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Eric Olafson, Fleet Cadet
Ch21-demons
Chapter number 21
Previous CHAPTER 20: Nothing special
Current Chapter 21 : Demons
Next Chapter 22: Into the Nebula

Interlude: BoneyardEdit

The Rama Bot lowered them to the ground at the edge of the space ship bone yard. Wind howled between the rows of ships and tugged at their suits. The man calling himself Sergei now, could not shake the feeling that they were watched. Some of the ships were clearly alien, perhaps of civilizations that joined and adopted the Common design scheme. Perhaps of vanquished foes with technology deemed inferior. Some of the designs they recognized, some of the ships looked ready to fly others had parts missing, some were literally cut in half, but it all was dark and the weak sun seemed to create more shadows than light.

Sergei masked his uneasy feeling gnarling at the Admiral." Why stop here? Let your robot carry us where we need to go and then leave this place."

The disguised Kermac was of another opinion. He would have loved to stay here longer and make detailed records of what was there.

"Because we first need to talk to the care takers and find out where it is stored." Swybin answered." You are welcome to go back, take the shuttle and leave this world, if you like."

Sergei hissed." Do you have any idea what it costs and takes to get three CIT's? Or get you of the Gallows alive? My employers have spent considerable resources o you and expect you to do your part. For now we play your game, so lead on!"

Swybar jumped of the robots hand and somehow he managed even to walk like he owned the place, and it looked it was more or less the case.

Sergei had been tempted to turn on the mental control device and cause the Admiral some pain and to remind him of his place. but the Kermac held him back." Not now associate, we will punish him for his insolence later."

Something fast, just a hint faster than the Kermac was able to register at first swooped out of an open and dark cargo hatch yawning in the hull of an ancient Saran cruiser. Whatever it was disappeared between the rows of ships before he could really see what it was.

Both men almost ran as they caught up with the Admiral, who was heading for the gray hull of an Ult troop transport, leaning precariously to one side as it had four of the original six landing struts missing. Sergei's hand cramped around a high powered blaster weapon he carried on his side. "Did you see that fast thing?"

"No I haven't and neither have you, Petharian Brain leeches move way too fast for most beings to really see them until it is too late."

Even though neither of the two men ever been across the bridge nor heard about Brain leeches, their name alone did little for the confidence of the two men. Sergei actually pulled the blaster and nervously scanned the area above them in the nearly dark metal canyon of derelict space ships. The Kermac speculated." Perhaps the ships did not get sterilized before they were brought here."

Swybin turned." Oh now there are strict fleet regulations about that. These brain leeches are genetically and cybernetic enhanced and a horrible weapon, deemed too immoral even by Terrans and one batch ended up here and now guards the place."

They had almost reached the massive troop transport, Swybin said." Terrans hardly throw ever anything away, there are 112 Bone yard Planets like this all storage places of surplus weapons, equipment and gear that can't be sold and deemed it could be useful again one day."

"Translocators too?" Sergei whispered.

"Don't be silly of course not. The Translocators are more or less the reason these bone yards exist. Why keep weapons and developments around when you have the perfect weapon? While there is a new development here and there, no real advance or chance was made to Union ship weaponry since Stahl brought this wonder weapon back. Before the Translocator cannons Union Engineers and scientists came up with new and different concepts almost yearly that were developed and tested. I haven't seen a new weapon concept since."

The Kermac shrugged." So, why spend resources on new unproven things when you got the perfect weapon? We have not figured out how they work or how to defend against them. "

Sergei said." Can it be so hard to develop a similar weapon? You have hundreds of civilizations slaving for you and the Kermac are certainly one of the oldest and species around."

"Let us not waste time in useless conversations. I prefer to be inside and away from flying Brain leeches."

Two dark green bulky looking beings with massive jaws and exposed fangs peeled from the shadows. Both wearing some kind of steel mesh and metal belt harnesses, the Kermac had heard of Oromals but never seen them. He whispered." Are these penal colonists or something?"

Swybin laughed." Not at all, all Depots are guarded by Oromals. They volunteer for this duty and many do it for generations. Just be careful and don't call them Orcs that would be a mistake!"

They followed the Admiral past a working air lock door inside the troop transporter. Here Swybin removed his hood and cold mask and the two Oromals saluted." Admiral, we did not know you would come for an inspection."

"Life is full of surprises isn't it Specialist Noxthyxthyazonix? I need to take the Red Dragon back to Development, so please have your men fuel her up and make her ready for take-off."

"I dispatch them right away. We have installed the Sastra devices as ordered already a year ago, and theAttikan engines have been delivered and completely installed just last month."

The Kermac hissed quietly as the Oromal rushed to a rugged looking comm. Terminal." It seems you have planned this for quite a while, even while you were still a noble Admiral."

"No I haven't I wanted to show that these depots held more than junk and obsolete things and planned to demonstrate this with reactivating the Red Dragon Prototype and adding a few improvements, but now it will be my instrument of revenge. First I am going to kill McElligott and then this snot nosed Cadet named Olafson."


Chapter 21 : DEMONSEdit

"It was nice knowing you Commander." I said and authorized the system to release her rescue pod. Her seat disappeared into the floor and accelerated through a short chute. Her voice panicked." No Eric! Don't do anything stupid. Losing a ship is not the end!"

My hands flew over the direct input controls and I accelerated the ship, shutting every system down but forward shields and thrust. "They want my ship, they going to get it!"

I held straight at the closest enemy ship. With one eye on the countdown for self-destruct. The Sturgeon now seconds before its end performed like a charm. The white glowing forward shields held and I got some speed out of her. I needed to make contact; otherwise even the biggest explosion would do little good in the vacuum of space. Whoever was on the helm of the other ship realized now I would not change course and tried to evade. I shut the forward shields of, pushed the rest of the energy into the engines and punched my eject button.

As soon as I was in space I turned to look, the Sturgeon didn't look like a ship anymore, it was a glowing half melted blob, plowing right into the hostile ship and then the antimatter containment was turned off and both ships were swallowed by an expanding bubble of thermal energies exceeding the temperatures of the hottest star.

The escape capsule was more or less a mini space ship. It had rudimentary sensors, communication systems and sub light propulsion with extremely limited range. I picked up the signal of Gwenn's capsule, just two light seconds away.

Rudimentary sensors in these conditions meant I would know a ship was near when I could almost touch it. Even though there were hostile ships near, there was no chance I would be able to see them with just my eyes until they were very close. Out here was no star for the light to reflect of an object.

If we were lucky the pirate's sensors weren't too good either, finding a small object like a rescue capsule without good sensors wasn't all that easy, that meant that we didn't do much to attract attention. So I called Gwenn using my PDD. I was certain the pirates would not be able to listen in on that," Commander Can you hear me?"

"You crazy son of a bitch!" Was the answer she screamed." I thought you are dead!"

"I just could not lose my first command without taking at least some with me. Just hang tight and don't activate any external energy consumers such as the thrusters, as long as we drift they might not find us, our ships are on their way and they will be able to home in on our Trans dim Beacons."

"You scared me! I thought I caused your death!"

"It was not your fault. I just can't figure out how we ended up here in the first place and so fast! I never heard of a navigational system failure like this one."

She wanted to say something but I cut her off." Commander, we do not know how long we have to wait. Let us preserve PDD Energy as much as we can. In a few hours I think we can risk firing maneuvering thrusters to get closer together."

"Alright, but we will make contact every hour, promised?"

"I promise. I won't let anything happen to you Ma'am."

It was a hollow promise of course but I tried to put as much confidence and reassurance into my voice as I could.

"Alright, but next time I would appreciate if you let me in on your plans."

"There wasn't enough time for words, now let us conserve energy until we know how long we have to wait."

She agreed and cut transmission, and as soon as she was off, the rescue pod comm. link activated. "I know you are out there Union Soldier! You killed my brother with your stunt. While I never liked that crazy cut throat, he was family.

Now before you decide to cut off transmission, let me say that you might want to make it easy on us to find you, before the pirates do. We scoopers have a strict code of honor and that includes the treatment of enemies and those drifting in space. I promise you food, air and a chance to hitch a ride to the next mineral trade market, from where you should be able to find accommodations on a freighter back into union space. I won't spend much more resources or time out here so either you take the chance with us or wait for the pirates to find you. Remember scoopers don't trade in slaves, pirates do!"

I was tempted to call him back, but answering him on this standard pulse radio frequency would reveal my location for sure. All I had to do was waiting for the Union ships to arrive.

He transmitted again." Never mind Union Boy, we just located your pods, we're going to rescue the girl. Since the pirates located you as it seems, I don't think I risk another fight for the guy who killed my brother, not that I liked him much."

He cut off again and just then my sensors picked up a large mass and energy signature closing fast. It was one of the Kartanian raiders. It slowed down close enough for me to see every detail, including the opening cargo door and the two suited men aiming a gun like device at my pod. A cable shot towards me attached to the pod, it seemed they did not have Caro manipulator beamers. I felt strangely calm despite the fact that I was about to be imprisoned by pirates. I send a coded message to Fleet Command and tried to contact the commander, but she did no longer answer. As last act I activated the Fry pulse. A combined EMP and thermo pulse destroyed any sensitive equipment and data.

I wondered why it was always me that ended up in situations like that. My goal to become a Union Officer was further away than ever, my friends already studied the second year and if I was lucky I ended up on a slave market sold as a laborer and if I was not I ended up on the dinner table of one of the species that loved human flesh. Still there was the Commander and I had to do something to rescue her. She was after all my responsibility. Not that this mattered much right now, my capsule was almost completely inside the freight bay of the pirate ship and the two men operating the grapple hook were joined by three more, suited shapes , armed with heavy beamers aimed at me.

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Gwen was upset with herself, the Coven and the situation. Upset that she had caused all this and potentially caused the death of Eric. She cursed the Coven that for all its might was not as military precise as she expected them to be. She had been with the humans and part of the Fleet for too long, she had forgotten how unorganized her sisters where when it came to keep appointments. The pirates were unexpected and the fact that the Sturgeon had neither bombs nor missiles was something that had been overlooked in the planning.

She was amazed how calm the young man was even in the most difficult situation. He displayed all the qualities her kind admired so much about the Terrans, and now he was at the mercy of pirate scum and too far away for her to influence them. If she could only sense him, but whatever the Narth had done to him made him invisible and unreadable to her.

But now that he was gone, there was no need for her human form. She was angry and the Scoopers were almost there. They would suffer her wraith!

The rescue capsule shattered as she grew into her real shape, pulling mass and energies from the Trans spatial regions, known to the coven as the nether worlds.

The Scoopers manning the visual sensors were a superstitious bunch in the first place, and as they saw the fiery winged creature that exploded out of the rescue capsule, they started to panic. One of the scoopers controlling one of the FTL towers fired at the horrifying creature, even though the weapon beam hit the thing square in the chest, it had no effect. Claws oozing pure energy grabbed the hull of the closest scooper ship tearing it open, as if it was made of paper. The scoopers heard a high pitched in human screaming laughter before they died.

Ancient legends described fiery, horrible demons and the Scoopers learned that these legends were true!

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They had the Capsule open in no time and one of them opened his helmet, revealing a dark brown human face, partially disfigured by crude looking Cybernetics. Only one of his eyes was still human, the other was an Optic sensor of some kind glowing greenish, probably enhanced to see in the dark. Much of his skull was metal. He held a big Thompson E Blaster aimed at my stomach area and grunted." It is always a pleasure to catch a Union Fish. Your kind fetches good money on the markets!"

His companions paid little attention to me and started to salvage the Capsule behind me, one of them simply pushed me aside.

The Cybernetic enhanced man snickered and spoke into some kind of Comm. Unit attached to his chest piece." Captain, we got us a Union Soldier Boy, if I read the rank insignia correctly, it's just an Academy Student or something."

"Well strip the rat, put him in the hold and make sure I get his space suit." An unseen voice responded

It seemed they did not see me as a big threat. The Cybernetic guy looked past me and screamed." Hey Farnhill, I claim those Ration bars!"

A voice behind me said." I found them first; you can claim my shit when I digested them!"

Cybernetic skull got angry! Stomped closer, I grabbed the muzzle of his blaster, gave it a sharp thug and threw myself backwards, while burring my right foot in his crotch lifting him right over me. He crashed upside down into the Capsule, collided with one of the pirates who leaned bend over into the capsule.

In all this I found time pulling my TKU and I fired, at the two thugs to the left, who had torn open the emergency landing survival kit that was attached to the capsule.

Neither man was shielded; the sun hot bursts killed them instantly.

The second burst had not really left my blaster when I rolled to the side. The fifth Pirate who had remained by the winch reacted, and had his blaster out and fired. His blast burned a glowing hole into the deck plating where I had been a heartbeat ago. My third burned him and part of the grappling hook controls and took him out of the equation.

Mr. Cybernetic and his companion at the capsule had not even managed to untangle themselves so far. I aimed the blaster at them. "Please do something! Please! I want to kill you so bad!"

I moved so I could keep an eye on the Air lock. I expected more of the crew appearing at any moment.

Both the Cybernetic enhanced man and the other held up their hands and looked at me with startled faces. The other had humanoid shape but now I saw he was Togar.

I aimed the gun somewhere between them and with a theatrical gesture dialed the TKU to a higher setting. The Union Blaster complied with a satisfying short increasing humming sound. "How many are in your crew?"

"Only the Captain and Stoo are left, you killed the rest!" Hissed the Cybernetic enhanced guy.

"You are a Nibus!" Cursed the Togar." Don't tell him that!"

The Cybernetic eye made an almost inaudible sound and I fired, fearing he had some kind of weapon activated. The blast incinerated most of the Cybernetic guy's upper torso and melted much of the Togar's Armor. The feline alien screamed and collapsed into a smoking pile. Just then the Air lock door opened and a short man with a gaudy looking uniform entered. "Why are you not responding…?"

I gave him no chance to do anything and fired right before his feet." One step, one move and you are dead!"

He paled and raised his hands." These bumbling idiots did not disarm you?"

"I had a very bad day and my patient has worn thin. I would love to kill you right now, so don't tempt me!"

"It seems you have what it takes. Instead of being a slave, how about I am offering you a partnership."

"No partnership. I take your ship and you get mine! Get into the capsule!"

"You won't get far! There are fifty Togar armed to the teeth and they will tear you apart!"

"Did you count Stoo?"

His face fell for a second but it was enough. I raised the weapon." Either you get into the capsule now or I fry you. I have little time!"

He cursed like I never heard anyone curse. He was armed with at least four different blasters and a large boarding sword; He walked towards the capsule and then became slower." I am going to kill you slowly for this!"

"If you even so much as try to draw your weapon, it be the best thing you could do. You see I need an excuse to kill and that would be one!"

I was certain he believed me as he climbed into the capsule and sat onto my old seat. I triggered the automatic of my suit, the film helmet inflated in an eye blink.

"Put your hands on the hand rests and keep them there."

He glared at me in pure hatred but he complied.

The Outer airlock controls were simple." I kept the TKU drained at him,

Hammered my fist on the Emergency Air lock release and grabbed as fast as I could after the hand hold next to it.

The Air lock burst open and sucked the dead bodies and the capsule out into space. He dared not to fire as he did not wear a space suit and in order to get me he would have to fire through the transparent front shield.

The air was gone fast and I had no problem reaching for the control and closing it.

Now there was one crew member left and then I needed to figure out how to fly this ship and rescue the Commander.


INTERLUDE: LOGISTICSEdit

Lt. Harrison liked logistics. He never wanted to do anything else really. It fitted his meticulous character and string sense of order, to be responsible for material flows and acquisitions. He liked proper filled acquisition forms and hated the ones filled out partially or incorrectly. He expected that the fields not needed were marked with n/a for not applicable. How easy was it for the requestor to fill out these Computronic forms, why could they not pay attention to the little details, like he did?

He looked at the next form coming up. Now this was a perfectly filled out form, it came from Bone Yard 49 of all places and it was for 50 Loki Torpedoes, 2000 TKU rifles, Twenty Quasimodos and 10 Cerberus XI robots. All in all nothing special and the form was properly filled; it carried the necessary command officer seal. He cared little why they needed these things there and was already sending the necessary ware house instructions and designated a transport while he contemplated to contact the officer and commenting him or her for such a perfect order form. He swiped his hand to reveal page two of the form and to put his signature on it and to file the form when he saw that the, Notes field for special instructions was also filled out, no one ever filled out this field. Logistics did not need special instructions, they were professionals. Even though field 32a on the Form was there since requisition form 44563-B replaced requisition form 44563-A over fifty years ago, it should not be marked!

And whoever filled out the form so correctly bumbled so badly on page two, requesting Engineering Manual 12X. That was the detailed field manual for Translocator Cannons. It should have been requested under field twelve on page one. Since it was a highly classified document it needed two Command level signatures!

He triggered the Comm. Link code associated with the requestor and got an Oromal specialist three minutes later. He checked the specialists name and classification, like all Oromal he had a tongue twister for a name, Noxthyxthyazonix. So he said. "Specialist, I am processing your requisition form. I wanted to comment you how neat and well it was filled out, but you are not authorized to order Manual 12 X it requires two of your command officers signatures and Nelson verification!"

"I am sorry Lt. Harrison, but Admiral Swybar ordered these things and one of his associates added the Manual request later. I am just a specialist; he is the Chief of Logistics."

Harrison blinked." Are you out of your mind, Specialist? Admiral Swybar is dead! He has been executed!"

"He is the one who signed the Order form, sir! He is here and he is not dead."

Harrison checked the Signature in detail and this time cross checked it with Nelson, the Fleets Central AI. The response came back almost immediately." Signature authorized to Commodore Arnold."

Harrison knew Arnold; he used to be the right hand of Admiral Swybar. All this didn't sound right. He disconnected the call to Bone Yard 49 and asked the Computronic to connect him to NAVINT.



INTERLUDE: BONEYARDEdit

Swybar lounged in the comfortable chair behind the conference table aboard the Red Dragon. Soon the requested supplies would arrive and make him a very dangerous man.

The table was laid out with a light dinner. Both of his associates had joined him and both of them had been very respectful and lauded his genius. Swybar loved it when others realized just how smart and resourceful he was. Even the disguised Kermac treated him like an equal, as it was proper!

He was no fool however and knew his associates were just as resourceful and the Kermac went through all these troubles to get something from Koken. If a civilization as mighty as the Kermac went through all this to get whatever it was, then it was something very valuable. Valuable things meant power and something an entire Civilization wanted must be very valuable. He wanted revenge and his main target was this cursed Admiral Elligott, this self-righteous immortal who had no right to be in charge or even still alive.

The Kermac agent interrupted his day dreaming. "How long do you think before the supplies you ordered arrive?"

He wiped his lips with a napkin." The secret of success in logistics is to play the system. The form is properly filled and no one will raise any alarm bells and you get your hands on Quasimodos, Loki Torpedoes and even Cerberus robots, but the system cannot be rushed if you want to operate under the scanners. I expect the first transport to be here in three days."

The Kermac could not believe his luck. What legions of spies had not accomplished he would gain in one sweep and one mission. He would return with a marvelous ship filled with Union secrets and the very manual how to service and make Translocator cannons! Such a success would secure him the seat of the Supreme Wizard. The bumbling fool occupying the seat now would be swept aside." He smiled at the human ex Admiral without saying a word, but as soon as the supplies arrived he was no longer needed and he would show this human what Kermac did to those that outlived their usefulness.

He cared less about the secrets the First Wizard wanted secured. The real secret was not in believing in ancient prophecies and living in the past, but do it like the Terrans and embrace the future. He was certain that this was the true key to success. With the Terran weapon secrets exposed and duplicated, they could not keep that huge area controlled and pacified, chaos would reign and the Kermac would rise under his rule. The old wizard clung to the old phantasy that the Y'All would come again, but they had been defeated before and if they ever came they would be defeated again. No this was not the way! Waking the Kermac out of their lethargic state and take control themselves, lead the vassal civilizations with an iron fist and control the Galaxy, that was the goal and with the things he gained here, he would lay the foundation.

The other man remained quiet, even though the others thought he was an agent of the worm, he was really working for the First Son of the Dark Church. His mission was to get his hands on whatever the Kermac wanted to find on Koken. He had orders to dispose both of them as soon as their usefulness ended. The First Church of Darkness never left any open ends

The Kermac leaned forward." Why not use your connections and get us perhaps a few spare parts for Translocator Cannons?"

"Sorry about that, but it would rise to many flags. Especially since such a request needs two command level signatures verified by Nelson."

"I thought you can fake the signatures of a dozen High level Officers?"

"I can, but Officer Signatures are complex and no fake will make it past Nelson. Be satisfied with what you get. Translocators have to wait."

CHAPTER 21: ContinuedEdit

In all my anger about my situation I could not help but pity the pirates. I wondered how they could have survived out here, being so amateurish. Stoo turned out to be some sort of semi sentient pet lizard of 3 meters length and five pairs of legs. It had bright red and yellow scaled skin and an ugly looking head with at least 4 pairs of eyes, maybe more. It posed no threat as it was in a cage on the small bridge of the cruiser. The only time I seen as much filth and garbage was in the basement of my old friend. The air was reeking of organic, slightly sweet and sour odors that made me gag. There was damp laundry hung from hooks and ropes strung across the narrow main corridor. The engine compartment looked like an n exploded hardware store. The main power coupling had been repaired with everything but the right parts. Someone had actually used a sledgehammer to fit, what looked like an old Ult shield coil into the housing of a Kartanian shield generator, the sledgehammer was still there and the coil looked bend, and deformed at one end, but for some strange reason it not only worked, these old but very powerful Ult Coils boosted the Kartanian shield to more than six times their original output. A Shiss made Control unit hooked into a Nul Graviton, connected to a piece of alien hardware I could not identify, partially glued and welded to the floor. Either the last engineer was the greatest genius or simply mad and very lucky but this wild mix of technologies and systems seemed to work just fine.

The weapon energy lines and the weapons itself were meticulously maintained however and the power levels of the ships FTL cannons were quite impressive for a flying garbage dump like this.

To my surprise, there was no Command chair but an actual leather sofa, with a wooden back, glued with Stick and Fix to the floor. The leather was worn down and there were smudgy looking pillows. While the original Kartanian design was not too different from Union bridge layouts, most of the consoles were dark, or torn apart to salvage parts. The ship was operated from three Consoles still intact.

The Computronic had no objections to take my commands and it turned out the old security codes and safety measures had been disabled, making me think that the last owner did not buy this ship but took it from someone else.

The scanners, to my surprise were Union made GE brand, High Efficiency with special filter software to compensate for the dense micro matter soup out there. It took me at least an hour but I finally figured out the main layout. I found the rescue pod with the former captain of this vessel and also saw the other two pirate ships.

Even though the vessel had better sensors for these conditions than I had, their efficiency was reduced, and I didn't have all too much sensor operation experience, it took me another 12 minutes to find the energy signature I believed belonged to the Scooper vessels that took the Commander.

I didn't want to stick around much longer; it looked like the other pirates had found the rescue pod and sooner than later, the captain would be able to tell his story to them, besides I had to rescue the Commander!

Just as I accelerated, one of the Energy signatures exploded in scale and the visual sensors captured a violent explosion. One of the Scooper vessels just exploded. A cold fist cramped around my stomach and I opened al hailing frequencies, disregarding my initial plan to sneak up on them." Here is Midshipman Olafson; I am hailing the scooper vessels. You have captured a Union Officer, if you are under attack send me coordinates and situation so I can assist. Be assured I will fight you to the last ship if you harmed the Commander in any way!"

There was no response!

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In order to flee their doomed Universe the Coven opened a gate to another dimension, another reality known by the ancients as the Netherworlds. Almost all sentient civilizations had legends about creatures of evil nature dwelling in a fiery dark place full of unspeakable horrors. The humans of Earth once believed in a place called Hell, the Saresii called itNatkah, the Ult knew it as Huhun and the Klack called it Akth'tjak. Dr. Isah the most brilliant scientist Earthers ever knew once released a paper about a dimension he called Under-Verse, a condition of space separate from the regular Omniverse. The Coven fled into that Nether Space and did escape the destruction of their own reality, but at a prize. They had to become creatures of the Netherworld, loose much of their original identity and knowledge, but even in their adapted forms they were only unwanted guests and had leave.

Gwen did not know much of the details and understood little of what occurred, as it happened long before her essence was restored, but like all of the Coven she was as much a creature of that world as she was now a life form in this Universe. She loved and hated her true form with equal intensity. Freed of the fragile human form she was a creature of power, able to roam space without the aid of a space ship, feeding on energies but she was also deprived of sensations of smell and touch. So simple these sensations seemed, so much did she miss them when she no longer had them. The ability to feel cold and heat, to feel moisture and release emotions with a few tears were treasures humans took for granted. No she would return to her human form, she would mourn for that human that was so brave and face the anger of the Coven and perhaps even the anger of the Narth for being instrumental in his demise.

There, pirate vessel came into the reach of her senses. They too would face her anger! She had to be careful though, she remembered that they used Gravitational weapons, these weapons were quite capable of hurting her, or even destroying her essence. To be flung back into the netherworlds without essence was a fate worse than death.

The Vessel used Tachyon Radio, she could pick up the emissions, maybe she could scare them telling her what they did to Eric.

At first she could not believe it but it was Eric's Voice! He somehow managed to take over the vessel and was searching for her! Against all odds he still remembered his promise to her! She needed to change back; she needed her human form because only then could she laugh. What a poor creature she was now, she had the power to fight starships, travel faster than light with a mere thought and yet she could not laugh. But in her rage she had destroyed her rescue pod and with it her suit.

Eric would be frightened and in panic if he would see her that way. "

Then she heard the voice of the Coven." Do not hide! Let him see your true form. His reaction will determine his fate and our decision!"

"The human is brave and he fought for me. You know how mortals react if they see us in our true form. I care much for this man and I care for the Union. "Oh little sister, don't throw away your leigance so easily. What affection would it be if you have to lie to him for the rest of his existence? She, who loves the warrior, has shown him her true form and he has not changed his mind."

Whatever argument Gwen wanted to say was no longer valid as the vessel was within optical sensor reach.

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I expected anything but that! The visual sensor displayed drifting debris of two or three space ships and in the midst a glowing thing. My mind raced to find something to compare it with, but failed. It was a creature, something that lived I was certain. It was about sixty or seventy meters long, it had elements of what a dragon might have looked like, but it had also humanoid elements, leathery wings that seemed to be on fire. Fire with flames were impossible in the vacuum of space, yet there was one creature in my cultures mythical lore that would have looked much like whatever it was that floated out there, Sutr, the Fire Giant! The all-powerful Giant and enemy of Thor and Odin!"

As much as I believed in science and rationality, I was raised in a society that still worshipped gods and believed in supernatural beings, for all I knew I was facing a real Demon!"

At first I felt fear, and I wanted to turn the ship and flee, maybe come back with a fleet of Battle ships but that was no option. Maybe Gwen was still alive, against all odds. She could still be in her Escape Pod and just not visible to my scanners yet, even if she was dead. No matter the form of the creature, this was a first contact situation and I wanted to be a fleet officer. Running was no real option, no matter what. Maybe the thing could be hailed. Attempting to make contact was the first step.

I opened the program bank of the Computronic and asked if it had First Contact Protocols loaded. Of course it had not! What would a Pirate ship need first Contact protocols anyway?

So far the creature did nothing. It was just floating there. There was no telling if it could sense me or not, but I was certain that a being that could survive in space had some means of sensor input adapted to this environment. Would it be able to receive Tachyon radio?

I opened all available channels and tried the direct approach, if it was able to receive the transmission maybe it was able to determine that I was not hostile. The being however looked everything but friendly, every aspect of the creature spelled death and destruction." This is Midshipman Eric Olafson, representing the United Stars of the Galaxy. I am on a rescue mission and seeking a being much like me; if you are able to understand me I am open for dialog."

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There was pride in the telepathic voice of the creature that was Gwenn." He acts just like a Union Fleet Officer should. He tries first Contact procedures!"

"He is in a starship with weapons that masks his fear!"

"Of course he fears me I am so much bigger and more powerful than he is, in the fact that he overcomes this fear lies his and the humans strength. He is still half a child even in his society, he is not even fully trained and despite all the obstacles he came through!"

"You speak like an advocate for the humans."

"I am an advocate in my human form, and I realize just how much human I have become. I am born of the Coven but I shall end it in human form whenever my time has come and my leigance is with the Union. "

"You are the second sister of the Coven that makes such decisions. Proceed as we had planned and bring him here. We must learn more. We are curious what he will do if he learns what you truly are!"

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It was a longshot after all, the creature did not respond. What other options did I have, to make contact? Maybe contact was not possible, maybe the creature was not sentient. I doubted my own suggestion; somehow I knew the thing was sentient. I needed to go on and find Gwen or find out what had happened to her and then I should return to Union space.

Just then the Computronic signaled an incoming transmission." Eric, don't be alarmed I mean you no harm. Please let me come aboard and let me explain."

That the voice of the creature sounded like crackling fire was something I actually expected, but not what the creature was saying." Well I am sure glad that you don't mean any harm but I this ship isn't big enough for you."

"I will reduce my size, Eric you know me. I am Gwen"


Next chapter: Into the Nebula

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