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Europa

Europa

Book 1 of the Shadow war

By Stan Butler

Written as an Extended Project Qualification novel

Smashwords Edition

Thank you for downloading this eBook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form.

Table of Contents

Prologue

Part 1: On a land of ice…

Part 2: A foe of shadows…

Part 3: Four shall die…

Part 4: Salvation comes…

Afterword

Prologue

The world glittered in the faint light of the distant star, the giant planet it orbits filling the sky with a swirling palette of colours. Great swathes of reds, ochres and burnt umbers creating a scene as if the work of a great modern artist’s painting session.

Another moon entered the vista, a world of great volcanic activity, creating great arcs of plasma as some of the greatest volcanoes in the solar system erupted.

The faint light accentuated the beautiful heat-carved spires, water-cut valleys became shrouded in shadow, some flowing while others just dry beds. The great sheets of ice that formed the world creaked and groaned under their monumental stresses, but other than that all there was, was silence, the silence of a world surrounded by the black canvas of space watched unnoticed by the eyes of a hundred thousand stars.

Silence soon broken by a strange droning noise.

“We’ve escaped!” laughed one of the two scientists piloting the tracked sled

“Not yet Efra, we still need to reach the relay station.” spoke the other, looking forlornly out of the thick rad-glass window as the research station which had been their home for the past twenty years disappeared from sight and sighed

“Damn that creature for ruining everything.”

Efra shuddered as he remembered the massacre they had found when they returned with their algae samples and at the sight of a dear friend frozen to death then shattered into smithereens like the others.

“What did it want?” pondered Dave “It can’t have been food as it disintegrated its prey and we did nothing to aggravate it so unless it was sentient and thought we were invading it’s world. I can think of no other reason for the attac…”

“The power was out.” replied Efra “Perhaps it was similar to a terran fire ant and was drawn to electricity, took out the power then due to pain induced madness killed the scientists?”

Dave did not reply.

“What do you think Dave?” he asked, turning to look at him.

Frost covered his body and his skin was turning blue.

A figure behind him was revealed by the cold induced mist. It raised one hand towards Dave and after a blinding flash, all that was left was a few slowly melting shards.

“W…Why?” stammered Efra. “Are yo…you d…doing this?”

“There is a war coming.” replied the once again invisible figure, filling the crisp air with flecks of crimson as a blade flashed unseen through the scientist’s neck

The creature opened the rear door of the sled and jumped out, rolling to absorb the impact.

“And it begins.”

The sled drove onwards, propelled by two caterpillar tracks as the atmosphere was too thin for hovercar technology, the tracks throwing aside crystals of ice that had lain undisturbed for eons.

In the cabin the air was slowly venting into the thin atmosphere of the world, blood still hung in the air and as the cabin cooled, these droplets froze, tiny beads of life that fell to the steel floor next to the body they had once called home, shattering on the floor in little shards that reflected the harsh light of the LED’s that lit the cabin with piercing white light.

The two bodies lay on the floor surrounded by these red shards, one of them mixed their own shards with these new shards while the other stared up at those LED’s with unseeing eyes that slowly glazed over as his life fled in fear, head surrounded by a crimson halo of death, three feet from the body it once animated.

Little crystals of ice formed in the air, little wisps of cloud as well that split the light into the whole spectrum, creating rainbows in the air. Eventually these crystals of ice grew large enough to fall from the air and within the confines of this sled, snow graced the now pale blue body of Efra Finn. It was as if the world was giving him a farewell, a meteorologist frosted with snow formed from his last breath.

Two minutes later the sled ploughed into an ice cliff and the wisps of cloud spun into complex vortices and eddies, the shards of blood, flesh and bone lifted off the floor and fell again, re-organised, redistributed and intermingled in death.

For an instant, the vortices in the clouds formed the image of two figures being lead away by another cloaked figure, but that could just have been a trick of the light.

The engines ticked down as the batteries were drained, cut off from the star that usually powered them, the lights dimmed, flickered, before eventually casting the cabin into near darkness, ice crystals only glittering in the faint light of a distant star.

[]Part one

On a land of Ice a storm shall rise

A storm that drowns out innocents’ cries

Reaps souls from their unprotected chests

And lays waste to all the rest

Chapter 1

The void surrounded him, hiding the truth

Voices called to him, calling him to war.

Drums beat, to lead him on

He reached out into the never-ending darkness and found his hand clenched around a gun.

A figure emerged from the darkness, or perhaps he moved forwards, it wasn’t clear.

The figure raised it’s head, reptilian scales revealing it as a VortronWarqueen.

He raised the gun and levelled it at the kneeling creature.

The trigger moved under his finger and a beam of harsh white light smashed into the beast’s face, removing a huge chunk of flesh, leaving a gruesome wound. It was all charred edges and slowly leaking blood around a pulsating grey mass that had once been a brain.

Sakara Frost woke, disgusted.

Every time he had that dream he pulled the trigger, no matter how hard he tried not to, he killed the defenceless creature.

He hated himself for this.

Not only that but the dream was coming more and more often.

He rose in the semi-dark of his room and turned the windows to transparent, filling the space with amber light of dawn. A wide expanse of grass was revealed, beyond which was a large lake complex.

He sighed.

Today they were leaving all this behind to go sell Agri-Tech to a newly established colony on Exlixia. It would mean spending the rest of his teenage years in a relatively backwards community, learning via holo-study instead of in the First Earth Academy as he was at the moment.

But then again, at least he was getting away from the still overcrowded cities that dotted the revitalised surface of Earth.

He walked to his wardrobe and opened the doors, only one set of clothes remained as the rest were already at the spaceport, ready to be packed onto the nine-twenty to Exlixia.

He dressed in the strong carbon-fibre fabric that was used almost exclusively nowadays, but unlike the modern fashion of tight, Star-trek style space suits, he wore loose olive cargo trousers and a dark-beige polo-shirt.

He was six foot four with a mess of limp brown hair tossed haphazardly over his head which, surprisingly, became relatively smart with a few brushes with a nearby comb.

His skin was lightly tanned but his most striking feature were his emerald eyes that stared out from beneath seemingly permanently lowered eyebrows.

Reaching the door, he picked up his hand luggage and popped a toothpaste tablet in his mouth, letting it dissolve before spitting out into the sink and left the room, turning once to regard the four walls that had been his bastion for most of his life.

“Salve et vale.” He whispered before heading downstairs. “Hail and farewell.”

Much had changed since the colonial wars, Earth was no longer the centre of Terran power but just a museum covered rock with a couple of good academies, the true heart of the empire was Empyrion, a giant city covering the whole of the planet’s surface, far out into the western spiral arm, protected behind the colossal might of the Intercolonial Terran Fleet and the giant battle station, The walls of Babylon.

This was because only five years ago the Terran empire had clashed with an alien race over the rights to a planet near the core of the galaxy and war had begun. War packs of Vortron knights and raiders slipped past Terran lines and decimated colonies. On the other hand, Terran forces used biological warfare and developed the EX-120, a highly advanced robot with high level AI and combat training. This was followed by the EX-150 and a new range of robots, the AN-100’s, heavily armoured assault drones that fell in swarms to decimate the bombarded Vortron worlds.

The war had ended the following year and the church of life succeeded the church of blood to power, bringing in an act of interplanetary law declaring that no world with sentient creatures may be colonised or attacked unless the Terran empire comes under attack from identical sentients.

The church of blood retreated to their monasteries and continued to preach all out war and expansion until a young and revolutionary priest became pope and the church of blood fell silent.

Sakara himself was a member of the church of answers, a church followed by many scientists as it preaches that to find the true reasons for their existence they must find out how the universe works and only then will god appear to them and answer their questions.

He had however trained for five years in a church of blood when he was too young to travel with his parents to a newly established colony where they were working and understood many of their beliefs; honour, the constant training to improve oneself, valour and the control of emotions but disagreed with how many members read the book of martyrs. Seeing it as a call to war whilst he saw it as the advancement of the human form and the preparation to defend others.

Other than the church of life, the church of blood and the church of answers, the only other influential churches are the church of Liber, a pagan god of parties and music whose followers opted out of society and lived in camps in forests and other wild places, and also the church of shadows, a strange church followed by a reasonably large number of people but who never preached to the populace, leading to many theories about what went on inside the ink black walls of their churches, human sacrifice, demon summoning and orgies to name but a few theories. The only way to enter this church was to be invited and such invitations were rarely refused.

When Sakara arrived downstairs he walked over to the kitchen and punched in for a light breakfast, receiving a plate of nutrient bars and fresh hyperfruit, a genetically engineered fruit that was not only tasty but also contained nearly all vitamins and ions required for a healthy body. The nutrient bars on the other hand were disgusting and Sakara opened the fridge in the corner of the room and coated the three grey slabs in honey, available only because his father was not only an inventor but also an avid beekeeper.

Sakara returned to the living room and stared out the windows at the view again, a family of swans floated near the shore and an osprey swooped low over the lake hunting for one of the abundant fish in the lake to feed its young.

The dawn light flowed like liquid gold over his skin as the sun rose behind wispy cloud, the remnants of the once choking pollution turning the light a soft amber as the rays pierced the atmosphere for longer than usual.

Skyfire was the name given to this spectacle and as the light shifted and danced over the furniture in the unlit room, Sakara saw why.

“And now we leave this all behind.” came a voice from behind him, voicing his thoughts

He turned to find his sister there, Hannah Frost, black haired with brown eyes, two years younger than him and striking in appearance.

“You read my mind.” He replied

“I read your stance” she retorted, “mind reading is for psychics, stance reading is for psychoanalysts.”

“Decided on a career path then?” he asked

“So what if I have mister jack of all trades?”

“I was thinking of going into pharmacology or biochemistry actually, sister.”

“Fun.” she replied in a sarcastic tone and disappeared into the kitchen to get breakfast, emerging a few minutes later.

Sakara handed her the honey jar and she left again.

His father was the next down, and after having breakfast, headed for his shed to collect the last of his sketches so that he could continue to work on a couple of ideas while in transit. He was an absent minded looking man with mussed up hair and crumpled shirts but once you got to know him he was sharp and focused, always looking for new problems so that he could invent a solution.

His mother on the other hand, an Agri-Tech supplier and co-inventor of the FM-018 auto-harvester and the MP-095 multi-purpose farming mech, was his antithesis. Seemingly smart and focused but below that shell, distracted and constantly worrying about one thing or another.

It took us another hour to get out of the house as she had to check every room and cupboard for anything we’d left behind, which was nothing.

Traffic on the southbound was no longer stationary as it had been before the new colonial age. As the Frost family shot past the spires of Cambridge in the fifth tier the only other travellers were the multitude of tour busses traveling out to pick up passengers from the London Spaceport.

They drove a SAAB SkyGracer, one of the most reliable hovercars on the market. Not as fast as the Bugatti Vapour or the Ford Sonic but far more reliable due to it needing only a tier six fusion core instead of an unstable tier ten. It also handled very well in storms and had even been known to fly through hurricanes unharmed.

Hovercar technology works on two principles. The first is the stable and reliable turbofan or rotor system used by the majority of hover-vehicles working via the air displacement system and not requiring that much power when compared to the other system.

This other system is the extremely unreliable and often dangerous system of gravity manipulation initially developed by the D28 the secret projects division of ISF for use with their devastating kinetic rod weaponry used to destroy whole cities from orbit. As the patent is still under D28 control only a few military test vehicles have been recorded attempting to use gravity manipulation to hover, most ending with temporary singularities or permanent gravitational re-alignment for anyone on board. No-one outside D28 knows how the system works, only that it needs extremely powerful fusion cores to power it.

The SAAB of course used turbofans, sporting large air intakes along the sides and bonnet to allow for maximum air intake. It was even propelled by a turbofan unlike most other makes that were propelled by fans or ion thrusters. Its fuel was hydrogen cells.

Fusion power had revolutionised the world. At the end of the twenty third century the world was split into the four major powers of the Chinese Republic, The Neo-Russian Supremacy, The European alliance and the North American confederacy. Many countries such as Britain refused to join the empires of these states and suffered under high export taxes and import costs leading to many countries becoming self sustaining.

It was 2284 when the war broke out. Oil supply was at an all time low and no new source had been discovered for some time. The American Confederacy tried to set up the downfall of their rivals in order to jump in and steal their oil stockpiles after they had been weakened by years of war but it soon became clear that all four states had come up with the same plan and World War three broke out.

It was at this point that the church of life was founded in England. Initially just a group of scientists they expanded into a worldwide movement within the minor countries, collaboration followed, leading to the development of the fusion reactor. These countries agreed to become the Terran republic and defeated the weakened forces of the four superpowers in the same way they had planned to conquer each other.

Some of the countries in the Terran republic thought that they had been pressured into the republic and rebels called it the Neo-British empire, three rebellions followed but all were unsuccessful.

Modern fusion cores were less stable than fusion reactors but far more portable. They are fitted with emergency shut off systems that deactivate the core when it becomes unstable. The latest core is the tier X core, the first variable fusion core that is compatible with any system and any energy level. It is currently in stability testing in the military but recent reports say that it is working better than the tier 14 used on most of their spacecraft.

Sakara stared out the window, forests and plains shot by, glimpses of wildlife, there for an instant then gone for good. The North London church of life shot by, a giant, genetically engineered tree, grown, then hollowed out and furnished.

Then the Shard, a monument to the past, left shattered and crumpled where it had fallen after the middle-eastern rebellion against the Terran Republic.

That had been three years of car bombs, IEDs and suicide bombings, but now only a few people survived who remembered that distant past.

London spaceport was the second largest spaceport in the world, boasting the largest single launch loop in existence. Reaching 80 km into the sky and stretching 2000 km deflector to deflector, the other end of which was in Sicily. It was a monument in glistening steel, held in the air by permanently active turbojets and a rotor system that flung spheres along a 5 cm tube within the launch loop.

The structure was capable of launching payloads with acceleration of 30 ms-2 and launched a payload every half an hour, usually shuttles taking passengers to the starliners waiting in orbit beyond the shining disk that was the Earth’s version of the Walls of Babylon, a battle station known as The Walls of Terra, a structure so large that the moon had had to be moved into a different orbit resulting in lower tides.

The church of life had tried to stop the planning permission but at the time public opinion had been strongly for a defensive battle station above the Earth as it was just after the Vortron war and Earth had been one of the worlds hit by the Vortron.

The family arrived at the west station and boarded the waiting shuttle.

The shuttle was lowered into the loop and prepared for launch, even locked in place there was a jolt when the magnetic field generator was activated, lifting the craft off the floor and trying to accelerate it at 3G.

Once the craft was prepared the clamps were deactivated, launching the shuttle at great speeds but with tolerable levels of G-force, around the same as what the original space pioneers of the twentieth century faced in their rockets.

It took around six and a half minutes to reach escape velocity and the shuttle flew out of the sheath into the void, passing through the gates of The walls of Terra on momentum alone.

Chapter 2

At the same time, another group boarded a different shuttle at another station, they were a group of postgraduate geologists and engineers heading out to help establish all the mines, oil wells and much of the infrastructure needed for a colony on the planet. Among them was Lara Nyel, a planetary geologist specialising in survey techniques who was taking a few satellites she had developed to scan the world for economic deposits of ores, to try and help the colony begin paying back its setup loan from ISF. She was tall and regal in posture, often distant and was taunted for being icy and socially reclusive, emerging only for geological talks and a couple of minor events hosted by her small circle of friends. She had long, flowing black hair and piercing blue eyes. She was dressed according to fashion apart from the trousers as, like Sakara, she wore cargo trousers, in fashionable grey to go with her grey and orange top. She had only accepted this position to allow herself to finish her PHD using her satellites.

The rest of the group was a rowdy lot, engineering geologists who had spent the past five years together leaving Lara as an outsider, and her striking features began to draw some glances. She sighed, it would be another few weeks of fending off unwanted advances. One headed over and sat next to her, he opened his mouth to ask her name and she switched her gaze from soft to harsh, a genetic trait of her family, and one very useful in such situations. He took the hint and left her alone but she knew that others wouldn’t.

She had planned for such an eventuality and pulling a tablet out of her hand luggage, she began reading over one of the articles she had downloaded onto it.

Damn men, she thought, why were they always so stupid around women.

The station she was boarding at was called the Barrens spaceport and was situated near the border between Argentina and Chile in northern Argentina in the middle of the Atacama desert.

The only reason Lara was using this spaceport was due to the fact that the Northern Argentine University of Earth Sciences was the galaxy’s best university for geology, a place she had been studying at for the past five years.

The shuttle launched and she entered the void.

Chapter 3

In Greenland the great monstrosity of steel and glass that was the military academy glistened in the pale light on arctic spring. A figure stood on the high walls and looked out over the clouds below him.

“Every light casts a shadow Davrid.” spoke a man standing behind him. “We need this to happen and as you are our most successful marine. You are also the only one who knows the threat, so there is little choice on who we send.”

“I know Seth, but sometimes I wish that I had never become associated with D28, so much death for just the testing of one weapon? Why do we have to use a starliner and why the hell doesn’t the subject know the truth?”

“You know the answer to the latter but why a starliner? Because there is no way to link it to us. We will lose many good people in this, perhaps too many. But if this test succeeds then we will enter a new golden era. The fate of the human race rests on your shoulders for now; we have other ideas in development but if this one works, well then…”

“Do you sometimes think that we may be making a grave mistake, that our ‘allies’ may not be allies and are just looking for a reason to attack?”

“Sometimes, yes. But do you really think that they could ever hope to defeat us?”

“You forget one thing sir, I have seen them fight. Should this come to war between us, I know what side would win and it would not be ours.”

“If that is to be the case, we shall see. But do not fear, our weapon developers are working flat out to develop weapons to use against them.”

“And what if they find out about the use of antimony?”

“Then we are doomed.”

The two figures looked out over the white carpet of the clouds beneath them.

Davrid finally broke the silence.

“The tactician you are sending with me, can she know the truth?”

“I am afraid not, this must be kept secret.”

“And why do we need the prisoner?”

“Our member of the church of sight has foreseen that he will play a part in this.”

“Psychics do not always see the true future, Seth.”

“But they do see the truth, Davrid.”

Three hours later DavridTelod, marine elite and Mia Carthage, tactician graduate first class boarded a V.E.R., a vertical escape rocket, and headed towards their destiny.

Chapter 4

The spaceport was called Planetfall, built over the site where humanity first landed on mars

Upon the Martian surface sprawled Dominion, the Terran empire’s largest prison. The great steel gates opened to divulge a convoy of armoured hover trucks. Within one of these trucks a man lifted his orange eyes to the amber light of Martian dawn and smiled. He was to be transported to Empyrion for a retrial which could land him the death sentence, but he was not afraid of that, for today was the day that he would escape.

He had been contacted anonymously by someone who wished to help him, telling him their plan to free him. He would be loaded, in a cell, onto a starliner heading in the general direction of Empyrion, before being transferred to a military cruiser when nearer to his destination. His benefactor’s plan was to make sure he was not in the cell when it was moved to the cruiser.

Whoever his benefactor was they had influence. They had apparently paid off at least four guards to open the cell, take him to an escape pod and then for one of these guards to lock himself in the cell and pretend to have been overpowered after he had used a EMP to deactivate the magnetic locks.

He smiled again. After the cruiser had jumped into a Krasnikov tube he would launch the escape pod and wait to be collected. He would probably have to work off his debt to his benefactor but in light of his specific skill set, he would enjoy his work.

He was NielDrommon, convicted serial arsonist, explosives expert, pyromaniac and the reason behind the detonation of a thermonuclear warhead in the crust of the highly flammable world of Pyron 5, causing an explosion so large that it destroyed the planet, launched the moon into the inhabited world of Pyron 4, incinerated three research stations, two space stations and a starliner entering the system.

This was the reason for his retrial, the warhead had been traced back to him at last and with a death toll numbering around two billion, the court of Empyrion would not be lenient.

He boarded the shuttle with a smile on his face, hardly feeling the acceleration of the craft as it shot up the launch loop and into space, heading for the Aurora.

Chapter 5

Finally, the giant starliner, Aurora came into view. A behemoth of a liner, full of supplies, second wave colonists and equipment. Its silver sides glistened in the harsh, white light of the tugs that hovered around it gigantic bulk, the massive trident of the ISF emblazoned in gold on the side, signifying the three fleets; the military fleet, the colonial fleet and the merchant fleet. As a member of the colonial fleet the Aurora had the central prong of the trident highlighted with a blue outline.

The craft itself was shaped like a giant humpback whale but with the tail replaced by a horizontal rack of ion engines.. At the rear, four gigantic fold stabilisers glowed faintly purple and the ship was surrounded by haze as the superconductors were cooled to optimum temperature. Further fold stabilisers dotted the craft’s surface like purple measles.

These fold stabilisers were designed for use with Krasnikov tubes, giant intersystem motorways that allowed faster than light travel by bending space-time so that the distance between planets within the tube was less than the normal distance between those same planets, so much so that by taking this man-made shortcut, a spacecraft could overtake a beam of light without going faster than the speed of light itself, something that will always be impossible.

Sakara looked out at the blue-green world below him from the window in his room on the Aurora

“Utnosdimittatur.” he whispered to himself, echoing a prayer of the church of life, running a finger over the hidden symbol of the leaf on the inside of his calf, before standing and continuing his prayers.

“Utintelligamus.” he whispered, touching the tattoo of a question mark on the palm of his right hand. “Utnosparatosesse.” tracing the two diagonal scars on the inside of his forearms.

Technically to be a member of more than one church was illegal but many were members of two, and the government turned a blind eye on it, but to be a member of three churches, that was different. If he was found out, he would be imprisoned and fined, and all three emblems removed by force, but he had not wished for entrance into the church of blood and although he agreed with many of their beliefs, he had chosen the church of life to be his second religion, his other church being the church of answers.

In her cabin, Lara set the privacy lock on her door and crashed on her bed, the ride had been an hour of constant fending off of advances as the men were urged on by their fellows, many who had already failed, to get out with her, one was so insistent that she had rendered him unconscious out of annoyance, but even that did not deter the others.

She pulled herself up and gazed out the window at the blue-green world below her, touching the symbol of a leaf on her forearm and praying for forgiveness for all the damage mankind had caused.

DavridTelod looked out at the blue-green world he had fought to defend against so many threats, the Vortron, rebellions, and hundreds of unrecorded incidents against alien peoples.

“We gamble our lives and the future of our empire for ten more worlds.” he breathed to the darkness. “We kill a thousand people before we can even begin the testing of a weapon. We make deals with foes that could easily destroy us if they were given the chance, and we make deals with them to give them that chance. May I be forgiven for what I must do, For I must do what I am ordered not what I chose. And when I rise to the world beyond, may it be known that I do not stand beside those who have doomed us, but in order to save what few lives I can, I must. One tired old soldier cannot stop the darkness that is to come, cannot turn aside his superiors from their folly. If one person other than the subject survives this, I will be pleased, and surprised.”

He turned at a sound behind him and saw the tactician enter the room.

She looked at him in surprise and he realised that he was crying for the innocent lives that would be lost for no real reason.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“It has been too long since I have left,” he lied “The last time I stood on a spacecraft looking down at the Earth I saw it in flames, surrounded by the last remnants of the Vortron empire in a last ditch attempt to cripple us and take us down with them.” This was also a lie and he turned from the innocent girl who would sooner or later die, either on the world of ice they were headed for or in the war that was to come. He did not trust their new ‘allies’ and having fought them, he did not trust in the Terran empire’s ability to defeat them as they had the Vortron.

The Aurora finally began moving at eight thirty three after a convict was brought on board for transport to the courts on Empyrion, A military cruiser waited for him in deep space for the last leg of his journey.

At nine twenty five, fully loaded and stocked for the journey to Exlixia, the starlinerAurora entered the Krasnikov tube, its stabilisers activated, glowing bright purple in the blackness of space before the space around the craft rippled as if there was a heat haze and the behemoth vanished.

It was a week before it was realised that it never reached Exlixia, and another before the first pieces of wreckage were found, three days after that one survivor was found on an abandoned military cruiser, along with two human bodies other than those of the crew. No more information was ever released until it was too late.

Chapter 6

Krasnikov tube travel was strange.

There was a feeling as if you were being stretched and compressed at the same time and it was often hard to breathe, the room swayed and twisted and the anti-nausea pills did little to reduce the waves of sickness.

And then it stopped.

Far too early.

On the bridge, the captain looked up in astonishment as the strange kaleidoscope of colours caused by the fold, turned harsh and real. Jupiter grew large and angry directly in front of them and the multitude of moons came into focus

“What happened?” he asked “Did the tube fail?”

“No sir.” replied the mechanic “Automatic collision system broke us out.”

“Scan the vicinity with everything we have.” said the captain, now worried, the tube was not meant to pass through Jupiter’s moons

“The tube was diverted into the moons.” replied the Lieutenant, “Massive residual fold signature where the tube was diverted.”

“Contact ISF and call for assistance.”

“Our communications are jammed.” said the radio operator “On all frequencies.”

“Sir, I have heat signatures moving in fast.”

“We’re being missile locked!”

“I have plasma signatures moving away from the incoming craft!”

The captain looked on in horror as the squadron of sickle-shaped spacecraft launched a barrage of plasma torpedoes at the weapon less transport. They were pure matt-black with a silver spear crossed by two swords emblem on each wing, top and bottom.

“Shields to full and brace.” he said, moving into action. “Give me full command.”

The captain hurried over to the controls and hailed the fighters.

“This is an unarmed transport vessel in unclaimed space, please desist from attacking!”

He received a data-burst transmission from Io in reply.

“What the hell?” He gasped. “No way am I just sacrificing the lives of everyone on this ship for a weapons test!”

He grabbed the helm controls and ordered full power to the engines, just dodging the Aurora out of the way of the first barrage of missiles.

The behemoth of a space liner activated its thrusters and began to move at an ever increasing rate, but still slowly in comparison to the self propelled solar sails of the spacecraft that were driven by firing lasers at the backs of solar sails, generating high thrust with little energy requirement for such small craft..

It completed a slow, lumbering barrel roll and used the gravity of Ganymede to slingshot itself out towards clear space.

“We need to escape the moons and reach the tube.” the captain said.

“The fighters are coming round for another run!”

“Full power to rear shields.” he said calmly ”We can make it.”

Just then a second squadron appeared from behind Titan and torpedoes slammed into the main thrusters.

“We’ve lost 30% fold stability, and the main thrusters are damaged!” gasped the mechanic “We lose forwards acceleration in thirty seconds.”

The captain looked on forlornly as the two squadrons angled in on opposite sides of the liner.

“Evacuate the ship.” he said finally and activated the emergency escape pods.

The ship was in chaos, first there was the confusion of leaving fold early, then the sickening roll of the ship and the fluctuations in gravity, then the explosion. Now klaxons blazed and emergency escape pods opened to accept passengers.

Lara ran for an escape pod, dodging past the drunken hands of the other geologists who were heading for a nearer one and urging her to join them.

Diving in she found a girl around her own age in ISF uniform and an overweight Mexican woman whom Lara recognised as a famous chef of some kind, hyperventilating and twisting a wedding ring of silver and emerald on her ring finger, trying to keep calm and failing.

DavridTelod raised his head and sighed.

“It is time.”

He stood and raised a datapad, begging forgiveness before starting the program that could end the empire he called home.

Sakara rushed into his sister’s room, grabbed her hand and ran to his parent’s door. The door opened and they began moving towards him.

There was an unimaginable explosion of noise and he was flung backwards, emergency doors slamming down between him and his parents.

A figure picked his sister up and offered him a hand.

Dazed he took it and pulled himself off the floor. The figure was shouting at him but he could not hear so he nodded and followed the man. They arrived at an escape pod moments later and he was pushed inside. The figure took a headcount, reached thirteen including himself and slammed the door shut.

As his hearing returned, he became aware that one of the passengers, an overweight Mexican, was shouting that there was still room inside the pod and was blocking the figure from activating the undocking switch.

Sakara noticed what the figure had seen and tapped the Mexican on the shoulder, pointing to the sign on the wall.

“Thirteen passengers only.” he gasped out, seemingly in a whisper but as everyone turned to him, probably not.

They looked at where his finger was pointing, a sign read:

“No more than thirteen passengers may leave in this escape pod as in the event of a hull breach there are only thirteen emergency spacesuits stored in the lockers.”

The Mexican moved away from the switch reluctantly and the man flicked it, the pod undocking with a quiet hiss and the Aurora began getting smaller in the view port.

“What the hell happened?” asked another passenger, but before the man could answer one of the squadrons blazed past the window, launching a barrage at the stricken liner

“Oh crap.” he replied.

“Understatement of the year.” hissed another.

“Don’t even start.” said the man

Another pod came into view and the figures inside waved at them, it began carefully jetting over but just then the squadrons finished off the starliner in a cataclysmic explosion as a missile hit the fusion core, initiating instant meltdown and detonation before the safety systems could shut it down.

The shockwave knocked both pods flying but when they stopped spinning, they were still relatively close and the other pod began jetting over again.

“Let’s meet them in the middle!” said the Mexican, happy to see other survivors.

“Wait.” replied the man and held her back from the controls.

When the pod was halfway to them a fighter shot through the debris and launched a torpedo directly into the defenceless pod.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God.” the Mexican stammered.

“We’re all going to die

no time to even cry

for a blaze of fire

shall be our death and pyre” came a voice from the back of the pod as a small rattish man recited a verse.

“Not yet.” said the figure and turned to another person in the blue uniform of the ISF. “How are they tracking the pods?”

“Primarily by unnatural movement but are also scanning for electronic signatures.” she replied, looking up from a tablet readout. “They don’t seem to be scanning for life signs though.”

“Good, it means that we can sneak past them.” said the man

“And how are we going to do that?” asked the Mexican “Make a run for it?”

“Slowly accelerate towards one of the moons and try and contact ISF for assistance..”

All those in the pod nodded in agreement apart from one old man at the back.

“We have a slight problem.” said the ISF girl, “He has suffered from a heart attack and passed away during the shockwave.”

“Oh good.” came a voice from the lockers, one of the doors opened and a figure stepped out. “I was hoping one of you had kicked the bucket during that so I could have one of these suits.”

The figure who emerged was a twenty-something year old with black hair and genetically re-engineered, orange eyes, something of a trend in rebellious teenagers nowadays.

“Hi, I’m Neil Drommon.” he said extending his hand in greeting.

He collapsed on the floor as the ISF man’s fist connected powerfully with his right temple.

“You should be in transit to Empyrion, bastard.”

“We had a convicted serial arsonist onboard?” asked the other ISF.

“We still have.” growled the other.

“Anyway” asked an Aryan man “Which moon do we head for, none are colonised.”

“Europa.” said Sakara.

“Why Europa?” asked the ISF man but the other realised what Sakara knew.

“Because of the relay.”

The ISF man’s eyes widened in shock and admiration, then narrowed in realisation.

“Disrupting galactic transmissions is a death penalty offence.”

“It’s that or death out here from oxygen starvation.” Sakara replied. “At least there we would have a chance.”

The female ISF looked to the marine and caught the look in his eyes noticed by only her and Sakara. This man knew something else but would not say it.

Sakara raised one eyebrow at the look in his eyes but the girl shook her head and flashed the number 28 at him using her hands, guessing that there was a D28 facility nearby.

No-one wanted to become associated with D28, the military secret projects division, known for abduction and imprisonment without trial.

Introductions followed. The two ISF were Sergeant DavridTelod of the 23rd elites and Mia Carthage, a tactician graduate. The Mexican was YasminaMontos, a well-known chef, there was also Lara Nyel, a planetary geologist, OthellaYatt, an anthropologist specialising in languages, Nathan Efoss, an aerospace engineer, Helena Davies, a retired coder and psychic. The Aryan was Tiresias Olympia, a transgender who had changed his mind after seven years as a girl and was also a famous holo-star on Empyrion who had been going to Exlixia to do some filming, the rattish man was Odis Veritas, who called himself a prophet but would not expand on that except in verse and YuoiChkyan, a mathematical genius who had calculated Pi to over three thousand places on a pad of paper, often resorting to reciting them to keep calm.

The group then put on the emergency spacesuits and prepared for the plan. Grudgingly, Davrid put the final suit on Neil and sat down at the controls.

“Gravity off.” he said and the group felt the nauseating effect of weightlessness.

“Life support off.” The pod was plunged into darkness as the final vestiges of power other than that to the thrusters were deactivated.

“Now the fun begins.”

The pilot saw the pod drifting out of the debris cloud, not moving fast, or using anything other than vestigial power to move, but the pilot had been ordered to check any escaping pod for living people, So the sickle shaped craft blasted over to the floating pod.

He instantly knew that the people in the pod were still alive, electronic signatures from muscles firing told him so. He looked more closely at the pod, it was using its thrusters but nothing else, he moved round to the front and activated the ship’s headlights, a dead body floated next to the window and the pilot smiled, cunning, but not enough to stop him destroying them. He prepared a plasma torpedo for launch and aimed it at the pod.

Then stopped.

He had received the signal.

The pilot called it in to command and attached a radar beacon to the pod before moving away to check on some other pods.

Inside the pod, the group let out their breath as the headlights moved away from the viewport.

“That was close.” said Mia on the internal communication system.

The pod continued to drift towards Europa. It took them three hours to get to the atmosphere of Europa without arousing suspicion and another fifteen minutes of panic before a crash on the surface after the thrusters failed.

“If I’d had my tools on me I could have fixed that drive and we’d be at the relay by now.” cursed Nathan, storming out of the pod onto the ice, “Which way is it to the station anyway?”

“South East.” replied Mia looking up from her tablet “But these suits won’t last us for the journey, we need to pick up a hover sled from the research station around ten miles into our journey to the relay, that should speed us up.”

“Won’t the research station have a messager?” asked Yasmina “I’m not very good at walking long distances.”

“It may well do, that was another reason for heading for this moon.” said Davrid, pushing a dazed Neil before him, hand bound with wire from the broken pod.

Lara came out next and stared around in wonder.

“Look at this place, the beauty is breathtaking. These curves and valleys have been cut into the ice by the light from the sun, not water or wind.”

Only two other people agreed with her, Sakara and Yuoi, who had already calculated the length of time it would have taken to carve out the largest of the spires in sight, and Sakara who knelt and touched the inside of his ankle, noticed by Odis and Mia.

“I saw the scars of the church of blood on your wrists in the pod and a tattoo of the church of answers on your palm so what do you have on your ankle?” she asked.

The whole group turned to look at him, and then Odis spoke up.

“The thrice anointed one shall rise and fall

For death moves at his beck and call

From icebound land to fiery tomb

To homeland before his eventual doom.”

Sakara turned to them.

“Although I may have been anointed into the church of blood, I do not agree with how many read the book of martyrs and It wasn’t my choice to join the church. So yes, I am a member of three churches but I only follow the beliefs of two.”

“Very well.” said Davrid and turned away, some others in the group looked at him with suspicion while Lara looked at him in surprise.

“You’re a member of the church of blood?” she asked him as they began walking through the icy wastes.

“Was.” he replied.

It took them another two hours to reach the relay station, two hours of hard slog through icy terrain. At least the gravity was 0.134 that of Earth, allowing them to scout ahead with large jumps, but the distance and the strange features slowed them down. Overhead Jupiter swirled and flowed in its earthy hues adding strange colours to the ice as light reflected from its atmospheric gases was pasted onto the blank white canvas of Europa.

“Is that a dropship?” asked Mia Carthage, reaching the top of the hill overlooking the silver dome that was the surface entrance to the research station.

“51stelites.” Replied Davrid looking down a pair of binoculars at the silver craft with the first prong of the gold trident highlighted in red on its fuselage.

“We’re saved.” exclaimed Yasmina, “They must have detected a radio transmission from the liner and come to rescue us.”

“I’m afraid not.” replied Davrid, “The 51stelites disappeared three years ago, and that ship has been here at least a year, look how ice has formed around the landing struts.”

Nathan launched himself over to the craft. “Looks in working order.” he shouted “but the power seems to be off, we may still be saved if I can get off a transmission or get this craft off-planet.”

He headed to the airlock and activated the opening procedure.

Seconds later he emerged, pale faced and obviously retching, trying not to be sick.

“What is it?” asked Davrid.

“Don’t go in there.” he gasped between retching’s.

Davrid slipped a long barrelled pistol from a pouch in his suit and headed inside, forcing Neil to go through the airlock first.

Blood and gore covered the walls, shreds of fabric mixed in with bone and the larger pieces on the floor.

Neil took his helmet off to be sick, adding to the stench of rotting flesh.

Davrid raised his gun and panned around.

“This way.” he ordered Neil.

Reluctantly Neil walked down the corridor to the cabin finding another zone of scattered flesh.

“Bloody hell!” he gasped, before being sick again, “What the hell happened here?”

“Move out the way.” Davrid hissed and opened a hatch below the pilot’s seat, removing a small black box.

A black box with a large hole in it.

“Damn it.” he cursed “How did they know about that?”

He stood up and strode back down the corridor, opening another door to the storage compartment. Eight EX-180’s, the latest model in the line stood in charging stations, with large holes where their power cores should be.

“No!” shouted Davrid punching the wall in frustration, then he noticed the hole where the ship’s power core had been exposed, the casing had been dented and the core had shut down to prevent detonation, as all latest models of fusion core did.

“They took out all the power.” he said, staggering back a few steps.

He turned to the weapon crates in the corner and found nothing but fragments.

He opened another crate and found the same thing.

He turned to Neil and removed the cuffs on his hands.

“When we get off this planet you’re going straight to Empyrion, but right now I think we need all the hands we have.”

“Thanks.” replied Neil, fastening his helmet to cut off the stench.

The rest of the group were shocked when they emerged and told them what they had found.

“Fragmented men in steel grave

by icy lab their life they could not save

as shadowed foe reveals his hand

We are doomed to die in this land.” recited Odis, gaining scowls from the whole party.

“Can you talk of nothing but us dying?” asked Yasmina morosely “It seems to be lowering group morale.”

“We try and we toil

in a land without soil

to keep our heads safely on

but the damage will still be done.” He replied.

The rest of the group ignored him from then on.

Outside the base was a sign greeting them to research station Z3U5-012

The small group entered the base through the vehicle airlock, finding the lights in the base off. They turned on their torches and panned them around the walls.

“There are two sleds still remaining however one is gone.” said Davrid. “Nathan, with me. We need to bring the backup core online.”

“Couldn’t we use it to power one of the sleds?” asked Tiresias looking around, “Some cores are interchangeable.”

“Not these ones. Exploration gets lumbered with the older models so the base cores wouldn’t fit into the ship core slots. Anyway, we might be lucky and the sleds will still have theirs.” replied Nathan, moving towards the stairs down into the base. “However, we might be unlucky and the skins of the sleds might have been ruptured so even if we could find a core we could not pilot them.”

They were not lucky, the cores of the sleds had received the same treatment as the one in the dropship and the skins had been completely ruptured.

“We’re going to need another way out of here.” said Yuoi, “These suits only have another hour of air in them.”

The group had already removed the helmets but were still wearing the warm suits as the base’s heating was taking a while to warm up the halls.

Soon the lights also came back on and Davrid and Nathan came back up the lift.

“More bodies, I’m afraid.” He said. “We should stick in groups to look for supplies for a cross country trek in this base’s enviro suits.”

“Can’t we just call for help and wait for rescue?” asked Yasmina.

“The beacon has been forcefully removed.” replied Nathan.

“What about the Elites?” asked Mia, “They should have a transmitter with them.”

“We found that.” said Davrid, pulling a little disk from his pocket. “The transmitter has been removed but there is still a recording stored.”

The group turned at the unasked question.

“Play it.” said Neil, It’ll tell us what we’re up against.

The group nodded and Davrid placed the disc on the floor and activated the hololog.

A room formed around the group and a man in ISF uniform huddled against the back wall away from the door, assault rifle raised but hands shaking.

“This is Lieutenant Harvey Jones of the 51st elites, sent to research station Z3U5-012 after all contact was lost. We have encountered guerrilla resistance from what seems to be a native life form that is invisible to all the equipment we have, My whole squad has been wiped out. It kills by first freezing the target, then shattering it with a plasma weapon of some kind, can also use some kind of bladed weapon in close quarter combat, Requesting Eradicator on my co-ordinates to take it out.”

The door opened and the lieutenant let of a burst of fire, then another, and another at two second intervals.

A canister rolled through the door and the man’s eyes widened.

The recording cut out for a second before returning after the flashbang finished exploding.

The lieutenant was shaking his head and rapidly blinking his eyes; he fired randomly with the rifle but suddenly rose off the floor, held by an invisible hand around his neck.

“Die bastard.” he shouted and buried a commando knife in the creature’s invisible chest before reaching to pull the pin on a grenade.

His head rolled from his shoulders, blood droplets disappearing from the creature’s arms as they hit. The creature removed the knife from its invisible chest, bleeding a little with meltwater blue blood but that stopped within seconds. The invisible creature picked up the recorder, turning it over and the recording stopped.

“Ah.” sighed Mia.

“Oh god.”Yasmina gasped.

Davrid cursed. “Crap.”

“Where are the explosives?” asked Neil.

The group turned and looked at him.

“What? It’s a valid question for a pyromaniac and a convicted arsonist, and with enough explosives you can take out anything.”

“No explosives.” said Davrid with finality.

“A blaze of crimson fire

On gigantic burning pyre

Shall be your final victory

But shall never go down in history.”Recited Odis.

The group ignored him.

“Isn’t an Eradicator the latest generation of eraser weaponry?” asked Mia

Davrid looked at her surprised. “Do not mention erasers, they are top secret.”

“If we are stuck here and that was sent out then there is a high probability that an eraser has been scrambled.”

“After three years?” shouted Davrid.

“Why would they not scramble an eraser?” asked Mia.

“Excuse me, but what is an eraser?” asked Yasmina.

“An eraser is an explosive device designed to remove all trace of a group ever existing, in the past these were things like nuclear missiles, thermobaric explosives or even just acid canisters to dissolve black ops team’s faces and clothing to make them unidentifiable.” replied Mia, ignoring a dark look from Davrid. “They were often used if a military group needed to carry out a mission in allied territory without the ally’s knowledge because if the mission went wrong they needed to remove all trace of them ever being there. Nowadays they are antimatter or condensed plasma explosives used for removing all trace that military personnel were ever on a mission in an area. The eradicator is a nanomite swarm that devours all organic matter within a mile of the target zone.”

Davrid looked sternly at her then turned back to the group to lay out the plan.

“There are five levels to this base.” said Davrid “We will split into five groups and search the base for supplies and get out of here as fast as we can. Is that clear?” The group nodded. “Sakara, you take your sister and the prophet and search the research labs for anything of use. Mia, take Lara and search the storage level. Yasmina, Tiresias and Helena, search the living quarters. Neil and Nathan will be with me to see if we can get the submarine up and running, so if we can fix a core we can leave that way. Yuoi, you see if you can work out how to activate the suits with Othella.”

The five groups moved off to their designated tasks.

Even with the lights on, the storage level was quite dark and Lara was glad she had brought her torch.

The pair moved around the room, walking down aisles and opening boxes at random to see what they contained.

“Hey, what’s that down there?” asked Mia, pointing between two boxes.

A smallish round object lay there.

“A fusion core!” gasped Lara.

“A ship core at that.”

“Shall we?” asked Lara, picking up the core and pointing to the lift.

“Thank you.” said Mia, calling the lift and getting inside, followed by Lara.

As Lara Entered the lift she turned, hearing a sound behind her but the lift door closed and took her away from the dark, shadowed corridors of the storage level.

A creature stirred in the darkness, rising from its hiding spot and watching the lift as it rose.

“The time has come.” it spoke in a strange language “The seeds have been sown and the crop now ready for harvest.”

It stood stock still for a second, establishing mental connection with another of its kind.

“Operation sacrifice is now in effect, will attempt to separate the subject from the herd, move leviathans and messors into the vicinity for extraction of subject.”

It broke the connection and slipped into the lift shaft.

“The hunt begins.”

Yuoi looked at the suits and straightened the collar on his shirt having removed the restrictive spacesuit once the heating reached room temperature.

“Mark V enviro-suits.” he said to no one in particular. “Gain water through the skin, food is stored in the ‘backpack’, radiation shielded against up to 7 Sieverts with five tool slots.” the genius moved over to the first suit in the line and put the gloves on.

“All slots full.” he said “First slot grapple, second slot…” A harsh white light emerged from the second cylinder. “Arclight, third slot plasma welder, fourth slot gas spectrometer and fifth slot…” a short blade slid out from the fifth tube, the blade itself humming and fuzzy as it vibrated at great speed. “Vibro Cutter.” He whistled. “Haven’t seen one of these in ages.”

“What are they powered by?” asked Othella looking up from watching the recording for a fifth time.

“miniaturised fusion cores like those that are used to power tablets and other portable electronics.”

She turned back to the recording and tried looking at it out of the corner of her eyes.

“What are you doing?” asked Yuoi, moving over to her.

“I’ve been psychically trained to allow me to translate languages faster and I can feel a psychic influence on me caused by this recording. It has long been proven that psychic outbursts can be recorded and imprinted on objects, creating so called ‘hauntings’ but it is like there is something hidden from view here.”

“The creature itself?” asked Yuoi, wondering whether she was completely sane. Psychics were still distrusted after one managed to influence a whole nation to vote them in as their representative.

“I have come to that conclusion as well.” she replied. “Psychic invisibility would stop someone seeing something in a recording, heat scan or with their bare eyes but to keep it up while moving and striking… That is impressive, and would require so much training…”

She continued to theorise for a couple more minutes while Yuoi went back to the suits, finding the box of miniaturised cores beneath the engineer’s workbench in a little room in the hangar.

Neil stared out into the icy waters and shivered. He’d hate to die in that, far rather in a blaze of glory like that so called ‘prophet’ had said. Great stalactites and stalagmites of ice spiralled down from the ice sheets or rose from the unseen depths, and the engineer was thinking of driving a sub through that. He shivered again.

Nathan clambered over the bright yellow submersible that sat in the docking bay and thought to himself as well, it would be a difficult enough task to pilot this sub through the ice maze as it was without overburdening the sub as Davrid wanted to if they ever found a compatible fusion core. He would take a couple of the strong ones, the ISF girl and the pyro perhaps, and say he would return for the others, taking two at a time, but would disrupt the relay himself. Then the rescue ship could pick him up and then return here to get the others. The plan was flawless and he knew that the others would see that he had been right to do it after their rescue.

The prophet was beginning to get on Sakara’s nerves.

He couldn’t answer a question except with a downbeat, morose poem that wasn’t even good, and he seemed to have a lot about Sakara, delighting in telling him, as he put it ‘his future’. Made up junk about a war that he would start and end.

He had also reduced his sister to tears.

“The sister of the twice born

Shall fall at the break of dawn

Shall die amongst great pain

And all that will be left is her name.”

Sakara had almost punched him for that.

They were now looking at the food generator, large tanks full of genetically engineered seaweed being harvested, pulped and turned into food bars with all required nutrients. These were second generation hyperfruit, requiring less space, less nutrients and producing food almost constantly due to the bamboo genes they contain.

There were an awful lot of food bars in a pile at the end of the conveyor and the group of three were looking for a way to turn the harvester off.

“It’s been ten years since all contact was lost.” said Hannah “surely ISF would have attacked by now and wiped them out with droids.”

“Walk fifteen miles south

And before a gaping cave mouth

One shall find bodies of metal foes

On which rust now grows”

“Shut up Odis.” said Sakara, aggravated by this made up nonsense.

The group finally found the off-switch and moved on to the next lab.

Yasmina looked at the six bags that lay on the floor in front of her. Six shattered bodies that she had carefully gathered up and separated into their separate bodies. She had found the list of people at the research station and had identified each of the bodies.

She was also forcing herself to watch each of their deaths on the CCTV system.

It had taken the creature less than five minutes to kill off the five of the scientists, herding them together before freezing them to death. The other one had tried to escape but had been killed before he reached the lift, managing to warn the other two scientists who had escaped in the missing sled.

She heard a noise behind her and shivered.

“It’s nothing Yasmina.” she told herself and headed to the kitchen.

Behind her one of the bags opened, was rifled through and was closed again by an invisible creature.

“Honour to the dead.” it whispered, before the carpet was depressed as he knelt and pierced in two places as the two blades on his back flicked out and slammed into the floor. “Utcustodiantte in coelum, deducetvos in omnemventum, et tenet terramsanaviaquas.”

If rose and followed the chef.

Yasmina was making a stew, and the smell of spices filled the air. She tasted the stew and realised that it needed a bit of salt. She turned to where she had left the salt cellar and found it missing, turning back to find it next to the pot, she looked inside and saw small crystals dissolving on the surface.

She looked around and saw no-one, tasting the stew again she found that it was now just right.

She removed the stew from the heat and began doling it out into bowls before returning then to the oven to keep them warm. There was still some stew in the pot so she put some into another bowl before taking the pot and beginning to wash it up.

Having finished she headed back to the table where she had left the extra bowl of stew.

She stopped.

The bowl was missing.

She spun around looking for the culprit and walked to the door, looking out to try and spot the thief. Finding no-one in sight, she turned back to the table and stopped again.

The bowl was back where it had been.

She walked over to it and looked inside, it had been eaten.

Another shiver ran down her back.

Then another, colder this time and lingering.

A shiver that decreased in temperature rapidly, cooling the air to mist around the creature.

She tried to run but the cold sapped her strength, she tried to call out but the cold air hit her lungs with such force that she couldn’t breathe.

The creature stood above her, revealed in the mist that clung to its otherwise invisible body.

She raised her arms around her head as the creature raised one arm but the creature waited as her blood froze in her veins, as shards of ice pierced her organs, frost coated her eyes, muscles grew still and her heart pumped its last beat.

All was silent, the mist hung in the air, the ice on the surfaces glinted in the artificial light creating a feeling of being in a geode or in a realm of crystal.

The creature looked down on the frozen corpse beneath it.

“I am sorry.” it spoke in its strange language.

There was a flash as a bolt of plasma burst from the palm of its right hand into the body beneath it and the creature turned and walked away.

Tiresias heard a soft thump followed by a tinkling of something like glass from the kitchen and looked at Helena.

“Yasmina?” called Tiresias.

His foot crunched down on something and he lifted it back up.

A finger lay on the floor, white with cold and covered in frost, a silver band inlaid with emeralds had shattered when his foot had landed on the finger.

He looked up from the floor and saw more fragments, some large and others small. He saw ice coating the surfaces, slowly melting in the heat and the remnants of the mist that had filled the room slowly dissipating in the artificial light.

“It’s still here.” he gasped.

Helena screamed.

Chapter 7

The group sat around a table in the living area.

It had taken around a minute for the group to gather in the kitchen after the scream, Davrid charging in, gun raised.

They had finished cleaning up the bodies and were now talking about what they should do.

They had also decided to call the creature a wraith.

The fusion core sat on the table and Nathan pored over it.

“Seemingly in shape but the automatic shutdown has been activated, it shouldn’t take me too long to reactivate then I can begin ferrying you to the relay two at a time.”

“Why only two at a time?” asked Helena.

“Three is the max weight for the submersible; any more would just increase the risk of colliding with the ice spires and rupturing the skin.”

“Can’t we use the sled then?” asked Hannah.

“All sleds have had the skins ruptured, and if we were wearing enviro-suits we couldn’t pilot the sled.”

The group were unhappy at the reasoning but agreed to the terms.

Odis spoke up with another verse.

“Only six will leave this metal tomb

The rest will fall to deathly doom

Two more to foe, one to flames

And three to one’s traitorous games.”

The group ignored him except for Nathan who looked at him out of the corner of his eye, Odis smiled.

“We need to gather supplies and get them to the submarine pen.” said Davrid, taking command again. “There are only twelve of us left so we work in groups of two, one to keep an eye out and the other to carry the supplies. Lara and Mia, you worked well together to find the core, keep up the good work. The rest, pair up and get going.” the group split and headed for the labs to gather up the food bars, packing them in boxes and rushing them to the submarine pen.

Tiresias was boasting.

When scared he became like this, unable to admit that he was scared so boasting about how he could take on a thousand of these wraiths as the group had deemed them with his bare hands. He talked about how he knew their weak points and had fought them before, he told Helena that he could see past their invisibility and could deflect their heat sink back at them with his mind.

They got in the lift to travel down to the pen, Tiresias continuing to boast and Helena ignoring him.

She stepped from the lift and his monologue cut off.

Tiresias had bumped into something in the lift, something that he couldn’t see.

He did not know why the creature hadn’t attacked but he kept quiet in order not to spook it.

He moved to follow Helena from the lift but felt a hand on his shoulder holding him back; He began to shake with fright and tried to find a way out, finding none he sprinted forwards, hoping to take the wraith by surprise, and failing. His legs collapsed beneath him, unresponsive and blood began to pool out from a wound in his back, he opened his mouth to scream but his head was pulled back and a warm tide began to flow over his body from his neck.

He tried to pull himself up just as Helena turned around to see what was holding him up.

Helena saw him covered in blood pulsing from a gaping wound in his throat like a second mouth, another wound in his back looked as if his spine had been torn forcefully from his body leaving a mess of lacerated flesh and jagged shards of bone.

He was suddenly lifted off the floor by something and she turned and ran.

The air began to get cold so she didn’t stop, not even looking as the wraith executed Tiresias, there was a flash behind her, followed by a tinkling sound of ice on steel and she began screaming again.

Davrid came round the corner and caught her, Sakara followed, joined by Hannah, and cursed; Nathan stared wide eyed at the lift.

The corridor outside was covered in ice, the body of Tiresias was in fragments on the floor in a pool of crimson ice and a figure revealed in the mist turned towards them.

Nathan ran.

He dived into the submersible pen and grabbed the core, fuck safety measures; he had to get out now.

His hands fumbled the core but he managed to wire it into the harness and slammed the hatch down.

“Nathan!” shouted Sakara, entering the pen and sprinting towards the submersible.

Nathan raised the nail gun he always carried with him and fired at the young man before jumping into the cabin and locking the hatch closed, they would understand when he saved them.

Sakara cursed and rose from where he had taken cover, sprinting towards the craft.

Davrid and Helena entered, seeing what Sakara had seen and running forwards.

Nathan wondered whether that prophet was right, that three would die to traitorous actions.

He started the submersible up ignoring the warning that the core was shut down and reactivated it. He needed to get out of this station and to safety; he could still save the others if they just hid in a room until he could return with military assistance.

Sakara reached the submersible and slammed his fist on the glass.

He saw Nathan shake his head in sadness and pity and saw him activate a switch.

The pressure doors at the other end of the pen began to open, the life form safety system overridden from within the submersible.

“Run!” Sakara screamed and sprinted back across the hangar.

Davrid saw it as well and charged back towards the quickly closing doors, diving under with inches to spare.

Neither Helena norSakara reached the door before the door closed.

They looked at each other and then at the others who had gathered on the other side of the glass whilst this was happening.

The pressure door opened to a crack and water began pouring through, faster and faster as the doors opened further.

The group on the other side of the glass was frantically trying to stop the doors opening but the terminal had been forcefully deactivated by the wraith.

Then Lara saw what Sakara was still wearing and motioned putting something on his head.

Sakara raised his hands to his neck and found that he was still wearing his spacesuit, a helmet of which was bobbing a few metres away.

He looked at Helena who smiled and nodded.

“I’ve lived my life, now you have a chance to live yours.”

The kind elderly face smiled once more and Sakara locked the helmet into place on his head.

He picked up a vibro cutter floating in the water and slogged towards the submersible.

Nathan saw him approaching and put the turbines on full blast, throwing the boy backwards with the backwash.

The doors were almost far enough open to allow him to leave and the woman was already having trouble staying afloat.

“Guess you were wrong Odis, only two will die.” he thought out loud and deactivated the docking clamps, powering the submarine out of the hangar, pulling Sakara with him due to the turbulence created.

He smiled, he was free and no-one could stop him now.

The craft moved perfectly and he activated the sonar to allow him to pilot to the relay station.

A red light began to flash on the board.

He ignored it, it would be nothing major.

More warning lights began to flash.

He ignored them; once he reached the relay he wouldn’t need this sub any longer.

The warning klaxon sounded and a pre-recorded voice filled the cabin.

“Core critical, automatic shutdownoverridden,supernovic detonation imminent.”

He cursed, diving for the control panel and furiously typing in commands.

Just within sight, Sakara floated in the water and watched the submarine disappear into the distance. He cursed the aerospace engineer with every rude word he knew but then his eyes widened in surprise as the yellow submarine exploded with a massive detonation that turned the water around the submarine, for one hundred meters, into a plasma sphere. The shockwave shattered the ice formations as it hurtled towards Sakara. He raised his arms in a futile effort to protect himself and the world went black.

Helena floated in the darkness of the ocean; she had managed to hold her breath for this long and was spending her last moments admiring the beauty of this hidden world.

As her vision dimmed she thought she saw a dark shape moving in the water but then the shockwave hit her.

Lara and Mia looked out into the icy depths.

“I didn’t even know him.” she said.

“None of us did.” replied Lara.

Davrid backed out of the doorway leaving the two girls alone, he wondered whether he should call this in to his superiors but after checking a tablet readout he sighed in relief and sat down in a chair.

“Damn this test.” he whispered to himself, falling silent as Mia entered and looked confusedly at him.

Some secrets must never be told.

Part 2

A foe of shadows shall herald the end

A power infinite it’s mission to rend

Thirteen shall come and ten shall die

One shall live while another shall fly

Chapter 8

The Umbra smiled, the small group of survivors was killing itself now. That psychic was still a problem though, she was able to sense him, something few others could do.

He would rather she was a warrior psychic though, her death would not be what she deserved, she would die as all the others would, alone and undefended, falling without a fight.

It was sad; he hadn’t had a worthy adversary in the three decades since he defeated Arc’Tre, the old leader of the Umbra on Europa, in single combat.

He smiled again as he remembered that fight, two invisible warriors blocking and striking on reflex alone, the perfect and greatest test of skill one could ever hope to compete in.

He initiated mind-link with his second in command to give an update on the situation, and then sent a private mental wave to another Umbra.

“There is a package outside for you to collect.” He sent.

“Messor or Leviathan” Came a reply.

“Leviathan.”

“Copy that.” replied the Umbra and severed the connection.

The Umbra winced as neural feedback arced through his mind, bloody fusion cores he thought. Damn humans for inventing them and not finding a way to shield them.

His eyes flashed open.

A fusion core had been activated?

He began to think about what that meant. It wasn’t the intense agony like that ship core had caused or the constant drone of the backup core that powered the facility, so a smaller core, it came from near the surface so…

They were activating the suits.

He winced again as another core came online.

They were going to try and make a break for it over the ice.

He sent a hasty transmission to his second in command and hurried to the surface.

“Rex’Umbra.” Came a voice behind him

“Sar’Tor.” Greeted the Umbra

“I would take out one of these humans. Too long have I gone without fresh blood to my name.” Said Sar’Tor

“Very well.” replied the Umbra “The girl was my next target. Take her out.”

Invisible Umbra saluted invisible Umbra and Rex’UmbraKar’Elv prepared to track any survivors who escaped. He continued to think, there was still a couple of days before Europa escaped Jupiter’s magnetotail and cosmic radiation reached deadly levels, enough time to reach the relay and begin preparing a trap.

He gave up on the tracking idea and began to lope over the icy plains towards the tower of human steel dropped from orbit onto this world.

The remaining survivors were leaving, they had brought all the food up from the submarine pen and while Yuoi continued activating the suits, Mia, Neil and Lara continued to ferry food up to the surface.

Lara ran out of the growth lab holding a tray of food bars and sprinted up the stairs, closely followed by Mia and Neil.

One set of footsteps stopped suddenly and another’s stopped almost as quickly.

The stairwell began to get very cold.

Lara turned to Mia, her body turning blue with cold and ice beginning to form over her eyes.

She looked over her shoulder at Neil, who caught her eyes and shook his head.

“Run.” he hissed and dived back into the labs.

As she turned to sprint up the stairs she heard him shout.

“I will die on my own terms!”

She ran faster.

In the stairwell the statue that had once been Mia Carthage remained, where her skin had once been lightly tanned it was now pale blue, the coating of ice over her skin distorted the view and made it look as if she was floating in water, further emphasised by the fact that her hair had been frozen whilst in motion. Her eyes stared out, unseeing, except perhaps for the flicker of a shadow within them, as if a cloaked figure had just breezed past her face.

Lara slammed the door to the stairwell and flew through the living room and into the lift, as the lift doors closed she saw the door ripped from its hinges by some invisible force.

She was still shaking when she arrived at the hangar.

“Run.” she gasped, almost throwing herself into one of the activated suits, slamming the helmet on with shaking hands.

“Mia?” Asked Davrid.

“Dead.”

“Neil?” he asked.

“Dying on his own terms.”

Davrid’s eyes widened in fear.

“Everyone, run.” he ordered

The group of six survivors sprinted out of the research station, past the sign giving its designation, Z3U5-012, and into the icy wastes.

Neil was ready; in the five minutes being trapped here he had produced what could be called a thermobaric explosive.

He had also surrounded the explosive with eight barrels of crude oil, a substance he was surprised to find here but that would turn the explosive into an incendiary explosive as well as a thermobaric one. The explosive itself was made from fluoridated aluminium mixed with ethylene oxide surrounding a large cylinder of nitroglycerine in a pressurised canister.

He hoped the girl had got his message and the survivors had got far enough away from the research station not to be caught in the blast. He picked up the detonation wires and prepared to go out with a bang.

The door behind him was opened by an invisible hand.

“I die on my own terms frosty.” he hissed and touched the two wires together.

“See you in hell.”

In that instant before the nitroglycerine detonator exploded, he remembered the words of the prophet

“A blaze of crimson fire

On gigantic burning pyre

Shall be your final victory

But shall never go down in history.”

He would be correct thought Neil, a blaze of crimson fire would be his pyre

The door closed and rapid footsteps could be heard.

The world turned white, and then black, perhaps intersected by a flash of silver though as the darkness grew.

Rex’UmbraKar’Elv heard a mental scream for help from Sar’Tor before the connection was cut forcefully.

He slowed to a stop and looked back into the distance, soon the shock wave reached him, blowing the ice as a strong breeze would, a tower of black smoke rose into the sky and he sighed.

He went down onto one knee and put one hand on the ice; two blades flicked over his shoulders and thudded into the ice as well. His other hand he placed against his shoulder.

“Utcustodiantte in coelum, deducetvos in omnemventum, et tenet terramsanaviaquas.”

He rose and continued towards the relay.

Nearer to the research station the blast was more dramatic. The survivors were flung forwards as the charge detonated. The station literally exploded as the pressure wave tore through the cramped confines, tearing apart the reinforced graphene-steel composite that made up the walls of the station.

Moments later the pressure wave reversed as the fuel ignited with the oxygen within the station creating a temporary vacuum.

Hannah slipped and flew backwards; firing a grapple and reeling herself back in to stop herself being sucked onto the flaming maw of what had once been the research station.

Then the crude oil went up, a tower of black smoke rose above the crippled station as it sank into the fractured ice and into the ocean below.

Chemicals coloured the towering flames and further explosions shook the ice.

Davrid hauled himself off the ice and looked at the gaping hole in the ice pouring out black smoke and globs of burning oil.

“Looks like a volcano.” Lara said, rising to join him.

“As seer’s words ring true

And all that is left is a few

One shall survive

But five shall leave here alive.”

Davrid turned to Odis.

“How do you know the future?”

“We all have our secrets, man of bloodied gods

Some we must keep in face of all odds

You know why we are here and why we must die

Yet when asked you will be forced by honour to lie.”

Davrid looked deep into his eyes with a look of pure hatred on his face.

Then his eyes widened

“Odis Veritas, I name you Oliver Vale, psychic extraordinaire and attempted dictator of Earth, escaped from prison and in hiding. Thirteen separate bounties from as many worlds all asking not for you but for your head. You are worth a total of three trillion credits to the person who kills you and as an enemy of the state I should kill you here and now.”

“Names are power and you know mine

But you will not use it in time

For death looms at a heroic stand

In this icy, inhospitable, land.”

The others looked on in horror at both men.

One the man who had tried to take over the Terran Empire.

The other an ISF elite with the truth of why they are here.

“What did he mean, Davrid?” asked Lara.

“What did he mean?” asked Othella.

“The entire reason that we were shot down is because there was a weapons’ test. A new generation of fighters, developed from a secret military facility on Io.”

Yuoi nodded “Truth, but not all of it.” he had trained himself to see when someone was speaking the truth.

“Okay. That was part of the reason.”

“Truth.”

“And the real reason?” asked Lara.

“Secret weapons test.”

“Truth.”

“What weapon? The invisible creature?”

Davrid hesitated, looked at Odis, touched the suit where the scars of the church of blood would be and whispered to himself.

“May the martyrs forgive me.” He said. “The secret weapon is Sakara Frost.”

“But he’s dead.” gasped Lara.

“The blast destroyed the external life support monitor and ruptured the suit.”

“So he’s dead?”

“No, not yet.”

Chapter 9

Sakara floated in the crystalline depths.

His oxygen had run out hours ago but he was still breathing somehow.

He looked down at his suit and the multitude of tears and rips, blood sometimes leaking from around the shards of ice buried in his body.

He should be in pain he thought, but then again the cold had probably numbed his nerves, or killed them.

He tore the shattered helmet from his head and breathed in deeply.

Water flowed into his mouth and then out of his neck.

Gills?

He pressed his hands to the sides of his neck and breathed again.

Gills.

That confused him. He hadn’t had those earlier.

A second shock wave passed over him and he turned to see the research station sinking, on fire, into the depths, droplets of burning oil floating to the surface like amber bubbles.

He wondered if anyone had survived that.

The survivors would have headed for the suits after the submarine detonated. If they had been quick or he had been unconscious for longer than he thought then they may have escaped and the explosion may have been a booby trap activated by the wraith. Or it could have been a last stand.

There was a noise similar to a whale’s call behind him and the world went black.

Well, more of a reddish black.

He swam over to the side of the cavity in which he now found himself in and felt the wall.

Flesh-like.

He activated the torch surprisingly still attached to the lacerated suit and looked around the creature’s mouth.

The oesophagus had been blocked off and the trachea must have been elsewhere as the mouth was exit less.

He looked at the front of the mouth.

It was leech-like with thousands of teeth on curved flanges of flesh around the mouth, clamped together like the iris of a camera leaving no exit. The teeth themselves were chitinous. Not Terran enamel style.

Sakara thought to himself. These teeth would grow back quickly if damaged and although chitin is weaker than enamel, the teeth were probably not made of pure chitin, perhaps combined with calcium carbonate like the shells of crabs on Earth or perhaps sclerotin as used by terrestrial insects.

He continued to think as he floated in the mouth.

“What is the point of a mouth without any way to absorb the food?” he asked the nothingness that surrounded him.

He came up with two options; one, an alkali substance would soon start filling the mouth and he would be dissolved or two, this was a genetically modified creature designed for the purpose of transporting personnel and equipment around.

The latter was soon proved correct.

Water drained from the mouth suddenly and Sakara slumped to the ground, some blood seeping out from his wounds. The gills at his neck began to seal themselves back against his skin and the mouth opened, blinding him with harsh white light.

Figures entered the mouth and picked him up, laying him on a stretcher and leaving the moon pool chamber into which the genetically engineered creature had entered. The group entered a large airlock and waited for the cycle to finish. They were tall hominids. But unlike humans, they were covered in a chitinous exoskeleton. This in turn was covered in white coloured armour or clothes, Sakara couldn’t tell which one they were, they were more of a mixture of the two.

The chitin carapace was meltwater blue in one of the five creatures and white in the other four. Their faces were crustacean but with arachnoid eyes, eight in total. They had triple jointed legs with a second, reverse knee. They also had four arms; however two were nothing more than blades within sheaths on their back.

One noticed his scrutiny and, looking surprised to find him awake, jabbed a needle into his neck, He then continued to look surprised for the rest of the journey as whatever he had put into Sakara’s system failed to have any effect at all.

The journey ended in what was obviously a hospital.

The creatures began conversing with another group of identical creatures in what was obviously Terran Basic. This confused Sakara.

“Iae’Lae.” said the blue creature to whom Sakara had correctly identified as the leader of the new group.

“Tar’Kor, I see you have failed to notice the state of your patient again. You were explicitly told to keep him unconscious.”

Sakara filled the names in his memory. It was a strange form but they were short and memorable. The difficulty would be putting them to the correct creatures. He also wondered why they were speaking Terran basic but he was too tired to really care.

“Methohexital had no effect Ma’am.” The creature replied.

“Or did you get the dosage wrong?”

One of the other creatures joined in in Tar’Kor’s defence.

“The dosage was correct Ma’am.”

“Interesting…” She replied. “Bring him through to the operating theatre; we need to take care of those wounds. Aspects alone know how he hasn’t bled out by now.”

It took them around over three hours to remove all the shards of ice and sew up all the wounds with chitin thread. A pot of chitosan stood unused on the surgical table. The reason behind this had confused the doctors as only a little blood emerged from the wounds before halting.

“It is as if he had a chitosan layer in his skin like we do.” mused Iae’Lae.

Sakara dredged though his memories and found the uses of chitosan. It was a form of chitin which was one of the most powerful haemostatic agents discovered to date. He was confused as well.

Blood samples were taken and scans were run.

In the day he remained in the hospital he learned quite a bit.

The empire who owned this colony was called the Tor’Karian Empire. Jobs were paid on a supply and demand basis giving fluctuating but fairer incomes and even position in society. The colony depended highly on genetic engineering and on shrimp farms that provided the chitin for all the uses they put it to. Buildings were made of chitin, tools were made of chitin, and clothes were made from Shrilk, a chitin-silk composite. The entire society ran on chitin. Also, no-one seemed to know that they were speaking a language that he could understand, what a surprise that was going to be.

He didn’t know why he co-operated with them, or why he asked no questions but he did, staying silent until he was moved to a recovery ward. A Tor’Karian on a nearby bed looked at him with interest and asked the nurse who had brought him in who he was.

“A human we are looking after.” replied the nurse.

“Sakara.” replied Sakara.

Both Tor’Karians turned to him.

“Is that his language?” asked the Tor’Karian patient.

“No.” said Sakara “It is my name.”

Both Tor’Karians looked up in surprise again.

“He speaks Tor’Kar?” gasped the nurse.

“No, I speak Terran Basic which is what you’re speaking.”

The nurse backed off and hurried out of the room leaving Sakara with the patient whose insect-like mandibles were hanging slack around the mouth, probably their equivalent of open mouthed astonishment.

The nurse returned quickly with a regal looking Tor’Karian dressed in a flowing dress of silver and blue fabric. The creature’s skin was white except for an engraving in one shoulder that had been filled with blue paint. The symbol was of two blades crossed by a thorny flower looking like a cross between a rose and an orchid.

“Greetings Sak’Ara.” said the creature, subconsciously putting his name into Tor’Karian name form.

Sakara thought for a second then replied. “Greetings, leader of the Tor’Karian colony on Europa.”

The creature thought deeply, eyes closed.

“It is as I thought.” she said. “There is a psychic zone around him that has subconsciously learned our language.”

Other Tor’Karians entered the room. Obviously bodyguards and armed with what looked like ballistic weaponry.

“Come.” she said to Sakara. “There are things that I would like to discuss as we walk.”

Sakara rose from the bed and found that he was wearing specially made clothing of Shrilk, admiring its lightness and fit he followed the Tor’Karians out of the hospital.

The colony was very large. There was a large dome at the centre connected to a thick ring by wide corridors. At north, south, east and west on the ring were placed long rectangular buildings of which the hospital was the north one.

In the water around the colony swam giant worm like creatures like the one that had carried Sakara here that looked as if they were guarding the shrimp farms that produced all the chitin for the colony.

“Welcome to Dor’Lantha.” said the Tor’Karian as Sakara caught up with the group. “I am Dux’LanthaPax’Bel, queen of this colony.”

“Elected or monarchy?” asked Sakara.

“Elected.” replied Pax’Bel. “Every ten years the Tor’Karian people vote in a new leader for both peace and another for military. You will by now have overheard how our society works. Many may complain about it but it is the fairest method we have found.”

“A demand based society confused me at first but it does seem to be very fair.”

“This colony was founded only thirteen years ago, we were going to contact the Terrans but before we could the Vortron war began and we hid from both the Terran fleet and the Vortron raiders. After the war ended we thought about contacting them again but after what had happened on Orthana we decided against it.”

Sakara shuddered as he remembered the events that had lead up to the Vortron war. The colonisation of Orthana, discovery of the Vortron, diplomatic relations breakdown after ISF maneuvers in Vortron space and then the breakout of war.

He knew that had this colony been discovered after that war, another war would have begun.

Looking back at what the queen had said about him, he asked “What did you mean about a psychic zone around me?”

“All Tor’Karians are psychic and we are all connected by a neural web allowing instantaneous mental communication over great distances and it also allows us to sense other psychics nearby. Many Tor’Karians who worked on you felt a presence trying to enter their minds. By your stunned expression, this was either accidental or an automatic response to a foreign language.”

“So I am psychic?”

“Latent or untrained. I am unsure. You seem to show aspects of being a psychic, knowing when people are telling the truth, mind reading for language, psychic shielding…”

Sakara answered the latter.

“I was trained in mental defence by the church of blood.”

“That explains the psychic shielding but the other aspects are both highly trained and latent at the same time.”

“Why did you shoot down the Aurora?” Asked Sakara.

“We didn’t.” replied Pax’Bel. “There is a secret weapons development facility on Io under the control of your military faction. They were testing a next generation fighter and seeing which was better, a new pilot AI or human pilots.”

“For some reason I believe you.” said Sakara “But why were we attacked and what were we attacked by when we landed?”

“Ah.” sighedPax’Bel. “Six years ago the leader of the Tor’Karian military here, a man called Vic’Fer tried to set himself up as supreme leader by means of a coup. He was defeated and those who helped him exiled with him. When the research station was emplaced along with the relay the psi-waves produced by the fusion cores affected the neural web to such an extent that we were in constant pain. I prepared a diplomatic team but when we arrived we found the entire station had been massacred. Three Umbra or Wraiths as I believe you call them had gone with the exiled leader and had carried out the attack. The marines had already arrived but an Umbra had been left there and had killed them all.

Two months later an assault squad of AN-300’s and EX-180’s was landed on Europa and attacked us. We had to defend ourselves using the Umbra and a few other genetically engineered creatures.”

Sakara nodded and joined her on a tour of the colony. The ring contained housing and shops while the four points of the compass were the main workplaces; hospital to the north, research laboratories to the east, factories to the south and barracks and training grounds to the west. The wide corridors contained more shops but also a few businesses such as Shrilk tailors and other more domestic businesses.

The main dome however, was dramatic. In the centre rose a gleaming silver spire, the only part of the colony obviously made of metal, around it was a massive park split by broad paths into four zones. The first was a thick, tangled forest, the second a seemingly barren and rocky desert, the third an island in a tropical lagoon and the fourth an area of towering spires of rock, shrouded in clouds that must have been created for effect.

“Fire, Water, Earth and Air.” said Sakara.

“The realms of the four Aspects, divine creatures of ultimate power who preside over the wilds of nature.” said Pax’Bel.

Just as she said this a klaxon burst into life.

“Psi-wave imminent.”

“The fusion core in the relay is still running so we have a warning system in place to tell us to shield our minds against the pulse.”

Tor’Karians about them were sitting down and preparing for the pulse but Pax’Bel remained standing.

“Shouldn’t you be getting ready?” asked Sakara.

“That which we cannot change, we must learn to bear. I suffer the full fury of the pulse so that I may one day become immune to its effects.”

“So that you can continue to work if this was used as a weapon against you.”

“True.”

“Psi-wave imminent.”Blared the klaxon.

The wave hit.

Chapter 10

The small group of six trudged across the icy waste, the giant Pwyll crater lay off to the right.

Davrid was no longer the leader and Odis was shunned, instead Lara had taken control. Smoke still rose from the crater in the distance behind them but no-one looked back.

Lara also held a tablet with the life sign readings of Sakara displayed on them. She felt sorry for him. A test subject who thought he was just a boy.

His parents had been paid three thousand credits to bring him up as their own and another thousand to take him on that trip to Exlixia, no knowing that in reality it was just so that the military could cover up the whole thing. It had not been a missile that had struck his parents room, but a strategically placed warhead.

His sister was still crying inside her suit.

The suits themselves were alright but very bulky. They were also so heavy that if gravity had been any stronger then the group would have been unable to make it this far already. It felt like Earth gravity within the suit.

They stopped a few hours later at the remains of the missing hover sled. It had ploughed straight into an ice cliff and the reason was found soon after with the driver decapitated and the passenger shattered. Frost still covered the inside of the vehicle, preserved by the cold outside.

“Poor guys.” whispered Othella, as they left the sled. “They had no hope.”

It was seven hours before the disaster happened.

They had left the icy spires and cliffs and were walking across a flat plain. The suits glare visors had clamped down to stop them going snowblind due to the amount of glare from the snow.

Lara was walking at the rear with Hannah, trying to perk her up and failing.

The group stopped as they heard a groan from the snow beneath them.

“What was that?” asked Othella.

“One of three things. It is the snow above a crevasse weakening, Ice under strain before an earthquake or just natural ice movements.”

A large segment of snow collapsed into an abyss a few metres to her right.

“Crevasse! Run!.” screamed Lara.

The group launched itself into action, sprinting towards the other side of the plain.

It was too late for Lara and Hannah. just as they were nearing solid ground the snow they were standing on gave way and dropped them into the abyss.

The others turned at the screams. Seeing the hole in the snow and the absence of two of their companions.

A single grapple line flew out of the abyss and locked itself into the ice.

A single, suited figure clambered out.

A quiet thump rose from the crevasse.

Lara raised her eyes to the other survivors.

“She’d already used her grapple and hadn’t locked it back in the slot properly.”

At the bottom, Hannah Frost lay with a broken back, slowly bleeding out around the spike of ice lodged in her chest.

Snow fell around her as the final remnants of the crevasse covering floated down.

In the thin slit of sky above her she saw Jupiter in all its glory, the colours seemingly floating down to her as her blood stained the snow red around her. Great swathes of reds, ochres and burnt umbers painted the icy walls of her grave and in her last moments she looked up at the beauty of this spectacle and died, alone, but content.

The remaining five trudged on.

They came next to a massive field of penitents that towered metres above their heads, after climbing a ramp of snow up the side of an ice cliff they entered the maze. They had caught glimpses of the relay station before entering the field so they knew they were going the right way.

The sun-carved canyons and spires created a winding and twisting maze. And the monotony of the ice added to the sense of directionless.

The group weaved their way through the towering spires, unable to make out any landmark. After what seemed like hours of walking, they came to a more open area with two exits on one side and another straight on.

They chose straight on.

Eventually they found themselves back at the ice cliff and turned right, winding their way through the maze until another ice cliff rose instead of fell on their left.

“That’ll be the plateau where the relay is.” Said Davrid.

“Systems malfunction.” Came a voice from a nearby path in the ice.

A EX-170 droid staggered out into the area.

“Targeting core compromised.”

It turned its dull silver head towards the group. It must have been in a battle as it was missing one arm and had deep gouges in its graphene-steel composite armour.

“Targets acquired.”

Davrid stepped forwards and rammed his suit’s vibro-cutter deep into its chest.

“Fusion core compromised, initiating emergency shutdown.”

The droid collapsed in a heap to the ground.

“Shame, we could have used its help.” said Davrid, collecting the mark VII, octo-fibre laser beam rifle that it was armed with.

An electric blue beam shot out of the tip and drilled a hole in a nearby ice formation.

“Good, still works.”

The team continued onwards, first missing then finding a snow ramp up to the plateau, hidden because of an ice formation that shielded it from view in the direction they approached from.

The relay station was gigantic. It was the height of the empire state building and the central spire was shaped like two parallel right angled triangles separated by a gap of ten metres or so on top of a dome. Around the edge were eight psionic tracking railguns on isosceles based pyramids, all of which had been decommissioned forcefully.

The whole thing was painted military grey.

“The wraith has been here.” remarked Othella.

“It is our only hope of rescue, our only way out. We have to try.” said Lara

“For one, this will be their tomb

Who shall stand to let others leave this moon

Against foes of shadow and of ice

Who will from shoulders his head slice.” said Odis

The group of five entered the airlock.

Part 3

Four shall die in a tomb of frozen steel

Three in icy waters surreal

One shall fall unto her death

And one shall stand to save the rest.

Chapter 11

On a moon not that far from Europa a man pressed a button.

On Europa Sakara heard a voice in his mind, a voice that was his own.

“Kill them.”

Even as this thought crossed his mind, a plan formulated.

He would sabotage the fission reactor that powered the colony as well as poison the shrimp farms. This complete he would then leave the colony via the spire and plant explosives to destroy the lifts, cutting the colony off from the world outside and from its resources. The colony would soon collapse as the air ran out along with the power, suffocating the monsters inside.

No, he would help the Tor’Karians by shielding the fusion core of the relay station and save the lives of the remaining survivors.

The monsters should pay for what they have done though. He would follow his initial plan and wipe them out, and then he would kill any remaining survivors to cover up the attack.

He stopped. These were not his thoughts.

“Kill them.” said the voice in his head.

He refused.

“Kill them.” repeated the voice.

He shut his eyes and screamed defiance with his mind.

Something at the base of his brain cracked.

The voice stopped.

He pulled himself off the floor where he had fallen and looked around. The Tor’Karianswere still enduring the pulse.

He knew what he had to do.

Last year a group of scientists had found a new wave emitted by both fusion cores and stars which seemed to have an effect on the mind of people nearby and some strong psychics felt a feeling similar to pain. The wave was called a psionic wave and it was found that placing a sheet of antimony between the core and the subject removed the wave.

Further studies found that psychics also could produce these waves but at far lower levels.

He began moving. The wave was meant to stay over the colony for another thirty minutes.

It took him five minutes to reach the factory and another five to produce a small antimony dome large enough to fit over a Tor’Karian’s head.

He hurried back to the spire and placed the dome over Pax’Bel’s head.

“The wave has stopped?” she asked, moving to take off the dome.

“No.”

“Then why can I not feel it?”

“You are wearing an antimony dome that is protecting you against the psi-wave.”

She tilted the dome and winced, lowering it back down again.

“If there is shielding, why isn’t the core shielded.”

“The psionic wave was only discovered last year and because no-one really notices the wave except very powerful psychics, shielding has not been rolled out yet.”

“Can you shield the core?”

“If you give me the core’s measurements, antimony plating and a means of transport, yes.”

“It will be my pleasure to help.” replied the Queen and waited for the wave to pass over the colony.

As soon as it had passed, the schematics of the core were brought up and a set of shielding plates was produced.

“Only problem now is transport, unlike you Tor’Karians I cannot survive out there.” said Sakara.

The Queen smiled and led him to the upper levels of the spire.

In the lift was an environmental suit from the research station and another genetically engineered creature.

It looked like a velociraptor but was covered in bone plates and had thicker legs with its forearms replaced by mantis-like blades.

“This is a venator.” said Pax’Bel. “Tor’Karian cavalry.”

“Thanks.” said Sakara, locking the helmet in place and mounting the creature.

The lift rose out of sight.

“Will he do what he must?” asked her bodyguard.

“We shall see. If he returns, he will. If he does not then he will have failed. But I believe that he already has, in that half an hour he could have carried out the plan but he didn’t.”

“He had overridden his programming?”

“His mind is strong and sympathetic to us for some reason; perhaps he feels that we are better than humanity because of the Vortron wars.”

“Does he know of Moran or of the Endless war?”

“No. For if he did then he would have killed us all.”

“And the plan?”

“There is a backup plan for this eventuality, but for now we must pray that he returns for it is our duty to our people to fall here.”

The lift doors opened and Sakara rode out into a relatively small crater in the ice. All around lay frosted bodies of EX-170’s and AN-100’s torn to shreds by the genetic weapons of the Tor’Karian colony.

“Should it come to war, I know who I am betting on to win.”

He leant forwards on the venator and it took off.

It was fast.

Very fast.

The ice plains flashed by giving him just enough time to realise that the entrance to the Tor’Karian colony was at the centre of the Pwyll crater before he was out of it.

A field of penitentes rose before him on top of an ice cliff. The hunter did not stop at the bottom but jumped up the cliff and dived into the maze. The creature charged onwards with a spire to its left before climbing the spire and launching itself into another canyon, sprinting around another spire before hurdling a shorter spire and charging up a ramp of snow to reach the relay plateau.

The venator skidded to a stop before the airlock and Sakara dismounted.

Footprints in the thin layer of snow told him that the other survivors had reached here.

It was time to rise from the dead.

It had not gone as planned. The group of survivors had been ambushed as soon as they came through the door by a group of four armed arachno-insectoids and tied up near the primary access panel to deactivate the main plasma window protecting the core.

Othella had her eyes closed and seemed to be crying.

Davrid was being tortured to enter the deactivation code.

Odis rhymed while tied up.

Yuoi was staring at the creatures with wonderment.

Lara was trying to find a way out.

“Tell us the code to your field?” clacked one of the creatures who seemed to be the leader to Davrid, forcing one of his mantis-like blades into the flesh of Davrid’s leg.

Othella looked up and spoke haltingly in a strange language.

“Mercy to us?”

The creature spun and looked at her.

“You speak Tor’Kar?”

The creature narrowed its eyes.

“Psychic” it hissed.

Lara looked at Othella.

“I begged for mercy but now it knows that I am a psychic as I read its mind in order to learn the language.” she replied to the unspoken question.

“What does it want.” asked Lara.

“To destroy the core.” Came a voice from behind them.

Both the creatures and the humans turned.

A figure in an enviro-suit stood there with an empty sack over one shoulder.

“Hu’Man.” hissed the leader.

“Greetings Vic’Fer.”

“Come to save your compatriots?”

“They are already saved”

“How?”

“Speaker of tongues he does not speak

Finder of things he will not seek

Saviour of worlds he will hate and fear

Whose name will be remembered for many a year.” said Odis.

A ship came out of Krasnikov travel overhead, drawn by the SOS message that Sakara had sent before shielding the core. It was a mile long Battlecruiser, annihilator class, armed to the teeth with plasma cannon, gunships, hellfire torpedoes and EMP’s. It was painted black with the military sector symbol emblazoned on the sides of both hangar bays that stuck out either side of the otherwise missile-like spacecraft.

Sakara moved. He charged the survivors, activating the vibro-cutter on the way and cutting through Davrid’s bonds.

“Run.” said Davrid and pushed Sakara towards the others, drawing his pistol and collecting the mark VII laser rifle from where it lay.

Sakara freed the others and turned to Davrid.

Gunfire had started up a few seconds ago and Sakara found Davrid in the midst of a firefight against the ballistic weaponry of the Tor’Karians.

“Run.” Davrid shouted and returned fire from behind the console.

A ship docked with the airlock and Sakara directed the others to it.

As they entered Sakara turned to see Davrid fighting thin air, he had found a metal pole that doubled for a stave and was being pushed back. The wraith struck and sliced the pole in half but Davrid just fell into another stance and fought with the two, albeit shorter, poles.

Another Wraith struck from behind and a large red stain began to grow. He struggled to hold himself up and managed to block one more blow before a slash eviscerated him.

As his entrails fell from his stomach to the ground he smiled, drawing his gun just as the wraith struck a final blow.

Davrid’s head rolled from his shoulders and a fountain of blue blood sprayed from the chest of one of the wraiths.

The airlock cycled and the scene was cut off.

They were met with raised rifles and five EX-180’s.

“They’re human.” said one of the marines.

“Any others?” asked the leader to Lara.

“No.” she replied, exhausted but relieved to see other humans.

“Okay, let’s get out of here. All units pull back to the Oblivion.”

The seven dropships pulled back from the relay station in time to see a group of Tor’Karians sprint out and stare at the leaving ships.

“Trouble with the natives?” asked one of the marines.

“It’s a long story.” replied Sakara.

What the fleeing group did not notice was the Tor’Karian clinging to the underside of the ship within the atmospheric bubble around the craft, or the Wraith with him.

On arrival at the Oblivion the survivors were placed in cryogenic storage in order to minimise the risk of infection from alien diseases.

Part 4

Salvation comes from shining skies

From icy planet five will rise

Three shall be lost upon the way

While one other’s destiny is not to stay

Chapter 12

The Admiral’s name was Franco Sceratis and he was afraid. He had just received a transmission from D28. No-one wanted to be contacted by D28, the shadowy secret projects division of the military was feared by all and now they wanted him to bring them a test subject for ‘decommissioning’ after a failed test and to hand over all the survivors for debriefing. The Admiral had seen the survivors themselves and they were a group of tired, worn out and exhausted civilians almost destroyed by their ordeal. He knew that had they been in anything but cryo-sleep they would all be having nightmares right now.

He also knew that should he hand over the survivors they would never be seen again. D28 was meticulous in its cover-ups, they would probably imprison him and most of his crew to make sure their secret stayed secret. This was the reason everyone who had heard of D28 feared it.

He also had another problem. He had run a lifeform scan of the entire ship to see how contaminated with alien microorganisms they were.

He had found a lifesign the size of a person.

That lifesign had wiped out an entire squad of EX-180’s, four AN-150’s and a team of marines he had sent to kill it.

He knew that it was highly trained in melee and ambush combat and in the rather cramped confines of the ship he and his crew were doomed. He had read the reports of the Moran incident and thought that he had been prepared for this eventuality but after reading the reports of how much damage two of these creatures could do he realised he had still underestimated their power.

There were also reports of another similar but invisible creature somewhere in the ship but he could not pick it up with any sensors so ignored it, a completely undetectable creature was impossible.

He slipped the disk containing the data on the test subject into his uniform and headed for the life support core. One of the survivors had mentioned something about them trying to destroy active fusion cores, another detachment was sent to the main core.

The life support core was just behind the bridge, next to the crew quarters, behind both was the main core and to either side of that were the hangar bays, turret controls and cannon. The rear of the ship was taken up by droid storage, the cryo-storage room and the engines.

Even if the creatures managed to kill the guards around the main core they wouldn’t be able to get in as it was protected by plasma windows, thought Franco as he stood in front of the otherwise undefended life support core.

The marines in front of him knelt in the ready position, the EX’s and AN’s had their weapons trained on the door.

The room seemed to grow cold with anticipation and fear.

Very cold.

Cold enough for ice to begin to form and breath to rise in clouds of vapour.

Rex’UmbraKar’Elv smiled as he continued the activation of the endothermic glands that covered his skin, storing heat within him for the second part of the act, the droids could see him but they had been deactivated by the snapping of wires as they contracted or the fusing of supercooled metal together, they were no threat. Most of the humans were suffering from hypothermia or ice damage to internal organs.

A bolt of plasma blazed past his head, almost shattering his concentration on the heat sink and he looked up to see the admiral of the ship aiming at his form that was picked out by the mist around him.

He reversed the reaction.

All over his body, the glands that had once drawn in heat released that heat along chemical conduits, focusing the heat into a concave organ on the inside of his right palm that was still endothermic.

He raised that hand and switched the reaction.

The heat had nowhere to go but to blast out from his palm in a semi-directed burst that turned the air into plasma and struck the admiral with a glancing blow down his left side. It was however enough to incinerate his arm, the gun he was holding and set fire to most of his body.

A quick stab with his right shoulder blade finished the admiral off.

The core was soon deactivated and warning lights began to flash.

Sakara woke in the cryogenic storage room, emergency lighting in effect and knew instantly that the Tor’Karians had followed them. The other survivors were waking up and whilst waiting for them to recover their wits Sakara put the enviro-suit back on just in case the main or backup core failed.

“”What’s going on” asked Othella.

“This ship is under attack.” replied Sakara, locking the helmet into place, “We need to get to the hangar and commandeer one of the spacecraft.”

The group set off and stepped around the shredded bodies all fearing the answer to the unasked question.

It was Lara who finally broke the silence.

“What did this?”

“A rogue Tor’Karian warlord and an Umbra by the looks of things.” answered Sakara

“Umbra?”

“Wraith.”

Lara was about to tell him about what he was but it was then that they reached the hangar.

The marines had surrendered and had been forced to remove the cores from every spacecraft before being executed and the cores destroyed.

“Damn.” hissed Lara

“When all is lost and all that is left is a few

Who know not how to fight and not what to do

We must remember a fact or we will surely fall

And even then only two will survive from us all.”

Yuoi raised his head at Odis’s words.

“The cores.” he exclaimed. “Nathan said that research gets dumped with the old tech. but this is the ISF Oblivion, the ship being used to test the Tier X fusion core meaning that we could transfer the core into any one of these gunships and fly out of here..”

Sakara turned to him. “The Tor’Karians will be trying to destroy that at this very moment and the backup core cannot hold the hanger plasma window for long, we would have around ten minutes to get the core and leave.”

He hesitated.

“It is however the only way, get to the ship, I’ll get the core.”

“What about the plasma window around the core?” asked Yuoi

“How does a ship exit the hangar?” asked Sakara as he headed off.

Yuoi smiled, “With a magnetic field.”

Sakara slipped into the main core room which was almost identical to the one at the relay station on Europa.

“How do we pass through the fields?”

Sakara looked around to find the source of the voice and saw Vic’Fer standing on the opposite side of the core housing to him, seemingly talking to thin air but it was clear an Umbra was with him.

He needed to move fast.

“We could cut the power?” said the Umbra but soon discovered that the core itself powered the plasma windows.

He activated the magnetosphere he had got the Tor’Kariansto install into the suit and walked into the plasma window. The magnetosphere pushed the plasma out the way allowing him to reach the core. He activated the vibro-cutter and sliced into the casing, carefully removing the core from its cradle.

“Main power shutdown, backup core failure in ten minutes.” Blared the intercom before falling silent.

Sakara ran as fast as he could which, incidentally, wasn’t very fast as he was wearing the enviro-suit. Therefore he didn’t hear the footsteps behind him over the noise of his own. As he headed for the hangar he passed the slaughter in front of the life support core and a voice called out weakly.

“Sakara.” gasped the admiral, blood leaking from the charred remains of his arm and from a deep wound in his chest.

Sakara moved over to him.

“What is it?” he asked.

The admiral removed a disk from his bloodstained uniform. “There is a war coming.” he gasped “It is right for you to know why it will begin, find the truth behind the lies Sakara, become the Hand… the Hand… of… G…God”

Sakara watched as the admiral made his last breath then took the disk and slipped it into his suit.

Lara saw the Tor’Karian as it entered the hangar, where the group of survivors were still waiting for Sakara to return.

She dived down behind some cargo containers and got the others to do so as well.

She then realised that the Tor’Karian had cut them off from the gunship.

“Damn.” she whispered under her breath.

Sakara ran into the hangar and saw the Tor’Karian as well

“Vic’Fer.” he hissed.

“Hu’Man.” hissed the creature back.

The Tor’Karian slipped into a combat stance and prepared to attack, crouching and leaning his body forwards, drawing both of his shoulder blades and flicking his wrists around one hundred and eighty degrees backwards into his forearms to reveal the blades stored there.

Sakara activated the vibro-cutter and fell into a defensive stance, at least as defensive as one can be with what was basically a wrist blade.

The two warriors circled each other and it was clear who was the better prepared. Sakara was encumbered by the enviro-suit and had only a single blade with less reach than any of the Tor’Karian’s four.

Vic’Fer attacked with a dual overhead thrust followed by a mantis style blow that tried to scissor Sakara’s head from his shoulders.

But he dodged, rising from a crouch to deliver a diagonal uppercut across Vic’Fer’s chest, drawing a line of blue blood.

The Tor’Karian fell back and re-assessed his opponent who was faster and better trained than he had expected.

The bleeding had already stopped and Vic’Fer moved into a different style, launching himself into the air and then into a flurry of strikes that only a blade master or an Umbra could block.

Sakara blocked every single one. He stopped thinking about the strikes and let his body flow with the rhythm of combat, faster and faster the pair danced, Vic’Fer twisting and somersaulting but never managing to break Sakara’s guard. Blows glanced off the enviro-suit but never with enough force or at the right angle to damage it.

Then Sakara moved to the offensive, blocking a blow with the vibro-cutter he hammered an armoured fist directly into the Tor’Karian’s mandibles, shattering many of them, this was followed by an overhead slash that sliced one of Vic’Fer’s shoulder blades from his body.

He followed up again but overstretched, leaving himself open and Vic’Fer ignored the pain, driving his remaining shoulder blade up into the casing around the vibro-cutter, shattering the vibration cell and causing the blade to fragment.

The survivors gasped.

Vic’Fer smiled

Sakara staggered back

The Rex’UmbraKar’Elv saw what was coming

Vic’Fer rose from his crouch in an explosive attack with all three blades. ButSakara stepped inside the attack and smashed his armoured helmet into the Tor’Karian’s face, breaking the remaining mandibles and stunning the creature.

He followed it up with left handed uppercut that lifted the Tor’Karian from the ground before finishing with a right hook that ploughed into Vic’Fer’s face before he hit the ground.

The Tor’Karian collapsed on the floor and Sakara moved to finish the job.

“Backup core failing, plasma window deactivating in ten seconds.” blared the intercom.

Sakara signalled to the survivors who got the message and ran for the exit, only just reaching it before it closed.

Lara was slightly behind the group as they passed through the airlock and was trapped inside as the other end sealed. In the room beyond the other three survivors collapsed to the floor, panting. All the doors had now been sealed and air was slowly being vented to the designated safe rooms where the crew were meant to evacuate to in this event.

Neither Lara or the other survivors were in a safe room. Yuoi realised this and hacked into a terminal and deactivated the protocol but then began pacing out the room.

“What is it?” asked Othella

Yuoi finished his calculations, picked a gun off the floor and killed himself.

Lara realised what he had done and began breathing slowly, she was in a room almost as large as the one the other survivors were in but she was the only one in the room giving her double the air supply and therefore double the survival time, Yuoi had killed himself to give the others a chance of survival.

Othella did not understand this and began screaming.

Odis however, turned to Lara and smiled.

In the hangar everything happened quickly.

The plasma window containment failed and the air in the hangar vented into space.

Sakara launched himself at the gunship and grabbed the core housing, slamming the main core into the harness and initiating the setup, diving onto the top of the ship at just the right time to prevent himself being crushed against the wall, Vic’Fer landed on the ship, breath held and ready for combat, he had stopped bleeding and was enraged.

Sakara launched himself over the Tor’Karian’s head, landing on the cockpit of the ship.

He ducked.

Vic’Fer did not.

The ship bounced off the hangar roof and spun towards the exit, leaving a blue stain on the roof of the hangar.

Sakara pulled himself to the airlock of the gunship and slipped inside, clambering into the pilot’s seat, too tired to remove the enviro-suit. He grabbed the controls and got the craft under control, piloting it out of the hangar and into clear space.

He remembered the disk that the admiral had given him and loaded it into the reader.

“This is a level zero classified transmission for Admiral Franco Sceratis regarding a passenger he has picked up. Please enter your military designation to receive the transmission.”

Sakara looked at the slip of paper that the admiral had also given him and entered the series of numbers written in blood upon it.

“Designation correct, transmission follows:” the recording began

“This is Seth Smith of D28, in a recent transmission to fleet command you said that you had picked up five survivors from Europa after disruptions to galactic transmissions in Morse code reading SOS. Among those you have picked up is a test subject in one of our projects and we need him returned. He failed the test and needs to be decommissioned. The other survivors will need to be debriefed so you are ordered to the D28 facility on Io where you will remain until it is deemed safe for you to continue. Due to department policy the details of the test subject and operation follow:

Name: Sakara Frost

Operation name: Trojan sword

Operation brief: infiltration of extraterrestrial colonies via crash landings that seem to be accidental before sabotage and annihilation of said colonies.

Reason behind operation: loophole in the colonisation law forbidding colonisation of already colonised worlds giving us the ability to colonise many more worlds.

Test subject brief: Genetic re-engineering, bio-adaptation, nanomite repair systems, psychic abilities, tactical and military database, mental control package with initiator and detonator (overloaded and unresponding), telomeric regeneration and anti-cancer nanomites.

History: The Frost family were paid thirty thousand credits to raise the child as their own, another thousand to send him to become a member of the church of blood and another thousand to take the trip to Exlixia. Plasma warhead in their quarters removed that loose end. Sergeant DavridTelod of the 59th elites and veteran of Moran (only survivor), sent to ensure crash landing near the research station and survival of test subject up until arrival there.

Transmission ends.”

The holo-log dropped from limp fingers, clattering against the steel floor and reflecting the brilliance of the white LED’s that lit up the cabin.

His world was silent even his breathing stopped as he digested the painful truth of his life.

He was a weapon.

A weapon designed to wipe innocent species from the universe in the name of human expansion.

Not even that, he was a failed prototype of that weapon, now scheduled for decommission so that another version, a ‘2.0’ could be rolled out to wipe out innocent lives all over the universe.

His emerald eyes hardened, eyebrows dropping into a determined scowl.

They would pay.

He reached out to the navigation system to plot in the co-ordinates for Io but encountered a solid object in the way.

An invisible object.

An object that hissed in self-annoyance.

An object that began to draw all the heat out of the cramped little cabin.

As his suit began to freeze up, its heaters overwhelmed, Sakara moved.

He flicked a switch and reached for the thruster controls.

Ice crystals sliced through his flesh as he moved, his blood began to freeze and frost began to form over his eyes.

In agony and almost unconscious from the cold, he hit the button.

Chapter 13

The gunship stopped dead, then shot forwards again as the reverse thrusters were set to full before deactivating. Inside the cabin Sakara acted fast. The Umbra slammed invisibly against the window before slamming back into the co-pilot seat. Raising one arm against the agony of ice crystals tearing through his flesh he activated a single command.

The grapple head smashed into the Umbra’s chest at point blank range, creating a fountain of ice blue blood that coated the cockpit and Sakara’s enviro-suit, the Umbra became a Tor’Karian as his concentration faltered and the psychic pulses failed.

“You… disrupted the plan.” it hissed “Why didn’t… you kill us all?”

“You had every right to attack us as we had sent in marines to try and wipe you out before, but I do not seek to become a murderer even with my genetically modified heritage. I am not going to be the genocide weapon of Earth and I will have my revenge for then creating such a monster, but the question is why you followed me?” gasped Sakara as the cabin began to warm up.

“Still… at the end… of it all…when you have… all… the facts… you…understand…n…nothi…ng.” sighed the Rex’UmbraKar’Elv as his final breath escaped his lungs and he slumped lifeless in the chair.

Sakara collapsed back into his chair, clenching his teeth in agony and prepared for a long and slow recovery from the damage caused by the cold.

“What did you mean?” he asked the void that surrounded him,

“What did you mean?”

Two days later a rapid response medical ship jumped out of the Krasnikov tube and sent recovery teams into the silent behemoth they found there having received an SOS message from the admiral of the ship.

They found one survivor and an admiral who had died long before the message had been sent. The medical ship was then forced to take the survivor to an undisclosed destination for debriefing but was released after signing the official secrets act.

In the adjoining room to the one she was found in were the bodies of two civilians, on the wall had been written a prophesy that read.

“As the tongues of those who know are stopped

As an unknown hero is from history dropped

Another ship shall come to this world of snow

And only one shall walk from shadows to earthly glow.”

This was never publicly released.

Two months later another ship was attacked in the moons of Jupiter, only one survivor was recovered, waiting on the ice wastes of Europa.

His name was Sakara.

And beneath the fiery surface of Io a transmission had been detected, translated and archived, originating from before both of the attacks.

“Dor’LanthaPax’Bel, remember that in war some sacrifices are necessary. You are that sacrifice.”

Afterword

Thank you for taking the time to read my novel. Any reviews or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Stan Butler.


Europa

Europa is a novella written to explore the science of science fiction and is full of current and future technologies wrapped around a story-line that forces the reader decide who is good and who is bad. It is set on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter in the medium future. The book has been written for my Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), an extra qualification available in the UK at A-Level. Highly graded EPQ's are valued by universities and this book is being published to complete the process of writing a book. Any comments or reviews would be highly appreciated.

  • ISBN: 9781311724342
  • Author: Stan Butler
  • Published: 2015-09-16 10:20:10
  • Words: 22832
Europa Europa