Rough Draft: “The Knower”

April, 7500 AGC – Haze Realm

The Knower

The afterlife is a very different place, called the Haze Realm, the galaxy of the dead. Those who reside here have already lived their first life; whether virtuous or not, and receive a second chance…born again as babies in this new realm, they start their lives all over again, just in more favorable circumstances, once they die in the Haze Realm, they move into yet another dimension, and so on and so on…Death isn’t the end…It’s only the beginning.

Let’s be happy while we are young!!! After this careless youth, after this sick old age…The Galaxy will take us! Is there any gift greater than youth, so young, wild and free, like those in our past life? Some are rich, some are poor, but all are youthful…Arise! Arise! O young people, reach for the glorious heights of power and privilege. Our life is brief, in lives, Living and Haze, and ends so fast, we must make the best of our living days, before our energy moves on to yet another dimension! Seasons come and go, time passes immemorial, and death comes fast, without a pity, removing us from adversity, and giving us a new start in a new universe! Long live University, Long Live Intellect! Long live our mentors, teachers and Educators!! Long live the young women of the galaxy, daughters of the stars! Long live the young men, Brave Sons of the Atheist Empire! From the green fields of Sweethaven to the deep seas of Anoon, you have it all! Good luck to all youth!!”

“Invasion by the Galactic Banking Clan is impossible. Our interests on Kiev IV and the rest of the former Union planets are perfectly safe from harm. Our State Security Agents are making sure of that.” Chief of State Security Vyashchav Primakov said to the Russian Ascendancy president, Vladimir Konstantin. “What about the conflict on Memel VII, back in 2598 AGC? If something is not done about the corporations and Count Rothberg’s expansion, small wars will continue to occur and our Ascendancy will cease to exist as an independent state. The Galactic Banking Clan and its Chairman, Marlon Veers, is our only hold on the breakaway sectors, and if the Banking Clan joins the Count’s alliance, along with Rothus Heavy Engineering, Kraid Shipyard Syndicate, Med-Tech Pharmaceuticals, and the Commerce Consortium, the Count will have the most powerful Army in the galaxy! None of the Union remnants would be able to fight against his forces, not to mention the fact that he’s the richest man in the galaxy and could field an Army under his own resources, that Jew, and I think everyone in this room understands that. ”Konstantin responded. “What can we do? We are in the middle of the worst recession since the collapse of the Galactic Union of Free States, and our Navy can’t afford to waste money patrolling areas that don’t need watching!” Minister of Navy Vladimir Kamarov argued. The Russian Acendancy Dumas were debating the implications of the Banking Guild joining Count Rothberg’s alliance. An offer by the Russian Ascendancy Navy to the Kraid Shipyard Syndicate, operated from the planet Kraid, to build supercarriers for the Navy had just been turned down; as a result, the Banking Guild, which would have financed the construction had promised Count Rothberg that it would join the ever-expanding alliance that had been around since the end of the Second Great War, which fragmented the Union of Free States. With the inclusion of 300 more systems into the Count’s alliance and the Banking Guild’s vow of total separation from the Russian Ascendancy, combined with increased Alliance presence in the Russian Ascendancy itself, the Russian Ascendancy appeared to be on the verge of total collapse. The nation which had stood as a huge power for over 5,000 years as part of the Galactic Union of Free Alliances was now backed into a corner; in danger of being phased out by nations such as the Rothberg Alliance, the only reason the Ascendancy still mattered on the galactic stage was because of the vast natural resources on its planets and the country’s massive military arsenal. This meeting, according to many of the lesser Dumas members, was to discuss the arrangements for the Ascendancy’s funeral. “The Navy is moot on this issue, Mr. Kamarov, as the 13th Fleet has gone practically bankrupt due to the Collapse. What we need to focus on now is mobilizing what military is available to deal with a possible conflict with the Banking Guild. Keep in mind that if the Guild joins the Rothberg Alliance and we attack, that is suicide for our country. In that case, a preemptive strike against the Banking Guild before it joins the Alliance is the best way to proceed. We will send a team of Spetznaz to assassinate Guild Chairman Marlon Veers. Due to past failures in assassinating this freak, he is likely to have a huge guard force; not to mention his species’ telekinetic powers are vast, so our teams will be silent and swift, and wear special helmets that block mind-reading. Speed in ending this crisis is something we can all agree on. Meeting adjourned.” The Ascendancy representatives got out of their seats and walked down the hall. The Spetznaz teams would be prepared for tactical insertion to the Banking Guild base planet of Currencea in less than an hour. There could be no failure.

Major Yuri Dolggoy was preparing for combat at Engels-2 Spaceport in New Rostov. The Mi-79 Quantum-Space capable gunship from which the Spetznaz team would be deployed was starting its engines, and was now idling on the runway. The Russian Ascendancy Space Force, much like the rest of the military, was in a sorry state. There were more mothballed spacecraft left over from Union times on the base than Yuri could count, all rusting away at their pads because of funding issues. Still, the gunship corps was in relatively good shape, and the Mi-79 “Locust” had been a staple since the mid-2580s. The gunship was a hybrid attack/transport platform, bristling with rockets and 7.62 mm. laser cannons, as well as two ferocious ball-turrets; they had been used to great effect in the 2580’s Memel VII war and various conflicts in the borderland systems, where the Russian Ascendancy had bases back in the 2570s, during the good old days of Union prosperity. Yuri and his squad were waiting for the colonel to brief them on the mission objectives; which to Yuri and his squad meant “blow Marlon’s alien brains out.” Just then, Colonel Pavel Dzerzhinsky walked in front of the group of men and began the briefing. “Good evening gentlemen, let me explain how this operation is going to work. The helicopter is going to fly you into Moneyland, Currencea’s capital, where you are going to set up a sniper post in the Grand Estate’s courtyard, which are, as of now, the most splendid properties in the galaxy. Don’t be dazzled by the opulence of the place. There, you will wait for Marlon to arrive; intelligence suggests he will be arriving in a black limousine to meet with the mayor of Moneyland in regards to reactivating the old Union shipyards and weapons foundries…you all know what to do after that. That is all. Good luck, and may God’s speed be with you.” The Spetznaz team loaded their weapons and crammed into the gunship, which lifted off the base landing pad with a whirling roar. It was a wonderfully clear, but frigid night. Temperatures had dropped to a bone-chilling -25o F, and de-icing solutions were being sprayed on the operational spacecraft on base. As the drone of the gunship’s engines gradually faded away into the frosty night; the ship entered the vast vacuum of space. Colonel Dzerzhinsky said a small Orthodox prayer, realizing the possible consequences of assassinating a pro-Rothberg Alliance leader. He hoped for the best.

Inside the gunship, Yuri and his squad were singing songs and smoking cigarettes as the ship zoomed through Quantum Space; the word on everyone’s lips was “war.” If the Banking Guild appealed to Count Rothberg for assistance, war with the Alliance Companies was certain and another Great War with Rothberg was not out of the question. Still, the Politburo and the Dumas knew what was best; regardless of the uncertainty of the consequences should the mission succeed. The gunship had been in Quantum Space for about 30 minutes now from Rostov-II, about halfway to Moneyland. Thirty years ago, this would have been a routine flight, as a matter of fact, there would be no fighting at all, as the Union Grand Fleet would have kept peace with the trans-galactic corporations. Moneyland was once the heart of Union finance, the massive bank vaults there once held more than 50% of the galaxy’s money, the ridiculously wealthy banking families viewed the galaxy in purely monetary terms, funding both sides of a major conflict and maintaining strict neutrality. Those days of peace and justice were over now. The Russian Ascendancy appeared to be on the brink of collapse, and the hostility between the Banking Guild and the rest of the galaxy were analogous to a tombstone, marking the grave of the great Union tradition of power, freedom and excellence. To Yuri and everyone else aboard this gunship, it was clear that this mission wasn’t about conquest, it was about survival. The 2598 AGC invasion of Kiev II was, despite the galactic press it received, not about flexing political muscles, but also, for survival. It was very clear that the Russian Ascendancy was fighting for its life to prevent any more of the trans-galactic corporations from joining the Rothberg Alliance. The only reason that the world didn’t see the Russian Ascendancy’s true plight was that the Politburo and the Dumas were very proficient in fabricating the news, as they always had been; Pravda in the Stalin-era living realm Russia was a perfect example. They had done a very good job at maintaining the fiction that the Russian Ascendancy was on the verge of re-attaining galactic superpower status; this was accomplished by posting pictures of huge lines of Russian tanks rolling through Moscow II, the Ascendancy capital world, among other propagandistic forms of media. Yuri only wished that these were actually true stories, as times had been very tough for Russians everywhere. Yuri’s squad was just performing yet another “defibrillator” mission for the Russian Ascendancy government. A government consisting of the dead dying was a testament to the magnitude of Russia’s fall. The gunship dropped out of Quantum Space, and was flying over the planet, with its moon shining brightly in the sky, orbiting the planet. The whine of the Mi-79’s engines was creating a rhythmic sound that only a soldier could appreciate. Just then, the pilot gave the 10-minute warning. Yuri took his AK-779 blaster rifle off of his shoulder, checked it for dings, dents or dashes, and cleaned the barrel and muzzle, making sure that the gun didn’t jam or malfunction in the middle of the operation. Though the classic AK-779 assault rifle and its variants were largely jam-proof, this newest version of the rifle could overheat if fired on full-auto for too long. The crux of the mission, however, was on Sergeant Gregori Gavrilovich’s ability with an Intervention laser-bolt sniper rifle. This rifle was one of the most powerful sniper rifles available, and Sgt. Gavrilovich’s rifle was completely tailored to the mission profile. It had a thermal scope attached to it in place of the standard 10x zoom, plus a heartbeat sensor. The trick with this particular mission was that Sgt. Gavrilovich had only one shot. If he missed, the mission would fail. There were a million things that could go wrong with this mission, and if Murphy’s Law was correct, something probably would. That was why there were zero margins for error here. The entire mission depended on one blast. The squad prepared to land, as the shimmering lights of Moneyland were off in the distance. Everyone was ready. History would be changed tonight. Upon entering the planet’s atmosphere, Yuri and his team were stunned by the planet’s immense wealth and architecture. The buildings were all pyramid shaped, making them invulnerable to the earthquakes that occasionally shook the city of Moneyland. Waterfalls, huge streets, packed with pedestrians of all races and species, and hovering trains and cars zipped about, with an occasional limousine carrying some superrich banker driving past…but what worried the squad most were the colossal shipyards at the bottom of a huge valley…building some of the largest warships Yuri had ever seen. They were 17 kilometers long, dagger-shaped and marked with the insignia of the Banking Guild; 6 of them were under construction at once, with millions of workers assembling them, with huge lines of construction workers hammering away and welding every rivet of Titanium Amorphous metal. “Holy Mary Mother of God…” Yuri whispered. “That’s an awful lot of military hardware for ‘defense of the assets,’ don’t you think?” “I’ll say. Just one of those things could outgun half the Russian Ascendancy Starfleet.” In addition to the mammoth battlecruisers, there were already huge warships circling high in the blue sky; called Seraphim-class Battle Wyverns, elegant, chrome-steel warships that, during the Union times, acted as the planetary security force, destroying any pirate attacks on the armored money-transport craft, and also serving to enforce the law when the Galactic Police Corps, the state police of the Union, couldn’t handle the job alone. They were always far better armed than most patrol craft, they just needed a stronger shield, and the Guild would have an instant battlecruiser, which is apparently what had just happened. “This isn’t even counting the rest of Rothberg’s army…” Yuri thought.

As the gunship landed, the Spetznaz squad quickly disembarked; there was no need to attract attention. The gunship quickly took off; they would stay in contact with the squad as they progressed through the city. Fortunately, there were no hostile targets in the area, according to satellite intelligence readouts. That could change at any time, however, and all of the squad members knew this. “Go, go, go!” Yuri said as his squad advanced through the city, trying to avoid making noise by accidently kicking garbage cans or other metal, noise-producing objects. The squad was using an active camouflage device, making them all but invisible. They passed through the crowded streets of Moneyland, invisible, and there was little threat of the squad being detected, as even if they bumped into them, the pedestrians wouldn’t suspect anything, as the city streets were so crowded that one bump felt remarkably like another, though the soldiers stuck with back-alley snooping and sniping most of the time. Dogs and other animals were a threat, as a dog barking could alert the residents of a building to a hostile presence. None of these factors were present here so far, so there was, so far, nothing to worry about. That quickly changed when Gavrilovich’s heartbeat sensor detected two contacts approaching their position. “Take cover. Quickly.” The 8-man squad ducked into the shadows, still camouflaged as a little girl, walking her dog, walked through the alley. She was singing a sweet little song about a flower blooming in the spring. She didn’t have even the slightest idea of who she had just walked past. The dog however recognized that something was not quite right. He began to bark and growl, snarling and whimpering. “Go ahead.” Yuri whispered to the man standing next to him. He raised his AK-779 Suppressed and fired 3 blaster bolts. They tore through the little girl and the dog like scissors through paper. They lay on the ground in a crumpled heap, dead. “Move those bodies to that trash can over there.” Yuri instructed. Two of his soldiers lay the bodies of the girl and the dog quietly in the trash can. “Good night.” the soldier said as he placed the can lid over the bodies. “Now that that little mishap’s been avoided, we need to continue.” Yuri instructed. The soldiers kept moving, careful not to make any more noise than they already had and kept a close eye on the heartbeat sensor for any more contacts. Fortunately, there were none. The soldiers finally reached the Grand Estate; there hundreds of people, a huge party. “I’ve never seen such a monument to capitalism as this… “This may as well be the center of the galaxy, forget Earth…” Gavrilovich thought. “It’s been this way for ages. The banking families are all here.” Yuri responded. The Estate façade was nearly two stories tall, the place was more splendid than Versailles, and larger too. There were hundreds of guests, both human and alien, dressed in extremely, sometimes ridiculously exaggerated formal outfits. “Do you see our target?” “Negative. Let’s just wait.” The soldiers took up positions on the walls overlooking the courtyard, as well as the main gate and waited, waited for victory, and their target, to arrive. Gavrilovich took up position on some stacked iron girders, in an area where he could get a clear angle on the Guild chairman.

For 5 long, torturous hours the soldiers waited. They busied themselves with stargazing and bets on when the Chairman’s limo would arrive, as well as watching the opulent formal gathering, all except Gavrilovich, who was so focused on his task that he hadn’t spoken a word since he took up position on the girders. He was “in the zone” as soldiers liked to call the state of mind when all one thinks about is completing the assigned task. Just as Yuri was preparing to recite another Chekhov poem, the sound of a limousine was heard in the distance. The soldiers immediately entered the “zone;” they were all ready for action. Sure enough, the limo had two corporate flags on either side of the car’s hood. First, the two bodyguards emerged from the car, about 1000 yards away from the soldiers’ position, they were soldiers themselves, armed with JJM-90 assault blaster rifles. Then, the target. Marlon Veers, with his pale, ashen face, characteristic of the Ouirrlyok species that he belong to but intensified by his constant indoor living; emerged from the vehicle. He met the mayor of the city of Moneyland, as well as a very disturbing turn of events. “That’s General Malicion! He’s a notorious pirate, look at him, he’s a Slitherbeard!” Yuri whispered. The squad looked forward at Malicion; he looked like a guy that had crawled from the depths of the sea. He had a squid-tentacle beard, a lobster claw for one hand and a matted, black and brown robe that looked like it had been underwater for ages. He commanded a ship known only as “The Reaper,” a customized ship called the Bladestorm-class, he had upgraded the patrol craft into the most infamous personal transports in the galaxy, with concussion missiles, tectonic charges, vicious laser cannons, proton torpedoes and signal jammers, this ship could destroy a cruiser by itself. Named the “Guillotine,” it struck fear in the hearts of rich people and the corporate transport vehicles… Veers must have seen the need to hire him over the menace he was to Veers’ shipping. He was motioning his claw hand to exemplify the fact that he had “big dreams” to help Chairman Veers build a new corporate order. However, Chairman Veers was never to get that chance. Gavrilovich looked down the scope of his rifle and said three words: “For Holy Russia.” He pulled the trigger, and it was all over. Veers’ head splattered all over the pavement and the car. The bodyguards began to panic; they raised their rifles and looked for any sign of the Chairman’s killer. They only met with death themselves, as two more sniper shots killed them as well. “All enemy combatants dead, mission complete, good work comrades.” Yuri said over the intercom. “This is Team Alpha, we are triumphant. You may return to extract us now.” “Copy Team Alpha. We are on our way.” The gunship quickly arrived on the scene, just as Malicion escaped in his ship. The soldiers got into the cabin, and they were off. This was all they needed, to know that they had performed a job well done.

2. Cave

“Just a little bit more…and…GOT IT.” 18-year old Oleg Molotov said into his video journal. He was sitting in his room, which was more like a computer cave than a bedroom, with 18 computers, one that cost more than $15,000, three printers, piles and piles of paper and two industrial-strength satellite receivers, capable of detecting signals all the way out to the Outer Rim, often picking up chatter from the seedy underworld that ruled the roost on those planets after the collapse of the Union. Molotov had been working on a file download for hours. He was not, however, the typical “nerd,” with goofy, coke-bottle glasses and unstylish clothes; he was quite the opposite. He was very handsome, got straight A’s in school, was an athlete playing soccer, and had a very interesting haircut, he had a part in the center of his black hair that tapered into a point on the back of his neck, with bangs of hair that formed a point on his forehead, giving his hair the vague resemblance to a 17th-century bicorn hat. He had an amazing talent for playing chess, and played in galactic tournaments with such geniuses as Rudolph Eisenstein, Vladimir Gazmanov and his girlfriend, Irena Kobroff. What most people didn’t know about him, however, was how intelligent he really was. He scored a whopping 5,000 on an IQ test and was labeled “immeasurable” in primary school; he was on a scale unseen before in human history; He was the Knower, he literally knew everything. His brain was constantly receiving new information from all sources… he even knew that God did not exist, which he would reveal when the time was right. He also had a profound understanding of computers. He often referred to his three languages as “English, Russian and 1010110” It was true. He could, if he wanted to, steal someone’s house, family, food, money, identity, their entire life, anywhere and anytime he wanted. He was ranked in the top 10 Computer Professionals of the Galaxy and was a member of MENSA; he was a very haughty young man; despite his age, he knew more about everything than most people did. He also loved to play chess. What most guys his age were most jealous of, however, was his girlfriend; she was about a year older than he was; her name was Irena Kobroff; she was a lovely brunette with long, silky brown hair that was usually combed so that it flowed over the front of her shoulders like a waterfall. She usually wore very elegant, sophisticated outfits, but they all served to make her look even prettier, her eyes were a haunting blue color. She was Polish, and her family was very wealthy, and she had always wanted to work in theater, but she decided to stay with Oleg; she was truly that devoted to him. Both Irena and Oleg had everything they could ever ask for, at least, it appeared that way. Suddenly, the communications console rang, and Oleg ran to answer it; he was home alone at the time, as his dad worked in the Russian government as, what else, Chief of Technology and Intelligence Gathering. The call was probably Irena asking for something, something Oleg liked but was annoyed by at the same time. As he picked up the communications headset, he heard a message on the other end: “Chief! We’ve just received word that Chairman Veers had been assassinated, we need a situation report on that immediately!” Oleg hung up the console, a little startled, but not panicked. He coolly walked over to his computer, sat down at the heavily modified machine and accessed the Galaxy Net, a descendent of the Internet. He navigated over to the Banking Guild Web base; he clicked a few system settings and pressed a few keys, and then pressed “Return.” Immediately, he was in. He had hacked the incredibly secure barricades around the Guild documents; there were more than 50 virus defenses and firewalls, along with several password-activated blocks that were rumored to be hack-proof, with the strength of his virus and bot files. He looked at all of the completely classified data, about plans for reactivating the Guild shipyards, plans for assisting Count Rothberg’s fleets and…a document confirming the Guild’s intention to join not only the Count’s organization but the intended Corporate Empire as well! “Bingo.” Oleg said to himself. He downloaded the plans to his computer and e-mailed them to the Office of Russian Technology and Intelligence down the road, on Moscow II. He had accomplished this in as much time as it took a person to make a sandwich and eat it. “That should do it.” Oleg said, contently. Just then, he heard a knock at the door. He quickly shut his console down and walked to the door. Irena was there to greet him, she was wearing a black, full body-length dress with white, fluffy ruffles at the bottom and big, high-heeled shoes that made her look 5 inches taller than she really was; she also had black leggings. Her hair was combed its usual way and she had a black, beret-like hat that also had white, fluffy lace on the brim. “Hi sweetie. What are you dressed as today, dare may I ask?”” Oleg joked. “A girl going to a funeral.” Irena responded, rather monotonously. “Why?” Oleg wondered. “Because the poem I was writing, well, it fell in the lake outside my house…farewell poem, I knew thee well…” Irena joked. “You never cease to amaze me, Irena. What was that poem about? “It was about a computer that could think.” Irena said, quietly. “Well, if computers could think, there’d be none of us here, wouldn’t there?” “…you’re too literal. You need to use your imagination a little bit every now and then!” Oleg said nothing. Come inside, its cold.” Oleg said. Irena walked into the house, which was just outside New Muscovy’s downtown area. “Are you sure your dad will mind me being here with you alone?” Irena asked. “Trust me, I could be dead and he wouldn’t know it. He’s always busy, and I’m not a child, I can care for myself.” Oleg responded. “In that case, let’s just hang around the house, there’s nothing to do in this city, anyway. New Year’s was last week.” Irena said. “Besides, I haven’t spent time with you in a while, ever since you started studying for your college entrance exams. By the way, my parents are out of town, back in Orel City, would you mind if I spent the night?” “Is that even a question? Of course you can spend the night here. I have a bed for you in the guest room.” “Very well. How about we play chess tonight? It’s cold, and I’d like to cook something warm to eat. I was thinking a bowl of hot soup.” “That sounds pleasant.” Irena stood up, and walked away to the kitchen. Oleg placed his hands on his forehead, just seeing Irena was enough to make his head spin. Irena and Oleg had a history with each other, back in high school, Oleg and Irena were inseparable, and everyone thought that they were going to get married…but Viktoria Betulova, the cunning woman, broke them apart. After 6 months of pain, Irena came back and apologized to Oleg, and they had since gotten back together…but it just wasn’t the same. The relationship just didn’t have the spark left in it. It was starting to snow outside, and it was getting dark. The weather report was predicting over 3 feet of snow, a classic Moscow II ice-planet blizzard, like the kind that could bury a truck under 13-foot snow drifts and knock out power for weeks, with the crumbling infrastructure left over from the Union period. After about 3 minutes of being in the kitchen, Irena was content, and she stood up, walked back into the living room and sat down across from Oleg. “Thank you Irena.” Oleg said. “You’re very welcome, now may I please ask you something?” Oleg knew that tone: the truth was about to come down hard. “Why have you been avoiding me?” Irena asked, seriously. “I haven’t. I had studying to do.” “I called you 12 times, and you never answered. I feel as if I need an explanation.” “I just gave you one, I’m studying.” “You can’t be studying ALL THE TIME!” Irena yelled, her voice becoming louder and shriller by the second. “Then I have nothing to say.” Oleg said, honestly. Irena stood up, grabbed her things and simply left the house…Oleg knew that she wasn’t going to be back this time… “So, it is done…She leaves, but I still have ways of maintaining her…” “Oleg said to himself, ominously, as he turned his computer back on. “Welcome, Oleg Molotov.” the console screen displayed. He logged on and started the program he was working on again, the snow was beginning to fall, and the lights of an occasional starship coming in punctuated the darkness of the night and the storm. Just then, Oleg heard a knock at the door. The door opened, and Oleg’s father, Kliment Molotov, walked in. “Oleg, where are you!?” he yelled; his Joseph Stalin- like moustache twitching. “Dad, what are you doing here? I thought you were at work until tomorrow!” Oleg took his headphones off. “Apparently, Chairman Veers of the Banking Guild has been assassinated. We were all dismissed from work early, as highly classified information was going to pass through our department, stuff even we aren’t cleared to see. Also, we’ve received information on the Guild’s intentions to join Count Rothberg and the Alliance somehow. We aren’t sure how this happened, but with the appointment of a pro-Russian interim Chairman, the Guild will no longer be a threat to Russia’s security. As a matter of fact, the proposition for carrier construction in the old shipyards on Currencia has just been ratified by the new Chairman, overturning the previous decision, those huge ships being built there are now ours. All that’s needed is the proper allocation of funding; with the current rearmament program going into effect, those shipyards will be immeasurably valuable. Turn on the news.” Oleg switched the holovision to the news channels, and sure enough, on every channel, was the news of Chairman Veers’ death, with reporters sounding shocked and appalled, showing the Chairman’s splattered head over and over again on every Russian channel. Oleg, smiling slightly, internally relished the thought that the Russian Ascendancy could become powerful again. As a result of this attack, the other former Union nations which supported the pro-Alliance Chairman, such as the Holy Light Confederacy, a huge Christian Empire that had been formed out of many former Union systems, began protesting Russian “Fascism and terror, despite the Alliance’s increasingly atheistic leanings.” Oleg looked at the images of the protests going on in the Confederacy and the Guild itself. “This is history in the making… I believe something major is about to happen.” he thought; this was very similar to the 1905 Mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin, which a failing economy and social unrest eventually triggered the rise of the USSR. Perhaps Russia would undergo an amazing turnaround, like the Soviet economy did. Perhaps fate would smile on the Motherland again.

3. Reunion

As Oleg and Kliment continued to watch the developing situation in the former Union nations, Oleg had almost forgotten about his college entrance exams the next day. He had been studying for them since September, and was now fully prepared for the tests; these would last over a 3-day period. The snow was falling more heavily now, and the wind was beginning to pick up, he heard the moaning of the wind through the chimney flue from the living room, right next to the dining room. Oleg somehow had to go three miles from his house to Moscow II University, which would be a huge struggle if the snow hadn’t stopped falling by 8:00 P.M. the next day; with wind chills that were approaching -50oF, it was definitely not safe weather to be outside in. Exams were not often cancelled due to bad weather, but this was shaping out to be a huge storm. Snow was something that was as common on the icy Russian capital world as sand was on a tropical beach, but even there, a bad snowstorm could cause problems. Everyone decided that it was best to retire for the night and ride out the storm, Kliment got the backup generator ready, in the likely event of a power outage; the electricity in the Molotov household was very prone to going out at the least opportune moments possible, such as the time when Oleg had just fixed his computer, and it shut off because of high winds; the problem resurfaced just 15 seconds later. That was reason alone to have a generator; the failing infrastructure was awfully decrepit and needed a makeover. Just as Oleg got into bed and closed his eyes, he thought to himself…Irena was still haunting his mind, but he knew exactly how to deal with her…unfortunately, she did too…

The next morning, it was still snowing hard, and the wind was wuthering through the ice-coated power lines outside. The New Moscow area was under nearly 3 feet of snow. Two huge storm systems, one after the other, were coming off the planet’s Boreal Sea, and the snow was expected to keep falling until the next day. Oleg, careful not to wake his father, walked over to the radio, as the holovision satellite was probably interrupted by the bad weather. The newscaster announced that the exams being held at Moscow II University hadn’t been cancelled, and they were starting in about 3 hours. “Plenty of time for me to make it over there…” Oleg thought. He put on his cold weather gear and walked out the door into the blowing snow, his face stung. There were several other cars following enormous snowplow trucks, these used tank treads, as opposed to anti-gravity generators to travel through snow, as the plows were impossible to use on a hovering vehicle. The New Moscow metropolitan area used the largest snowplow vehicles in the galaxy, all driving very slowly; with the blizzard conditions outside, the robotic, hovering cars were moving at a snail’s pace. As he moved through the snow-covered sidewalks, he thought he saw someone moving, but he realized that it was all in his head. Snow could play tricks on the brain. However, as Oleg approached a stop sign, he heard 3 voices approach him from behind. “Welcome to back the Clan, Comrade Molotov.” a voice said. Immediately after, Oleg’s turned around. “Ivan and Igor…” Oleg said. “Where have you been?” both Ivan and Igor asked. “I had girlfriend issues, but, it never works out in the end.” Come back to the hideout with us before your test, you have 3 hours, and this won’t take more than 20 minutes.” “Ok then…” Molotov, Ivan and Igor walked down the street, and in a few minutes, they entered a secret bunker under the street, the Headquarters of the Russian Hacker Net! He walked in, careful not to bang his head on the low overhang; something he had done several times. “So, it appears that you are all right.” “I am indeed, Igor.” Oleg said, very imposingly. “The new computer programs are functioning fine.” “That’s good to know.” said Oleg, as he sat at his computer terminal that was attached to the stone wall; they had rain pitchers above the delicate software systems that protected the computers from water damage. “What about that oaf Vladimir, is he still around?” “Yes, he is, but not for long. You were the only thing keeping us from totally ruining his reputation in front of a rival gang. Keep in mind that if the Hidden Monkey clan based out of Blue Cove is offended, they will kill Vladimir. Your job is to make it look as if Vladimir insulted the rival leader by hacking his Vladimir’s computer and switching a few files around. Feel free to download those files if you must, they may have information we can use. By the way, how’s Irena doing?” “Please, leave her out of this. I need to go take my exams for school after I finish my work here. I’ve only got 2 and half hours left.” Oleg said, rather annoyed at Igor’s constant questions, he was always a whiner and a complainer. Oleg quickly sat at the mainframe computer and entered his login password: Zhuravli. “I’m surprised Vladimir didn’t delete this from the system. Cocky bastard.” He clicked on the “User List” in the program’s browsing history, and clicked on “Vladimir Gustoff.” He clicked on “Access Files.” Sure enough, the machine asked for a password. “Here’s where the magic of computer programming really kicks in.” Oleg uploaded a Trojan hacking program into the password matrix; Trojan programs, the bane of most home computer users, were actually the basic tool for hackers. The upload took about 20 seconds, which was standard for such a heavily encrypted cipher. After the upload was complete, Oleg pressed the “Return” key; he always used custom computers, as standard OS machines had too many flaws. After about 3 tense seconds, the password proxy was accepted. Oleg was able to access all of Vladimir’s files. After about 2 minutes of searching through the files, he found one of Vladimir’s annoying rants, this one related to the rival Hidden Monkey clan. “What the hell kind of name is ‘Hidden Monkey?’” Oleg said. Igor chuckled. Oleg extracted the files from Vladimir’s account, placed them in a .zip file, and simply e-mailed the compressed files to his removable hard drive. After he took the files for his own as a souvenir of sorts, he switched the files from the speech prepared for the leader of the rival clan to the insulting files; this all assumed that the projectors were going to be used to display outlines for peace between the two gangs. Russia was now a collection of criminals and goons; more than 12% of the Russian Ascendancy’s GDP was lost to criminal activity. After the job was done, Oleg simply logged out. “That should do it, now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a test to take.” Oleg quickly grabbed his coat and walked out the secret exit, which appeared right under the University. “It’s good to be back…” Oleg thought, smirking. He was ousted by his former boss, Vladimir Gustoff, a fat oaf of a man that didn’t have much of a neck, so it would be very difficult to behead him, which is exactly what Oleg wished would happen. Gustoff was currently being dealt with by Igor and his team, which would place Oleg in command of the entire organization. He was about to be in a position of power where he would be able to destroy anyone who challenged him in Russia’s criminal underbelly. Victory would be sweet, but victory AND getting into Moscow II University would be even sweeter. Oleg placed his hat back on his head and continued his walk to Moscow University, the huge façade looming high over the snowy, silent landscape like a mountain over a snowy field. “Well, here goes nothing…” Oleg said.

Oleg walked into the university lobby and picked up a pencil from the box of pencils that was right next to the entrance to the testing room. He, knowing everything, would obviously pass. He walked in a sat down at a desk in the huge lecture hall and looked at the test booklet, it was almost time to take the test. The proctor walked in and gave the instructions, and then said, “You may begin.” Just then, Oleg felt a low rumble under the ground. It was dull at first, but then it came to a roaring crescendo which rocked the building hard, pieces of plaster fell off the ceiling, like the Titanic hitting the iceberg or something. The lights in the building flickered, and then an eerie stench of burning fuel, rubber and a mix of horrid chemicals and poisons began to fill the air, the test room was now filled with smoke and dangerous, poisonous gasses. The fire alarms went off, and everyone was escorted out of the building coughing and gagging. Oleg was horrified at what he saw.

A massive cloud of thick, black smog was pouring out of the subway station only 3 blocks away; flames were licking away at the manhole covers, and smoke was pouring from the storm drains, the snow and the flames created a weird nostalgia of the 1941 Battle of Moscow. Igor was waiting for him outside “What happened here?! Everything went boom, and I was busy smoking my pipe!” “Igor, what the hell are you doing here?!” “The attack was a stunning success! Vladimir Gustoff is dead!” “Good, but we can’t talk about that now! Some freakin’ bomb went off, and now we’re stuck in this crowd! Go back to base; we’re probably being recorded on some weird security camera, but I doubt anyone’s watching it now!!” “Oh, understood. I’ll be back there then.” “Good, now get going!” Just as Oleg was about to run away with the rest of the crowd, his cell phone rang. “IRENA” it said in big, red letters on the caller I.D. “What is it Irena?” Oleg said, annoyed into the phone. The phone said nothing, except for: “SHUT DOWN-PROTOCOL A-9…ORDER 44” Just then, all the power in the city went completely dark…nothing electric was functioning at all, including the phones, car engines, anything…and then, all hell broke loose. Oleg ran, ran as fast as he could in the chaos, more explosions, power grid shutdowns and flames were shooting out of the ground. Just then, Kliment ran over to his son. “OLEG!! THE POWER GRID’S GONE!! THE ELECTRICITY’S OUT ALL OVER THE CITY!!!” Kliment roared over the sound of the screams and collapsing buildings. As Oleg ran, he knew EXACTLY what was going on. Irena had access to a computer chip that Oleg had designed one that would allow her to control every electrical object in the galaxy…and she was getting her revenge. Oleg had broken her heart, and she was taking her anger out on the entire galaxy, one planet at a time. The chip KILLED the power grid, and it was virtually impossible to bring it back online…ever, unless the same chip resumed the flow of power. Irena, a vengeance-crazed, beautiful Russian stage actress, was now essentially in control of the galaxy. Ships could still fly though space, but all industry would be dead on every planet affected. Just then, disaster struck. A huge explosion rocked the ground underneath Oleg and his father, as the electricity powering the subway exploded. Both Oleg and Kliment went flying 5 feet in the air…and then Oleg was knocked out…

4. Requiem

The devastation in New Moscow was mind numbing: 30,000 dead, 150,000 injured, the city destroyed and the power grid out…forever. The attack knocked the city back to the Dark Ages. Counted among the dead was Kliment Molotov; somehow Oleg had managed to survive, but Kliment’s foot was touching metal, killing him instantly by electrocution when the underground transformer blew. There was no funeral, as there was no place to bury all the dead, with the infrastructure destroyed, even spacecraft from other Russian Ascendancy planets had difficulties landing at the spaceport, it was strewn with wreckage and the hangars were being used as temporary morgues. As Oleg planted a memorial in his father’s name, he recited a poem in his honor…and vowed revenge against Irena, and her total control over the galaxy’s infrastructure. As Oleg walked back towards the ruins of his street, he thought to himself… “If I were just a little nicer, this wouldn’t have happened. Their blood is on my hands…then let my heart be hardened, and never mind how high the cost may grow, Irena will die, and she will die at MY hands.” Oleg solemnly entered the bunker, the power still on, however; their grid was still linked to the rest of the galaxy, a little flaw in Irena’s plan to shut the entire grid down. The same thing was happening to most other towns and cities on Moscow II, Irena was shutting the whole planet off. “If she gets this off-planet, there’s going to be one hell of a problem.” Molotov thought. Looking at the screen, Molotov could only gasp in disbelief, as the power went out all over Moscow II… “I’ve got a very bad feeling about this…” Igor said.

Sitting in her luxurious estate on the planet Serenity, Irena let out a sigh as she sipped a glass of red wine, brewed on the vast wineries of that planet. Her estate was picture-perfect, a huge house on the top of a green hill, with a cherry orchard out front leading to a river bend, with a grove of trees overhanging a boat dock. She now felt her revenge was complete…but she had tasted blood…and liked it. Sitting with her were 5 other young women, named Lisa, Samantha, Lilliana, Kassie Lyn and Krystina, also very pretty, very intelligent and very loyal to Irena; Irena was just as smart as Oleg was, and a good deal more cunning. She didn’t have the same ego that her ex-boyfriend did…she assumed him dead. The other 5 girls practically worshipped her as a goddess. They had been her friends since high school, and they all knew Molotov and what he was capable of. All 6 of them watched a satellite grid of Moscow II, and saw the electrical lights all over the planet wink out, slowly but surely. When the last one shut down, Irena smiled. “It is done. Now we move onto bigger and better things. We must contact the new leader of the Banking Guild; now that the Russian Ascendancy is in disarray, the Banking Guild won’t finance the ships to a place where they will lose money. If we can get them to sell the ships to us, we can make an alliance with them and possibly with Count Rothberg.” Irena entered the secure passcode with hacking chips, and then, a projection screen lit up, with a picture of the new Chairman of the Banking Guild. “How’d you get this channel?! Who are you?” Chairman Maximillian Frieze said, in his rather effeminate voice. He seemed rather aloof, but anyone would if they were sitting on a $440 trillion banking fortune. He had long, gray hair that covered his right eye, a red suit and a frill at his collar. He was reading an old Japanese comic book, while sipping a glass of burgundy. “I am Irena Kobroff, and I have a message for you. Are you aware of the destruction of the Moscow II power grid?” “Yes, I am. The sale of the super-warships to the Russian Ascendancy is officially revoked. We plan to keep them for ourselves. It is fiscally sustainable to keep building these, with the finances that Count Rothberg is providing us.” “So you are in league with the Count…you explicitly stated that you weren’t about a week ago.” “That was my predecessor, and that oaf failed to see the true purpose of money: Conquest and ownership. In 1861, a man named Abraham Lincoln gave two definitions of liberty, the ability to choose your own path, and the ability to control others; this implies that there are superior and inferior people. Later on, a man named Adolph Hitler took these principles to heart; regardless of the horrors of the Holocaust, stated the truth of Social Darwinism. One man is put in his proper place, while the other has his boot in the inferior being’s ass. As a CEO, I am superior to all underneath me. I see the benefit of an alliance with the Count. This isn’t about money. It’s about power. Teaching the weak a lesson is more satisfying than all the money in the galaxy put together.” “Is that so…well, in that case, you might want to consider the fact that I’m responsible for the destruction of the Moscow II power grid.” Chairman Frieze hesitated for a minute, and then smiled devilishly. “Very well then…you are counted among the strong. I already know what you’re trying to propose. I will not provide you any ships, but I WILL allow you and your allies to join the Count’s Alliance. You will be protected there, in this post-Union galaxy; the police aren’t strong enough to stop us. Besides, we have the other major corporations, General Malicion and various other pirate organizations on our side. Under Count Rothberg, we’ll have the strongest army in the galaxy. The weak will be forced to accept any demands we make. Welcome aboard, Irena.” All 6 girls clapped. “Do you have a transport vessel?” “Yes, Sam’s got that angle covered; it’s parked right outside.” “Good. Come to Currencea and the Grand Estate in Moneyland; I’ll tell my guards to expect you.” The call ended. “Let’s gear up. We’re going to have a grand time.” The 6 young women stood up, walked out down the stairs to the exit, a huge glass-panel door, and out into the sunlight of Serenity, looking at the vast wineries and the soaring Sky Rays, huge, flying manta-ray like creatures that had a 100-foot wingspan and were 130 feet long; there were hundreds of species, and the largest, the Giant Skywraith, classified under the Linnaean classification Spectra incredibilis, was actually a vicious predator of the vast biodiversity of the planet, more than any other planet in the galaxy, skewering its prey on a huge harpoon-spike on its chin while swooping in at 200 mph. There were also three huge predators on the ground, including the Zebra Cat (Panthera horrida), a vicious cat-like animal with zebra stripes and four, infrared-sensitive eyes, a huge, grinning mouth full of teeth and a rat-like tail, the Axe Mantis (Kamakiri diabolicum), which walked on hypertrophied claws and could slash most beings to pieces in seconds, its horrible screech echoing across the plains, and its display crest flushing with color when angered; it had insect and reptilian attributes, as well, and the Pharaoh Bug, (Aegyptus regalis) which looked like a cross between a scorpion and a crayfish, killing its prey with massive claws, or with a toxic sting. This species was more than 13 feet long. These were the largest terrestrial predators on Serenity, but there were thousands more predators and prey. The Zebra Cats in particular were the scourge of livestock; they ripped introduced species, such as cows and sheep, to pieces. It was quite dangerous to venture out at night, as these predators were all nocturnal. The sun was beginning to set, so Irena and her friends quickly boarded Sam’s private yacht, the Twilight Shadow. The ship’s engines fired up; the Shadow was the fastest ship in the galaxy, and Sam was a true ace pilot. The yacht was not only a pleasure cruiser, but was armed with concussion missiles, laser cannons, tectonic charges, proton torpedoes and point-defense cannons, not to mention two nukes. As the ship roared away into the upper atmosphere, it reached orbit, fired up its Quantum Space drives, and zoomed away towards Currencea. Things were about to get interesting…

Just 30 minutes later, the huge yacht arrived in Currecean orbit, and descended into the atmosphere, approaching the shimmering lights of Moneyland. “Present a docking code, please.” the docking authority said over the communications suite, As Sam typed the code; the docking official cleared the yacht to land on Platform 9Z. The ship landed, and the drone of the engines slowly wound down, as the yacht’s gangplank opened up. “Welcome to Moneyland.” Chairman Maximillian said, shaking Irena’s hand and cordially bowing to the other 5 girls. “Come inside, we have a lot to discuss.”

Upon entering the Estate, it was like something out of a dream. Luxurious wood floors, chandeliers, statues, ornaments, it was all there. “Don’t bother with the decorations. Our meeting room is here.” Maximillian instructed. Entering the board room, Maximillian sat down at the head of the table, across from Irena and her friends. “Let me ask you something…do you have any idea what Rothberg is actually planning?” Irena and her friends responded with a no. “He is a virulent atheist, and believes that all Christians need to die, be hunted down and defeated. This alliance of corporations is meant to rebuild the broken galaxy into an atheist state, where no Christians exist.” Irena and her friends looked at each other, curiously. “In that case, we’re all atheist as well. Really.” “Good, now, here’s the scoop. You will each be placed in command of one of the 6 mega-cruisers, acting as the lances of the fleet, while Sam, being the ace pilot, will get control over the most powerful weapon ever built. Designed by the atheist genius for the Kraid Shipyards Rudolph Eisenheim, the ship, called the Solar Saga, will be the greatest weapon ever seen. Capable of destroying any capital ship with a single shot, or making a planet uninhabitable, this vehicle is half-completed, and will not be operational for another year. Sam, in the meantime, will be Chief Architect for the shipyards in charge of the Saga’s construction, with permission from the Kraid Shipyards ruling family, the Kanagashima family. We have weapons that no former Union members have ever seen, vehicles that none of the former Union republics have ever heard of, and power on an unimaginable scale. Everything is going according to plan. The Reich will rise!!” Just then, the CEOs of Rothus Heavy Engineering, Med-Tech Pharmaceuticals, the Commerce Consortium and Kraid Shipyard Syndicates all came into the room and sat down. “So, this is who you found to assist us? I must say, they are lovely individuals, but I can’t see how these women can possibly be of use to us.” CEO of Kraid Shipyards Raito Asoka Kanagashima III sneered. “They look about as irrelevant as the next Born-Again.” “Settle down. These girls are responsible for the shutdown of Moscow II; I suggest you be a little more polite.” Raito corrected himself and sat down, quietly. “So, beginning tomorrow, our attacks begin. The formal alliance between our companies will be confirmed, and we, under Count Rothberg’s union, become the largest military in the galaxy by far. We will be able to crush the Christian religion under our iron fists of fury, and no one will resist our forces.” “When the deal is reached, the horns of progress and technology will sound throughout all regions of the galaxy, and a new beginning will be at hand. Let us take a look at the progress of our Army’s training.” A window opened up on the side of the room, overlooking a massive spaceport in the distance; there, they saw the fruits of the labor massed on the tarmac. Thousands of armored troops, both organic and robotic, from all species and races loyal to the atheist cause, were marching onto the huge Praetor-class assault ships, the smallest ships in the fleet; 1000 meters long, but heavily armed nonetheless. “Magnificent, aren’t they?” CEO of Med-Tech Pharmaceuticals Agustin Mellenkov, who looked a lot like Peter the Great’s son, said. “These units are more than 1 million strong, and that’s just counting the organic soldiers…the robots are just insurance, robots are expendable, they don’t question orders, and they show no mercy, plus they can do things that no organic soldiers could even come close to doing. Our most powerful robotic units, the Tank Troopers, come in three varieties, the Phase 1, which is a standard war-bot, the Phase 2, which is heavier and better armed, with a huge laser turret it uses like a rifle, and the Phase 3, a walking anti-tank platform. Most of the robotic forces were produced by Med-Tech Pharmacy Corporate Armed Forces, which I have committed to the atheist cause 100%. I can’t stand Christians. They preach that “God loves everyone,” but then they brutalize homosexuality, abortions and all of science. They are filthy, preachy-preachy hypocrites that do nothing but drag galactic society down with their fat, ignorant asses. I had to have my older sister executed by my robot forces because of her faith; the Annihilator-class assault robots, with their shields and murderous laser cannons did their job very well. Family means nothing to me. I have my money and my science, plus a vast army at my disposal. What more could I want, other than a seat of power on the new galactic government? All of our guns are pointed directly at the heads of Christians all over the galaxy. The balance of power is shifting. Our time is now!” Agustin grumbled. The window closed, and the meeting resumed. “It is time to plan our first strike, on a planet whose destruction will cause chaos, misery and emotional trauma to Christians all over the galaxy, and make our power known. Tomorrow is a new era; as soon as the Count’s Treaty of the New Atheism is signed, we attack the holy world of Pontiff, a sacred sanctuary for all Christians. They have no weapons and are strictly neutral; these pacifists should be easy to destroy. Even more impressive would be the act of killing the Pope, who is visiting the planet tomorrow…as it’s Easter. A strike into the heart of Christianity on one of its most sacred holidays would be a profound…and immune blow. Nothing any of the former Union republics has the firepower to challenge us. They would cower in fear, and agree to any demands we make. Our only desire, however, would be to kill every Christian in the galaxy. This is total war.” The corporation CEOs threw their antes down. This was it. “The die has been cast, and the storm breaks loose…” Irena thought to herself, as they all filed out of the room. As the 6 young women walked out onto the streets of Moneyland…they knew exactly what to do: have some fun in the city, just like any other women their age. Walking into a bar on the street right outside the Grand Estate’s grounds, they immediately grabbed the attention of a sleazebag criminal. “Hey, sweetheart, want me to buy you a drink?” he asked Kassie Lynn. Realizing that this man was simply trying to drug her and sell her into black-market slavery, Kassie wisely refused. “Go home and rethink your life, you bum.” Kassie sneered. “Fine…bitch.” The crook stormed out of the bar. Kassie caught up with her friends as they all sat at a table and waited for a service bot to take their order. “I really don’t like the clientele here…” Kassie Lynn, with her gorgeous 6’ 3” frame drawing attention from all the men in the bar, said, uneasily. There were no other females of any species, including aliens, in the bar as well. “I’d love to see her in her underwear…” one man said to his group of friends. “I’ve got an idea. Boss Iblis of the Black Flag Bandits will really love this one. We’ve got a little gift for him to do anything he wants with…” Realizing that they were referring to her, Kassie Lynn and her friends attempted to make a run for it, but the men were too quick. Only a chair in the way saved her, with the thugs tripping over it; the fact that they were heavily intoxicated didn’t help the situation either. Just then, the 6 young women ran into an imposing figure standing in their way. He was dressed in a black and red uniform with a black cape, had a mustache that looked like Kaiser Wilhelm II’s, carried a ceremonial rapier, and had a piercing gaze. “I mean you no harm.” he said, reassuringly. “I’m Steven Guggenberger, head of the Atheist Alliance Inquisition, in the service of Count Rothberg. I saw who tried to kidnap you; their wanted Christians, we’ve been after them for the past 3 months, one was praying in public on the Atheist Alliance base-planet of Stronghold, and the other two questioned the validity of evolution. They’ve since turned to a life of crime, so that’s double the reason to kill them.” Sure enough, the three thugs came running out, right into the trap. “Judge Guggenberger…” One of them stammered upon seeing him. Guggenberger drew his custom disintegrator pistol, firing three shots at all three targets, killing them instantly. “Pray in public now, will you? Now, we must return to the Grand Estate, as it’s too dangerous to remain here any longer. The plan to attack Pontiff must not be disclosed or found out.” “They said something about ‘Boss Iblis,’ though.” “…He’s here?” Guggenberger responded, curiously. “Apparently…” Sam responded. “Shit…he’s one of the most notorious criminals in the galaxy, if he’s on your tail; you’ve made some dangerous enemies. He’s a green-skinned Felreen species; the Black Flag Bandits are the greatest criminal consortium in the galaxy; so powerful that they are our only real competitors for domination of this broken galaxy. Even during the days of the Union, hundreds of Senators had ties to his organization, and now he’s in a position of tremendous power. Count Rothberg and Lusamgya Iblis are the most powerful individuals in the galaxy, but there can be only one.” “Well, I have quite a bit of clout myself.” Kassie Lynn said, mischievously. She pulled a small vial of pills out of her dress. “This is called Nitro-Chill; one pill will cause a chain reaction in water, creating a solid sheet of ice. Dropping one into an ocean would…be truly catastrophic. It’s an ice age in a bottle. I have other pills too, including rain, blizzard, lightning, hurricane and tornado pills.” “Interesting, using weather as a WMD by altering the composition of the atmosphere…” Despite the Atheist Alliance’s arrogance, there was another individual that had just as much power as Rothberg and Iblis…

4. Rundown

“I know that my ex is helping the Atheist Alliance faction, her and her friends from our high school, but I’m also aware of the Black Flag Bandits and Boss Iblis’ intentions to challenge the Atheist Alliance faction for galactic dominance, but they don’t know everything…” Oleg Molotov said to his comrades, Igor Shelepin, Konstantin Karkaroff, Lucian Moonraiser, and Ivan Krum. Ivan had gray hair and bizarre, tri-focal glasses, Karkaroff had a huge beard, a fur outfit and mink fur coat, as well as a huge fur hat, and Shelepin was tall and lanky with a cape and a red uniform; Ivan’s uniform was the exact opposite in color scheme, black with a red cape. He carried a rapier with his family coat of arms on the blade, and like all of his other comrades, was a master computer hacker. Lucian wore a white uniform with a blue interior cape and a red beret. “In that case, we can outsmart these little girls, but we cannot make them dead until our firepower equals theirs.” Karkaroff said in his typical broken English with a thick Russian accent. “Patience, comrade, we’ll find a way.” Ivan hissed. “We have a way, but we’re going to have to take an awful risk. I know of a secret weapons cache on the planet Serenity, unfortunately, that’s where my ex, Irena, lives. If she catches us, we’re dead. If we succeed, however, we’ll have the blueprints for a fleet far, far stronger than anything the Atheist Alliance or Black Flag Bandits can muster. “Then Serenity is where we must go.” Igor said. “Who knows…maybe I’ll finally get my shot at killing Kassie Lynn…that filthy, worm-ridden bitch.” Lucian snapped. “I can see your hate…just give into it; it strengthens your resolve…and your aim.” Molotov advised. Molotov knew exactly who Lucian was referring to, because they all went to the same high school. Lucian was in love with Kassie Lynn in high school, but she cruelly…and foolishly snubbed him…ever since, he had been fixated on killing her; he had been honing his sniper skills with the DC-71, the most accurate and powerful long-range rifle in available in the galaxy. It had no recoil, was a one-hit kill no matter where the laser blast hit, and had an adjustable 10x-20x zoom. He had a serious revenge complex; he had already killed an entire family that criticized his fiction writing as “horrendous,” by breaking into their house in the middle of the night and blowing their brains out with a blaster pistol, and tying the rest of the family to their beds, set the house on fire and gloated about it for the next week. Not to mention, they were all Christian fundamentalist buffoons. If someone did something to Lucian, he paid them back 50 times over. He didn’t give a damn about people’s families, others’ safety or others’ opinions. His was the only one that mattered, and everyone else needed to simply die; he did whatever he wanted. He was a murderer that was, in actuality, loyal to no one, and could change sides at a moment’s notice: whatever got him what he wanted. For now, however, Lucian stuck with Molotov. “Do we have a ship that’s not affected by the blackout?” “Absolutely.” “I’ll show you my pride and joy.” Konstantin grumbled. The 5 allies walked out into the ruined streets, and into a secret hangar behind the bunker. Walking into the hangar, they saw the ship. “This is the Infiltrator, a secret, one of a kind design produced by Kraid Shipyard Syndicate. I stole this one straight out from under CEO Raito Asoka Kanagashima III’s nose. These Kraids, as the citizens of the planet are called, structure the society around strict class structure, with the top 1% viewing the 99% as beneath their contempt. The Shipyard Syndicate is run by a few legendary families, the Sorna family, the Memellie family, the Lucembursky family and, on top, the Kanagashima family. They are the 4 richest families in the galaxy, and there are hundreds of other barons, baronesses, counts, countesses and merchant wealthy on the planet, it has the second-highest population of superrich, second only to Currencea. On Kraid, however, even though there’s a police presence and a huge sector defense fleet, now being augmented by genuine, trans-galactic warships for the Atheist Alliance, the rich families control everything, and espionage, backstabbing, betrayals, feuds and even outright war in the streets are common. These acts of treason can be brutal; I heard a story of a young woman plunging a knife into her rival’s back while hugging him. It’s like the Italian Renaissance all over again. They’re easily distracted, however, so I managed to steal the Sorna Family’s newest weapon in their feud with the Memellie family, and here it is…” Molotov and his comrades looked at the sinister ship in front of them, sleek, streamlined and possessing two lateral fins, it looked like as sleek and powerful as a shark. Just then, Molotov recognized the ship. “That’s Senator Randalf Mora’s ship!” Molotov yelled. Indeed it was. During the last days of the Union; after standing united for more than 5,000 years, Randalf Mora was a rogue Senator that had grown disgusted by the Union’s pacifism in renouncing its military; with the ancient laws of Union failing it, Senator Mora engineered the death of the then-High Chancellor of the Union Firenze Gaston, and placed the blame solely on the Black Flag Bandits, triggering a wave of criminal crackdowns, and placing Mora in the Chancellor’s office in a special, ad-hoc election. Mora continued to play the entire galaxy like a puppet, using his connections with various supporters on planets like Kraid, Currencea, Memel VII, Corona and Anoon, the final two planets being the site of the proposed military training facility and the Union Ascendancy University, respectively, the latter being the university where the namesake of the later Galactic Federation’s anthem came from: Sheen Binood Song. Binood was such a patriot of Mora’s that he immolated himself to prove his loyalty to the new Chancellor. Eventually, as predicted, the military was created out of an emergency need to counter the Black Flag Bandits, who had bribed the ancient Mythos warrior clans to build them a huge army; and the Great Galactic Cataclysm began. For 3 years, the war raged across the stars, between the Union military and the Black Flag Bandits’ unified, corrupted and bribed units, most of which used older, but still extraordinarily powerful weaponry. The Union’s military, which just kept getting bigger and bigger, with the introduction of more and more powerful ships and vehicles, eventually crushed the Black Flag Bandits, placing the current leader of that organization, Lusamgya Iblis, in power to rebuild the Bandits. Throughout the course of the war, Chancellor Mora kept restricting more and more personal liberties in the name of “security and stability” and added so many amendments to the Union Constitution that, by war’s end, he was ruling with absolute power in all but name. He had revoked most of the basic freedoms, the rights of the accused, the rights against quartering of soldiers, overruled the House and the Senate, and had the Courts approve of nearly every Amendment proposed, normally, amending the Union Constitution took months, even years, but in just 5 days, there were nearly 12 passed. Mora had just one more enemy to eliminate: his rival in the election that put him in power, a nobleman from Kraid named Jonathan Sheen, who had raised a small armada of remaining Black Flag Bandit ships, launching a desperate attack on Earth. Easily crushed, Mora proclaimed himself perpetual dictator in an awe-inspiring speech, and the Union of Free States became known as the Galactic Federation. For 20 years, a reign of darkness, terror and incredible power ruled over the Milky Way, until Mora’s death, and the fragmentation of the unified galaxy. This ship was the same one that Mora used as his private shuttle. “She’s just as good as she was during the war; I don’t know how the Sorna family got their hands on her, but I made some adjustments to her.” Konstantin said. “She was originally armed with a cloaking device and twin blaster cannons, but I added concussion missile launchers, torpedo launchers, and a tectonic charge dispenser, as well as adding two more cannons. In short, the Infiltrator is the deadliest ship in the galaxy, along with Samantha Selene’s yacht, the Twilight Shadow, and General Malicion’s Bladestorm…only the latter two have no stealth device. The Infiltrator also has 3 espionage robots, capable of administering torture.” “Once again, Konstantin, you’ve outdone yourself. This is spectacular!” “Well, for now, but keep in mind, if we get involved in the Atheist Alliance-Black Flag Bandits feud, there will be more war; the victor would become the new supreme ruler of the galaxy. This is it.” “I know…” Molotov responded, as they boarded the Infiltrator. “Someday, we will pay for these sins…our Sins of our Sundered Hearts.” Molotov said to himself as the hangar bay doors opened, and the eerie black ship lifted off into the dark night sky, bound for Serenity.

5. Shatterpoint

The day on Stronghold, the base planet for the Atheist Alliance, dawned bright and early, as thousands of corporate troops from Med-Tech, the Banking Guild, Rothus Heavy Engineering, the Kraid Shipbuilding Syndicate and the Commerce Consortium waited on the Bastion Spaceport Tarmac 12, marching onto the enormous Tremor Sword-class battleships, the largest warships in the Kraid Shipbuilding Syndicate’s armada, more than 5,000 meters long, these things were bristling with cannons, torpedo launchers, mass-drivers and other weapons, and had a very brutal, even medieval look to them, they carried huge squadrons of fighters. Each of these battleships was customized by its captain, and some were so incredible that they rivaled the most splendid of palaces, but their true purpose was never forgotten. Just one of these trans-galactic warships could reduce a planet to rubble. Ships from all 5 major corporate militaries were present outside the Great Citadel, because in the Main Council Chamber, the Treaty of Atheist Unity was being signed, officially creating the Atheist Alliance Grand Fleet. Upon the signature, the entire chamber erupted into applause. “All hail Grand Duke Rothberg!” they yelled, raising their hands in salute. Rothberg, the 5 corporate leaders and Irena and her friends all walked out onto the balcony overlooking the massed Armada, with the thousands of troops, robotic and organic, marching onto the ships, slowly lifting off into the sky, their engines roaring. Sam, Lisa, Irena, Kassie Lynn, Lilliana and Krystina all boarded shuttles to take them to their respective super-cruisers, now complete, all except for Sam, whose colossal Solar Saga ship was not yet complete. The ship would be unlike anything ever seen before in galactic history. More than 18 km. long, dagger-shaped with four huge, back-swept canards on the rear of the fuselage, Sam would control the greatest weapon the galaxy had ever known, not just for its colossal standard armament and fighter complement, but for its “super-laser,” which could destroy any enemy ship in one shot, and reduce a planet to smooth ball of glass. Once the ship was complete, there very well may be a new Galactic Empress. Until then, Sam was Chief Architect of her ship’s construction. As of now, however, the invasion was set. Led by CEO Agustin Mellenkov, the Dragon Lance Fleet of the Atheist Alliance Grand Armada was bound for Pontiff, on that Easter Sunday, with Lisa’s super cruiser, the Crimson Lily, adding extra insurance to the fleet. The first blow would be struck against the Christian lies of “salvation” in just a few hours. Mellenkov, only 28 years old, had waited for this day all his life. He was raised devout Christian, but never accepted the religion as anything more than propaganda. At age 5, he ran into church on his homeworld of Minsk V, shouting “Religion is pointless! I don’t care!” His parents tried everything, from reading passages from the Bible to him, even trying to scare him straight giving lectures on the fires of Hell and what awaited him if he didn’t repent on his sins. By 12, his parents gave up on him, calling him a “devil child” and telling him that there was no hope for his salvation. He was placed in the foster care of a CEO; the owner of Mellenkov Pharmaceutical Company, and willed the seat of the Company on the owner’s death. Mellenkov continued to develop more and more hate towards Christians. So much so, that he would vandalize churches by spray-painting “666” and inverted crosses on the walls, as well as vulgarly defiling religious statues, such as placing a fake penis on a statue of the Virgin Mary. He was arrested 3 times for this, but never served any prison time because of his connections. The Christian Right-Wing politicians and pundits on Minsk V were becoming aware of this little monster, and by age 17, Agustin was ready to take control of the Company. His foster parents died of cancer, at least that’s how the official story went. Taking the seat of the vast, trans-galactic medical and scientific research company, Agustin, over the next 11 years, secretly built up a huge armada of ships, robotic soldiers and organic infantry, and 3 years ago, he signed on with Count Rothberg’s Atheist Alliance. The last thing he did, however, was kill his birth family in their home, at a prayer session…personally. The iron fist of progress, science and medicine was about to crush Christian, conservative and reactionary decadence. The storm was about to come down…

The congregation on Pontiff was massive, in the Holy Square, more than 6 million Christians of all species, human and aliens that had adopted human religion, stood in the shadow of the Papal Presidium, the largest church in the galaxy, kneeling in reverence to Pope Pius XXXII’s visit from Earth, and the colossal bronze bells all over the Holy See of Pontiff rang loud as the Pope appeared on the balcony, overlooking the Holy See, and raised his hands in the air. “My children!” he said. “Today we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and…” the Pope was cut off by a dark shadow appearing in the sky over the Holy See. The crowd, as well as the entire city, looked skyward to see the Agustin and Lisa’s Dragon Lance Fleet, with the Tremor Sword-class battleships surrounding Lisa’s super-cruiser Crimson Lily, in orbit. They had just dropped out of Quantum Space, and just then, a swarm of what looked like insects dropped out of the bottom of the super-cruiser, and started zooming directly for the planet’s surface. In seconds, the crowd was met by a hail of burning laser blasts from the “insects,” they were actually drop-ships, carrying 6 infantry each! Heavily shielded, the worshippers had no defense against the sudden invasion. Upon landing all over the city, the Atheist Alliance infantry kicked the doors out of the drop-ships and proceeded to massacre the fleeing, stampeding crowd. It was no use. The atheist forces cut off the escape routes from the Papal Plaza, leaving the Christians ripe for slaughter like animals. The atheist troops laid into them with the ferocity of a pride of lions slaughtering zebras on the African Serengeti. With their AK-779 blasters, they murdered everyone, young or old, human or alien. The soldiers’ eerie, black, full-body exoskeleton armor, with glowing orange dots on their eye-holes, for the integrated HUD, struck fear into the hearts of the Christian worshippers. Corpses piled up, as some of the troops carried flamethrowers, used to hideous effect on the unarmed worshippers, even babies were killed. The Pope’s guards were overwhelmed, and, to make matters worse, the fleet was now bombarding critical targets on the ground with precision laser blasts, making sure that the Holy Roman Guard Squadrons could not launch. It was like Pearl Harbor all over again, eventually; however, in the chaos, bloodshed and screaming, two gleaming, gold and chrome-plated HRG fighters zoomed out of a collapsing hangar, with the remaining Guard forces cheering loudly from their bunkers. Weaving through the air, they heroically shot down 3 enemy drop-ships. It was useless, however; the Crimson Lily launched hundreds of sinister, moaning “Wraith” fighters, shooting both of the HRG fighters down in flames.

Up in orbit, Agustin watched the sensors on the bridge of his flagship with menacing eyes. They were reading a complete shutdown of all Holy Roman Guard stations on the planet, and the ground invasion had secured and subjugated the city and the Papal Presidium. “Sir, the HRG is in tatters, and the planet is defenseless.” The atheist flag was hung from the Presidium balcony, and the Pope, his Cardinals and Bishops were all executed by firing squad. Pontiff was thoroughly conquered. Now, the real fun began…

As atheist forces goose-stepped through the ruined streets of Pontiff’s major cities, they placed the entire planet under house arrest, through the conquered global broadcast system’s holovision network. The real plan was far more sinister, however. Immediately, construction began on 6 concentration camps near the main Holy See, each one capable of processing 3,000 inmates per day…their function was just as you would expect. The Atheist Alliance was planning a full-fledged “Second Holocaust” of every single Christian on the planet. “This is Crimson Lily to Agustin Mellenkov. The Storm Breaks Loose!!” Lisa said, from her bridge. Agustin’s entire bridge crew cheered. “Telecast the news back to Moneyland. Broadcast the images on every screen. This is war.”

The residents of Moneyland gathered in the streets to watch Agustin’s speech, telecasted on every projection screen in the city:

My fellow non-believers…We have just struck the first blow against Christian, conservative decadence. As you can see by these images, on this Easter Sunday, we’ve bombed Pontiff into dust. This will not only terrify the Christian right, but will also convince them to do the only thing they know how to do: fight and lash out. They are falling right into our trap. A Christian Crusade against us will only give us more reason to vilify them, and draw even more atheists to our cause. The Christian Nation will perish under our iron resolve, for progress, reason and human determination will always prevail! They are vermin, each and every one of them, and to destroy them, I ask all atheists, young and old, human or alien, rise and obliterate any Christians you know, for you will be rewarded by our Atheist Alliance military in a way no religion can award anyone. The Alliance will be the eternal political elite of the galaxy, unwavering in its teachings, its philosophy, and the great Revolution! The triumph of the will, the will of mankind over the will of religion, is inevitable. Like Hitler before me, I shall become the greatest revolutionary society has ever seen, purging the world of lesser beings, and creating a Galactic Atheist Paradise! To all atheists before me, all atheists now, and all atheists in the future, let this be the harbinger of a new era, one of reason, prosperity and peace!! We hate Christians! We hate Jews, and we hate Muslims! We hate them because they breathe the same air as we do! We hate them because they corrupt human reason! We hate Jews because of their money-hoarding, rat-faced, big- nosed stench, which will only increase when they burn. We hate Christians because of their inability to reason! We hate Muslims because of their restrictive beliefs! We don’t just disobey the Word of God; we spear it, burn it, crucify it on an idol and ride it out of town on a rail!! Any questions?! NO!! There cannot be another religious person of ANY faith allowed to survive! Kill them all! Purge this galaxy! To do so is to love the Atheist Alliance; now, go brave sons of the Empire, annihilate the savages, and cleanse the galaxy of their filth!!! We are one!!!”

The crowd assembled in Moneyland outside the Grand Estate roared so loud in approval that the seismic stations in the earthquake-prone city registered a Magnitude 3 earthquake! Agustin Mellenkov raised his hand in a salute that looked like Hitler’s, as did the 3 million assembled in the Plaza. “ALL HAIL AGUSTIN!! ALL HAIL AGUSTIN!!!” they all yelled. This was it. Agustin had not just declared war on Christianity, but on Judaism and Islam as well; a total war against religious faith. Little did the religious world know just how “total” it was about to get. For them, however, another ally was about to rise and challenge the atheist hordes.

6. Retaliatory Action

“So…the atheists have decided to attack the holiest Christian world in the galaxy? They remind me of Sultan Mehmet II, destroying Constantinople in the living realm. Well, let me reiterate this: That will NOT happen here. I will never see another heathen apostate take power in our galaxy! If the Atheist Alliance wants war, we’ll give them a war that only Christ could muster.” Supreme Prophet Wallace Klein of the Holy Light Confederacy told his new ally, the leader of the Black Flag Bandits Lusamgya Iblis. “Yes, even though I’m not devoutly religious, I have rallied most of the faithful Jews and Muslims of all species into this alliance; the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, fighting as one against a maniacal war machine. I have a million Muslim and Jewish soldiers, and more than 100 ships to add to your fleet, Prophet Klein, plus weapons, vehicles and technology that the Atheist Alliance has probably never heard of.” “And therefore have no defense against. Despite their armadas, armies and fleets, the Atheist Alliance can be beaten. With our union, the Holy Light Confederacy will be the only faction capable of challenging the Atheist Alliance. Only one of our factions will control the galaxy and rebuild a unified galactic government. We don’t want to see the atheists take control of the galaxy, the Abrahamic faiths must be defended, and if a new Crusade is necessary, so be it.” Prophet Klein said, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The Prophet looked around at his surroundings, in the enormous Cathedral of Lost Love, full of huge, wall-mounted crosses, somber monuments to those young couples who died long before their time, prayer wreaths, poems and memorials, on the planet Qan. The cathedral sanctuary was silent, other than the meeting between the Prophet and Iblis. Both leaders had their shoes removed in respect for the dead. The most recent individual to be interred in the Sanctuary was Sheen Binood, the self-immolator and martyr of Randalf Mora’s Galactic Federation. The tyranny of the Federation, which collapsed just 11 years before with Mora’s death, was still fresh in everyone’s mind, his colossal legions of massive King Raven tanks, huge Indricothere-class armored transports, parades of the unstoppable war machine of millions of infantry, colossal Imperial Armadas, not to mention the persecution of minorities, xenophobia, racism, alienation, hatred, scapegoating, genocide, censorship and warmongering by the Fascist government. Acts such as the “Virgin Purge,” where the Federation killed more than 900,000 young women for “conspiring to corrupt the Brave Sons of the Federation,” most of them Jewish or non-white, the concentration camps where millions of aliens, considered inferior to humans, were murdered, and the total destruction of several worlds, most tragically the ancient world of Kami, which was guarded by the Hibiscus Knights, the most highly-trained warriors in the galaxy. Capable of using any weapon effectively, these Knights worked independently of the Union and later the Federation; they were, however, during the days of the Union, the most trusted diplomats for the President, often being sent on missions of peace, but were capable of drawing their swords and striking enemies down with such ferocity that they usually didn’t have any idea what hit them, until they were dead. The Knights had a temple and academy on Earth as well as Kami and their swords could deflect laser and projectile blasts; making them almost invincible in combat; but their dedication to justice and democracy sealed their fate. Now, almost nothing remained of their culture or Order, as the 13,000 or so Knights in the galaxy, composed of hundreds of different species and races, were killed at the hands of the Federation’s troops. Most of the weapons and vehicles used by the Federation were now rusting, unattended hulks, the remaining factions not economically strong enough to maintain them, but the ones that were still in working condition still terrified museum-goers. Prophet Klein disagreed with the decision to inter Binood in the holy sanctuary, as the government he helped launch was anything BUT holy. The celebrations that followed the collapse of the Federation regime were the largest ever seen in the galaxy. Little did they realize that rebuilding the grand tradition of democracy would be so difficult. As the two leaders conversed, an aide brought Prophet Klein a report: “The armada is ready. Come out of the Cathedral and view the Power and the Glory.” Klein and Iblis stepped out onto the huge staircase, adorned with flags and crosses, and looked down into the huge plaza, surrounded by columns and marble statues. There were 300,000 soldiers of all three Abrahamic faiths standing in the plaza, with huge warships lifting off in the distance. “This is the Fleet of Divine Justice; in addition to the Fleet of Serene Majesty, the Fleet of Seraphim Storms, and the Fleet of Glorious Exaltation, we have our core forces ready and willing. It’s your call, Prophet Klein.” “…Go. The Atheist Alliance will expect us to return fire on Pontiff, so let’s avoid that for now…I say we strike the heart of their Alliance and rip their heathen hearts out! Let’s hit Currencea!” Prophet Klein stood on the balcony and raised his hands in the air. The rest of the soldiers roared in approval, and started marching like Roman legions. The colossal columns of marching soldiers contained individuals from all walks of life, from ironworkers, pharmacists, lawyers, plumbers, engineers, anyone who valued their faith, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, enough to stop a merciless, atheistic war machine from swallowing the galaxy whole. Some volunteers were as young as 17, some as old as 50. Carrying the flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the head of one of the divisions was Crown Prince of the Symphony Consortium Lord Roger Moll, a very small but very rich principality in the sector of the same name; this place was the richest faction in the galaxy, with many of the barons from places like Currencea, Kraid or even Earth living on planet Sweethaven, a picturesque world of rolling fields, temperate, seasonal forests, calm seas, big blue rivers, and beautiful houses, farms and wineries. To live on this planet even modestly required a high-end six-figure income; the place was a close to “perfect” as one could get; nothing ever seemed to go wrong, everything played as if off the silver screen or a fairy tale, school dances, weddings, even funerals…but no more. Sweethaven was going to war, on the side of the Holy Consortium. Girlfriends and wives said their tearful goodbyes to their men; the Holy Consortium was an all-volunteer Army, and was now the only big enough to challenge the Atheist Alliance. Moll, against the wishes of his family and his fiancée, Noelle Sylpheed, decided to lead a platoon of Neo-Crusaders, as the Army was being called, to defend his principality…it was the first time he had ever seen Noelle cry. She was hysterical, it almost made Lord Moll second guess his decision to fight, but it was no use…Noelle’s teary face still haunted him as he boarded the Inquisitor-class assault ship. Standing in the great hangar bay of the ship, he thought to himself… “We may survive for now, but I feel that the sins of our pride have damned us to our own destruction…” One major disadvantage that the Neo-Crusaders suffered from was that the soldiers weren’t really “soldiers” at all; much like the medieval Crusaders of the living realm, they were a ragtag band of men and women, basically anyone who knew how to fire a weapon. No one had any formal training unless they had obtained it from somewhere else; heck, the roster on one assault ship included the University of Sweethaven Seraphim Women’s Choir, who had joined just for an “adventure.” Little did they know what they were getting into, though the chorus leader was good at throwing grenades and was a crack-shot with a hunting rifle, still, that had nothing on a Kraid Shipyard Syndicate Ghastium supercommando, under the orders of Raito Asoka Kanagashima III. It seemed that only Roger knew that they, he included, were likely to be slaughtered. This “Holy Consortium” was nothing more than a hastily-assembled, desperate counterattack. The Consortium was going up against trained, heavily armed and armored soldiers, robotic units, and an organized, extremely disciplined force deployment structure. Still, orders were orders. They were bound for Currencea…but to die in the Haze Realm was to be completely annihilated; but like the Earthly life, one simply transcended the dimensions again. There was no Hell or Heaven; just the universal continuum and transfer of energy…which contained just as much pain and suffering as the living realm; just with far, far more advanced technology. God and the Devil were still only beliefs, not facts. Just like life, afterlife was what you made of it, not pre-ordained. “Let’s go…”

7. Massacre

The Fleet of Divine Justice dropped out of Quantum Space about 300,000 km from Currencea…far too close to the planet. The planetary defense systems, massive satellite cannons, began firing huge laser blasts at the Inquisitor-class assault ships, just as the fighters were launching…the laser blasts ripped through the ships’ shields and hulls like a hot knife through butter. Standing on the bridge of one of the assault ships, Prince Roger Moll’s eyes widened as his ships were cut to bits, and panicked escape pods jettisoned, only to be destroyed as well. Just then, his face hardened, looked at his crew and then looked at the satellite cannons: They only fired at movement. “ALL SHIPS HARD STOP!!! THE CANNONS WON’T SHOOT IF OUR SHIPS DON’T MOVE!!!” In desperation, the fleet stopped hard…and sure enough, the guns stopped shooting. “Fire long-range missiles! Hopefully they won’t trigger the defense grid!!” The Inquisitor-class ships fired 30 long-range nuclear weapons; these missiles released a 30-gigaton atomic blast, powerful enough to crack a Class-V space station in half. “30 seconds to impact!!” Roger’s weapons specialist yelled. The point-defenses hadn’t been triggered…so far, so good. “15 seconds!” the weapons specialist yelled. “Come on, come on, hit!” Roger said, looking at the hologram projection of the missiles streaking towards their targets. “IMPACT!!” Just then, all three defense grids detonated in massive, atomic fireballs. “ALL SHIPS PULL AHEAD FULL!!!” Prince Roger Moll ordered to his fleet. The fighters launched from the assault ship’s hangars; the Currencea defense fleet; scattered and in disarray by the sudden destruction of their seemingly invincible defense grid, was taken completely off-guard. The Neo-Crusader pilots began strafing runs on the huge Battle Wyvern cruisers used by the Atheist Alliance, hitting them with bombs, torpedoes and laser blasts, the Condor-class heavy fighters and Marabou-class bombers in particular ripped the shielded cruisers apart, with the Inquisitor-class assault ships providing heavy turbo-laser and torpedo fire from a distance. “Hit them again! And again! And again!!” Prince Moll yelled cathartically, as the Battle Wyverns crumbled and burned. Within the hour, the spaceborne defenses were eliminated…against all odds, the ragtag band of Neo-Crusaders had won…in space. Prince Moll was already a war hero, but the battle had only just begun. The landing barges, gunships and tanks began landing on the planet. “We’re taking the fight to the surface. Move out!” Prince Moll yelled, grabbing a heavy disintegrator rifle. “We will raise high the banner of peace and faith!” A group of elite soldiers followed Prince Moll as his bodyguards on the battlefield. Their ultimate objective was the Grand Estate, headquarters of the Galactic Banking Guild, one of the critical cogs in the Atheist Alliance, and hopefully killing Chairman Maximillian Frieze in the process. Moll boarded a gunship and dropped into Currencea’s atmosphere, preparing to fight to the death for his honor, faith and family. Little did he know how devastating the battle was going to be

Upon entering the atmosphere over Moneyland, Prince Moll’s gunship immediately ran into brutal anti-aircraft fire, which was destroying most of the landing craft; they were crashing all over the city, damaging some of the huge, marble pyramid buildings, though most managed to withstand the explosions because of their superb design. Unfortunately for Roger, there was no way of fooling these guns; even with the assault ships flying high overhead. Roger’s gunship swooped around, narrowly avoiding AA rocket fire, landed in a plaza 4 blocks away from the Grand Estate, and allowed Roger and his squad to dismount…and not a moment too soon. A laser blast struck the gunship as it flew away, sending it careening into a building. “Move!” Prince Moll yelled, as he and his guards ran through the roar of battle, the collapsing buildings and the sound of cannons and screams. Roger fired his weapon at a pair of guard troops, gunning them down instantly. Suddenly, Moll looked behind him and smiled incredulously. The Sweethaven University Women’s Seraphim Choir was simply wasting any enemies it encountered…still wearing their burgundy dresses with no other protection. One of them clubbed a robotic infantryman with the butt of her rifle while simultaneously shooting another one, grabbed the other robot’s gun and shot it with its own weapon, all in the space of 5 seconds. Roger looked ahead and saw three more robots, which he quickly tagged. “HEADS UP!!!” one of Roger’s guards yelled as a huge landing barge, burning up in the atmosphere, came crashing down. “HIT THE DIRT, NOW!!” Roger yelled, just as the barge crashed 300 yards away, covering them with dust and soot. Roger looked around, and didn’t see the Choir anywhere. Fearing the worst, he continued on without them. This was the brutal reality of warfare; you couldn’t save everybody. Things were about to get much, much worse, however. Up in orbit, a frenzied call from the assault ships about enemy reinforcements arriving out of Quantum Space blared over the communications links. “No…it can’t be happening…we’re so close…” Roger thought, just as a huge swarm of moaning Wraith-class fighters, the Atheist Alliance standard short-range combat starfighter, swooped in and shot down every remaining landing barge and launching missiles at the Neo-Crusader infantry, killing whole platoons with just a few shots. Realizing that this might very well be his dying day, he and his guards pushed onward. According to the battle-net chatter, the reinforcements were being led by Rudolph Eisenheim, the chief scientist for the Atheist Alliance and master engineer; he was a true genius, and his ship designs were the most awe-inspiring and ferocious in the galaxy. He was the one designing the Solar Saga; the ship he was currently flying on, the huge Praetor-class supercarrier, which looked like a huge, flying squid, was also his design. Eisenheim had such a hatred for Christians that it rivaled Hitler’s hate for the Jews. There were horrid reports of Eisenheim using Born-Again Christians as firewood for starting fires that burned down houses; he would tie them together, douse them in fuel oil and burn them alive, using them as firewood to burn their own houses down, forcing the Christian women to do shameful, humiliating things before being tortured to death, usually by gouging their eyes out and pouring molten lead into their sockets, forcing the men to live like animals, and was viciously loyal to the Atheist Alliance cause. Eisenheim even made one Christian woman cannibalize her boyfriend’s genitals, while he was still alive, and shot them both in the head. He and his atheist shock troopers had declared all-out war on religious faith, and regularly burned Bibles, Korans and Torah scrolls…and he had the Neo-Crusaders right where he wanted them. The assault ships stood no chance against Eisenheim’s fleet; they were almost simultaneously obliterated by the supercarrier’s Diffusion Wave weapon, which could destroy a small fleet by itself. The weapon was very slow to charge, however, but recharging the weapon would not be necessary. The Neo-Crusaders were finished.

Back on the ground, faced with an uncountable horde of enemies, Roger had no choice. His guards were all dead; the thunder of plasma fire ripped through the ashen skies, and Roger, in desperation, jumped into a small, Quantum Space-capable fighter in a private hangar and gunned the engines, he knew he was going to have to run the gauntlet of Wraith fighters and the colossal capital ships, but he felt a duty to his family, to Noelle, and to Sweethaven. Zooming away into space, he muted the fighter’s radar signature to avoid detection, which miraculously worked. The fighter was too small, and jumped to Quantum Space, back to Qan, to report that the invasion was a colossal failure…for certain, war was inevitable.

As the sun set on Serenity, the eerie Federation relic ship, the Infiltrator, swooped silently into the serene night skies…in a seldom-visited area of the planet, an old shelter cave; bombed by the Federation during its purge of the Hibiscus Knight Order, the place reportedly contained a secret star chart to locate an ancient factory, one that could be used for the Knower, Molotov, to get his revenge. Molotov, however, didn’t need to know anything else. One look at the map, and he’d know where the factory was. The ship landed almost silently in the shadows of the crumbling structure, kicking up dust and dirt as it did so. “Well, here we are, the ruins of Rosethorn Cave, though I can’t see why anyone would hide a map here.” Upon disembarking, Molotov and his crew of computer hackers grabbed a few weapons, just in case…immediately upon entering the cave; Molotov felt an intrusive presence, as if someone was watching them. “I don’t like this…my guess is that we ain’t the only ones here.” Lucian Moonraiser said, still carrying his sniper rifle. Walking slowly through the ruins, stepping on old stone, books and metal objects, he didn’t even notice where he was…until the huge Skull-Face Spider dropped down from the ceiling. “SHIT!!” Molotov yelled, firing three disintegrator rounds at the enormous, 6-foot wide spider. “Well, I certainly hope we don’t run into any more of those.” Lucian said. The group proceeded cautiously, looking out for any more large invertebrates, until they finally reached a room on the far side of the compound. Inside the room was the map. Instinctively knowing how to open the map, Molotov activated the screen, and in an instant, the projector activated, but something very different happened…The machine began to speak in an ancient language, a dialect of Neo-Gothic that hadn’t been in use for more than 25,000 years. Molotov instinctively knew the language; he translated the eerie syllables into English. “It’s going to ask us a few questions.” “Uhhh, ok…” the rest of his group said. “Question 1: You find that the love of your life is guilty of infidelity. Do you harm her for her transgressions against you, or simply swallow your pride and weakly walk away?” Molotov, stemming deeply within his own mind, answered that he would harm her. “Good. Question 2: In the aforementioned scenario, the woman pleads for forgiveness, and you see a large, blunt object near you. Do you rebuff her pleas and send her on her way, or do you grab the object and smash her head in?” Sensing that the computer would only accept hostile, violent answers, Molotov chose the violent option. “Perfect. Finally, as she lies in front of you, gasping her last breath, do you feel guilty, or do you embrace your power?” Molotov once again answered violently. The computer buzzed and began to hum loudly, as if it was activating after a long, long slumber. “You are the worthy heir to the Sinh Empire. Rise, Lord Hexus…” Molotov was immediately struck by a huge bolt of blue energy, which enveloped him for a full minute…then it faded away to reveal a completely changed man. Molotov no longer looked like “Molotov.” He had a pale, chalk-white face, vampire-like fangs, a snake tongue flicking out between his teeth, the same hairstyle, just jet-black, red, sallow, sunken eyes, and a muted burgundy robe and black cape. “Oleg?” his allies asked, terrified. “That name has no meaning for me…I am Lord Hexus, Emperor of the Sinh, blessed with the all-knowing omnipotence, unlimited power and command over the infinite multiverse. There is no God…because I am God!!” Lord Hexus hissed, loudly. I will revive the Sinh fleets and take my rightful place as ruler of the Haze Realm…and you are no longer of any use to me.” Lord Hexus raised his hand, and cast a horrid spell; a dark fog of demonic energy enveloped his former allies, and then bound them together as if a rope. Lord Hexus’ eyes dilated sharply, and his allies simply died, right there. This was no accident. Molotov knew that the computer here was actually a portal into the universal energy continuum, and that anyone who could harness it would have the powers of a god. He now had more than enough power to get his revenge, and achieve his original goal: Rule the entire multiverse as a god.

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