Project Genesis - Episode Six: Peregrinus Laurifer

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Blind Hemingway

Ancient Iwaku Scum from 2006.
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Surrealism, Surreal Horror (Think Tim Burton), Steampunk, Sci-Fi Fantasy, Spaghetti Westerns, Mercenaries, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk, Historical fantasies
Peregrinus Laurifer

[ame=""]YouTube- James Hannigan - March of the Old Guard[/ame]

"All societies go through three phases.... First there is the struggle to integrate in a hostile environment. Then, after integration, comes an explosive expansion of the culture-conquest.... Then a withering of the mother culture, and the rebellious rise of young cultures."

After World War III, political unrest and poor economic conditions lead many countries to develop a dictatorship as their government. The collapse of the Old Nation seemed more than likely once the Wars of Disunion broke out. With the end of a strong federalized government reaching from one sea to another, a new leader the Crusaders call Weinberger appeared on the scene proposing to return to the glory days of the Old Nation. His Victory Party, was strongly nationalistic and gave people the hope they needed.

Weinberger gained power around Semile by telling the displaced people that Semile would be powerful again and would ignore the anger of the surrounding states around them. He would avenge Semile’s defeat in World War III. Weinberger also told the Semilens that they were a superior race that would take over all the lands lost in the Wars of Disunion.

During the era of the so called, "Simplification," anyone of higher learning who was against the state was likely to be killed by rampaging mobs that supported the Victory Party, who proudly took on the name of the "No-Wants".

Weinberger then feared that his people would loose their faith in a single God and return to the days of paganism and secularism, so he created the position of the High Priest, to save their souls.

Thus the "Age of Faith" was born.

For 600 years, the power of the Church has gotten stronger and this has caused the need for a new form of rebellion.

A renaissance of "secular learning" has been flourishing in Semile for some time now. It is echoing the divergences of Church and State and of science and faith.

This generation loves its technological marvels.

It obsessions with material, worldly power, and its accelerating neglect of faith and the spirit.

With the coming of their Messiah, Semile is now evolving. To the New Guard, the road ahead looks very bright indeed.
Re: Episode Six: Kreuzfahrer Triumph

Setem curled over in pain entirely disregarding his luck that the c4 strapped to his chest did not go off. He coughed while he tried to breath from the impact. There was nothing more he could do, 02 was a man with a mission, and nothing could change that. For the moment Setem had exhausted himself and he got up, alone in the dried up area of the sewer system. He started to slowly pace ahead and as he did the only thing he found was more destruction. Dead militia men, all slaughtered by psychokinetic attacks. Setem clenched his teeth and closed his eyes, death was something he was used to but at the same time he could not stand. He stood in the middle of the rubble and offered a prayer. “To whoever’s god these men believed in, may they find eternal rest.” As he said that the 00 had that voice pass through his head again.

”Playing savior does nothing in our world. Or do you forget your fucking place as a tool?”

The question had bothered him more than he originally thought. The words were sinking in, was he just a tool? He had no memory left of the time before he was a 00, could it mean that he needed his memory erased to be controlled? ”No, I refuse to listen to a half crazed man’s words.” he reassured himself, but no for long. The phrase crept back into his mind pushing itself forward to the point where he could almost feel 02’s presence in the room. ”I have a sense of right and wrong, I can give a child a smile, I protect the unprotected, I am…human?” Not a whole lot of confidence showed as he tried to call himself human. ”I am a tool used by both Crusade and Norfolk all for my selfish want to protect one girl. What am I doing?” Setem asked himself as he took off his shirt. He unhooked the c4 the way he was shown and left it on top of the pile of rubble. ”I need to find my own path, I must find that same determined girl I met on the Tesla, I must find Rhiannon.”

[SUMMARY: Setem questions his actions to this point. After revealing to himself that all this has been an act of someone else’s hands he looks for a new path after ditching the C4 strapped to his chest. He sets his eyes on a new goal, finding Rhiannon to answer some questions.]
Re: Episode Six: Kreuzfahrer Triumph

(Musical Ambience: Elusive, Frank Klepacki, C&C Tiberian Sun: Firestorm)

USS Albany (SSN-753)
15 Miles off the coast of Semile...

The Albany continued her mission of intelligence gathering, keeping her antennas to the air as they listened in on Semile radio traffic. They had heard more than one report of 'subversive activity' and reports from responding Custodial units. The CT listening in furrowed his brow then called the Captain over.

"Sir, got some traffic from a mobile terminal to Nova Corps. Something about a number, ahh 20091." the petty officer said.

"Might be important. Send it and keep listening." Lieutenant Commander Daniels replied, going back to his seat. They weren't going to get a relief like they normally did. All subs not on intel missions were being vectored to Yorktown to max out their weapons loads. The Albany had twenty four Mk 48 AdCap torpedoes, two UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and four UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Just enough for self defense and nothing more.



"Admit it, we're lost..." Willis said as he took a drink from his canteen. Steiner hadn't heard anything over the radio from Flak Jacket or Sledge, suggesting either they had been captured or killed or that the tunnels were blocking radio signals.

"We stay the course, Willis. We keep going." Steiner replied. Lonestar dropped in from an overhead vent, startling both SEALs. "Dammit, what have I told you about doing that shit!"

"Hadda find another way 'round, Chief. Onna the tunnels was caved in." the sniper said as he took his own canteen from his belt and drank from it.

"That explains the rumbling we heard earlier... Anything else?"

"Hell yeah. Found some radios an' a few uniforms. The guys what were wearin' 'em didn't need 'em any more." Lonestar beamed. Steiner and Willis looked at the Texan.

"Well, where are they?"

"Ya'll don't think Ah could carry all 'at shit with me did ya? They're back at the site Ah found 'em." Steiner shook his head.

"You mean we're going to have to go through that crawlspace you dropped out of?" Willis asked. Lonestar nodded.

"Yep... Not too much trouble. Maybe one or two rats. Good eatin'!" Willis turned green.

"You didn't seriously eat them, did you...?"

"Naw, course not. Ah'm not a savage. 'Sides, armadillos an' possums got more meat on 'em. Plus if ya got a deep fat fryer ya kin make chicken fried critter steak. Now that's good eatin'!" Willis fainted.

"Lonestar, not all of us have your eclectic tastes in cuisine." Steiner commented.

"Ah know. That's why Ah do what Ah do." Steiner simply shook his head.


Norfolkian wilderness...

Animals scattered from one of the old highways as Norfolkian Sea Bees used heavy equipment to move rusted cars, assembling them into a makeshift roadblock. Since recieving word of Semile's declaration of war Norfolk began preparing the old roads and the wilderness for the upcoming battle. Marines and Sailors were planting charges in the forests and on crash sites. Any place an aircraft could touch down was in the process of being weaponized. Spike pits were being dug and mines were being laid.


Cyclone class Patrol Boats* were busy mining the waterways themselves, leaving nasty little traps for whatever riverine units Semile may field. The sailors aboard the PCs were busy preparing their FIM-9 Stinger missiles, additional surprises for the H/Ks Semile was so fond of using.

When they came, the invaders would learn a harsh lesson in Asymetrical Warfare.


-USS Albany continues to listen in to radio traffic.
-Lonestar finds the cave in site.
-Norfolk weaponizes the surrounding wilderness and roads.
With the clanging of metal on concrete Yuri opened the access hatch and raising his head looked out into the small building. Grass grew out of cracks in the floor and a small breeze came through the shattered windows. The sounds of rodents came from somewhere outside Yuri's field of vision but other than that it was quiet.

Pulling himself up he crouched and looked around again before turning to help Anna up and stood. Without a word they moved towards the door, pressing their backs to the wall either side as Anna peered outside. There was a small metallic click an Yuri check the load of the rifle he had taken from the bodies downstairs.

"Clear" Anna whispered and Yuri nodded before Anna slipped through the door and he followed closely behind. The streets were almost deserted and they moved towards Yuri's safe house.

The building was on the edge of a small park and the rebels headed across through the vegetation in the direction of Yuri's safehouse. The entire time Yuri hadn't said a word, and his bruised face was expressionless, he had failed to keep Genesis and now was almost alone in a rioting city, at least there was no sign of the freak 00s.
(Musical Ambience:

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USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55)
North Atlantic
20 Miles off the coast of Canadia...


The watch team in the pilot house was silent, save for the occasional report from topside watches. They wore either their utility jackets or pea coats to keep warm in the cold air of the northern point of the ocean. The Leyte Gulf and her battle group, consisting of the Ticonderoga class Aegis Cruisers USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51) and USS Anteitam (CG-54) and the Oliver Perry Hazard class Frigates, the USS Elrod (FFG-55,)USS Rueben James (FFG-31,) USS Underwood (FFG-36,) and the USS Reid (FFG-30) had been ordered to loiter in the area as per Admiral Baker's orders.

The group was returning from a raid on the British Isles. A very succesful raid with little to no use of shipboard artillery or missiles. Only small arms fire had to be traded between the pirates and the defenders.

Then again having seven warships off the coast is more than enough to intimidate a fishing hamlet into pissing its collective pants. Down in the Combat Information Center the Tactical Action Officer sat in his seat, warm within the skin of the ship and drinking some of the spirits they pilfered during the raid. The Combat Information Center Officer approached and took his seat next to the TAO.

"The Brits know how to make alcohol, don't they?" Lieutenant Carlisle commented to CW01 Petrejwski.

"That they do." Payne replied, pouring himself a shot of Scotch. "Although I'll stick to vodka if I want to keep warm." The two men shared a laugh, almost missing the call from AAW.

"TAO, got a contact on our outer strike perimeter." the Fire Controlman Second Class announced. Lieutenant Carlisle immediately set his spirits aside and looked at the main screen.

There were three contacts in the air. Rueben James and Stark had their SH-2 Sea Sprites dropping sonobouys in search of enemy subs. Although all they had ever found this far North were whales it never hurt to be cautious.

"That's not a valid friendly IFF..." Carlisle said, Petrejwski reaching over and grabbing the handset for the TAO. Carlisle keyed it.


Pirates and Marines leapt from their racks, scurrying to get into their respective utilities as the General Alarm sounded out. The warning was sent to the other ships in the battle group and their crews brought their respective ships to battle readiness.


The twin arm Mk 26 launchers of the Thomas S. Gates and the Anteitam were brought into load positions and SM-2 Blk III Surface to Air Missiles were hoisted up onto the launch arms while the Leyte Gulf's Mk 41 Vertical Launch System was brought online, the Fire Controlmen in Combat bringing the missile online and activating their payloads. The frigates' Mk 13 'One Armed Bandits' were brought into load postion as well, SM-1 SAMs hoisted up and trained.

The battle group was ready for combat.

"Captain on deck!" a Marine announced from Combat's water tight door.

"As you were..." Commander Cheryl Soalewski shouted as she approached Lieutenant Carlisle. "I could have sworn it would be smooth sailing up in the North Atlantic. Explain, Lieutenant..."

"Ma'am, we picked up a contact outside of our missile range loitering there. It's not broadcasting a valid friendly IFF." Carlisle began as an Operations Specialist approached, a sheet of paper in hand.

"Sir, Ma'am, Radio just cracked their IFF. It's a Crusader ship." the OS said as Soalewski took the paper and read over it. She then crumpled it up and tossed it in a waste basket.

"Keep watching them. If they continue on their present bearing blow them out of they sky. Davy Jones will know what to do from there."

"Aye, Ma'am." Carlisle replied as Soalewski took her seat. Almost immediately a Marine handed her a cup of coffee.

"We've always been in a cold war with the yankees. Now it may just be turning hot."


-A battle group loitering in the North Atlantic sights a contact about to cross their path. They prepare for battle.
Altantic Seaboard, somewhere near the coastal plain of NY state

[ame=""]YouTube- Last Exile OST2 - Heavy Cocoon[/ame]

Jerry unlinked himself from the computer mainframe of the Tesla. He then began to pace around, waiting for the humans to do something. He viewed some of the screw scrambling around altering switches and other electrical pieces that seemingly did nothing.

The Tesla then made a sharp turn southwards, causing anything not buckled down to go sliding. Jerry remained un-phased by this, seeing as his programming had become used to Ada's erratic piloting.

"Watch it tincan!" One of the crewmembers said as he ran past Jerry.

"How rude." Jerry said.

"Well sorry tincan, but the boss wants us to head south as quickly as possible."

"Noted." Jerry said.

The Norfolkains continued to monitor the strangely shaped contact that was hovering above them. It made little sense to the commanding officers for such a weakly designed airship to be this far north from the borders of Semile.

Whatever the reasons, they viewed it as a hostile, especially since the coding of the Tesla matched up with an older enemy vessel that had flown over the edges of Norfolkian territory just two days beforehand.

For fifteen minutes the boats kept watch on the Tesla. Taking a sip from her coffee Carlisle continued to access the situation.

"It keeps moving southwards." Carlisle said.

Soalewski then spit the coffee out, "God this shit sucks."

Soalewski then bit her lower lip, making up her mind.

"I want that thing blown to Hell."

Jerry then sat down on a metal chair in the hangerbay of the Tesla. Ada had given him orders to more or less spy on Altair. His crew had decided go southwards, which proved they were toying with the idea of trying to find the Messiah.

Aleeya, aleeya, aleeya

Some alarms then buzzed. More of the crew men started to run about.

Jerry then stood up, curious to what could have caused this sudden change of pace. However, when he did just that, a missile hit the right wing of the Tesla.

The explosion then sent pieces of the airship flying in different directions. Crew members were now starting to man the battle stations. How long the Tesla could actually sustain heavy fire was anyone's guess but with Altair on board, they had a naive faith in their leader. His powers could always be the fall back, if they should fail....

It turned out rather ironicly that Ada had indeed left at the right time.
"Direct hit!" Carlisle shouted out, almost jumping out of his seat.

"Don't start celebrating, Lieutenant..." Soalewski growled.

"I could have sworn I gave the order to blow that ship to Hell. I'm trying to appease Davy Jones."

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The ships of the battle group were shrouded by smoke as their missile launchers ejected another series of intercept missiles. They closed the distance rapidly. A few of the Hazard frigates' missiles hit at a bad angle and deflected, bouncing away and exploding.


Tesla Bridge...

"D-did you see that!" one of the crew members shouted as he watched two missiles explode away from the ship.

"Altair will get us through this! I know it!" the helmsman shouted.


"Captain, target is still moving." one of the FCs in the Strike Corner shouted out.

"So bring our guns to bear. Punch them full of holes and watch them crash! CRASH AND BURN!!!"


The Ticos and Hazards maneuvered so they were broadside to the Tesla. The cruisers trained and elevated their forward and aft Mk 45 five inch guns, the frigates doing the same with their OTO Melara 76mm guns. The ships fired into the sky, peppering the Tesla with Variable Time HE rounds, shredding the ship's hull.


"We're losing altitude!" the helmsman shouted. "I can't keep her steady!"

"Brace for impact!" another crewman shouted out as the Tesla listed heavily to starboard. The surface ships continued to pound it with cannon fire.


"Excellent! Bravo Zulu, Bravo Zulu to you all!" Soalewski announced, clapping as the Tesla slammed into the ocean.

"Ma'am, what about the survivors?" the TAO asked. Soalewski's demeanor changed very quickly.

"What about them... They're in Davy Jones' hands now..." she snarled back.

"Captain, a fresh body is worth a lot of money to the slave markets in Aztlan." Soalewski rubbed her temples then reached for the bottle of Scotch Carlisle and Petrejwski had been drinking from. She popped the cap off then downed the bottle, slamming it on the console hard enough to crack the glass.

"Fine... But WE'RE picking them up... I don't want the other ships to deploy their boats or helos..."

"Aye, Ma'am..." Carlisle replied. The Leyte Gulf put her small boats into the water, a Gunners Mate manning an M-60 mounted on the foc'sle of the RHIBs (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.) The Leyte Gulf's SH-60B Sea Hawk was airborne, circling the wreckage and shining a spot light on the water.

"Get a load of this!" one of the boat crewmen shouted, pointing at a metallic arm hanging on some of the wreckage.

"The fuck is that?" the boat pilot shouted over the roar of the helo as it orbited overhead. They maneuvered around the wreckage and found Jerry hanging on to what was probably a bulkhead.

"It's a droid! We'll get boukou bucks at the Scrapyard for this one!" an Ensign shouted back. "Send a helo with a winch... We can't carry him on our dinghy..." On the other side of the crash site the other RHIB was busy picking up some of the survivors.

"Quit kicking, you'll drown us all!" the Quartermaster shouted at a man who was struggling against him.

"You'll kill us! I know you will!" Jason shouted back at the pirate. The Gunners Mate walked aft from his gun mount then hoisted Jason up by his throat.

"Stow it, ya louse! Yer damn lucky we're pickin' yew up!" the Petty Officer snarled. Jason spat on his face. "Yew jest wrote yer own epitaph..." Jason found himself sumberged and struggled to get out. His lungs were screaming for air. Right when he felt a calming warmth come over him he was pulled out and deposited onto the deck of the boat.

"Yer in luck, laddie..." the Gunners Mate sneered. "'Is lady 'ere vouched fer yew..." Jason looked and saw Lil on the other side of the boat. One of the pirates had her at gun point.

"Say g'night, sweet heart!" the boat pilot shouted, striking Jason with his M-16 and putting him out like a light. Commander Soalewski was waiting on the boat deck.

"Captain, we got some survivors for sale." one of the QMs beamed.

"That's nice, I'm real happy for you..." she muttered, looking out at the wreckage.

"Ma'am permission to speak freely..." one of the boat crewmen piped in.


"There's still a few people out there. We've got plenty of room in Boatswain's 1 to hold them." Soalewski looked out at the sea then took out a cigarette and lit it up.

"Secure the boats and send the prisoners to the hold."

"But, I saw others out there." one of the Boatswains Mates protested. Soalewski grabbed him by his throat and slammed him against the bulkhead.

"Their souls are MY payment to Davy Jones." she snarled back. "As for the lot of you, if I hear any more protests then I will send you to the Locker as interest to Jones... IS that understood?" Other than the beat of the Sea Hawk's rotor there was silence.

"Yew lads 'eard the Cap'n!" the GM shouted. "Now heave to an' lash these boats down!" Soalewski took her cigarette and put it out on the forehead of one of the captives.

Prisoners are such a chore... she mused as the battle group began putting distance between themselves and the Teslas sinking wreckage.


-The Leyte Gulf battle group finishes off the Tesla an a handful of survivors are picked up, none of whom are Altair.
Altantic Seaboard, somewhere near the coastal plain of NY state

Ada then sat perplexed. “Why would they issue a 20091? The last time that was ever an issued protocol was…During the rebellion. Shit and a pile of it.”

She then reached for her breast pocket, where she kept all of her cigarettes concealed. Ada never claimed to be an avid smoker but when she was stressed it became a nervous impulse.

Beep Beep Beep Beep.

An alarm went off on her battle gear. She then clicked it.

“Come in Jerry.” Ada said.

There was no feedback. “Jerry, come in. I repeat Jerry come in. Hey rust bucket what’s the big idea? You called me, I don’t like playing waiting games.” She said inertly.

She then pressed a button that made the gunship’s computer mainframe pop up.

“Commence voice process protocol. This is Haudenosaunee. Hello, is there anyone there? Once again, this is Haudenosaunee. Does anyone read me, hello? Guys this isn’t funny…”

Haudenosaunee was a codename she often used for herself while on missions. If anyone there was anyone on the Tesla , it would have been Altair that would have known this.

For several more minutes she continued to try reaching the Tesla on a private channel. There was still no response.

“Computer, give the coordinates of the Tesla.” Ada told the gunship’s mainframe.

“Processing data….Searching….Searching… There are no coordinates to be found. Looking into possible programming errors…There are no malfunctions found.”

“What the fuck did Altair do? There’s no fucking way that piece of crap has cloaking capabilities… Computer, track the ID Chip 9.0003939.”

Ada then pulled out a cable from her mechanical left arm and plugged it into the mainframe.

“Processing data….Searching….Searching… Data found. Nova Corps Assassin Droid, codenamed Jerry. Functions went offline approximately fifteen minutes ago.”

“….No transmissions from the Tesla or Jerry… Something’s up. Computer reroute the autopilot to the area where the Tesla was last picking up transmissions.”



The gunship then went around in circle to go back towards the Tesla.

It took Ada about a half hour to reach the spot where the Tesla had been sunk. By now the Norfolkian Navy had moved on. Besides, they would not have fired upon the gunship because Ada had rerouted the IFF to be of her own personal coding; in other words, a cheap civilian number that almost any pirate or registered member of Semile could pick up.

The attack had occurred in relatively shallow waters but the temperatures were still fridged since it was the early days of spring. Smoke was present at the scene, while wreckage floated around.

“What the hell, happened?” Ada thought to herself.

She then glanced down. There were a few crew members waving a white flag made out of a curtain they managed to salvage from the ruins. Ada then lowered her craft into the water. She then opened a hatch.

“Miss Ada! Thank God, an ally!” One of the crew members said. There were five of them that survived the sinking of the ship.

“Cut to the point. What happened, besides for someone attacked you.”

“We have no idea. There was a fleet that appeared out of nowhere. They bombarded us with missiles. Commander Altair deflected a great many of them, but there had to be thousands of them…”

Ada’s eyes then widen. “Do you know where he is?”

“No…We haven’t seen him… Were are the only survivors that we know of… But since you’re still alive, the spirit of Infinity will continue. We put our trust into you…” Another crewmember said.

“Don’t think like that!” Ada said as she slapped the young man, “Your boss has survived worse scuffles than this. There’s no way he’d die that easily!”

Ada then felt tears trickle down her face. She may not have always like Altair‘s impulsive nature, but she didn‘t want to come with the grasp she lost a great many friends on this day…
World Wars happen when you cannot see the David or the Goliath. They happen when both sides scent a victory and drag in all their allies to the marching tune, till all the world is embroiled and mother nature suffers the fallout. World Wars happen when one side doesn't have the decency to accept they're the underdog.

The coming war between Semile and Norfolk would not be a World War. The David was clear and the Goliath was clearer. While the Norfolkians relied on naval supremacy and 600 year-old technology... it was the Semilians who ruled the skies and held the monopoly on modern warfare. The Nephilim were the expeditionary counterpart of the Custodians, dressed in white rather than the standard blue. Their enemies called them "Nephews", as if they were some long-lost relation... which in a way was true... And among their many embellishments was the innovation of Cybertech.

In addition to the two Cyborg Gunners assigned to every Nephilim Team, there was a further duo of Throne-Mechs functioning as mobile artillery platforms, recon drones and suppression units. Though not as precise as the Gunners, these mechs were on-hand to clear terrain and guarantee ground supremacy. 6 Nephilim, 2 Gunners, 2 Mechs - five squads in each platoon and each platoon was fronted by a Merkabah Tank (or Merky). These frigate-sized hover-tanks came in a huge number of variants, from long-range ICBM launchers and railguns to short-range chemical and lazer suppressors.

An equivalent formation existed in the air, with Seraphim Airships forming central hubs from which the HKs could launch. A Seraphim ship would usually carry the Nephilim Major coordinating a particular offensive, who would maintain a full cyber-uplink to his lieutenants in the Merkys. Depending on the size of the operation, a Seraphim Major would typically have 3 artillery lieutenants, six assault platoons and two recon or shock elements featuring the chemical and biological Merkys. And that, of course, was in addition to the squadrons of HKs at this disposal, which he could deploy as and when needed to patch up holes in the ground offensive.

Unlike police HKs, the Nephilim versions were built for manouverability rather than presence. And, as with the ground units, every 6 HKs were supported by a pair of fully-automated Throne HKs packing greater firepower and reconnaisance capabilities. The task of the HKs was much like the Mechs - to provide short, sharp punches to the enemy or to simply suppress an entire section of the battlefield. The HKs also taxied the Titan Commandos, the feared special drop-troops of the Nephilim Army who were officially commanded by General Jerek Aldere.

Supremacy in the air and intimidation on land - this was the policy of the Nephilim Expeditionary Force. Their battle philosophy was known as the Seven Heavens - seven rings formed by the Mechs, the Cyborgs, the Infantrymen, the Merky-Tanks, the HKs, the Throne HKs and the Seraphim Airships.

There was no shortage of funds and, thanks to the propoganda of Thaddeus Dayne, there was no shortage of trigger-happy recruits jostling for a chance to fight for their Messiah. A whole quadrant of the city was kept in work just from weaving the white robes for the new recruits. And business for NovaCorps was booming as contracts for hover-tech and cyber-tech came flooding in.

And so, as the Nephilim Expeditionary Force rolled out of the domed city of Semile, the marching band that played was the chuckle of history repeating itself. A well-equipped military going to war against a better-trained guerilla force.

Some lessons are never learned.

[SUMMARY: The "Nephilim Army" is introduced - a military fat with money, technology and glory-seeking recruits.]
Location: Hidden Rebel Base, somewhere in the Lynchwood wilderness .

“I want to move the 4th People’s Front towards the eastern sectors of Semile. Then the 3rd Death Brigade towards the southern front, nearest to the Norfolkians. This declaration of war against the Norfolkian states is exactly what we needed,” Dante said as he huffed a large Cuban styled cigar.

“While have lost a considerable amount of capital from that your last escapade…Now you want us to be more aggressive with our bombings? The 4th People‘s Front refuses to take part in anymore of your plots Dante.” A man named Victor said.

“Fine Victor. Then you and your men will be considered cowards once we achieve our grand victory against the Imperials.” Another member of the resistance growled.

“Unlike you members of the Death Brigades, we don’t see the purpose in killing thousands of our own country men in order to overthrow the government. Assassinating the High Priest and Dayne would do enough to cause chaos for generations!”

“You’re all morons. They’d just replace those ministers. They are meaningless titles! The only way to send the ultimate shock to these fuckers for a wake up call is to kill their fucking Messiah. Without that white haired little bitch, they don’t know what to do!” A Rebel leader said.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen. We all have ambitious goals. Let Victor and his men do as they please. Remember, we are a movement that supports the freedom of thought and expression. We will not hold our brothers with a burden of guilt.” Dante finally said.

He then pressed his cigar to the table, “The Death Brigades will instead focus on a large target that’s almost as important to the Crusaders. The Church of St. Meno, the very site were the first High Priest was sworn into office 600 years ago. Since it lies close to the No Man’s Land of the Lynchwood Swamps and Norfolk itself, it’d be a devastating blow to the Crusader’s morale. Like last time we make it appear that the Norfolkians were responsible. This will divert forces from other regions of the nation. We increase the amount of attacks and assassinations. It will be a slow and grueling process but it will end in our victory.”
Time for tears was short lived. Ada and the survivors turned to a loud booming noise from the lake behind them. A fine mist covered the air, obscuring their view. When it finally settled 75% of the Tesla's crew was on the opposite shore and footsteps grew closer. When it became apparent who it was, Ada slugged Altair in the face.

"You son of a bitch! How many times are you gonna get blown up?! Do you have ANY fucking idea how worri-" she cut herself off right there, not wanting to show an opening. Instead of his standard teasing, Altair stood up and patted her on the shoulder.

"Good to know you still care enough about me to watch my back, Ada," as he said this, Altair dropped to a knee and started breathing heavily. Ada knelt down next to him.

"What the hell did you do to yourself now, you dumbass?"

"Well excuse me...for having to spread shields around my crew..."

"Fucking moron! To save that many people in one go. You used way too much power one go!"

"Its fine...I haven't used my powers much lately...I was at full power. I just a second. Haven't had to use that much power since the Infinite Uprising."

As Altair caught his breath he pointed over in a ruin and yelled.

"Everyone get in there! The wounded, the healthy, everyone!"

The ruins were an old forward base for Infinity. Altair walked up to an old shipping crate and opened it.

"Good. The weapons are still here," as he smirked, A soldier tapped Altair on the shoulder.

"Altair, we have two big problems. First off, this kid here was out cold. He's Brotherhood, obviously left over from the Tesla attack. What do we do with him?"

"...Let him wake up to a real rebellion, that's what. Now what's the second problem?"

"..........Rhiannon is missing. We got a report right before that Norfolkian attack"

Altair turned, rather angry.

"What!? Find her! She's an illegal 00! If she's found by any of the Crusaders she's in trouble! Take a squad. Use the weapons if you have to."

"What about you?"

"I'm taking a squad to go get Sahar. I am NOT letting Nova Corps destroy anymore of my family..."

"What about Jason and Linette?"

"I'm not worried. They're their father's children. He didn't get to be my right hand for nothing. Besides, the Norfolkians are in for a very rude awakening when they realize they're fucking with Infinity."

His voice was calm, but his eyes were full of absolute fury. The same fury that struck terror into the Crusaders ten years ago. The same fury he wielded when Project Genesis tore his family apart. Now the Norfolkians dare do the same?

"I will make each and every one of them suffer for this. They will beg me for their lives and I will draw the utmost pleasure in leaning down to them and telling them no. They think the Crusaders are bad? They'll regret the day they crossed 01. I will show them how insignificant they are. Jason and Linette will do that well enough. They have no way of telling Linette is a pre-00. They better pray they don't use one of those ancient military bases. Linette will tear it to shreds in minutes..."

[Summary: Altair and the majority of the Tesla's crew has survived. Altair discovers Rhiannon is missing and orders Infinity to go find her. They have discovered Asheron, still present from the Tesla attack. Altair prepares to go get Sahar. He muses to himself that the Norfolkians will regret ever taking Linette if they rely on ancient hardware, mentioning his stepsister is a pre-00.]
Setem exited the underground by some stairs that had remained uncovered. If anything it was good place to start and there was a clear cut path. “I can’t let this go on anymore. I may not have answers, but I know what she is doing is wrong.” Setem said to himself walking the path Sahar had laid out before him. He was intolerable to the act of homicide. He never believed it was a necessary course of action in any occasion. He was now rapidly approaching the Cathedral and unknown to him there was a nice surprise waiting there.
Zion stretched. It seemed like he'd been sitting here forever with her. Hm. What they needed to do was kill some time. Oohh, maybe play a game! He hadn't played a game with someone in ... well, ages, actually. There were some kids in the Underground but their parents didn't let them out of their sight often and not a lot of people had taken the time to get to know him. Even in the Underground they didn't trust him.

"So ... do you wanna ... play a game with me?" he suddenly said out loud.

Sahar was in the middle of surveying her new world, her vast domain when she heard him speak up. She turned, red eyes meeting blue. "What was that?"

"Do you want to play a game with me?" he asked again. "We're probably going to be here awhile. Let's play ... paddy-cake. It'd be fun--at least until I remember what other hand games we can play." He grinned sheepishly and lifted his hands, fingers together, palm toward her. "It's real easy. Let me show how it's gone," and with that he did a game of solo paddy-cake, singing the song as he went.

Sahar watched him do the movements and sing the song and when he was done, she looked at him strangely. "You're an odd doll. Why would you want to play a game with me?"

Zion blinked once, then twice. "Because you're fun to hang out with and I think it's fun if you play a game of paddy cake with me. Just one? Just to check how it goes?"

Sahar moved and sat down across from him. "Alright. One game of paddy-cake." She was excellent at learning things by just observing it once. Zion began and despite knowing what to do, it was different touching someone, talking to someone, playing with someone, rather than killing, hurting people. She had never thought she'd do something like this with someone other than her Mother.

Baker's man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can ..."

Together she and Zion sang the song together and when it was time to use a letter to mark the cake Zion used "S" for Sahar. And at the end, Zion clapped and smiled. "Cool, that was fun. It was a lot better than playing it by myself." Sahar didn't talk but that was alright, Zion was used to talking to himself. "The Old Man taught me games like Paddy Cake a long time ago. But he passed away some years ago, it seems like a long time and I haven't been able to play them with anyone else before.

"You probably know what I'm talking about. Since you're the Messiah and all, I doubt things have been easy for you. Sheltered maybe but not easy. People have probably wanted you for some reason or other. I can't say I know what that's like. I've just wandered around and seen plenty of stuff. I finally settled down in the Underground. It seemed like a good idea at the time. None of that crap I have to worry about above ground."

Zion leaned back to recline against a crate. "It's fun hanging out with you. I tried hanging out with kids a long time ago ... but they found out I was different and that made playing with them impossible. The Old Man always said I was playing with a different deck of cards than other people and he said that was okay. He said being different wasn't a bad thing and I liked that. I liked thinking that being different wasn't bad, because that meant I didn't have to feel guilty about being different. I can be different and I don't have to apologize for it. Heh, you probably know what I'm talking about."

[Summary: While on the roof with Sahar, Zion teaches her how to play paddy-cake and talks to her.]
The shop Yuri had worked in looked a battered mess, the glass front was shattered, and door was almost all the way off its hinges and as Yuri pushed it open empty shell casings skittered across the floor. Inside there was no evidence of anyone except a large bloodstain on the floor and an unfinished meal on the table. It seemed the police were using the riots to clean things up a bit.

"Guetrich." Yuri muttered kneeling beside the bloodstain that may or may not belong to his employer/alibi/housemate and friend for the past few years. On the floor a shattered picture on the old man and Yuri's "father" lay hole through the frame showed it had been an accidental casualty.

Yuri walked slowly through the mess, his eyes taking in what at once was his home, a finger tracing a line from bullet hole to bullet hole in the old papered wall, his face showed nothing of what was going on behind it. The hidden door to the basement was in much the same state as the front door and below only charred wood and strewn metal remained. At least the bombs placed so long ago had destroyed the evidence. For a moment Yuri wondered if Guetrich had set them off or if a crusader had triggered the booby trap, either way there would be no body.

There was at least some consolation.

Without even looking at Anna Yuri moved into the kitchen and lifted the plastic flooring and threw a few floorboard across the room and from a small metal box grabbed a box on ammunition and a carefully wrapped telescopic scope. Pulling the looted rifle from his shoulder he slid the scope into the grooves and made a few rough adjustments.

Standing he walked over to Anna and without a word put his arms around her, he needed to know he had something left to fight for, he needed he needed her to know he still loved her.
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The land-speeder currently rushing across the Baltimore Desert was known as Frankie - not a Sinatra reference, but an abbreviation for Frankenstein. Joseph Maldini called it this because the speeder was patched together from about 200 pieces of assorted scrap. He had been tinkering with it on his days off from running jobs for Altaire's crew - a hobby of sorts, or perhaps a love-affair. He had always understood machines better than people, and unlike people they could be brought back to life. So that was Frankie in a nutshell - his resurrected and temperamental mistress.

He just had to hope she wouldn't have a problem with the other woman currently riding in her.

Making another course correction, Joseph looked through the strands of his silvery hair at his passenger. Rhiannon hadn't said much since the two of them sneaked out of her room and left with the day-shift workers. The 00 was sitting in the passenger-seat, clutching her arms as the speeder rattled and the wind buffetted her. But even in her silence Rhiannon seemed more at ease and each mile between herself and the Tesla instilled a greater calm.

When enough time had passed, Joseph felt the need to break the silence and elaborate on the brief story he had told her as they lay together under the pipe.

"So like I said, Maam... there's only seven Class 4 Pneumatic-Technicians in all of Semile. So when the Tesla got stolen, it didn't take the Crusade long to track us all down. The Thought Police figured whoever jacked the Tesla would need to repair the Tanhauser Relay. I reckon them folks had a whole department tracing every nut and bolt and every nut and bolt-supplier in the goddam city."

Rhiannon looked across and could see the effort Maldini was making to stay jovial. He was forcing his smiles and his tone... the way a man does when reading an epitaph. She could see the moistness in the mechanic's eyes.

"What happened?"

There was a pause before Maldini spoke again. "Well, old Billy Dean up at Turncoat was killed - I know that much. And I reckon Stevie and Dexter from East Side are still being held at the Ministry. The rest of us... well... let's just say, Maam, the Crusade found ways to get to us..."

He broke off, pretending to fiddle with one of the dials on his beaten-up dashboard. He was broadcasting a civilian handshake to the dome, hoping to pass Frankie off as a private salvage craft, just like Ada had done hours before.

Then he changed his mind, blurting it out. "They got my family, Miss. My Jane... and the kids - two of them, five and seven each. They ain't old enough to deal with this kinda thing, y'know? Ministry ain't a place for kids."

A tear broke as he stared hard at the dashboard, trying to smile again. "Funny... Jane always said I was a master o' one trade and jack o' none. She could always count on me to fix up the house, but not much more, no Sir. Guess I'm gonna prove her wrong now, huh?"

Rhiannon knew it wasn't a question she should answer. Another silence passed before Maldini looked over at her again.

"They say the Brotherhood can help people, right? You think if I bring you back... and give 'em the Tesla's location... they'll help me make a deal with the Crusade?"

He turned away again, pretending to make another court correction. His next words were almost lost beneath the howl of the wind.

"You're all I got."

[Rhiannon has escaped from Altaire and is now with Joseph Maldini, a technician being blackmailed by the Crusade. He wants Rhiannon's help to broker a deal with the Crusade, thinking he can get his family back by giving them the Tesla.]
Rhiannon had a made a choice. It had been impulsive and born purely out of a need to get away from the person and place that was causing her so much confusion. But. She had made it herself without feeling as if she were pressured to make it or would be punished for choosing the wrong one. Now as she listened to the problems of Joseph Maldini, her reckless escape seemed more like the right decision.

Chewing on her bottom lip, Rhiannon considered. Making an enemy of Altair and Infinity by betraying their location didn't seem right. Yet, wouldn't they understand the need to do whatever it took to save someone's family? Altair was doing the same to find the girl Sahar. Whatever it took.

"I... don't know. The man in charge of the Brotherhood wasn't very... um... Understanding? I am not sure he would help make a deal even if you did tell them about the Tesla." She shifted in her seat, her hands rising to fuss with pulling her hair down over her shoulder.

"I'll help you get your family back, though. When we get there, maybe we can decide if telling the Brotherhood is really the best idea. There should be lots of ways to get them back, if we think about it, right?"
He came to slowly, aware of nothing but a deep, painful ache that seemed to resonate throughout his entire body. What... had happened? The memories were beginning to trickle back. The mission, everything going wrong... he'd been... separated from the others somehow, hidden himself in a small room on the Tesla, then...

Then the roaring, crashing, and he'd been thrown about and something had exploded across the side of his head with pain and he'd only known black nothingness, unconsciousness, since then.

At least, he had until now... He was waking up, face twisted with the residual pain from where his head had collided with a wall or shelf or something back on the ship, and in spite of himself, he made a small groan. It was only after that that he became aware of the rather important fact that he was no longer lying on the metal floor of that small, quiet room. His pale blue eyes flickered open slowly, momentarily blinded by the sun, and he turned his head, just enough to see that he was surrounded by people- people who were most definitely not from the Brotherhood, or the Crusaders. Who were they?

He got up gradually, trying to avoid drawing attention to himself as he stared at the people around him. They were definitely some kind of military group, that was certain- he could see the weapons amongst them that told him that much. He was apparently on the edge of where they were tending to their wounded; men and women were looking after the injuries of others, and despite how he tried to be discreet, it wasn't long at all before one of them noticed him awake.
Altair glanced over at Asheron as he tried to keep out of sight of the people around him. When Altair finally noticed actual movement he walked over stepping over people laying down and squeezing in between others, "You finally awake kid?" Altair didn't receive an answer, so he decided it best to just keep talking, "You're Brotherhood, right? Well I got a bit of a news flash for you. I haven't heard anything about the Brotherhood since the Tesla," Asheron blinked for a moment and finally spoke.

"Where is the Tesla? Did the Brotherhood get it?" Altair shook his head.

"No. I did. And the Tesla had been destroyed. The fucking Norfolkians made sure of that," Altair snorted. His voice was full of the same disdain he held for the Government and Crusaders. Asheron tried standing.

"Wait, the Norfolkians? What are they doing this far south?"

"You obviously have no idea what's been going on. Well then..."

Altair proceeded to fill Asheron in on the big details of what had happened since he passed out. How Sahar was missing, the Government falsely blaming the Tesla attack on the Norfolkians, the sudden orders from Nova Corps, and the riots taking place in the city as a result of Sahar's being missing. Asheron didn't speak after the story. Altair nodded understandingly, "I know its a lot to take in. But the Government has taken their bullshit to a new level, and its going to cost innocent people their lives. All for the sake of their so called "Messiah"...come to think of it...didn't the Brotherhood disguise themselves as Norfolkians during their attack?"

Altiar looked around at all of his troops and nodded. With that fact confirmed Altair looked at Asheron, "So I could go so far as to blame you for quite a bit that's happened. Luckly I'm not that kind of guy. You should be happy you're here. You're with a real rebellion now. What's your name kid?"


"Well then Asheron. I'd like to offer you a place in my rebellion. I'd like offer you a chance to join Infni--OUCH! Ada! Let the fuck go! I know you forget, my arms aren't made of metal like yours!" before Altair could finish his offer to join Infinity, Ada had grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away with her usual "Quit dicking around we got work to do" look. With Altair no longer present, it became clear that remembering the Brotherhood's masquerade as the Norfolkians had raised quite a few agitated thoughts.

The Norfolkians had destroyed the Tesla because of the Government blaming them for the Tesla attack. The only reason the Government could even do such a thing was because of the Norfolkian evidence planted by the Brotherhood. So on a simple train of logic, the Brotherhood could be blamed for absolutely everything that's happened. The glares from Infinity soldiers made one thing clear to Asheron. They tolerated him for Altair, but he was by no means welcome.

[Summary: Altair gets Asheron up to speed on recent events before being pulled away by Ada. When the rest of Infinity remembers the Brotherhood running around looking like Norfolkians during the Tesla attack, it becomes obvious they do not welcome Asheron among them. The only thing stopping them from doing anything is Altair.]
(Musical Ambience:)
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Boatswain's 1
USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55)...

"Early dinner for watch reliefs..." the Officer of the Deck announced over the ships 1MC. The pirate guarding the prisoners from the Tesla looked up at one of the sqwak boxes.

"Thank Christ... I'm starving..." he mused, shifting his M-870 shotgun. The prisoners had remained quiet for the most part since being brought aboard. A Corpsman had checked them out before they were muscled up to Boatswain's 1 for holding. Had they been taken to an Amphibious Assault Ship or an Aircraft Carrier they would have been put in a proper brig. A trio of pirates approached the pirate on guard.

"I properly assume the watch." the BM3 said, half assing a salute.

"I am properly relieved..." the OS3 replied, standing up. One of the other pirates unlocked the door leading into the makeshift brig, the other, a cook, carrying a tray in with him.

"Chow time. Gotta keep you fed till next port of call." the CSSN cheerfully sang. The prisoners were fed small burgers and given water.

"Hey buddy, chow time... You gotta be hungry after that swim in the North Sea. Hey!" one of the MAs shouted to Jason. He quickly sprang up and knocked the pirate against the bulkhead then bolted out the door.

Unfortunately for him the deck of ships is not continuous. There are knee knockers present which are used to set a ship's water tight integrity with water tight doors.

One such knee knocker caught Jason's left foot, causing him to falter.

"You son of a bitch!" the OS3 who was on watch snarled as he started kicking Jason in the ribs.

"Don't hurt him!" Linette screamed, the MA3 getting back up, radio in hand.

"Command Master Chief, Duty MA... One of the prisoners tried to make a run for it..." he barked into the radio.

"Wait there... Ah'm on me way..." the ship's Command Master Chief replied. Jason was pinned against the bulkhead by the OS3, who was pressing his boot against his head.

"Well well, if it ain't the land lubber whit spat on me face." the CMC chuckled, crossing his arms. "Sep'rate 'im from the rest o' the land lubbers. Lock 'im in the paint locker."

"Aye, Master Chief." the MA3 replied, locking the door behind him, the BM3 on watch keeping an eye on the remaining prisoner as Jason was dragged aft. He stumbled a few times, kept up by the MA3 escorting him. The last time he fell he was dragged to a water tight door. Instinctively Jason reached up on the knee knocker to try and drag himself up, not noticing the MA unlocking the door from the bulkhead latch that kept it open. What Jason felt next was excrutiating pain as the pirate slammed the steel door on his arm, breaking it.

"Next time you fall down I'm breaking the other one. NOW JUMP, YARDBIRD!!!" Jason had no say in the matter as he was dragged further aft then practically thrown down a ladderwell then another.

"Duty Supply, CMC." the Master Chief called out on his radio.

"Duty Supply..."

"Lay ta the Paint Locker."

"Aye, Master Chief." To the two pirates, the Master Chief ordered "Strip 'im o' 'is clothes an' belongings. 'E don' need 'em..." Jason was stripped of his clothes and anything in his pockets. Duty Supply arrived to see the MA giving Jason another swift kick to the ribs.

"Sorry for the wait, Master Chief. I had to get the keys." she explained. She unlocked the water tight door leading into the Paint Locker, stepping aside. Jason was thrown in.

"Ye'll remain there till either yew gi' 'at attitude o' yers onna leash or Hell freezes o'er." the Master Chief said to him before slamming the door shut and locking it.

The only thing blocking out the nauseating stench of paints was the pain from his broken arm.


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USS Nimitz (CVN-68) Carrier Battle Group
30 miles off the Virginia coast...


"Naval Station Norfolk has been all but evacuated of non-essential personnel. The only people there are prisoners and a skeleton crew of base personnel who will be moving within the next two hours to a rally point." a Lieutenant Commander explained to Admiral Baker as he looked out the windows of the bridge, an F-14D Super Tomcat landing on the flight deck. The swing wing interceptor had a skull and crossbones emblem on the tail ailerons, marking it belonging to VF-103.

The Jolly Roger Squadron.

"And what of our squadrons?" Baker asked, watching the fighter jet marshalled to a parking space on the flat deck.

"The Blue Tails (VAW-121) are running regular radar sweeps of the north. They picked up lots of movement which directly correlates with radio traffic intercepted by the USS Albany." another officer, this one a Captain, replied. "The Yankees are sending an expeditionary force to invade us." Baker took a sip of his coffee, watching another of the Jolly Rogers' fighters touch down, this one an F/A-18F Super Hornet. Although it had half the missile and radar range of the Super Tomcat, the Super Hornet was more for dog fights. The Tomcats were going to be used to flank the expeditionary force's air support from. Rather they were going to be used to 'snipe' the aerial HKs and other aircraft with their AIM-54C Phoenix missiles.

The Phoenix was an air to air cruise missile with the ability to strike a target one hundred miles away. The Norfolkians were going to use them to lash out at enemy supply lines as well.

The plan was to let the yankees well into Norfolkian territory then cut their supply lines off and bleed them dry, striking swiftly every step of the way.

Marine Force Recon and SEALs were getting in place to greet the invaders. The Texans had pledged their own elite forces, airborne infantry and their own air assets. Baker's air commander, Vice Admiral Robert Dillinger, had seen the Texan fighters, F-15C Eagles and A-10A Warthogs, in action against their Marines and naval aviators in exercises.

However the Texans had said they were bringing something else to the theater. Something the Norfolkians were not familiar with at all. Something they called 'Bone.'

"We have to look at the worst case scenario. That we may lose." Baker said, taking another sip of coffee.

"True as that may be, Admiral, but not one plan ever survives first contact with the enemy." the Captain replied. "The same is true for the yankees." Baker nodded and finished his coffee as another Super Tomcat touched down on the flight deck.


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Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek
LCAC Marshalling Area...

A pirate wearing a red vest and flight helmet waved orange batons at something approaching from the Cheasapeake Bay. Whatever it was was approaching rapidly. The pirate stood his ground, almost waving the batons faster and faster.


The LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) hit the beach, the pirate signalling the pilot of the two hundred and forty ton amphibious craft to turn down the tarmac where several Humvees waited. The monster craft passed the pirate, the man turning and signalling a line of tracked and wheeled vehicles.


He waved the batons at the LVTP-7s and LAV-25s as they rolled to the waters edge, sliding in and floating. The amphibious AFVs continued on, passing another LCAC as it arrived for another load of men and equipment.


-Prisoner shennanigans. Jason is locked in the paint locker, stripped naked and with a broken arm.
-Norfolkian battle plans.
-Amphibious craft moving men and equipment.

"I've got this entire building locked down. I see everything, I hear everything. The game's up Asshole."

Altem watched as the bald, fat and corrupt politician whimpered and tried to dial for security.

"My psychic powers have knocked out the phonelines too," said Altem as he lit up a cigar.

"Y.. you're dead!" shouted the politician, "W.. we found your bloodstained jacket!"

"Just-as-planned," Altem replied. "Oh, and by the way..." He walked over to the office filing cabinet and pulled something out. "... the puppy was here all along."

The politician's eyes went wide. "Noooooooooo!" He grabbed a pistol from his office drawer and swung it towards Altem. But with a blast of pure psychic power Altem sent the politician crashing through the office window. The fat man screamed as he tumbled to his doom.

The puppy in Altem's hands barked cheerfully and Altem ruffled its ears. "I think it's safe to say, he FELL for my tra--

Eros switched off the TV set with an intolerant scowl, before sitting back in her seat. She couldn't believe people were still watching this crap. Sighing to herself, she looked out of the window of the hover-car as it sped through the Cathderal District of Semile.


Dayne was sat beside her and Colonel Gustave was on the opposite couch. The two men were discussing business as usual, going over the minutes Eros had written from the meeting of the war cabinet. They were also drafting speeches, ready for a series of public appearances today at some of the more remote cathedrals of Semile.

She wondered if the two of them ever switched off from politics... whether they ever took time to savour the champage that was served to them in the hover-car, or look at the rising sun as it glittered between the high rises.

"Intelligence is in," grunted Colonel Gustave, as brief and clipped as ever. His voice reminded Eros of a barking rifle. "Zero movement at Norfolk Naval Station. Panopticon is searching for the Battlegroups."

"They're going on the run," replied Dayne, his voice the smooth and charismatic opposite of Gustave's. The Minister was as immaculately dressed as ever, his black Ministry robes almost clerical in style, bringing out the gold of his hair and the cyan of his eyes. He was looking more like the High Priest every day. "Admiral Baker is no imbecile. He knows we have the technological edge. I'd wager the man will try to keep his assets on the water - guerilla tactics and the like."

"We can't face him on the water," Gustave grunted. "Especially if Setem is with them."

"Your pessimism is an abiding comfort to me, my friend." Dayne smiled across at the stern, militaristic glare of the Colonel. "Even with the largest land army in history under your command, you still find reason to complain."

"They're not under my command!" The Colonel seemed ready to spit on the expensive upholstery. "They're not an army either. Jerek is leading a bunch of children into the desert!"

"Children are the future," Dayne continued grinning. "And besides, it doesn't matter if we win the war, as long as we don't have to fight the peace."

Eros didn't understand this comment, but that was nothing new. Most of the minutes she had taken while in Dayne's company were a collection of riddles and rhetoric. She looked over at Dayne as he sighed and said something a little quieter to his friend. "I know if your leg wasn't injured you'd be out there, Gustave. And if I had been born with arms I would not have gone into politics." His mechanical fingers closed around Eros's. "I would've been a painter."

He turned to her, shuffling closer, handing her another flute of champage. And as they drank he pointed over her shoulder. "Look..."

In the streets below, all around the Cathedral District, parades of war-machines were moving slowly, cheered on by crowds of mothers, children and old-folk. Eros saw the fields of white where Nephilim Recruits marched in their new uniforms, overshadowed by lumbering tanks and criss-crossing HK squadrons. From here she could only imagine the noise of cheering and marching bands. The battlegroups were moving towards the dome-wall, preparing to leave the city and make war on the godless wilderness beyond.

Eros's eyes drifted a little higher and she pointed. "What are those?"

On the corner of every street they passed, the rooftops of buildings had been mounted with gun-batteries - great antiquated platforms bearing laser-cannons or SAM launchers. Each gun seemed to be tracking Dayne's hover-car, coming to life the moment it passed and then following the vehicle's path.

"Official security," Dayne answered, his breath warm on her neck. "We're flying in a high-priority lane, reserved for Crusade dignitaries. The gun platforms track the movements of all vehicles in the lane and fire on any unscheduled traffic."

Eros watched the next rooftop battery power-up and track them. "Has there ever been a mistake?"

She heard Dayne laugh under his breath, then felt the cold touch of his PDA against her cheek, the small device on which he rewrote the deaths of thousands.

"Never," he whispered, as rhetorical as ever.

[SUMMARY: Dayne, Eros and Colonel Gustave are currently touring the Cathedral District.]
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