'He will die quickly either way.'

'Mm,' Klade was not convinced.

'Sir.destination?' she pressed him again, Sir?'

 

'Paladorm.'

'Home but already sir?' she frowned at his change in plan, 'But what about the doctor and the other medics?'

'Orbit time to that sector will leave us as a sitting target and I think our little explosion has already raised the alarm. We are no match in this heavy old freighter against the enemy pifs escorts waiting on Aura one,' he pointed out warily, his instincts of survival; like the wary thumping in his human heart, told him what he felt was instinctively right. Klade knew from painful past experience, that to underestimate a twisted droid like Gregan, was foolish indeed, 'He could have alerted reinforcements before he entered Vortex, or burnt up in the atmosphere,' he pointed out, 'The rescue mission can wait.'

'Certainly a possibility,' Lieutenant Yoni agreed. 'If only minute.'

'Not a chance captain. I personally disabled all four remaining craft in under one minute thirty seconds.' He coolly declared casting a smug smile at Yoni, 'The capsule headed for earth contains the doomed humanoids.'

'Then my faith is in you Hix,' Klade tried to console himself as he looked over at the other hobbit, who nodded unable though, to dismiss grislier details of Gregan's track record, and his love for shrunken heads, and unable to contain an anxious sigh of disappointment as the thought of the dangerous comandroid escaping Vortex, sickened him.

'Course set for seven degrees north west by aura six. Home destination Paladorm set sir,' Hobbit Yoni confirmed.

'Engage thrusts to cruiser and build to maximum drive the moment we pass Aura six ,' he confirmed. Our fighters will cover us from any enemy pursuit. Remember we are risking a late ambush at the very least.' He said hoping Gregan was at this very moment being burnt to a crisp one way or another. Anything, as long as he was dead.

'All communication systems fully functional again, sir' confirmed Hix, as he admired with utmost interest the cargo of new chips and CR, as if he were admiring the pure snow skin of princess, Fabianne, desired by many rival hobbits for her albino beauty. Though non more so than he. Lastly, he smiled to himself at the thought of General Gregan being smashed into dust, knowing he personally had played a key part in his extermination, and the torment of his final moments.

***

Though unfortunately, it would be a genuine mistake that Hix would live to regret, even now as Gregan became entombed within the black hole. The flux of negative and positive ions which formed the hail of swirling, scalding dust within the vast, black maw outside the capsule, grinding the super strength body panels, like blasting sand, until a granite hard shell was formed around the comandroid within. His prone body surging from the change taking place within his titanium alloy bones. Then came the transition, as streams of liquefied circuitry joined in a river, and poured over his every contour, laced with a phenomenal electromagnetic charge, causing the titanium endoskeleton to become malleable. The active flow dissolving the diamond backed flesh and sxin, and penetrating the indestructible PASA compound. Assimilating it as fused atoms reformed and restructured with new magnificence within the rapidly transforming mould. The two heads illumined now with the reanimation, as positronic components fused, homing in on the live nerve cells which surged in the severed droid neck like hungry tentacles of a sea anemone , seeking its mate, located at the cervical vertebrae, as the being force of Vortex began to reknit itself insanely within the droid's every fibre, fusing with the CNS of its brother Gregan within the womb of Vortex. Conjoining them as one.

***

As for Daien, danger this time had for once, and not for a long time, been on his side as the explosion ripple of T6, only a few minutes before, carried the small capsule like a surf board on the crest of the blast, speeding his escape to 'Freebase' and easily clear of the hazardous north eastern equator sectors which beckoned like a stirring weir by an invisible current. Clean away from the bright den of Vortex, whose phenomenal though volatile energy source was already being tapped by the juicers working aboard Aura stations four and five. Home to he and other dedmen. Dam keepers and fishermen with their boats and nets in the tail current of Vortex. All things to give him good reason to grin over thoughts of meeting more of the walking dead hiding out on there on AURA 3, The feeling warmed as he too imagined a long awaited end to Gregan, the last hateful face with whom he'd fought, though not the last. There would be praises to Hix. And of course his hedonistic ego would need to party with other dedmen and dedwomen, and even a few hobbits. Then they would reminisce of near brushes to death with the she-nature of the black hole. Anti-android blood coursed now through the Teflon in his veins as his sleek muscles bulged as he bristled with every dog hackle imaginable, each one stood out on the back of his neck as he dreamed of liberation plain, seeing no enemy pifs approach on the radar, as he sat illuminated in a perfectly controlled, neon pulse glow. The disjointed duller reds closer to finger interface showing no malfunction, even as the craft body flexed and slightly shook from speed turbulence, 10000 mph flashing a dull orange from the safer blue and then green. Time of arrival apparently not attainable, the only circumstantial . minor error. His soul praises aloud went to Hix, and then the cyborg resistance leader, Klade, even as the stub capsule nose retracted, and tilted the cockpit smoothly through ninety degrees, laying he, the occupant horizontal inside the half bare belly. The floor shell closing like a concertina door, folding smoothly around him, as safety belts readjusted themselves snugly around his legs. Outside, the protective hi abs bumpers ready to cushion the blow against its blunter shape whilst the occupant remained in a condition near situ, as he hit the crash pit on AURA 4, oblivious to the whoops and wails of those watching his arrival from the safety of the bunkers, lowering there weapons swearing dancing and cursing in their body armour when they viewed the scene less than two hours later. Then on recovery, though still slightly dazed, feelings of liberation returning, as he celebrated, and wished Captain Klade a safe journey to Paladorm. As was their 'Mahana' wish to the cyborg and Hix later that evening in the clubbar.

***

Feet burning now instead of buttocks, Flox and Couda sat behind the droids G-1 and 2 who took the full fury of the fire as the capsule scraped through the furnace atmosphere. Finally, to save them again, as charred sandbags when the burnt out capsule hit the Pacific ocean, in a ball of steam, and brackish water began to pour in through the damaged panels. Together they smashed their way out and swam for land, unwittingly alerting a nearby pack of sharks, the leader to who, Couda would lose his left leg. Luckily for them, when a resistance sub surfaced nearby, disturbing the frenzied shark pack as it's sleek grey hull slid to the surface audibly slicing the polluted surface into two waves. Then when the two castaways were safely below, she slipped back below the dark surface once again, her dorsal fins leaving hardly a tail current as it slid through the man made canal, which led toward the lower quadrants of the safe sector barracks, beneath land. Though no thanks went out to Hix or Klade from the two humanoids who had barely saved their own skins. Disappointing memories of Daien, brought with them only resentment which they would bear with them until their paths were to cross again someday.

Glossary:

Sxin: mixture of polymer and human skin

Pifs: Plasma injected fighters: (stingers)

Batcat: Brain Actuated Technologies Cyberlink-actuated tracker (Face control to combat voice recognition on stealth missions).

Gonde: (The Eyechief) 1): Chief Eye court attendant: 2) Ghost currency paid into each personal accountable for work. Bank Shows as a bar scale with reach bonus. Often meagre from the ravishing of Eye tax corruption. This currency can only be spent on Guilbertine.

.And his counterpart brother:

Donde (Jeanie man): 1): Main CR player (at present). Name given to any currency not recognised by the Eye.

Eye time: Guilbertine time zone: sixteen units of ninety minutes equalling a twenty four hour Earthday.

AURA 1: (Aura north): (sky hulk): (space Islands): (Projects): most dilapidated of the six space stations which once formed the protective aura project used to help, repair and rejuvenate the ozone layer. This had desirable results for nearly two centuries, when drought and famine were brought to an all time minimum. This was until the historical implosion of a giant meteor called 'The Wall' in the fall of 2345 which left the black hole Vortex in its wake, its dangerously close proximity from den to earth reaching less than 44,000 miles upsetting the delicate balance with disastrous consequences. However, despite the disastrous ecological aftermath, this station like its five very different brothers no longer requires nuclear power to light the runways and the club bars built into them, as they are now powered at source by the Vortex. A freak of nature discovered when the implosion of the 'Wall' sucked out miles of optic fibre cables from the busted sides of Aura 4 and 5 nearest to the danger. Power surges blacked out the entire power system as generators tripped. Once the repair damage was complete at cost to life. It was obvious where and how the phenomenal power had been conducting itself. After experimentation using optic fibre nets, and redesigned transformers, the lighter though more powerful generators began their smooth work pumping the new power all around to keep them up. A new abundance of natural fuel. Though it was something which had come to late to save the amethyst days and blackest nights on Militia Earth, 200 miles below, decorated as they always were, with electric storms which danced between every point of the compass.

Bullets: One of the hybrid strains of Earth roach. Notorious pest of food silos and carried by supply ships from all three planets.

CR:

"Lower back cure and drug of the droids."

-excerpt from 2500 ME News update

entitled, 'CR- the facts.'

At last the cure had come, both for the natural regeneration of prolapsed discs, and more importantly, though quite by accident, the way to tell if the patient was faking his unseen nerve problem within. Dr Jonathan Eye, child of the "self," was the inventor of the chemical rope, code name, Cp3R1. Later it would serve as a main nutrient; acting as vital spinal fluid within the CNS of the self regenerating android, the prototype of which, he would create within the next ten years. Also a dangerously addictive drug used and shamed, in accordance with The Order, and their agenda to govern the whole universe.

The fluid induced into the spine in much the same way as an epidural is administered to a pregnant woman giving birth. Cp3R1 balances with the natural spinal fluid without adding dangerous pressure to the minute complex of motor nerves within. Pain of the suffered is measured by colour revealed under MRI examination. Whereas the fraction of genuine patients benefit from complete lumbar rejuvenation if the fluid is left their for a prescribed and monitored period.

Since its discovery as a breakthrough in medicine the governments worldwide have recovered billions in false benefit claims, if not monetarily then, by the invention of the

Eye factories where cheats are forced to work off their debt with other deceivers (Including suspected Loris and free thinkers).

Hand guard (with fingers splayed): Part of the inherited body language of the hobbits, used as a defence reflex. Origin: hobbit cosmology: linked to customary stick fights. A sport preserved from hobbit ancestry admired and betted on by both Eye attendants and members of the walking dead, alike.

Disc: Disposable correspondence SIM cards or discs

Instructions:

1: Open packet and extract one disc

2: Hold between thumb and finger to send message to data mail of chosen recipient (compatible only with cyborg, Lori, and Woody recipients).

3: Disc will begin to tingle between finger pinch indicating ten seconds remaining.

4: Release spent disc whereupon it will disintegrate.

5: Resistance warning: a)Use no more than four discs within the space of eight hours. b) Do not use in conjunction with radio equipment. c) To avoid detection do not use within 10ft of warbots or 5ft of Eye troops

(Resistance sciprodlabs 3010)

(C)opyright 2006 Jon Brown All Rights Reserved

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