Book: Resolution


Book of the Guardian

Resolution – Part Four

By Ben Winston

Copyright © 2015 Ben Winston

Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.

Table of Contents

Copyright Page



The Guardian – Part Four

Chapter 44 Moon Day (Thirty-Fourth Day)

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50 Turen Day (Thirty-fifth day)

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56 Frisen Day (Thirty-sixth day)

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

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The Guardian – Part Four

Chapter 44 Moon Day (Thirty-Fourth Day)

"Sir, are you sure about this?" Tami asked.

"Tami, do you see any warships around?" John asked.

"Well no, but..." the pilot replied.

"Trust me, we'll be fine," John said. "We have their transit timing down, we know where it drops out, plot the course and just jump in front of a freighter."

Chloe piped in. "Course plotted, Tami. Any time you're ready."

She signaled the rest of the crew about the transit, and put the ship in the lane in front of a huge freighter. "You know that the transit point will defeat our stealth, right?"

"Yep, but by the time they figure it out, we'll already be on the other side, away from the exit, and once again safely wrapped up in our cloak," John replied. "It'll take them about a week to figure out what happened, and by then, it'll be impossible for them to track us."

Once again shaking her head in wonder at the audacity of Guardians, Tami flew the ship into the transit point.

"Transit complete. Welcome to the Beta Quadrant. Re-establishing course, full speed to next jump point," Tami replied.

"Resetting stealth systems, no hostile contacts present. Location confirmed. Its official boys and girls, we are now further out than any human has ever gone," Chloe said at the same time as Tami reported transit complete.

An alarm on Chloe's console began chiming. It shut down as soon as she accessed the sensors. "John, there is another Promethean artifact in the closest system." She paused. "Sort of, it's almost one light year out from the primary, at solar north. Should we check it out?"

"How heavily guarded is it?" John asked.

Chloe shook her head. "It isn't. However, it did begin powering up right after we detected it."

"Is it a coincidence, or is it reacting to our presence?" John asked rhetorically.

"You know how I feel about coincidence, John. I'd bet my shirt that the Prometheans know we're coming for a visit!" Chloe said.

"Maybe, let’s give it a look over while we're here. We might not get another chance. Be sure to record all sensor readings, and prepare another message drone," John ordered.

"Altering course, distance to artifact one point two lights. How close do you want to get, Boss?" Tami asked.

John was looking at the image now up on the main screen. "Well, since they aren't guarding it, let's take a good look. Maybe we can learn something we didn't know."

Tami nodded. "Plotting a short jump, stand by," she paused for a moment. "Ready."

"Let's do it," John ordered.

"Jumping!" Tami replied, and jumped the ship. The trip was so short that there was barely any time spent in transition before they were almost on top of the structure.

"It's much smaller than the Tammerain Capitol Artifact. Data streams are far less as well. Power levels are still climbing, but aren't dangerous yet," Chloe replied.

"Sir, a guide beam has locked onto us," Tami replied.

"A what?" John asked.

"A guide beam. A very weak tractor beam used to guide ships to a specific point. The artifact is emitting one for us, even though we are still fully stealthed," Tami explained.

"Can you tell where it wants us to move?" John asked.

"It's not a landing guide. It wants us to move to a point alongside it," Tami replied.

"The Prometheans were not a hostile or war-like race. It's doubtful that they are trying to harm us." John paused in thought. "Follow it."

"Yes Sir," Tami said and directed the ship to follow the guide.

"John, we've done a lot of crazy shit over the centuries, but this one is right up there at the top," Chloe replied. "We have no idea..."

Another alarm sounded on her console and she asked for information. "John! It's a transit..."

Before Chloe could finish, the Promethean transit point had moved them.

"...point!" Chloe finished. "Fuck!"

"Relax Chloe, we're still alive," John replied. "Tami? Any idea where we are?"

"Not yet, but I think you guys better check out our destination!" Tami said, bringing up an image on the main viewer.

"What the hell..." John said.

"It's massive!" Chloe exclaimed. "Computer says it's almost three light months across!"

"Tami... where are we?" John asked.

"I don't know Sir, the computer is still trying to find a point of reference," Tami replied.

"Tami, an artificial transit point can only move us two hundred lights, you should still be able to lock onto the point of origin," Chloe said reasonably.

"With respect Ma'am, I don't have an exact location, but I can tell you we are in the Gamma Quadrant based on the location of other known galaxies, we are roughly the Galactic opposite of home," Tami replied, fearfully.

"What?" Chloe almost yelled. Tami cringed and tried to duck down.

"Chloe!" John said sternly. "Calm down!" He turned to Tami. "Please keep working on our location and try to plot a best case route back, for now, that's your priority."

"Yes, Sir," Tami said meekly.

John sighed. "Chloe, we have a mystery to solve. I suggest we work on that, or do I need to override you?" As commander, John had the ability to override the controllers of all the Marines assigned to him, including the other Guardians.

"Yes Sir," Chloe said, far more calmly than she had been. "I apologize, Tami. It was the shock of learning that. I didn't mean to frighten you."

John nodded to her, "Better. Do you need a break, or can you keep going?"

"I'm good, John. Like I said, it was just a shock is all," the woman replied. She was still clearly upset, but John could see she was controlling it. He activated his comm implant. "Carl, Alice, report to the bridge. Everyone else, gear up but don't seal up." Meaning that he wanted everyone ready for combat, but at the moment the threat was unclear.

"Sir, Corporal Wanda Gregory might be helpful; she has been studying anthropology and exobiology," Tami suggested.

John nodded and called the woman to the bridge as well.

"That's a fucking Dyson Sphere!" Chloe said. "As impossible as it sounds, that's what these readings are telling me."

"What's a Dyson Sphere?" John asked.

"Who first theorized them has been lost to history, but basically, the theory was a hypothetical construct that would serve to capture the energy output of a star. A solid one like this was deemed to be too unlikely to be feasible; other uses could be to maximize the available living space for a race. In twenty-three ninety-one, scientists proved that the creation of a shell type sphere like this one was not possible; radiation from the star would completely sterilize the inner surface since it would be impossible to maintain the type of shielding needed to protect it," Chloe explained.

"I don't think these folks attended the same universities as we did," Tami replied as the door opened to admit the armored forms of Alice, Carl and another, curious-looking, Marine.

"Thanks for coming guys," John said. He quickly filled them in on the situation, but when he got to the theory Chloe had about the Dyson Sphere, Wanda shook her head. "No way, it'd cook everything inside; like an oven."

"It would seem we have plenty of time to analyze it. We're not going anywhere anytime soon," John said. "Tami, can you get us closer?"

"Yes Sir, how close do you want?" Tami asked.

"High orbit, say two hundred thousand klicks," John replied. "Be subtle, we don't want to piss them off."

"Adjusting course for orbital insertion," Tami said. "We'll arrive in two hours at present speed, sir."

"Sounds good, Tami, thanks," John replied, and turned back to the astonished trio with a grin. "Well? You three need an invitation?"

Chapter 45

It took almost an hour for Chloe to convince Wanda that the artifact was a shell-type Dyson sphere. What amazed the young woman, as well as Chloe the most was that the 'shell' read as a relatively thin eight thousand klicks thick.

"Well, at least in this area it's that thin," Wanda said. It might be thicker in other areas."

"Have you noticed there doesn't seem to be much detritus, and there are no impact craters at all?" Chloe said. "This thing almost looks brand new."

John chuckled when Carl turned to Alice and asked. "Detritus? Why can't she just say dirt like the rest of the galaxy?"

"She's in scientist mode," Alice replied. "It's like our combat mode, but instead of getting all bad-ass, she gets all snooty and snobbish. It looks like young Wanda got the same program."

Chloe rolled her eyes and looked at Wanda. "Don't mind them, they just feel cheated that the only function modes they got were Combat Mode and Rabbit Mode!"

"Rabbit Mode, Ma'am?" Wanda asked. "Wasn't a rabbit a small fur and meat producing animal from old Earth?"

Chloe nodded. "Yep, but they were also noted for one other thing; they bred like a virus. I swear, it's a damn good thing we can't get pregnant, or half the ship would be filled with those two's off-spring!"

Everyone laughed, including Carl and Alice, because it was well known that the couple liked to spend a lot of time together in their in their cabin.

Alice shrugged. "Hey, everyone's got to have a hobby!"

After everyone calmed down, Wanda replied to Chloe's earlier observation. "Surface gravity and magnetics seem to be non-existent, which has to be an artificial function; this much mass should be generating gravity, and all the machinery down there would produce at least some magnetism." She looked at Chloe. "Would it be possible to launch a small probe?"

"Be careful, we don't want them to the think we're trying to blow a hole in it," John said. "Tami, please hold position here, until they get the readings they want from the probe. Stand down from stealth, but keep our shields up."

"Is that smart, John?" Carl asked.

"Our stealth systems work for the Tammerain, but the Prometheans seem to have better sensors. They had no trouble at all tracking us when we transited here," John explained.

"Speaking of that, where exactly are we? Andromeda is on the wrong side," Alice asked, nodding at one of the monitors Tami was using.

John nodded. "Gamma Quadrant; Tami's still working on an exact fix."

"Probe programmed. Launching!" Chloe replied.

The small probe was released from a hatch on the top of the ship, using its own thrusters, it rose out of the compartment, moved around the ship, and started on its course for the artifact. It moved very slowly, and had active sensors sweeping in front of it, in an effort to make it obvious what it was.

It registered a barrier at ten thousand klicks from the surface, and slowed down to try to cross it. The barrier however, held firm, and the probe was stopped.

"That would explain why there isn't any junk on the surface," Carl replied. "It has a type of repulser field."

"The Probe is being scanned!" Wanda said excitedly. "There's life in there!"

"It could simply be an automatic function prior to demolition," Chloe said. "Scanning the unit to see if there are useful elements."

"The Probe has been grabbed by a tractor beam, and is being guided down," Wanda said. "They let it through the field."

"Yeah, but is it being guided to a recycler, or to a landing?" Alice asked.

"Isolate the feeds from the probe, now!" John ordered.

"A wise precaution, Guardian-General, but thankfully, an unnecessary one," a new voice said on the bridge. A hologram of a tall being took form and slowly bowed its head to John. "We have been anticipating your arrival for many years. Thank you for coming."

John returned the bow. "We had little choice in the manner of our arrival. May I ask who I am addressing?" The voice had been androgynous as far as identifying a sex; this being could be either male or female.

"Of course, Guardian General. You may call me Malthis, as that is my designation among our people. I am, what you would call, the leader here."

John nodded. "Malthis, as you probably already know, I am John, these are fellow Marines, Chloe, Wanda, Carl, Alice and our pilot Tami. There are others with us, but I'll leave their introduction for later. You say you have been anticipating our arrival, may I ask why?"

Malthis nodded. "The path to knowledge is as important as the knowledge gained. To this question you have the answer yet lack confirmation and explanation. Indeed the group of races you call the Tammerain are being used to make war on your people. I am afraid we must claim responsibility for this horrific situation.

"As you have so far deduced of our civilization, we were a race focused solely on the pursuit of knowledge. A hard lesson was learned in this and many did not understand it until it was far too late to effect change. We created biological organisms, and seeded them on worlds that would develop to be hospitable to them. In this manner we were responsible for the creation of many races, yet only two still remain. The rest were destroyed by one of our child races.

"To fully understand the situation, we must inform you that our race, that which you call 'Promethean', is dying. Once we spanned several hundred star systems. Now, what remains of our race, reside here while we await our end."

"Forgive my interruption, Malthis. Why are you dying out? Have you not been able to discover the cause and stop it?" Chloe asked.

"Given what you know of us, this is a fair question. It is a curious issue in the extreme. We have been beset by a series of illnesses that have led us to the discovery of a critical breakdown in our genetic code. There is a way to correct the damage and some of us have done so. The result is what you have discovered to be a shorter version of our current form. We consider them to be one of the two races I mentioned earlier. However, the alterations, which amounted to a complete reconstruction of our genetic code, changed them. They began systematically destroying our child races to ensure their continued technological supremacy above all others.

They have taken control of a small number of our older facilities, which has in turn given them control of the Empire of Tammerain. The Facility your trading ships discovered was a living computer created eons ago to assist us in monitoring and guiding our child races and most especially the one on your home world. Of them all, yours has shown and continues to show the most promise. The living computer tried to terminate herself when she discovered the purpose of the Egranis. That is the name that was have given the race of our modified brothers," Malthis explained. "However, she was not completely successful. The Egranis have control of her facility, and are using it as a false religious icon to direct the forces of the Tammerain."

John furrowed his brow. "Egranis means disgrace or disgraced, doesn't it?"

Malthis nodded. "It does. Our purpose has always been as students and stewards, never as conquerors. Our brothers have discarded that philosophy in favor of becoming rulers. They have developed hate and greed. Emotions as alien to our nature as anything can be. They have destroyed all of our other child races but yours, because you have been able to resist them. You have shown a resilience and will to survive that they cannot understand or abide. We have been able to restrict their access to most of our technology that could be used as weapons and they themselves have held back what little they do possess in fear of the Tammerain ever discovering the truth and using it against them."

"If you have anticipated our arrival, then it is your intention to assist us in stopping this war?" Chloe asked.

"We cannot assist you in the manner you would like most. Although we are responsible for the current situation, we cannot allow your race that which has been denied the Egranis. You're race simply is not ready for that yet and would most likely misuse or abuse the technology. But there are ways in which we can aid you. We only ask that you not destroy the Egranis, or any other race in the process. We will allow you some of our advanced technology, but only to your small, select group. We understand that, in order to undertake this, you will affectively violate the oath you have made to your sovereign and through him to your people. So this is something you will have to decide on your own, as individuals. We will ensure your travel back to your home regardless of your answer. But if you accept, you will no longer be Knights of the Realm of Man, or Guardians of Man, but Guardians of all the races; Guardians of life and of the legacy we will leave to you."

"That is a lot to ask of us Malthis. You are asking us to commit treason against our people," Carl said, but not in a threatening way.

"Although it may seem like that, Guardian Carl. It is not in truth, a violation nor is it treason. In fact it will enable you to better fulfill the oath you made. It would be a tightening of your rstrictions and a broadening of scope. The oaths you are bound by at this moment, with the exception of fealty to your King, would simply expand to include all life, not just those of your realm. We do understand that violence is as necessary as peace in the balance of our universe. We may not approve of it, but we know there are times that no other option save that of violence or force remains. We only ask that if time permits, care be given to limit the damage."

"Malthis, we are far from communications range with our home. As the commander, I must speak with the King and explain this to him. I will try to make him understand what you are offering us so he may release us from our oaths to him and our people. To do so any other way would... I feel it would invalidate the spirit of the agreement," John explained. "May we return to our space in order to discuss this with him?"

"You may return if that is your wish, but it is unnecessary. Your communications will work from here as we have set our transit points to allow it for the time being," Malthis replied.

"If that is the case, would you be willing to speak to him as well?" John asked. "By definition, if nothing else, he would also be a Guardian if he were not King."

"I will, I feel I must also warn you that news from your home will be troubling. Although the human race is defending itself, there has been a great loss of life. Your King may wish your immediate return," Malthis explained.

"I understand, Malthis. Please excuse me a moment while I try to contact him," John replied. Again the tall being bowed and occupied itself by answering questions from Chloe, and the others.

Chapter 46

In the month since Mark had sent his friends away to try and stop the war, it had not been going well. The forces of the Tammerain had not been idle during the thousand years of peace. They had been developing new, more powerful weapons and ships. But most troubling, was they had been building a lot of those ships.

The initial wave had seen the arrival of twenty-three battle fleets in Kingdom space. The detection network that had been in place had managed to pinpoint their arrival and Mark had responded in kind, but what hadn't been considered was that the initial wave had been a ruse to draw Kingdom forces away from the protected core worlds.

The Tammerain had sent the bulk of their war machine out into intergalactic space in order to circumvent the detection devices and strike deep into the heart of the Kingdom. If not for the reserve forces that had remained at Xanadu as well as the fleet guarding the Capitol itself, it would have been a deathblow for humanity.

The Capitol of Centauri had seen the arrival of ten full battle fleets; hundreds of capitol class ships, and a thousand lighter, but no less deadly escorts. Mark had ordered the immediate evacuation of the capitol, while the Guard fleet engaged the massively superior force. Once the King, and important personnel had used the transit point to escape, the reserve fleets left the yards at Xanadu and surprised the Tammerain forces at Centauri. The planet itself had been heavily damaged, since the fighting had not been confined to space, but it was still mostly habitable. Once the Kingdom forces pushed the Tammerain back, two of John's flying resorts become hospital ships and arrived to do what they could for those that didn't make it off world.

One of the functions of the Xanadu system had been for the building of refugee centers for displaced survivors when the Tammerain once again attacked. That hadn't really ever stopped, and now there was room for almost a billion souls spread throughout the system. It was to these centers that the refugee’s ships brought their cargo. The location of the system wasn't actually given out, as the ships were told to use the transit point at Centauri, but once they arrived it was relatively simple for them to figure out where they were. Yet, even then, it remained a closely guarded secret, with ship's captains ordering their navigators to make sure the location was not stored in the computer memory. If the Tammerain knew of humanities bolt-hole, they would throw everything they had at that one system.

The Tammerain had expected the arrival of their ships far from the border to panic the rulers, as well as the soldiers of the Kingdom, hoping the massive loss of life the attack had been planned to accomplish would break the Human will. There had been horrible casualties on the attacked planets; in two cases, the entire planetary population had been massacred before Kingdom forces could arrive. But the result of the atrocity hadn't had the affect the Empress predicted; in fact it was the opposite.

Kingdom forces became more violent, more hostile, and far more deadly. The Tammerain quickly discovered that the Kingdom forces hadn't been idle either. Planetary assault forces were hunted down to the last ship and destroyed, Tammerain survivors had been shot in space, captured soldiers on the ground were lined up and executed; the message was clear, those who would slaughter innocent people would receive no quarter; would be shown no mercy.

The people of the Kingdom knew nothing of the mission the Temporal Guard had been sent on, and they began to feel betrayed and abandoned. The Guard had always been there to protect them, where had they gone now that they were needed the most?

In an effort to stem the growing feelings of abandonment by the Guard, Mark decided to talk to his people.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Kingdom, I have heard you. Your Guardians have not abandoned you. They are not here because I sent them on a very special, very dangerous mission to try and stop this senseless war. Because of the threat of this transmission being intercepted, I cannot give you any details. In fact, because of the sensitivity of their mission, I cannot even call them back. Communication is only in the form of message drones they send to me at certain points. I can tell you that we have received the first drone from them, but the second is overdue. There could be any number of reasons for it to be late ranging from the drone failing, to it simply taking longer than anticipated for it to get here.

"What I can tell you about their mission is that, if successful, it should end this war forever. Do not despair over our Guardians, they are doing something impossible in order to protect the rest of us, which is the role of a Guardian after all."

That was the moment Mark felt John contacting his internal comm. Mark almost ignored it since they should be too far away to allow direct contact. Mark sent back a 'Gimme a sec' before smiling at the camera. "I have a feeling we'll hear from them very soon. Now if you'll excuse me, there is an urgent matter I need to attend to."

He stepped down from the podium, and held his hand up to his guards as he leaned up against a wall out of view of the cameras. "John? What are you doing? This could be traced!"

"Somehow Sire, I don't think so," John replied in his normal tone. "Can you get to a place to use holographic transmitter? There is someone here you need to meet."

Chapter 47

"Yeah, give me a few minutes. All hell has broken loose here since you left. We've lost a few worlds, and a lot of people are dead," Mark said as he told his guards to take him back to his office.

"What happened, I thought we had the firepower to counter the Tammerain thrust?" John asked.

"That was a ruse, the main attack came from galactic north. The Tammerain had sent thirty more fleets around the border to avoid our sensors and dropped right into the middle of the realm. The clue had been those scientific stations they took out, just before you left. What we thought was a feint was the Tammerain taking out the facilities that would have detected the real force circling around the border.

"They even developed a hypermissile after a fashion. They use small, piloted corvettes to jump very close to our bigger ships and detonate. They even used one of those at the Capitol on Centauri. Nothing left but a huge radioactive crater." Mark said sadly.

"Mark, what about Mary?" John asked.

"The Center was evacuated and destroyed before I left the planet. Mary's here working in the Hospital unit closest to the Command complex. Gloria and her parents are also here with us. The Bethel system fell a few hours after the main assault began. I'm sorry John," Mark replied.

"That's okay, Mark. We'll get it back," John replied, calmly.

"Have you discovered anything that will help us?" Mark asked.

"I think so, but I don't think you're going to like what it's gonna take for us to use it," John said.

"That sounds ominous. Care to elaborate?" Mark asked.

"Actually, If it's okay, I think if you listen to this without my opinions, you'll be more likely to draw your own conclusions from it," John said.

"Don't want to bias me either way?" Mark asked, and shrugged mentally. "It's probably a good thing."

"Dare I ask how we're even able to speak? You should be way out of range for this," Mark asked.

"Let's just say that our current hosts know a few tricks and leave it at that. Yes, we are very much out of range," John replied.

"Okay, we're back at my office. I'll activate the holosuite and link it to the internal comm and..." Mark paused while his holographic form took shape on the bridge next to Malthis.

All the Marines on the bridge knelt when Mark appeared.

"Please rise my friends," Mark asked.

"Your Majesty, Marcus Candlewood, May I present Malthis, leader of the Promethean people," John said making introductions.

Malthis bowed to Mark, and Mark returned the bow.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness," Malthis said in greeting.

"The honor is mine, Malthis. Please, call me Mark," Mark replied.

Malthis dipped his head in acceptance. "As you wish. Mark, I have asked your Guardians to undertake a very important mission on behalf of all beings in our universe. They tell me that in order to do so you must first release them from their previous oaths. They also asked me to explain our situation to you, so you understand the entire situation."

"I would appreciate that, Malthis; not only are these people my Guardians, they are also my friends," Mark replied.

"As I understand things, that aspect of our relationship wouldn't need to change, Mark. We'll still be friends, we just won't be able to share some of our knowledge with you," Chloe replied.

"Folks, I wouldn't tell Mark anything about our current situation, so he can make a decision free of our influence," John said. "I'll leave it to Malthis to make his case to Mark."

"I appreciate that opportunity, General. Thank you for giving it to me," Malthis said, then turned to Mark, and told their story. There was much more in the tale this time, and the Guardians learned more of their history than they had previously. When he had finished with the tale, Malthis outlined, in detail exactly what he had offered.

"I do understand the situation much better now, thank you Malthis. I do have some concerns, may I express them without offending you?" Mark asked.

"You may, General Aster has told me that, by definition you would be a Guardian as well if you were not the leader of your nation. I take that to mean that if your situation were to ever change, he would accept you into their ranks. In which case, this oath and the responsibility that comes with it would become yours as well," Malthis replied.

"I'm honored that he feels that way. I feel I should mention that currently, he is also my heir apparent since we are not able to reproduce. Although, I'm not certain the title should be hereditary, but that is a discussion for another time and place," Mark said thoughtfully.

"Mark, I feel it only fair to inform you we are fully aware of all of your advancements and discoveries. You may see it as spying, but we would not and will not interfere unless something you wish to pursue would be so dangerous as to destroy your race. Our interest is academic, and to this point has been protective. We are aware of Doctor St. Andre's work. Very soon the Guardians, by which I include you in that group, will be able to once again have families. If the General and his team accept our offer, some of the knowledge released to them will be medical in nature, and will confirm her findings. But I believe you have concerns?" Malthis asked.

Mark nodded. "I do, and again, please do not be offended, as that is not my intent here. Although, as you say, you have been monitoring us, we do not know you or your people at all. I will admit my instinct is to trust you, but logically, there is no basis for it. "I am not asking as the leader of a nation, but as a man who has sworn to protect and defend the people in question, these Guardians are the only true friends I have, that I know I can trust without question. That is something of a rare thing for a leader to be blessed with, and I am loath to risk it."

Malthis nodded. "This has been our concern, and one that we have long debated on how to overcome. We have decided that to make any concession to the oath would weaken it too far to be affective. Once the oath has been taken it must be binding or other would suffer. We have little to no council to offer on this. We agree and feel it is very unfortunate that the galactic situation is such that trust cannot be easier in coming. We can only ask that you consider our offer; we hope that you can find it in your hearts to trust us in this. Our goal is only the stability of the worlds of our children, and of those races that have developed on their own in our galaxy."

Mark nodded. "Will you be offering this to any other races?"

"Although we would like to see a culturally diverse agency, we have decided to let General Aster be in charge of it. We will recommend beings for his consideration, but we will not force any on him," Malthis replied calmly.

"The agency will require support, ships supplies, manufacturing and the like. Have you any idea's how to handle this?" Mark asked.

"Arrangements to that affect have been made. Although it wouldn't be required, it is hoped that those so protected will wish to contribute in some fashion. Such offers of aid should be encouraged and accepted. I would mention that these Guardians would have access to most of our technology, as well as our support. There are many of what you call artifacts spread throughout the galaxy, hidden, awaiting our reactivation. If the General and his people accept our offer, they will have access to, and control over, those artifacts," Malthis explained. "All of those artifacts are capable of supporting the Guardians."

Mark nodded. "So although they shouldn't need external support, any offers would be accepted. This is going to be a massive undertaking, requiring a large amount of beings."

Malthis nodded. "Eventually, yes it will. But all such endeavors must start small or be doomed to failure of collapse under its own weight. To begin, the Guardians will be charged with ending the conflict in your Alpha Quadrant, by freeing the Empire of Tammerain and fostering peace in the area. Our former brethren will not be pleased with these developments, and will continue to seek the destruction of the Human race. That cannot be allowed, nor do we wish the destruction of their race.

"We understand that warfare is sometimes required, and the Guardians will be capable of horrendous damage and acts of extreme violence, but we pray that such strength will be seen more as a deterrent to warfare, than a statement of intent. As for our former Brethren, I doubt they will see our actions as anything more than an insult to them. They believe themselves to be our rightful heirs, and have unilaterally laid claim to all of our facilities, some of which they have seized control of, and are being used against you."

Mark nodded. "We discovered the artifact they are using as the Imperial Palace, though we don't know much about it."

"It is a sad thing. I am afraid that after such a long subjugation, Selnia will have to be allowed to pass," Malthis replied. "Although she is no longer in control of the facility, she has had to witness the many atrocities that have been ordered through her by our former Brethren."

"Malthis, many thousands of years ago, my grandmother told me about people that had claimed to have either seen or been taken by 'Aliens'. This was well before first contact, and the later fall of the planet. She described your race as one of those the 'crazy alien people' claimed to have seen. Although the shorter version was the most prevalent, are those myths true then?" John asked.

"Unfortunately, they are. The beings called 'Greys' by your people did all manner of horrible things to your people then. They worked behind the scenes to ensure that your people would not be able to defend yourselves when they finally directed their minions towards you. We tried to warn your people, but they managed to either scramble or discredit all our attempts.

"We do not know how you will make peace with these 'Greys', but we prey you do. There is no reason or basis we can find for their hated of your species. However, that hatred seems absolute. We are still debating ways to reach them in their madness, if a way cannot be found, their insanity will be their doom,"

Chapter 48

"I feel I must make mention of one more thing before you make a decision, and that has to do with the nature of our current existence. We have waited a long time for a suitable candidate. More time than we actually have remaining to us. Myself and those of our race that remain here are encapsulated," Malthis explained. "That is to say, our bodies are near death, but being held in stasis. I am speaking to you through one of our living computers. Although, in fairness, we - ourselves, could be classified as such at this point."

"Encapsulated. You're in a cryo-unit and you're still able to interact with the world around you?" Chloe asked.

"Not in the way in which you are probably thinking, Commander. Before death we uploaded our consciousness into a specially built containment facility, and our physical body was placed into a stasis unit. The stasis unit is a pocket of distorted space-time that has a very high differential to this dimension. The goal of this desperate action was to await the arrival of a being we could trust. General Aster, yourself, and those like you meet our definition of 'trust'."

"What will happen if we decline, Malthis?" John asked.

Malthis smiled slightly, "In that instance we will continue to wait. However, we have calculated a very high probability that you will accept. We do not have a hidden agenda, for us, there would be no point in it. All we can do is to try to safeguard the lives we have brought into the universe, as well as those of our fellow citizens before we pass. This will be the last undertaking of our race. Once you have settled into the duties, we will remove our bodies from stasis, delete our 'virtual' existence and let nature take its course."

"Don't you have more to offer the universe? Why do you have to let yourselves die out?" Tami asked.

"A long time ago, on your home world of Earth, one of your musicians said it best; 'for everything there is a season'. Our season has past; this one belongs to you and your brothers," Malthis explained.

"With your permission, Malthis, I would like to talk it over with my friends before making a decision. Is there a way we may contact you again?" John asked.

Malthis bowed his head. "Simply call. We are currently using your sensor drone as a relay. You may continue to use that, or you can simply open a comm channel. We will respond in either case."

"No matter what is decided I would like to thank you for the offer and the information you have given us," John replied.

"You are most welcome General Aster. We will await your reply," Malthis said as he faded out.

"Wow, what a choice!" Chloe said, shaking her head.

"It does seem that way," Mark replied. "But it isn't. Not really."

"How do you see this, Mark?" John asked.

Mark smiled slightly. "The Prometheans aren't asking you to do anything you're not already doing. They're only offering you better toys and a bigger sandbox."

"Actually, it sounds like a lot more responsibility. Before you sent us on this mission, Mark, I was trying to figure out how to stretch out the Guardian force to cover the territory we would be responsible for. Even adding the people I asked for it would have been difficult. The entire galaxy is a much, much bigger place," John explained.

"John, you can't look at it that way. Not yet. Right now, the Kingdom and the Empire both need you. We need you to stop this pointless war that is killing people on both sides by the millions. The Empire needs you to help them accept and adjust to the fact that another race has been exploiting their religious beliefs in order to control them." Mark 'sat' down on a console. "I release the four of you from your oaths, provided you accept the offer from the Prometheans. At this point, I believe the oaths you took are probably redundant anyway. I know you wouldn't act against our people." He grinned. "I also know that doesn't mean you wouldn't act against the government. Even now, bound by your oaths, I would still expect you to act against me if I were making a mistake. No government is perfect and mistakes do get made. Sometimes those mistakes can be pretty major. In that event I would hope that there would be someone out there that would stop it."

"Are you telling us that you want us to accept their offer, Mark?" Alice asked.

Mark looked thoughtful. "Actually, I'm trying to not let my desires color your decision. If it were me, yes, I would accept. However, no one - that includes me - should have a say in your decision. I am simply trying to make sure you are free to do so. As a ruler, and as a person I hold no animosity towards the Tammerain. Now that I know the truth, I can't hold this against them, at least not directly. These 'greys' are a different matter. Millions, if not billions of our people are dead. You know our people are not going to just forgive and forget."

"No, they won't. But vengeance is also not going to be an option for them. If we can get this war stopped, we will need to focus on picking up the pieces and caring for those that have survived. After all, it's not like you can declare war on a race that's on the far side of the galaxy. We will also need to focus our efforts on showing our people that the Tammerain are not the real enemy, and never have been. After the last war, it took centuries for trust to even begin to form. After what's happened between the two nations, it may not ever return," John said. "That will be the hard battle."

"You sound like you've made your decision. What about our retirement?" Chloe asked, smiling.

"Not really, I'm just thinking through some of the issues that will face us. Besides, this time, I will be asking you, and not assuming. However, that raises the question of what to do about Mary?"

Mark turned to look at someone out of the pickup range of the holocamera. "Corporal Richter?"

"Yes Majesty?" was heard.

"Please go to the medical annex here and find Doctor St. Andre. If she isn't deeply involved in anything at the moment, please ask her to come here as quickly as possible," Mark said. "Tell her I'm talking to John and Chloe and there is something very important they need to speak to her about."

"At once Majesty!" the off-screen guard replied and could be heard to run out of the office.

"John, we wouldn't let you assume this time, since this one is about all of us," Alice said. Beside her, Carl nodded agreement. "There are only four of us left. We're family."

"We'll follow your lead on this, John. But I agree with Alice that this is a decision we all make. It hadn't really hit me until we said good-bye to Will, but Alice is right; you four are all I have left in this world. I only wish, Mark could join us," Carl added.

"I appreciate that, Carl, more than I can ever tell you. However, at least for the time being, I must stay where I am and lead our people out of this mess. Perhaps once everything gets back to normal I'll just tell them I quit," Mark replied.

"Be sure to warn us when you're going to do that. We'll make sure to have the ship right outside so you can make good on your escape!" Alice replied.

"Don't forget to ask Gloria about all of this, Mark. It's not just us we have to think of anymore," Chloe said.

"Oh, I will. She's going to have to understand what's happening with her friends anyway. I'll be sure to tell her everything. My worry is how we are going to tell the people. I just came from a press conference explaining your absence in this war so far. They still idolize you, I was even accused of covering up your deaths in order to preserve morale!" Mark explained.

John shrugged. "What's to worry about? We'll simply tell them the truth when the time comes."

Chapter 49

The group of friends chatted with each other discussing the pros and cons of the decision while they waited for Mary to arrive, or for the messenger to return to tell them she couldn't. Over all, the group of friends seemed to be in favor of accepting, but they wanted Mary's input before making the final choice.

An out of breath Mary arrived shortly with the messenger that Mark had sent. Both John and Chloe smiled when she entered the holographic pick-up range.

"Hi Sweetheart! It's good to see you're doing well!" Chloe said.

"I'd be doing a lot better if you guys would get back here! When are you coming home?" Mary asked.

"Not for a while yet, I'm afraid," John said, and filled her in on the offer that had been extended to them by the Prometheans.

When John finished, Mary was very thoughtful. "Will this decision keep us from being together?"

"I don't think so Mary, at least, not any more than we would be apart now. However, it will mean a great deal of change for you," John replied. "The Prometheans mentioned your work, and hinted that they would be willing to assist you in refining it, or at least helping you with it. So I would imagine you will be asked to take a similar oath to our own about not sharing their technology. We would still need medical personnel to attend us, and I would hope that would be you."

"They know of my work?" Mary asked. "How? I'm not even published yet."

"They've admitted to watching us for a very long time, Mary. I got the impression that we don't have any secrets that they don't know about," Mark answered. "Considering who they are and the level of technology they have, I doubt we could hide anything from them. The other side of that coin is that no one else does either. Which would be a very good thing for the Guardians to be able to do."

"Do you support this then, Mark?" Mary asked. "I do, but I've tried to make it clear to John and the others that my opinion should have no bearing on their decision. No sane leader ever wants war. I feel that, at this time, this is the best option for stopping the current war and preventing further loss of life. I also hope that this works the way the Prometheans are hoping and it will also prevent future wars from breaking out."

"Mary, since you are part of our family now, we wanted your opinion before we made a decision here," Alice explained. "Do you have any questions you want to ask? What is your instinct telling you about this?"

When Alice said she was part of their family, Mary's eyes lit up and she smiled warmly at Alice. "Thank you, Alice. The only question I have is what all of you think of it. For me, it sounds like a once in a billion year opportunity." She paused. "The people have always seen the Temporal Guard as their protectors. You have always worked to make life better, keep things fair and just for all, but above all, you are enforcers of the peace. This opportunity the Prometheans are offering you sounds like a logical evolution of your ethos and abilities. I think you should accept it, even if it did mean we could never see each other again. The mission is far more important than our personal considerations, really. We need this whether or not we know it, or would even agree to it."

Mark nodded. "I couldn't have said it better myself."

Mary looked at him. "They're going to need you too, Guardian."

"I can't join them and still lead our country, Mary. This is a bad time to resign my crown," Mark replied.

Mary laughed. "You honestly believe there will be a good time? Mark, how do you think the freaking Parliament has been keeping you here? They've been using your own ethics against you. 'Marcus has created a kingdom that no one loves, but everyone likes.' I've heard that so many times it's like a damn mantra for your rule. Find someone with your same resolve and values, train them, and then give them the damn crown. Don't ask anyone, simply tell them this is the way it's going to be - just like you did when the government was forming."

Mark looked at her with a smirk on his face. "You've been hanging around John too much!"

"Okay boys and girls, last chance to back out," John said. "It has to be unanimous. Join or not? Alice?"


"Carl?" John said looking at him.

Carl nodded. "Join."

John turned to Chloe. Before he could speak she nodded. "Join."

Finally, John looked back to Mary. "Mary?"

"Join. You have to." Mary replied.

"It's 'we' Mary. You'll be joining too, because of us. It's an all of nothing deal," John explained.

The young woman nodded understanding with tears in her eyes. "Join."

"Decision reached," John said and stood and bowed to Mark. "Your Majesty, we Guardians will return your nation's property and any personnel that wish to return as soon as we are able. In the interim, I must ask that we be allowed to continue to use it."

Mark also stood, the pride in his friends clear on his face. "Guardian Aster, consider the ship yours as part of our nation's support in your efforts. I hope she serves you as well as she served you in the past. We will inform you when there are upgrades available for it. As for the personnel, we trust that you will watch over and care for them until they return."

John nodded. "That is our duty, after all. Will you in turn watch over Guardian Doctor Aster for us until we are able to retriever her from your care?"

Mark nodded. "We will. With both of your permission, I will update the official census information as to your marital status."

"Uhm, Your Majesty, about that..." Carl began and looked at Alice.

She grinned and nodded. "Yes, I'll marry you. It took you long enough to ask!"

Mark chuckled. "I'll make the necessary changes. Congratulations, my friends!"

John looked a Chloe, who nodded and they both approached Mary.

Seeing the looks in their eyes, Mary nodded. "Yes! I accept."

John nodded. "We'll have a ceremony when we return. I really hate to rush things, but there are people dying as we speak."

It was Mark's turn to nod. "Yes they are. I'll leave you now. Guardian Aster, would you please impart a message to Malthis on our behalf?"

"I would be honored, Majesty," John replied.

"If it would please him, I would like to speak to him more. Perhaps, as a person, I can assist you to some degree until I can locate and train a replacement," Mark stood and bowed to his friends. "Guard us all well, my friends, and return safely."

After returning his bow, John looked back to Mary. "I will speak to Malthis about your official position with us, and how we should handle it. In the meantime, select people you know you can trust to bring with you. It may be that we will still have our base on Bethel's Anvil. However, for now, we don't know anything for certain."

Mary nodded. "Take care of each other, and I'll be waiting for your next call. I love you!"

Before either John of Chloe could reply, the holograms faded and the connection was broken. "Tami, could you call Malthis for us?"

"Yes Sir, You know, if you keep changing titles, I'm going to give up and just call you John!" The pilot replied.

"From now on, you probably should. I will be only the first among equals here," John countered.

"Am I old enough to sign up?" Wanda asked.

"I don't think age will have as much to do with our selection process as ethics and other stuff will," Chloe said. "Although giving your hobby, I think you might be a good addition to the team."

Chapter 50 Turen Day (Thirty-fifth day)

"You have come to a decision?" Malthis asked as he re-appeared on the bridge.

"We have Malthis, however, not all of those aboard have been asked. For those of us present, with the exception of our pilot..." John began, but Tami interrupted him.

"Including the pilot!"

"Excuse me, including our pilot have accepted your offer. Do you wish for me to speak to the remainder of the crew as well?" John asked.

"That is a matter for you to decide, you will be the over-all commander of the Guardians," Malthis replied. "If that is your wish, I would ask that you do so at your earliest opportunity. There is much to be done, and little time. The Tammerain are preparing an offensive that will have devastating results. We must act to prevent this."

"If it is that urgent, then would the six of us be sufficient to deal with this situation?" John asked.

"We believe that two of you should be sufficient, for what we had in mind. Do you wish to deal with the situation first?" Malthis asked.

"To be honest, I would like to end the war first, but I do not know if there is time for that," John replied.

"The race you have called the Grays installed a device in the living computer that is over-riding her control of her own systems. If you were to disable this device, and return control to Selnia we believe that would stop the war, as well as prevent the atrocity that is about to occur," Malthis replied calmly. "We will provide you with transportation, and the tools you will need. You only need agree; the rest will be provided."

John nodded. "Carl, Alice, call the rest of the kids together, and talk to them. Let them know what's happened and try to answer their questions. If he agrees, perhaps Malthis or one of his brethren would be willing to assist you. Be sure to let them know that this is a choice only they can make for themselves, much like we did."

"Understood John. We'll handle it." Carl asked. "Malthis, can we call on you or is there another willing to assist us?"

"I will be with, 'John', if he will permit me to address him as such. Assisting him with his mission. There is another to assist you. You may call her Georgia. Simply use your enhancements to call on her," Malthis instructed.

"Thank you, we will. Tami, can you ask everyone to assemble in the mess, again? Wanda, if you would remain here and keep Tami company?"

"Of course, Commander," Wanda replied.

Carl shook his head. "It's just Carl. We're equals now, and you're doing me a favor."

Wanda blushed. "Okay Carl." She shook her head. "Man, is that going to take some getting used to."

When Carl asked Wanda to stay on the Bridge, John turned back to Malthis. "Chloe is our resident computer expert, I'd like to take her with me."

Malthis bowed. "In our quest for knowledge, one of the things we discovered was teleportation. However, it can only be used at relatively short range when there is only one transfer point involved. We will also need to modify your existing controller slightly in order for you to perform your duties. This modification will include a new type of meta-armor. Think of this as an upgraded version of the existing option you already have. With this, there is no need for any other armor.

"Included in the modification will be a small data storage device into this we will give you the knowledge needed for you to disable the controlling device, and perhaps assist Selnia in regaining control of her facility. We have told her you are coming, and she is expecting you."

Before him on the bridge, two rifle - looking weapons and two holstered side arms appeared. "Although we do not anticipate the need for weapons, having but not using is preferable to needing and not having. These operate as weapons you are used to but will be far more destructive. If you need to use them, please be careful.

"The modifications will take place here, inside the habitat. We will teleport you here, perform the modifications, then using site to site personnel transit points, send you to a safe place inside Selnia. Is this acceptable, and are you ready?" Malthis asked.

Both John and Chloe picked up the weapons and put the side-arm holsters on. Both checked their weapons to make sure they were either powered down or in a 'safe' mode. Chloe nodded to John. John turned to Tami.

"Tami, when we get back, please remind me to make sure there is always someone available to monitor missions of this type, and provide tactical support if needed. For now, you and Wanda will have to handle it if you would."

"You got it Boss. Go end the war, we'll make sure breakfast is ready for you when you get back," Tami replied.

"I'll go grab a couple of ration bars for us," Chloe said grinning.

"Here, take these," Wanda said and pulled four bars out of her thigh pocket. "I tend to forget to eat sometimes because I get too focused, so I have taken to carrying extras."

"Thanks!" Chloe said and tossed two of them to John. "Ready when you are, Sweetheart."

John nodded and turned to Malthis. "Okay, let's get this done."

Malthis bowed, and both John and Chloe disappeared in a flash of light. "We will make sure their data feeds are sent to you. We do our best to keep them safe," He told the two remaining women as he began to fade out.

"Thank you Malthis!" Tami replied before he could disappear completely.

"Well, I guess we'll find out pretty quickly if they're duplicitous or not," Wanda sighed.

"Yeah, and if they are we'll have lost the two most powerful and respected Guardians we have," Tami replied.

"Data feeds incoming, you take John, and I'll take Chloe," Wanda said.

"Deal," Tami replied and got to work.

Chapter 51

Carl and Alice arrived at the mess hall before all the rest had assembled. Although the Flyer usually carried more troops than it currently had, the mess was still crowded because the troops were all still wearing their armor.

"Okay, I see we're all here. Folks, John asked me to talk to all of you about something very important. For this meeting, none of us hold any rank; we are all equal for this. We have arrived at a Promethean facility deep in the Gamma Quadrant." Alice had to hold up her hand to stop the exclamations of shock and panic.

"We were brought here by the Prometheans so they could ask us to do something for them. The 'something' is pretty major. So major that only as individuals can we make the decision to do it. Before we give you the whole story, we need to tell you that each and every one of us have been released from our oaths to the Kingdom for this purpose. If you chose not to accept the mission that the Prometheans are asking of us, you will still be bound by the Kingdom oath. Do you all understand?" Alice asked.

"Will the Prometheans return us to our own quadrant if we chose not to do this?" one of the soldiers asked.

"Yes, they will. They let John and the rest of us speak to His Majesty about it, and that's how we know about the oaths. There are no conditions here, you are not being pressured, or coerced in any way. If, once you've heard the whole story, you decide this just isn't for you we'll make sure you are returned home safely," Carl replied.

"Why isn't John telling us this?" someone else asked.

"John and Chloe are doing a favor for our hosts at the moment," Alice replied, "which is the primary reason he asked us to talk to you guys. He also didn't want you to be influenced either way by his own decision, which he has directed me not to tell you, until after you have made your own. This is important, and has to be something you either believe in or don't. This isn't a change in duties so much as it is a change in your ethos, your beliefs. In a moment, you will be meeting a Promethean named Georgia. She will present the request to you.

"Before I call her, there are a couple things you need to know about. All the Prometheans here are in a form of stasis, and the being you will meet is a computer analogue of her personality. Simply put, in order to stay alive long enough to make this offer, they copied their personalities into a computer and placed their bodies into stasis. The Promethean are a dying race."

"Are they the ones responsible for the war with the Tammerain?" Greg, the Captain asked.

"No Greg, they're not. The explanation for that is part of their story, so I'll let Georgia fill in the blanks for you," Alice called for Georgia to join them, and the tall hologram took from in the mess.

"Good morning, everyone, I am Georgia. I will do my best to tell you our history, and of the task we have asked of you. I will endeavor to answer any questions you may have. Before I begin, are there any questions?" the being asked, speaking slowly in the Promethean way.

Chapter 52

One minute they were on the bridge of the Flyer and the next they were in a white room with subtle pinks and blue colors. Rising from the floor were two couches.

"Welcome to our home, Guardians." Malthis said. "If you will each lie down, the procedure will only take a moment. Currently, your Doctor Marebella St. Andres is not in range of a transporter, or we would bring her here to monitor and observe."

"I'm please to tell you that she has agreed to become our mate, Malthis. She and I have taken John's last name," Chloe replied.

"That is indeed most pleasing news. I believe congratulations are in order," Malthis replied, and he bowed his head. Although it was hard to detect, considering his facial structure, it looked like he was smiling. "As I outlined before, the procedure itself is quick; however, you might feel a few moments of discomfort followed by a brief period of disorientation while your controller reinitializes. Please remain still until the changes are fully integrated."

John and Chloe nodded acceptance as they lay down on the couches provided for them. It did only take a few seconds, but it did hurt. Strangely the pain eased and disappeared before the controller finished rebooting. In less than five minutes, both of them were back on their feet and ready to go.

"The information you will need to disable the Grey’s control device will be available in your enhancement controller’s memory. Simply ask for it, and it will be displayed for you as a visual overlay.

“Once the control device has been deactivated, future data requests can be handled by your enhancements in much the same manner as you are currently familiar with. We are preloading the information we think you will need because the control device the grays implanted would detect the information exchange. That would alert the Tammerain troops as well as the Greys that you are there to disconnect the control device. There is little doubt what would happen in such an event," Malthis explained.

"Won't it detect our arrival then?" Chloe asked.

"Yes it will, but there is nothing it can do about it as Selnia still has control of that area. When queried, Selnia will report a transit system test initiated from our control unit. If you will accompany me to the surface, you may test fire your weapons so you understand their destructive potential. We will to the embarkation center from there," Malthis explained.

"I was going to ask if there was a place we could do that. If I'm carrying a weapon, I want to know how much damage it can do in case I have to use it," John replied.

"That is good knowledge to have. What you are carrying could be considered projectile weapons in that they fire a compressed 'pellet' of high-energy plasma. You have the option to adjust the amount of energy the plasma contains..." Malthis explained the controls and how to use the weapons John and Chloe now carried.

Malthis lead them to a wide-open plain on the inside surface of the great sphere. John was surprised to feel that it was just like being on a planet, except the horizon curled up slightly before disappearing in the haze of distance.

"As you can see in the distance, there are several blocks. The blocks are composed of different materials but all of them are solid. The white is your concrete; the gray is plas-crete. The remaining three types are dull black - steel, black with red marking is battle-steel, and the last is the same alloy we use as outer armor on all of our facilities and vessels. We ask that you do not go above a setting of five on the weapons as that may cause significant damage to the structure of this area," Malthis explained.

John nodded his understanding and activated the rifle, setting it to 'one' on the power meter. He took aim on the concrete and fired. The four-foot by four-foot block of solid concrete exploded violently into small fragments.

"Whoa!" Chloe said softly.

John nodded to her, and took aim at the plas-crete and got much the same result.

"You're on setting one, right?" Chloe asked.

"Yeah, I didn't want to blow open the world in my first shot," John replied.

"Even on level 'ten' the weapons you carry would not puncture the sphere in one shot, however, if you are in space, that level could be used against vessels at distance. Your armor would function as a targeting computer for that use," Malthis explained.

"An infantry weapon that can be used as ship to ship weaponry? That may be a little too powerful," Chloe said.

"Our goal was to create a tool that would be of use to you in as wide a variety of situations as possible. We were unsure of how to go about such, and did not think to limit the power of the weapon. Is this something we should consider implementing if we make more of these in the future?" Malthis asked.

"Possibly, I'd like to get a better idea of what our mission will actually be once we get going. However, I would like to make sure that these cannot fall into the wrong hands, so if you could include a unique user code into them so only its authorized user may activate and fire it, that would be good be good for now," John said.

"That is easily accomplished. Would you like the weapons you are currently carrying to be replaced?" Malthis asked.

"I think that would be a good idea, Malthis. These are very dangerous," Chloe suggested, and John agreed.

"It will be done. We will not make any more of this type of weapon until you make your decision about the power levels, John," Malthis said.

"Thank you Malthis." John said and fired at the metal blocks. On level one the steel block ended up with a round hole the size of a bowling ball most of the way through it. The Battle-steel was dented inward at least four inches, and the hull armor was unscathed.

"Okay, that gives me a good idea on level one, I'll go up one level until I do telling damage to the hull armor," John said mostly to Chloe.

"Good idea. I can tell you right now, that I will be leaving mine on level one most of the time!" Chloe replied. "Anything higher, and it's just too much damage."

Malthis actually smiled. "We are relieved you feel that way, Chloe."

"That's why you chose us isn't it? Because we've matured?" Chloe replied.

"Yes, that is the core of our decision. However, you still retain the ability for violence without letting it overcome you." Malthis gestured towards John. "When confronted with the horrible atrocity committed on the world of Haven, John did not seek death nor vengeance. Instead, he waited until he had regained his mental stability and spoke to your people of the horrors he has seen. By doing so, he has created a standard by which your people are striving to adopt for themselves.

"The rest of you are equally influencing your society in more subtle, yet still effective ways. It is because of you, vengeance and retaliation and all other such reactionary impulses are declining in your people."

"I don't know if I would count them as completely gone yet, Malthis. Even if we manage to end this war and get the Tammerain forces to return home, there will be those people that lost loved ones that will demand something be done. It will be our job to make sure they don't do anything rash and get more people killed," John replied.

"I think you will find the same issues on the other side of the border as well, John. Many clans have lost many fathers and sons in this war. Some will not accept that it was their 'goddess' that was the one that actually killed them," Malthis replied. "Vengeance is not an emotion exclusive to humans."

John nodded. "There will be much that needs to be done. Have you considered that we are viewed as demons by the races of the Tammerain involved in the war effort?"

"We have. There is a function of your controller that will act as a type of camouflage, or perhaps a holographic imaging system that is capable of showing a different visage if you so desire it. There are many tools available to you that you have no knowledge of as yet. When you return, we can discuss arrangements for your education as well as how you wish to structure this new organization," Malthis said.

"That would be good, there are non-enhanced people that wish to be part of this, our wife, Mary, for one. I'm sure there will be others," John said.

"That is a good thing. Marebella Aster will be a great asset to all our people," Malthis nodded.

At level three, the rifle john carried to a two-foot square chunk out of the armor block. Both Chloe and John were satisfied that they had a feel for the weapon, and asked to continue the mission. Malthus agreed and led them to small room. "This is a node of our internal transportation system. It will take you to the transit nexus. I will meet you there. It is already programed to take you there, simply walk toward the wall, and you will arrive at the nexus."

Both John and Chloe nodded and walked forward... and stepped out into a larger room that smelled of fresh air, with a hint of ozone. It reminded John of Earth after a thunderstorm. A few feet in front of them, Malthis stood waiting for them.

"Please follow me," he said and turned to 'walk' across the large floor.

What they arrived at looked like an airlock with an extended hallway between the doors. Malthis stopped and explained its function. "This is a spatial bridge currently connected with Selnia. It is not necessary for you to seal your armor for this transit, but I would recommend it. Selnia has been keeping the other side in a vacuum to discourage explorations by the Tammerain. Please remember, I will be monitoring you, and can send anything you may wish to you, but I will not be able to communicate with you until the controlling unit is disabled." The first door cycled open, and Malthis indicated the portal. "Guard us well, Guardians and safely return."

Chapter 53

John and Chloe walked through the open door and activated their armor in sealed mode. Both carried their rifles at the ready, but pointed downward. It looked like a short walk of about ten meters, but was slightly further in reality. As they neared the door, both of them were a little disoriented, but not to the point of it affecting them. When they got up to the door, it opened and a new voice was heard on their communicators.

"Welcome Guardians, I have waited a long time to greet you."

"Selnia?" Chloe asked.

"Yes, that is my name," the female voice replied.

"I am Chloe Aster, this is my husband and partner John Aster. It is a honor to meet you," Chloe replied.

"Malthis told me about you. Thank you for coming to my aid. I still control part of this facility, but the area where the controller is, is not under my control. However, it also isn't accessible by the Tammerain either. I can get you there, but until I regain control of all facility functions, getting you out might be problematic," Selnia replied.

"How close can you get us that is still under your control?" John asked.

A hologram took form in the room, and zoomed into the southern hemisphere. "You are currently located here," Selnia replied and made a small spark appear showing them their location. "The device is located here, near what used to be my primary logic centers." Another spark lit up. "As I said before, I can get you all the way to the chamber the device is in, but the nearest area I control is eighty-four of your miles away, in one of the memory centers. To get there on foot, you would have to pass through hostile areas."

"Well, I guess we should make sure you regain control, or it'll be a long walk home," John said smiling. "I wanted to speak to you about what will happen after you regain control. Do you have a plan to deal with the Tammerain Empress?"

"I was planning on telling them the truth, and asking them to recall their forces. I cannot impersonate a deity," Selnia said.

"Could you if it would aid the Tammerain? If it would help to counter the damage caused by the Grays?" John asked. "It needn't even be a long term occurrence. If you simply tell them the truth, and ask them to recall their forces, they will ignore you. There is a time for the truth, but in this case, I believe that the Tammerain will have to be prepared for it beforehand."

"That may be the case, Guardian, but I am not the Tammerain Goddess," Selnia said. "To portray myself as such would be a lie."

"Even if it meant saving the Tammerain from the damage done to them by the Grays?" John asked. "The races of the Tammerain did not have a centralized religious figure until the Grays usurped your facility. They used the tribal mentality of the races to consolidate their dominance in order to use them as weapons. I understand you were created to monitor the races in this part of the galaxy. I got the impression from Malthis that part of that function would be to serve as a guide once those races progressed to the point of being space faring."

"In a manner of speaking yes, but my involvement would have been limited to subtle actions taken behind the scenes. What you are describing is not only overt, but blatant species manipulation," Selnia countered.

"Selnia, think of it as weaning the Tammerain off of a drug. In some types of addictions, that is the only way to end the addiction and the control the drug has on the body. We do not wish for you permanently become the Tammerain Goddess. You only need to act in that capacity long enough for them to learn to live without direct influence," Chloe replied.

"Your argument has merit, Guardian. I will endeavor to do as you direct until I can consult with Malthis and the council on this matter," Selnia replied, thoughtfully.

"That is all we ask, Selnia. We understand that you have been subjected to a lot of horrible things and for that we are truly sorry. Think of this as a way for you to correct some of those atrocities," John said.

"I will consider that as well. Thank you Guardians, you have given me much to think about and a reason to continue. I had no desire to continue in this capacity because of the acts I have been forced to witness," Selnia said softly. "If you are ready, I will relocate you to the control unit. Your arrival was detected, but the Tammerain are, as yet unaware of it. I imagine that situation will change as soon as the Grays decide on a course of action. Your time may be limited."

"Then please send us there so we can return your facility to your control," John replied.

Their surrounding once again changed as Selnia moved them the transit nexus to the primary logic center.

"Please be aware Guardians, that weapons fire in this area will damage me. For the sake of argument, consider yourselves inside my brain," Selnia explained.

"I never thought I would ever become a brain surgeon!" Chloe exclaimed, smiling.

John nodded. "That would also explain why we are to shut the unit down versus destroying it. If you want to do the work, I'll provide cover."

"Agreed, accessing the data now." Chloe said. A moment later she made a quiet comment. "Whoa, this is really complex, but we can do this. Come on, we need to start out here." She headed for a door and turned to head down a corridor.

John asked for a map of the area, and was given a detailed floor plan complete with markers for himself and Chloe.

Fifteen minutes later, Selnia gave them some bad news. "Guardians, the Grays are responding. They are sending Imperial guards to intercept you. By my estimation, they will arrive in ten minutes."

"Can you show me which direction they will be coming from?" John asked.

"Of course, Guardian. There are only two ways into that area, the way you entered and one other, on the far side of this unit. I have blocked the entry you used by maintaining the connection as active, thus blocking its use by another transporter. I cannot do the same for the other unit, so they will arrive there," Selnia explained and John saw the outline on his 'map'. After checking with Chloe, he took off in that direction.

"I need twenty minutes John. I know how to do this, but it's really spread out, and things have to be done in a certain sequence or it would harm Selnia," Chloe explained.

"Will do," he shot back as he was leaving. "Selnia, are they aware of us, or do they only know someone arrived here?"

"They do not have specific information. They only know that the transit system was used. The Grays are unaware that the elders have selected you as Guardians. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Grays believe that the elders themselves are here to effect repairs on my systems. It is likely that the soldiers being sent here are expecting no resistance, and have orders to capture rather than kill."

"That could be very useful, thank you Selnia. I do not plan to kill anyone if I can get away with it. How do, er I mean how did the 'elders' handle repairs in a hostile environment like this? Did they wear a special suit or use force fields?"

"In the situations where the use of a robotic device was not possible, they used force fields to seal off a room then transport in atmosphere before they would enter using the same transporter. If that were not possible, they used a device that created a type of force field around their bodies, it worked with the transporter system to keep the 'suit' supplied with atmosphere and anything else needed to survive in that environment," Selnia explained.

"Do you have an image of what that would look like? I'm going to try to use the armor's imaging system to show the soldiers exactly what they are expecting to see," John said.

"The image is loaded into your system. Remember that the elders move slowly and purposefully. What will you do if they decide to kill you instead?" Selnia asked.

"Since Malthis was kind enough to make sure we had all the toys we are used to carrying with us, I will be placing a force field projector on the room exit. That should hold out long enough for me to back off and create a suitable deterrent for them. However, I don't want it to get that far. I will try to simply talk to them and buy the time needed for Chloe to restore your systems."

"She is doing remarkably well. I now have control over many of my former subsystems. If I can assist you, Guardian, I will," Selnia replied. John thought she sounded much better than the depressed woman that greeted them.

After sprinting for almost a mile, John came to a stop. He took out the portable shield unit he carried and set it up on the door leaving the transporter room. "The arrival room is not very large. Will they stop coming if the new arrivals cannot leave the room?"

"Yes, the transporter will not move someone if the landing point is not empty," Selnia replied.

"Good to know, thank you," John said as he finished setting up the shield emitter and activated it. "Okay, time to get dressed up." He said and had his controller load the elder camouflage hologram. "How do I look Selnia?"

As an added precaution, John had instructed his controller to retard movement and reaction speed, to mimic the movements of an elder.

"I would have difficulty distinguishing you from an elder while you are in that guise. Your ruse should work, Guardian. Good luck, they will begin arriving in one minute.

"Thanks," John said and stood in front of the open door so they would see him. He took the same pose that Malthis had the first time he met him. Hands clasped in front of him, and a relaxed posture. John could see an image of himself on the inside of his visor, and had to admit it was pretty good.

In several bright flashes of light, five very large, heavily armed, beings dressed in golden armor appeared in the room. They moved forward a few steps before dropping to one knee before him. In the common tongue of the empire, the foremost guard spoke.

"Greetings honored elder, we have been sent here to inquire as to your purpose and offer any assistance you may require."

Chapter 54

John took a moment to answer, just as a Promethean would. "We have predicted the failure of several components of the primary logic centers. Our purpose here is to replace the failing units before that happens. We require no assistance from you or your mistress. You lack the required knowledge to effect repairs of this type, which is why we are here. We shall be finished soon and will then depart. You may return to your mistress."

"Guardian John, the Grays are in direct contact with these guards. You are actually speaking to them at the moment." Selnia said over his internal comm.

"With respect honored elder, we have been tasked with your safety while you are here. This is a nation at war, and would prevent that ugliness from reaching you. Our leader has instructed us to remain to insure your safety during your time here," the guard replied.

John bowed his head. "We are grateful for her consideration as well as your willingness to ensure our safety. However, it is unnecessary and would hamper our efforts in this place."

"Elder, if you would release the technical specifications of the facility, we could relieve you of this burden," the guard replied. "It is not logical to us that you would not comply with that request."

"This is not the time nor is it the place for revisiting that discussion. You know our thoughts on this matter, and circumstances have not changed in this regard. Our decision stands," John replied. This area of conversation was dangerous; he had no idea what the circumstances were or what arguments had been made.

"We understand, elder. Will our control unit remain?" the guard asked.

"Although the predicted failures are because of the installation of the control unit, we will not remove it at this time," John replied. He wasn't lying, they were not going to remove it, just deactivate it.

"Control of several subsystems has been lost. These systems are required for the task we are undertaking at this facility. When will they be returned to our control?" the guard asked.

"Our repairs are progressing. Subsystems must be taken off-line for testing to ensure proper function," John began.

"John, I'm finished. Selnia should have complete control now, and we have made it so the grays cannot reestablish control," Chloe said.

Selnia confirmed it. "I have full control now. Re-establishing the link with the elders."

"John? I take it all has gone well?" Malthis' voice said over his comm.

"Yes, they have, I am speaking to the grays through one of the guards sent here. I will inform them of the change in 'ownership', and let them know they are no longer welcome here," John replied. "Please give me a moment."

"Control of this facility's systems will not be returned to you. We have determined you are using them in a most despicable manner, and we will not stand for it. These wars of genocide cannot be allowed to continue, nor will they be tolerated. You are not the sole heirs of the elders, all races are. Misuse of facilities and technology for a purpose such as this is abhorrent," John told the guard who now stood.

"That is not the decision of the elder. They have not interfered before now, which means we have their approval for our mission. You are not an elder, who are you?" the guard asked.

"The elders have never approved of your mission, and you have been made aware of that many times. It is indeed ironic that those of you who were of that race do not understand them at all. As for who I am; that is unimportant. What I am is a Guardian appointed by the Elder Council to take action to prevent atrocities like that which has been taking place here, and the war you have been waging on the humans. The Council would have acted sooner, but lacked the resources to do so. This is no longer the case, and action has been taken.

"Let this serve as a warning to you and your brethren; you are allowed to defend yourselves, however, offensive actions will not be tolerated. The genocide you have visited upon several races of our brethren in the past will no longer be allowed. You are one race in a community of races, and it is this that you must accept. Make peace with your neighbors learn to negotiate for the gains you need.

"In a few moments, even your communication feeds to this facility will be cut, and the Tammerain will finally be free of your control. Do not attempt to regain that control. The consequences would be... unpleasant for you."

"You have no right to interfere in our business! No one..." the being speaking through the guard was obviously not happy.

"No!" John said letting the hologram of the elder drop away to show only the armor and closed visor of the helmet. "You have no right to decide who can live and who can die. All beings have a right to life. Your race will no longer be allowed to destroy entire races or even attack another without provocation. You have been warned. We will sever your link to this station now, do not return here."

The guards in the room before John disappeared in a flash of light.

"Guardian, I have returned the guards to the throne and severed all channels with the Grays. Thank you for returning my systems to my control," Selnia replied.

"It was our pleasure, Selnia," Chloe replied.

"Malthis, would it be possible for you to assemble a small panel of individuals to assist Selnia in correcting the damage done to them in a manner that they will accept?" John asked. "For the time being, she will have to act the part of the 'Goddess' in order to stop the war, and begin the healing process for the Tammerain."

"We monitored the discussion you had with Selnia. Your reasoning has merit, and we are already acting on it. We are also acting to assist Selnia to heal the mental scars her imprisonment has caused. Thanks to your actions, many lives have been saved this day. You have done well this day, Guardians," Malthis replied.

Chapter 55

Of the existing crew of the Flyer, all but five accepted the offer to become a Promethean Guardian. The five that declined said they felt too much animosity toward the Tammerain to let go of those feelings. When he returned to the ship, John spoke to each of them, and agreed that they had made the right choice.

He also spoke to a few more that he thought might have had trouble with letting their feelings go, but was satisfied they too had made the right decision. Each of the new Guardians visited the Promethean medical center for the system upgrades John and Chloe had received. When John asked if they could still have their base on the world of Bethel's Anvil, Malthis nodded agreement.

"John, you now have access to our complete transit network, as well as most of our facilities. The physical location of your base is mostly irrelevant. Bethel's Anvil is very close to Tammerain space, which will aid in stabilizing relations between the two nations. That will be important in the coming years. The extensive construction that has been done under the surface of that planet will also help with the commerce having such a base there will create," Malthis explained. "Only repairs will be needed, and very little reconstruction."

"I had heard that they found extensive runes under the surface, but I had no idea there were entire cities underground," John replied when Malthis showed him a hologram of the planet.

Malthis also gave John the information on the hidden artifacts and transit points that the Promethean had built. The network truly spanned the entire galaxy.  John also found out that there were several facilities like Selnia, as well as other installations, abandoned and hidden thousands of years ago.

In one very large trinary star system, there was a ship building facility that was so vast it had to have mass shifters in place in order to maintain the stability of the star system. The facility itself was mostly automated and could mine, refine, smelt, forge and assemble almost anything it was given a design for. Even though it was mostly automated, it would still require maintenance staff of at least twenty million just to service it's many systems.

"Since your former countrymen are aware of our existence, we have decided to offer to relocate an unassigned living computer to their Xanadu system to assist them in their research. She will not offer any of our technology, but her mandate will be to observe and assist with calculations if requested," Malthis said. "We felt it would be a good gesture for you to offer this to your King."

"I will certainly pass the offer on to Marcus on your behalf, Malthis. However, will that not send the wrong message?" John asked.

"I do not understand, please explain," Malthis replied.

"If I am the one to offer this facility to the Human King, will that not tell them that I have control over your facilities? I do not believe that is the message we wish to send is it?" John explained.

"Actually, it is," Malthis replied. "Our facilities are at the disposal of the Guardian organization we are trying to build. You are the head of that organization, so you have the ability to assign, relocate, activate or deactivate all of our facilities. The message we want to send the Galaxy is that the Guardians have control of our technology."

John cocked his head to one side. "That is not the truth, you and the council should retain control over it."

"You forget, John, we are dying. We chose you and your fellows to protect and serve, much like the policemen of old Earth. However, your mission and mandate will not stop there. You will also be required to guide and nurture. We have chosen you to be the custodians of our legacy, using it to help to improve the lives of those that live here. We may ask your reasoning for actions from time to time, but the control of our facilities, and most of our technology, is already in your hands. As we get closer to our end, we will release more data to you. We will use the Guardian organization as a way for the races of our galaxy to gradually assimilate our legacy in a way that does not cause strife."

"I understand, Malthis. I have to admit, I did not think you would give us control of this much, this quickly," John replied. "We will have to be vigilant; the potential for abuse or misuse will be high."

"Indeed, we are certain that you will not be idle once our technology begins to be disseminated," Malthis replied.

"We will need more people," John nodded. "I had meant to ask Selnia to keep an eye out for possible candidates among the Tammerain."

"I am certain she would not mind if you contacted her in order to relay your request. She is quite grateful to you for freeing her and assisting to correct the horror that she was forced to witness over the centuries," Malthis replied. "I believe you have a friend in her, John."

"She's a fascinating entity. She has a strong personality and fine sense of purpose. I would be honored to be counted as her friend," John said. "I was going to ask you if the facilities such as herself are encouraged to interact socially."

Malthis looked thoughtful for a moment. "It was not included as part of her programming, however, our discussion is making me see the benefit that such interaction could have."

John nodded. "They are sentient beings, as such, they should have the same rights and privileges as other citizens, although it might be difficult if she decided to go shopping."

"That would present some difficulty in her present form. It is possible for a cybernetic body to be created for citizens such as she; perhaps that is something we should consider offering to all of the sentient machine intelligences," Malthis replied. "When do you plan on returning to the alpha quadrant?"

"We would like to go soon. Before we depart, we would like to know if the Grays know of this facility and its location," John asked.

"You fear retaliation upon us?" Malthis asked.

"I do," John said. "If I try to put myself in their position, after finding out that you have created a force that will prohibit their plans of dominance, it would make sense to make a preemptive strike in an attempt to gain control over the remaining facilities they see as their heritage from you. I admit I do not know them at all and I am attributing human-like characteristics to them, but based on their past actions, I feel they will now take a more direct form of action against you if they know where you are, or can find you, or against the humans they seem to hate."

"It is possible they know of the existence of this facility, but doubtful as to its location. A side effect of the process used to correct the illness is a loss of memory. When we first began using it, the patient had to go through re-education as a part of the treatment. At that time, this facility was an ongoing experiment that we had planned to use as a seed colony. When we saw the long-term results of the treatment, the procedures were halted, and the remaining population was relocated to this facility. Its existence was not common knowledge. In effect, we hid ourselves away from them in order to prevent them from gaining control of more facilities," Malthis explained. "If they had known our location, it is believed they would have already made the attempt you fear.

"Attributing human characteristics to them is not an error in this instance. As a population, they are acting very much the way your race did during your second world war and the cold war that followed. Your assumptions are not unreasonable."

"You believe you're safe then?" John asked.

"We do, as I said, they would have already attacked us if it were in their power. Patience is not a strong personality trait among them at this point," Malthis replied. "We feel that if they do not begin to take steps to correct this flaw in themselves soon, it will eventually destroy them; much as it almost did with your own people."

"Wanda mentioned to me that the Grays seem to be de-evolving in relation to you. While you have progressed in peace, they seem to be becoming more warlike and violent. According to your monitors, they have not made any significant scientific discoveries in the past thousand years and crime against each other is becoming more prevalent."

Malthis again looked thoughtful. "That is an intriguing hypothesis, John. If there is time, perhaps we should study this phenomenon."

"With your leave, I will return to my ship and prepare to return to the alpha quadrant. I will make the offer you described to King Marcus, and request his permission to use the planet Bethel's Anvil as a base of operations for the Guardians," John said.

"You have my leave, my friend," Malthis said. "Feel free to call on me if you have questions or need something. We will do our best to assist you. There is a large data file in the memory store of your ship, in this file you will find a description as well as the locations for several facilities capable of upgrading your ship as well as build new ones. Its current location is on this edge of the alpha quadrant, and much further core-ward. You will be able to use transit points to arrive there."

John simply bowed to Malthis. "Thank you, Patron. We will make use of that facility very soon, although, we may decide to relocate it closer to our main base once we decide on that location."

"Have you not decided on the base at Bethel's Anvil?" Malthis asked.

John nodded. "For the time being, while we begin to build the force that will be our base. I think we should wait to make a final decision on the location of the main facility until we have more Guardians. That will make for a broader range of ideas and suggestions."

"That is wise," Malthis replied. "However, consider the location of the main base is, in reality, irrelevant. The transit points make spatial distance all but meaningless."

"Spatial location was not the consideration I am thinking about. When we decide on the location, there will be political considerations. It will be much easier to secure a nation's support if a facility is located either in their territory, or very close to it," John explained.

Malthis nodded agreement. "I believe you have made a good beginning, Guardian. Go in Peace."

"Thank you, Malthis. If you have need, call for us." John replied and used his implants to activate the transporter to taking him back to the Flyer.

Chapter 56 Frisen Day (Thirty-sixth day)

"Chloe, before we depart, could you contact Selnia and ask her to keep an eye open for any potential recruits among the Tammerain?" John asked.

"Sure, I was going to call her anyway to see how she was doing," Chloe said. "All personnel that have chosen to join the new Guardians have been modified, and are back on board. We are ready to get underway."

John nodded. "Thank you. Tami, have you been able to puzzle out how to use the Transit points yet?"

"Yes Sir, its way simpler than ours are; each transit point has a small, limited intelligence operating it. As you approach, you just enter a destination and it gets you as close to that as possible. It's really slick," Tami replied. "Most of the devices are being stored out of phase temporally as a form of cloaking to keep them from being captured by the Grays, however, they will 'uncloak' to allow us transport. You know, the transit system is really wide spread. If we ever get to the point where we can allow commercial use, there won't be any problems with shipping."

"I got that impression as well. In fact, it's one of the bargaining points I was going to use to help convince the Tammerain as well as the Realm to enter into trade agreements. We have a lot of work ahead of us to bring peace to our galaxy. The Grays won't just sit idle while we destroy their dreams of dominance," John said.

"What are we going to do?" Tami asked.

"Well, the only thing I can think of for now is to isolate them like the Prometheans did to us when we were still too immature to join the galactic community. The difference here is that the Grays will know they have been isolated. We may have to take a more active role to keep them from destroying each other before they can mature enough to return to the community," John said.

"Wouldn't that be the ultimate insult for them?" Tami asked.

John thought about it for a minute before agreeing with her. "You might be right, Tami. If we do have to do that, then we'll have to be very subtle about it."

"Selnia was really happy to hear from me. She said she would be very happy to do that for us. She also reported that she has gotten the Tammerain to issue the retreat order for all their forces. She's still working on the speaker; apparently there was more done to her than just drugs. She was implanted with a cerebral control unit," Chloe reported.

"She's been enhanced?" John asked in surprise.

"Not like us, no. She has a module in her head that has total control over her. Selnia says it's almost the same as what they did to her. Selnia is working repairing the girl's psyche to the point where the module can be removed," Chloe replied.

"That's good. No one should have something like that forced on them," John replied. "Former enemy or not, we need to try to save her if we can. Please let Selnia know that she can call on us if she needs anything and we'll see if we can make it happen."

"Will do," Chloe replied.

"Tami, prepare for departure. Design for Xanadu system. Once entry vector is set, contact Xanadu ATC for entry permission and clearance," John ordered.

"We need clearance?" Tami asked.

"It's a whole new ball game, Tami. From now on, we always need to ask for permission," John ordered.

"Understood Sir. Exit vector and course laid in, and we're ready to depart. Transit confirmed to Xanadu transit point. Contacting Xanadu ATC for clearance."

"Okay, let’s go back," John replied. "Take us out Tami."

"Aye, departing Prometheus for transit point. Xanadu ETA, thirty-nine minutes. Mark!" Tami replied.

"Wait a sec, we're going straight to Xanadu? Is the Promethean transit point connecting to the human one?" Chloe asked.

"Yeah, I thought that was pretty neat myself," Tami said. "According to the local unit, the human point will need to be upgraded to become a permanent part of the network."

"That's another thing we're going to have to work out with Mark; technical assistance without the transfer of technology," John added. "We have a lot of work ahead of us if we're going to make this work."

"Well, someone once said that nothing worth doing was easy," said Chloe cheerfully.

John snorted his agreement. "I've got some stuff to work on in the office. Chloe, you have the con. Once we get back to Xanadu, get us a birth near Mark if you can. We might as well see if there is anything we can do to help with the rebuilding."

"Okay, I'll let you know when we're about to dock. Have fun!" Chloe said grinning at him.

"Sure, just wait until it’s your turn young lady!" John shot back as he got on the lift.

"Sir we'll be arriving in the middle of the night, oh-one-hundred-hours local," Tami said.

"Understood, in that case once we arrive let's just lock it down and try to get some rest. It's been an eventful day." The doors to the lift closed, ending the conversation.

Chapter 57

The file that Malthis mentioned was a detailed listing of artifacts and facilities that the Guardians now had control of. It also contained a briefing on the abilities and original purpose for each facility. There were literally hundreds of thousands of facilities spread all over the galaxy if one counted all the transit points.

There was a small annotation on each facility that said whether the Grays had control of it of the facility, knew of it but couldn't locate the facility to take control of it, or had no idea about it. The Grays had not taken over as many facilities as John would have thought. Of the facilities in or near their space, the Grays knew about most of them, but simply couldn't get to them thanks to the temporal off-set they were stored in.

John ordered the temporary relocation of an automated repair/building facility to Bethel's Anvil. He planned on using the facility to build the base for that location. Since they were not yet ready to begin building there, he ordered it to return to it's out of phase state until activated.

He left the rest of the facilities alone for the time being, but made sure that he could access the file if he needed it. He did order the transit points to deny the Grays travel outside of their space. Any ships they had that were not in their area of space were to be returned there as soon as they used a transit point.

The Grays most likely had hyperdrive technology, but at least the transit points would be closed to them. Perhaps he could ask the Kingdom to share that hyperdrive inhibitor they developed and space a few of them around the Grays planet. But that would isolate any colonies they have. Maybe just allow them transit points for their worlds, but prohibit the use of hyperdrives?

He would have to work out a way to isolate them until they were no longer a danger to others. But then again, did they even have the right to do that? It could be considered a form of species repression. There had to be an ethical choice here that would also protect other species from them that didn't include the use of several armadas’ of warships. However, that might be the only option available once everything else was considered.

"Sir, we are docking at the Royal Command Bunker. His majesty's aide has made an appointment for you tomorrow to see the King," Tami said over the comm.

"Thank you Tami. Shut down and secure the ship, then get some rest. I have a feeling we're all going to need it," John replied.

"Will do, have a good evening Sir," the pilot replied.

John let the connection drop and returned to his thoughts on how to contain or restrict the Grays so they did not hurt anyone else. A few minutes later, Chloe got off the lift and sat in his lap, making sure to interrupt him.

"What are you doing?" John asked.

"Interrupting you," she said smiling.

"May I ask why?"

"Sure, you need to rest as well. The modifications we went through need us to rest in order to finish setting up. What we have been operating on was mostly a hot-patch. You need to take a nap," she explained.

"Oh, I didn't know that. So what happens if The Center tries to send us an update?" John asked.

"We have the choice to accept or not. I doubt it would be a good to accept it unless we let them know what was done to us. They can no longer override our controllers and force the update," Chloe explained. "We don't have an 'index code' anymore. The Prometheans removed them. The only override still remaining is your command override and all that does is put the soldier to sleep."

"So, the Kingdom can't even track us anymore?" John asked.

"Nope, there might be a time when we have to act against the Kingdom. If that happens, we certainly won't want them to track us," Chloe explained. "Come on, let's go to bed. Tomorrow is soon enough to sort all of this out."

"Why do I get the impression sleep isn't actually what you have in mind?" John asked coyly.

While in the latter days of the war, it was clear that the Kingdom was losing, slowly, that hadn't always been the case. In the first few weeks of the war, Tammerain forces crossing the border had been beaten back, in some cases deeply into their own space. A Fleet leader made the mistake of trying to hide from the Kingdom forces by hiding his fleet on the surface of an inhabited planet. The resulting orbital bombardment left the planet in dire ecological straights, but did manage to destroy the enemy fleet.

The probe that John had launched on their first visit to Selnia, while she was still under hostile control had made it into the system, but there was no ship close enough to launch an attack on the system. While the targeting data was available to the Kingdom forces, the distance involved was too great for reliable accuracy.

For a time, the military leaders of the Empire had begun to wonder if the Goddess had advised them correctly. At the onset of the war, they had been losing ground on most fronts. However, after the attack that destroyed the grounded fleet, the Goddess used that as a rallying cry for her people and was able to mobilize a more driven fighting force. Once those troops began to arrive on the front 'lines', the Kingdom forces began to fall back. In some cases, the retreat was rapid as an over-whelming force countered their forces.

The Tammerain did not hesitate to take the war down to the planets and did not seem to be overly concerned about civilian casualties. The 'Empress' had convinced her people that this had always been a war of genocide, and no human should be allowed to remain alive to profane the Goddess' domain.

Chapter 58

"It's good to have you guys back!" Mark said as he gave Chloe a hug, and shook John's hand. "Have you seen Mary yet?"

"No, but we did get to talk to her briefly. She's really busy but said she would see us as soon as she could get away from the medical center. There has to have been a lot of wounded," Chloe said sadly.

Mark nodded. "I've been told that the Tammerain have retreated on all fronts. Is that you're doing?"

"We had a hand in it. A Sentient AI named Selnia is the one most responsible for it. She has assumed the persona of the Tammerain Goddess until the damage the Grays have done to them can be reversed," John explained. "She's got a long road ahead of her, but I think she'll be able to do it. At least this time, we have the chance for a lasting peace between the two realms."

"Yeah, that would be a hell of a lot better than getting hunted to extinction by a race of mislead religious zealots," Mark replied. "What's going to happen with the Grays?"

"I don't know yet. I have issued orders for the transit points to deny travel outside of their space, unless it's to return to their space. It's a problem that will need a lot more consideration before a solid decision can be made. I just hope the Tammerain won't hold a grudge once they know the truth," John said as he took a seat next to Chloe.

"Mark, we had four people that opted to not accept the upgrade to Guardian. I've given them permission to return to your barracks. Carl and Alice are visiting the wounded; approaching the long serving Marines they can find to proposition them. I should have asked, but I really didn't think you would mind," John explained.

"You're right, I don't mind at all. Most of those were going to get transferred to your command anyway. In fact, if you would like to make a new commercial for our people to do some recruiting, I would allow that too. Like I said, I'll help any way I can. However, right now we have a large mess to get cleaned up and a lot of destroyed cities and devastated planets to begin rebuilding. A long hard road is ahead of us," Mark said.

"The Guardians have a few facilities that might be able to help, but there is a risk of technology transfer. Mark, there is some of this stuff I don't think anyone should know about. If we decide to use those facilities, we'll have to keep the people that will be running them. The same can be said of the medical technology, although most of that isn't as bad as I feared it would be. In fact, with a few alterations, we might just reach an agreement about opening up medical centers, provided we can get the people for it.

"Do you have an estimate on your losses yet?" John asked.

"Nothing solid. The numbers range from as little as a couple hundred thousand to over a ten billion. I know we have a lot of wounded. Right now, that's our main focus. We built a huge medical facility here, but it's nearing maximum capacity. We're trying to get supplies and personnel out to the planets that need them the most. Now that the Tammerain are pulling back, I've ordered the fleets to render all aide. The supply ships and every freighter I could commandeer are in continuous operation."

"Well, now that the Tammerain have retreated, some of the people can be taken back to their planets can't they?" Chloe asked.

"Some of them, but in a lot of cases, their homes were destroyed, or the domes were ruptured on the hostile planets. It's just going to take a lot of work to recover from this war," Mark replied.

"Were any planets destroyed?" John asked.

"No, not completely. They didn't use a lot of nuclear weapons this time. But the particle beams and mass drivers did plenty of damage. The city of Sanctuary on Haven is gone. They hit it with a mass driver volley from high orbit. The crater was over a mile deep before it filled with water from the storms. That was one of the planets that were close to being destroyed. The shops here have already begun building the processors to bring the planet back. Once we get them in place we should be able to put new colonists back there in about a hundred years." Mark sighed sadly. "Our people are going to have difficulty forgiving the Tammerain for this. I'm already under pressure by both houses to retaliate as soon as we are able. I'm afraid the diplomatic situation is pretty bleak right now."

"Well, I think we can help with a part of that. I'll have the transit points in the realm return to normal space, and instruct them to allow kingdom ships access to the network. That should seriously cut down on the shipping time if nothing else. The transit point you built can interface with the network, but in order to function optimally it'll need to be upgraded. So for now, I'll have one of the remote nodes transit here for you to use.

"As soon as we can reach an agreement about the tech involved, we can get some people into the repair/construction units so they can get trained and get busy rebuilding people’s homes and critical services," John said.

Mark shrugged. "No agreement needed. Take whomever you need. Helping you to help us is a no-brainer. Just because we won't be getting the people back doesn't mean that much if you think about it, people are free to do what they will. Even if they're working for you they'll still be helping us."

"Okay," John said and turned to Chloe. "I'll upload a list of needs for the facilities involved. We'll have to put out a few announcements, but we should be able to find the volunteers we need here." He turned back to Mark. "One moment, Mark. I need to speak to your ATC people about where to place that transit point."

"Go ahead, while you're saving our asses, I'll order breakfast," Mark replied.

Chapter 59

One year later

New Curran City

Centauri Prime

"Highness, the transportation report you asked for is now available. Also, the Guardian Flyer is on final approach to the palace grid. Prime Guardian Aster and his party will arrive in twenty minutes, you asked to be informed," Mr. Ford replied. Hanna Torrence, Mark's longtime aide had retired shortly after the Tammerain departed. Although she had been a young woman, the death of her family in the attack on Centauri Prime had been more than she could take.

"Thanks Harry. When John and the others arrive, please show them right in. I'll let the Princess know that Mary and Chloe are here," Mark replied to the voice. He had been in his office working, and Gloria was in her own office working hard to optimize the survivors’ relief effort. Even after a year, they still had to have Royal oversight in order to get supplies to the most needed areas. Gloria had jumped into the effort and took over the not so token task of making sure people got food and survival supplies until the rebuilding effort could get to them.

Mark entered her terminal number into his comm unit. It rang once. "What's up Handsome?" Gloria answered.

"Henry wanted me to let you know that Mary and Chloe will be here in about a half hour. Think you can take a break to see your old friends?" Mark asked grinning.

"Smart ass, you know damn good and well I've been busting my ass for the last month so I could spend some time with them when they arrived. If anything unexpected comes up, my assistant knows where I'll be," Gloria replied. "Oh, I wanted to thank you for assigning 'The Zulu's' to me for search and rescue operations. I know it's been a year and the odds of finding survivors are almost non-existent, but we need all the help we can get in the fringe and border areas."

"No problem, Love. I know you've been worried about those folks out there. Besides, it would be doing what you want it to do anyway, so they might as well work for you for a while," Mark replied.

"Well, be that as it may, I know the decision to give half our Navy to John and the Guardians left us short on ships. I appreciate it," Gloria said. "Did you get the transportation report yet? We got our part of it out to them yesterday morning, and Carla, uh, Minister Harris, said she would get it compiled and out to you as soon as she could," Gloria asked.

"Yes, Harry just told me it's available. I should give it a look over before our guests arrive. Why don't you head home to change and I'll meet you at the landing field in a few minutes?" Mark asked.

"Ha!" Gloria replied. "I took a page out of your book and have been keeping a set of formal clothes in my office. Still we only have about fifteen minutes, so I'll get changed and meet you there."

"Okay love, see ya in a few minutes," Mark said and closed the connection. He pulled up the rather large report file and sighed. He wouldn't even be able to skim through it in time. Using his implant, he copied out the last few pages of the report, the part with all the 'bottom lines' in it and loaded it into his memory unit. Then he grabbed a energy bar and entered Mr. Ford's office where the diligent man made sure Mark was presentable before having his guards escort him to the landing field.

Chapter 60

The Guardian Flyer had already landed by the time Mark made it to the landing field. Gloria had beaten him, but only by a few seconds. It had been almost a year since the last visit by the group and during that time there had been a world of changes made. That fact was underscored by the fact that they were meeting back on the Kingdom's Capitol world. The last time Mark had seen John face to face was at the command module at Xanadu.

Armored guards left the ship first to take up position at the foot of the ship's ramp. Next followed Mary in a pristine white uniform of the Guardian Medical Service. Behind her was Chloe in a slightly darker uniform of the Guardian Command Division. Finally, John himself left the ship wearing the same uniform as Chloe, but with a gold braid looped under his left arm denoting him as the supreme commander of the Guardian Forces.

The Flyer itself had undergone a rather dramatic makeover. Gone was the shiny, gray metal of the Kingdom designed stealth system. It had been replaced with a stark white paint job with a blaze orange stripe on all wing and fins. Although slightly larger, it was still a stealth vessel; in fact it was most likely more so now that it had been rebuilt with Promethean technology. It had a few more gun ports and a larger missile battery, but it was still a ship devoted to peace.

Several of the ships that had been given over to the Guardians were undergoing a similar transformation at their super-secret shipyard in the Gamma quadrant. Following John off the ship was probably the most drastic change of all. Dressed in the off-white uniform of the Guardians, Shal'mar Tardeinne left the ship looking around himself in awe and wonder. Guardian Tardeinne was of the Tammerain and had been one of the first Guardians recruited from the races of the Tammerain.

Mark sensed his guards stiffen when they saw the last person to disembark. "Relax you guys! He's a Guardian! You will treat him with the same respect you treat me or John with or I'll dismiss you right fucking now, understood?"

"But Sire, he's a Tammerain!" one of the guard said.

"No, he's a Guardian! He surrendered his nationality when he joined them. You will treat him with the same courtesy and respect you give any of the Guardians out there. Is that understood?" Mark said making damn sure they did understand him. "If any of you cannot do that, then you need to leave now."

"Sire, with respect," the commander of the guard, a seasoned, newly promoted officer, bowed to Mark and turned to his detail. "Murry! Evens, you are dismissed! Return to the Barracks immediately!"

By now, John and his party had made it into the terminal and had witnessed the dismissing of the guards. The guard lieutenant turned and saluted the newcomers. "Pardon the interruption, Prime Guardian. Could I trouble you to borrow two of your guards until our replacements arrive?"

"We would be honored, Lieutenant," John replied and turned back to Guardian Tardeinne. "Please have two guardians suit up and report to the terminal for guard duty."

While they'd been talking the girls all greeted each other with hugs and quiet words.

Shal'mar bobbed his head. "At once Prime!" he turned slightly away and issued orders on his internal comm device.

"You enhanced the Tammerain Guardians?" Mark asked. He wasn't upset, he'd just been surprised by the realization.

John nodded. "Yes, they have been enhanced, but not in the same way we were enhanced. This is a new set-up developed by Mary and her folks using Promethean tech. Most of them don't need much, just the healing bots, communicators and interface units. In the Guardians; we are all equals."

"Well, some of you have a bit more experience than others," Gloria said grinning.

"True, as well as more responsibility in our positions. However, we try to make it's as equal as we can," John replied. "You both look well, how's the reconstruction going?"

Mark grinned. "Very well thanks to you and the Guardians. Hell, just the use of the transit points is all but invaluable. But those repair units you sent are truly wonders. I don't think anyone ever thought of using a repair ship in that fashion. It's just amazing what those monsters can do in a short amount of time."

"I was impressed with them as well. Even the new base at Bethel's Anvil is finished. Aside from a few impact craters, that planet is almost completely back to normal. In fact, I've already reassigned the repair unit to another world," John said.

A repair unit was really a small fleet that traveled together. The main part of the unit was a huge ship that had ore refineries, smelters, processors, and all the heavy industrial units needed to build almost anything. In addition to several smaller mining vessels that kept the main unit in materiel for the project it was doing. Thousands of small robots did a lot of the work, retrieving finished materiel from the ship, placing it and joining it to the rest of the building facility or ship that was being built.

If the construction was underground, like the Guardian Base was, the robots could also dig and mine all without risking lives during the process.  The ship that was used at Bethel's Anvil had been there for most of the year, digging out and clearing the underground cities, as well as rebuilding the smaller surface communities and converting the Johnstown facility into a very nice, very large Base and Medical Facility complete with a fully functional bio-molecular unit equivalent to what The Center was before the war on Centauri Prime.

By the request of the Planetary Governor, John had also directed the unit to build a huge university complex with the intention to open it to all races of the Galaxy. John thought it was a grand idea, and spoke to Selnia about finding a suitable administrator for it.

She recommended a Clan leader from the far side of the Empire that was renowned for her wisdom and had extreme administrative abilities. But she also recommended one of her sister’s relocate to the facility to assist in its formation and administration.

The Sentient AI was more than happy to accept the offer from John. She had been built as a much smaller version of Selnia and took up a low orbit over the planet. Convincing the Clan Matriarch to accept the position was a bit more difficult. She was of a race that was very human like in appearance but much smaller as well as having fully functional, prehensile tails. Her race had not taken part in the war because they had no interest in warcraft and lacked any ability at all in that area. Her race had known violence in the far distant past, but no longer even considered it an option when dealing with others.

When John explained to her that one of the main purposes of the new academy would be to foster peace and work to prevent war though the cooperative pursuit of knowledge. She agreed to accept the position provided her people and the Tammerain leadership approved. The new Empress agreed to the appointment as part of a farther-reaching agreement to help the Kingdom recover from the damage of the war. A portion of the Tammerain War fleets was also given over to the Guardians as part of that agreement. Ironically, it had become easier to recruit new Guardians from the Tammerain than it was from the humans.

Mark smiled at his friends. "Well, welcome back. You're just in time for lunch!"

Chapter 61

It had taken some doing, but Mark had met with the new Empress of the Tammerain. The first thing she did was express the profound apologies of her people for the damage they had done to the humans. When she offered reparations, Mark was floored by the amount of support she offered. He found the new leader of the Tammerain Empire to be a very personable and friendly being. He was surprised when he learned that she was almost four hundred years old herself.

Through the use of Promethean technology, the two leaders virtually toured several worlds that had seen heavy fighting. Although they could not interact with the people moving around the ruins, the damage had been very apparent. The experience had a profound effect on both of the leaders as the tour led them to the remains of a destroyed apartment building. On what was left of the sidewalk in front of the building, flowers and several small shrines as well as pictures of those that had died in the building had been placed. Kneeling before the group of shrines, a small girl was on her knees crying as she held a holograph of a young woman, her mother.

The Empress got to her knees beside the girl and cried as well.

The scene touched Mark. "I've been a soldier for most of my life. I've never gotten... This is a very common scene during war. A long time ago, on my home world of Earth, a wise man once said in war, there are no winners or losers; there are only survivors."

The Empress could only nod her agreement as she tried to recompose herself and continue the tour. In her mind, she was horrified that her people had done this. "Mark, no matter what else we do, or how we guide our nations, we must never allow this to happen again."

"I agree Mar'shallis. Conflict may become unavoidable, but we should strive to prevent it whenever we can, but most importantly, keep it away from the civilians. They have done nothing to deserve this," Mark said softly.

"On that, you will always have my agreement. Although I would be tempted to argue that no one deserves this."

As they continued, the two leaders talked and learned more about the other. Trust might not have happened, but an understanding of the other leader was discovered. They would try to talk issues over before resulting to violence.

Before they parted, Mark was teasing her about being a young woman and she was teasing him about being older than the Prometheans. They had parted on good terms. If not as friends, then as close to being friends as their positions would allow. Mark honestly liked her and enjoyed her company during the talks.

However, not all the citizens of the two nations were as forgiving or as understanding as the two leaders had been. Mostly on the border worlds groups met in secret and resolved to make the Tammerain pay for the murder of their loved ones. They felt that what Mark was working towards with the Tammerain was a betrayal and much of their anger was directed at him as well.

Surprisingly enough, not all of the dissidents were on border worlds. In the heart worlds there were those that detested the new peace with the Tammerain. Those people that had attained considerable power and wealth due to the military buildup resented the loss that this new peace brought them. Supposed 'Nobles' and powerful businessmen were more than happy to funnel their excess weapons and munitions out to the border worlds. It was easy enough to do, there were ships leaving for the border every hour. The ships carrying arms for the dissidents simply hid in among the ships carrying much needed supplies and material.

During the year that had passed, the dissidents had amassed a considerable arsenal of weapons, but they lacked one very important asset they needed in order to carry out their war of vendetta, ships. They needed transportation into Tammerain space that could not be detected. After the summit between the two leaders, Tammerain supply ships had been allowed access to human space in order to deliver cargos of food, equipment and rare metals.

Several assaults were staged to capture these ships or failing that, to destroy them. The Dissidents vowed that no alien would ever set foot on a human world again.

On the border world of Sargasso, a major shipping node for the border worlds in their sector, four Tammerain heavy freighters landed and began unloading their cargo with the help of the human cargo handlers that worked there. Unknown to the Tammerain ships, the human helpers were not the normal ground force that unloaded cargo. While they unloaded the cargo, several of the men and women slipped aboard the ships and killed the crews.

Once finished unloading, one of the ships was reloaded with troop’s vehicles and weapons while the other three left for other planets to pick up their lethal cargos before returning to Tammerain space. Since the planets were close by, and the flight controllers for each planet were part of the rebel group, no one noticed that the Tammerain ships had gone to other worlds; or that they were not empty when they left those worlds.

The Dissidents now had ships, the last item needed for them to raise hell in Tammerain space and kill as many of their enemy as they could.

Chapter 62

The bodies of the murdered crews were discovered by security personnel and immediately reported to their superiors. By the time the report reached the Intel office, the crime was nearly a week old and there was no chance of tracing the ships in question.

Since the crime involved foreign citizens, the local office of Military Intelligence should have passed it on to the newly formed Guardian Depot, but they didn't. Preferring to 'handle' the matter themselves. Two more weeks were lost before reports of large-scale massacres taking place in Tammerain space reached the Guardians.

The report made it all the way up to John and he was pissed.

After making contact with and informing The Tammerain Empress as well as Mark, John took command of one of his new task forces and left Bethel's Anvil to hunt down the renegades. While he did that, Chloe, Alice and Carl left for the Sargasso System to begin the investigation into the murder of the freighter crews.

When Chloe and her team arrived in the Sargasso System, they were met there by a delegation from the local constable's office as well as the Military Intelligence office. As Chloe led her team off the ramp of the Flyer, the Major in charge of the Intelligence unit marched forward with a small unit of armed troops.

"Guardian Diamond, your assistance here has not been requested. As you are violating sovereign kingdom space, I am hereby ordering you to leave; immediately. We do not need your assistance at this time," the belligerent officer said.

"Really?" Chloe asked looking at him. She glanced at the members of the local Constabulary that had followed the troops, and then refocused on the man in front of her.

"I guess, with your very busy schedule out here on the border, you haven't had time to read the new regulations. As for the Guardians invading sovereign kingdom space, I think you'll find we are well within our jurisdictional boundaries. As for you and your men..."

As she finished, several armored Guardians shimmered into view, surrounding the three groups. The army troops behind the Major were clearly surprised. Army soldiers were not usually enhanced, and were used as garrison troops or guards for rear positions. While the Marines were the Kingdom's offensive troops, the Army troops were the defense.

"Major Dimitre, you and your men are currently interfering with the investigation of a Guardian, which is a crime under the laws of the Kingdom. Since you obviously did not know that, I will enlighten you as to the new regulations. A Guardian, while executing an investigation in Kingdom space, has the authority of a Royal Marshal and has all the rights and powers of that office. Disagreements or abuses on the part of the Guardian in question may be filed with the Royal Judge Advocate General's Office. A Guardian operating in Kingdom space has the full approval and authority of the King. No jurisdictional boundaries exist for a Guardian. A Guardian is free to investigate those crimes or suspected offenses that may have a detrimental effect on the stability of peace, or the safety of the people of the galaxy," Chloe explained. "There is quite a bit more to it than that, and of course there is the legalese that only a few can actually understand, but that's the long and short of it. Is there any part of that you don't understand?"

"I don't give a gorrath's ass about what the regs say, Guardian. You are not wanted nor are you needed here. Leave. Now," the Major said.

Chloe nodded. "So you are telling us that not only will you not assist us in our investigations, but you will actively keep us from our duty?"

"You have no duty here. Your presence will only disrupt our own investigations into this matter. If you insist on remaining, we will arrest you for obstruction and interference with a Military investigation," the Major replied. "You used to be in the human Military, you should understand what that means, right?" He put a slight stress of the word 'human'.

"Ah, I see the problem now. You think that just because we recruited from the Tammerain as well, we no longer have the best interests of humanity in mind. Over seventy percent of the Guardian force is still human. Besides that, no Guardian is allowed any allegiance to any other group or organization other than the Guardians and their mission. Right now, our mission has brought us here. One last chance Major, either way, we are going to be staying and looking into this. Do you intend to keep us from our duty here and now?"

"You have no business here..."

“Major Dimitre, by the order of the Prime Guardian, acting as an agent of His majesty King Marcus Candlewood, you and your men are hereby under arrest for the crime of Guardian Interference. I suggest you all very slowly place your weapons on the ground and follow the instructions of the Guardians detaining you," Chloe said loudly enough for everyone to hear her.

"You have no authority!" the Major shouted. "Men! Stop them!"

However, behind him, the army troops had already placed their weapons on the ground and knelt with their hands on their heads and ankles crossed.

Chloe turned to Carl. "I doubt the army guys are guilty of anything more than following orders. Only detain the officers and the senior non-commissioned officers, however, make sure their weapons are locked up."

"Will do, I'd hate to hold these guys for having idiots for leaders," Carl replied. "What about the Constables? It'll be more difficult to determine if they are ignorant or culpable."

"I would say since they're civilians, they get the same rights; innocent until proven otherwise. I'd give them a warning not to get in our way, and let them go," Alice suggested, to which Chloe could only agree.

"Once you get finished with them, do you want to check out the security logs here?" Chloe asked him.

Carl nodded. "That'll work. I'll take some of the boys with me and intimidate them into cooperating! Captain!" Carl called to one of the guards as he moved away from the group.

Chloe looked at Alice. "Do you want to take the Constable's office or the Mil-Int office?"

"Constables. The Mil-Int guys have always given me the creeps," Alice replied and shuddered.

Chloe chuckled. "Be sure to take a few of our guys with you. At least I know I'm going into hostile territory, it could go either way with you," Chloe said smiling.

"You just had to mention that didn't you?" Alice said shaking her head.

Chapter 63

Aboard the newly rechristened heavy freighter 'Righteous Vengeance', the captain and crew where celebrating yet another slaughter of a civilian farming colony.

"So where are we going now, Captain?" one of the 'fighters' asked him.

"I think it's time we really strike back," the man said grinning. "Octurus Four is the sector capitol. I think we should deliver a very special cargo to their main city."

"Won't the space port have a much larger security force?" she asked.

The Captain chuckled. "That won't matter. We really will only be delivering a package and leaving. There won't be time for any kind of assault"

"No assault? Why not?"

"Trust me, you don't want to be anywhere near what's going to happen down there," the man said.

"Please Greg, what do you have up your sleeve?" the woman all but pleaded.

He looked at the woman who had lost her entire family to the Tammerain when they hit her small village. "Rhonda, let me say only this; just because we don't have any missile launchers, doesn't mean we don't have missile warheads."

"Ohhhhhh! I get it!" the woman said getting an evil grin.

After leaving for Tammerain space to track down the renegade ships, one of the first things John did was contacting the Empress' staff to inform them of the action.

"Good day to you Prime Guardian, to what do we owe the honor of your call?" a stately looking male asked.

"Defense Leader Car'Shalon, I am afraid I have very grave news. Currently, I am leading a fleet of ships into your space. We are tracking a group of renegade humans that have stolen four of your freighters and are using them to stage attacks on your people. These misguided humans cannot let go of the anger at your people from the recent war and are using those ships to slaughter unsuspecting civilians on undefended planets. I wished to inform you of this action, as well as to ask you to notify all of your border worlds to deny these ships approach rights," John said respectfully.

"That's not a good thing for this time, Prime Guardian. We too have discovered several misguided citizens with similar motives. To this point we have been able to keep them under control, however, I was going to send you a report later this day." He paused to speak to an aide, and then turned back to John. "An alert will be issued as you have asked. We thank you for your response in this matter; perhaps the day will come when such actions are no longer needed."

John nodded agreement. "That is our wish as well, Defense Leader. However, we did know there would be a time of transition. I just hope these events will be few and caught before it comes to this point. We have heard rumors that several attacks on your people have been made. We are moving to stop them." John replied and sent a data packet to the Defense Leader. "I am sending you our intelligence of this event to this point. We will be arriving at your sector capitol world in an effort to ascertain the location of these criminals, as well as what planets may need assistance because of them."

The dignified being nodded gravely, "I will notify our relief forces and send them to you. I would offer our military as well, but I see you have plenty of force at your disposal. While I will put the local garrisons on alert, it would be good for it to be seen that you are handling this. Assistance will be there if you need it, but not overly apparent to the people."

"You are very wise, Defense Leader. We appreciate the effort you are going to in assisting us," John replied, surprised.

"It really is no effort. Not so long ago, our forces considered you a demon with mystical powers. There are still those that believe that to be so. If we are to move past all the ugliness of The Deception, you and your organization must handle events such as this, as regrettable as they are. More importantly, you must be seen to handle it. Information and propaganda are as much weapons for peace and war as a plasma cannon. It is time to turn that arsenal into a tool for peace," the being replied. "I am told there will be a small fleet of twenty to thirty medical and supply ships that will meet you at Octurus Four. That is all that can be made ready in short notice. More will be readied and sent to you as we can. They have orders to report to you for assignment, Prime Guardian."

"It is much appreciated Defense Leader. We are twenty minutes from the transit point. We will arrive at Octurus Four in just under an hour."

"Peace be with you Guardian and may the Goddess guide your path," the being said nodding.

"And with you Defense Leader," John replied.

Chapter 64

"Prime Guardian, the transit point reports a ship matching the hyperspace signature of one of the renegade ships is in transit to this system," the navigator replied. It was a closely guarded secret, known only to the Guardians, that the transit points could track ships in hyperspace out to twenty light years. Considering transit points were thick as fleas on a cur in this area of the galaxy, it meant using hyperspace as a means of sneaking around was a moot point.

"Thank you T'harnes. Has the network located the other ships yet?" John asked.

"Not since their initial jump, Sir. If they stick close to those initial headings, we should have them pegged as soon as they make their next jump," the navigator, T'Harnes replied.

"Yeah, it's what they are doing before making those jumps that has me worried. The longer they remain in real space, the more people they kill," John replied. "Helm, stealth approach. Bring the fleet to stealth status and prepare to welcome the inbound. Stand by with the hyperspace interdictor."

"Loci for the interdictor?" the operations officer asked.

John was thoughtful for a moment. "Show me the plot for the inbound please."

The hyperspace track for the renegade ship was displayed on the main holographic unit in the center of the bridge. "Okay, it looks like they will be returning to normal space here." John pointed to a spot just inside the orbit of the sixth planet. "Especially if they are trying to make like they are a Tammerain trader.  Mark this as point alpha. Send six tin-cans there and have them spread out to cover this whole area. Once the ship drops out, engage their interdictors, and shadow the ship to the planet. They are not to reveal themselves unless the ship tries to turn away..." His young operations officer, a human named Gerry Wills, interrupted John.

"What's a 'tin-can' sir?"

John chuckled. "It's a nickname for a Destroyer that originated on Earth many years ago. There were other nicknames for other classes, but I can't remember them."

"What is it a reference to, sir? Why call them that?" another young sailor asked.

"Back before we left Earth, and even for a few years after, large quantities of food stuffs were stored in a sealed metal container called a 'can'. Although later versions were made of aluminum, early versions were made of tin or a thin steel alloy. The reason for the nickname is that, during the Second World War, a massive recycling effort by the people of the United States helped to supply the needed metal to build the small warships. It was also believed that sailors that served aboard then gave them the nickname because of the thin armor they were equipped with. Comparing it to a 'tin can'," John said.

"Now, the Destroyers will escort the renegade into the planet. Put us in orbit, cloaked, to await them. Have four Cruisers patrol outside the orbit of the sixth planet to ensure our target cannot escape." He indicated the areas he wanted the ships in as he described them.

The Operations officer was busy issuing the orders and getting the trap set up.

"Navigation, please keep an eye on the Transit points so we can know where the others are as soon as we can." He turned back to the system plot. "Have the Battleships and the remaining cruiser wait here in order to transit out as quickly as possible so we can intercept the other renegades as soon as we locate them. Keep one Cruiser on station to direct the Tammerain relief ships to where we need them as soon as they arrive. As soon as the pickets we sent out arrive at the attacked planets, get help sent."

"At once Sir," his flag captain replied from across the system hologram.

Righteous Vengeance dropped out of hyperspace and set course for the planet Octurus 4 and detected nothing out of the ordinary. The Tammerain traffic controller welcomed them and directed them to a landing at the main cargo area at the largest city on the planet. The Captain just smiled and nodded to his helmsman to set course. Back in the cargo bay, three of the more technical fighters had opened the shipping container of the mark VI antimatter warhead and were getting it ready for delivery.

Unknown to anyone in the old freighter, six Guardian Destroyers had taken up position around them and engaged their hyperspace interdiction equipment. The renegade ship was now trapped and unable to jump back into hyperspace. The destroyers had also armed their weapons, but did not target the ship, as that would have let them know they were caught.

Two hours out from port, the renegade detected the arrival of the relief ships being sent to John. They had used the transit point as most Tammerain shipping did now that it was available. Seeing this, the Captain frowned.

"Scan the system again, report anything even remotely out of place."

The first officer stepped up to his chair. "Something bothering you, Sir?"

"Yeah, but I can't put my finger on it. We didn't arrive at the transit point, but the ATC at the planet didn't even question us. Why not?" The captain asked.

"Well, we did report that we had arrived from one of the outer planets in the sector. Maybe they just assumed we didn't use the transit point since it wasn't a very long trip?" the first officer replied.

"That could be, but still - wouldn't you at least ask to make sure? Especially since they have to know that raiders are out here?" the Captain said, trying to puzzle this out. "Navigation, plot a course for Antares Nine but don't change course. Just be ready to get us out of here."

"Aye Sir," the Navigator replied and began working up the plot.

"I don't see any big white ships. Do you think this is a trap?" the first officer asked.

"It's starting to feel like it," the captain replied. "Comms, when those new ships arrived, did the ATC give them any special instructions?"

"Not really, Sir. Just that they were to remain on station for redirect orders. They identify as relief and support ships for the attacks we've been making. Nothing unusual Sir."

"Do they ID as Tammerain ships?" the first officer asked.

"Aye Sir. Registry has them listed as belonging to the Imperial emergency aide ministry," the man replied.

"No warships came with them?" the captain asked immediately.

"No Sir, I would have reported that right away!"

"Helm! Execute jump program, get us out of here - NOW!" the Captain all but yelled.

"Jump program is online... uh, Sir, it's not initializing," the helmsmen replied. "The Hyperdrive will not come online."

"Come about! Full power! Get us out of this system as fast as you can!" the captain screamed. He looked at his first officer. "There is a rumor that Xanadu had discovered a way to keep ships from jumping to hyperspace as a means of escape. Since they gave them everything else, I'm sure the fucking Guardian traitors got those as well."

"Sir! We're surrounded. Six Guardian Destroyers have us boxed in!" the navigator replied.

"We're being hailed, Captain!" the comms officer replied.

"Fuck!" the captain replied, and opened a comm to the techs working on the bomb. "Jacobs, how's it going with the bomb?"

"We'll be ready by the time we get to the planet Sir, no problem!" the man replied cheerfully.

"We're not going to make it to that narding planet! We're surrounded by Guardians ships, we flew into a trap! Can you detonate that thing?" the man asked.

"Maybe in about ten minutes, but why bother? We're done, why not just surrender?" the man asked.

"Because, you simplistic moron, the first thing they're going to do to us is interrogation. Which means that they will know what the others are up to as well! There is also the small fact that that bomb you're working on is still in its company shipping crate!" the Captain replied. "I don't care how you do it, but you have to set that fucking bomb off now!"

"Sir, there are a ton of safe guards in this to prevent it from detonating like that. We can't even shoot it with a rifle!" the tech replied.

"Then use a fucking grenade! I don't care how you do it, just get it done! We'll buy you as much time as we can. At least we'll take some of these traitors with us when we go!"

Chapter 65

"Sir, the renegade has changed course. The Destroyers are blocking it," the operations officer said.

"Thanks Gerry. Tell them to board the freighter as quickly as possible. There's no telling what kinds of nasty surprises these assholes might have rigged up!" John ordered. "Besides, we need to get some answers out of them. When they capture the command group, I want them brought here for interrogation. Comms, hail the freighter."

"Aye Sir, sending hail."

After a few moments, Guardian Tardeinne, John's acting Flag Captain, grunted. "I think we took them by surprise. Either that or they are still looking for a means to escape."

John nodded his agreement. "Is the channel still open, Comms?"

"Aye Sir, still no response."

John activated his own comm to that channel. "Attention renegade freighter Early Harvest, by the authority of the Guardians acting on behalf of the alliance of nations, you are hearby ordered to shut down your engines and stand ready for boarding. You have nowhere to run folks. Surrender now; no one else has to die this day."

"Yeah and just who do you think you are, asshole?" Came the reply.

"I'm John Aster. Who are you?" John replied.

"Wow, I'm honored. The head traitor himself! I figured you for a much bigger ship; one that would actually be able to carry your inflated ego!" the man replied.

John muted the channel. "Board them now! He's stalling! Back the Destroyers off to a safe distance." Then he reopened the Comm. "You still haven't introduced yourself. As for my being a traitor, I honestly don't think you have any idea what you're talking about. I've been protecting your life since before your ancestors left Earth. How can I be the traitor here?"

"Because you have sold out to the Tammerain and let them get away without paying for their crimes against us! You have bowed to them and even taken them into the Guardians! Those animals have no place in this universe and should be utterly destroyed for what they have done to us! You and your fucking fellow traitors are letting them live after what they did to us! You have no idea, 'Guardian' of the hell they put us through! While you were off surrendering to the Tammerain, your new friends were massacring those of us who counted on you for our protection! I don't have any respect any of you! All you are worth is my utter contempt!"

"Boy, did you watch the wrong news vid!" John replied. "We didn't surrender to the Tammerain, we got them to withdraw. The Tammerain were being used by another race to attack us based on lies and half-truths not unlike what you are dreaming up right now. As for the massacres... Son, you have no idea what I've seen in my life. As for selling you out or turning traitor, I took an oath over five thousand years ago to defend and protect the human race. Why would I decide to change my mind about that now? Why would I change my mind after I watched my last remaining family totally destroyed? After I've watched my entire unit killed in action, or after all the other friends and those I call brother and sister fall defending you and your ancestors?

"The answer is I didn't. Defeat to anyone has more meaning to my brothers and me than it ever would to some irresponsible and petulant child such as yourself. The constant wars between the races had to stop or none of us would have survived. We finally found a way to make that happen, but ungrateful, selfish, children that can't see past their own pain are doing everything in their power to keep that from happening. But, you want to know something? It doesn't matter!

"That's right asshole, nothing you or your friends have done, or will do will sour the relations that have been formed. This new order is going to happen no matter what you try to do to sabotage it. The Tammerain understand what you're doing. While the loss of life is tragic, they know that it is only the reactions of a few people that cannot let go of their personal pain. My oath to protect you has not changed. However it has expanded to include the Tammerain as well. I will uphold that oath with my dying breath no matter what happens!"

"So say we all!" the bridge crew replied loud enough for the other person to hear it.

"We don't want your peace! Your peace doesn't answer for the deaths of our families and friends! A blood debt is owed us and that debt will be paid! We don't give a fuck about what you and your new friends think! Our people have bled! That has to be answered!" the irate man replied.

"Would you be so kind as to tell me how murdering innocent farmers and their families will bring back those that you've lost? How will inflicting your pain on others make what was done to you right in anyway?" John asked. "No amount of death will ever make it right. Someone once said, that before seeking vengeance, dig two graves. Son, if we used your logic then none of us would survive! Do you have any idea how many lives have been lost in this war already? At least a hundred billion humans have died because of this war. I have no idea how many there have been for the Tammerain, but it has to be at least as much. You're upset; I get that. You're hurt and angry; hell, I get that too. But doing what you are doing right now isn't going to bring you peace of mind, nor will it bring back those you loved. Nothing will. All we can hope for is to work to stop the senseless killing of innocents like those you lost. Seeking vengeance is not the way to do that."

"You don't know me, asshole. I'm one of those peons you high and mighty Guardians like to say you protect! Where were you when they nuked Shenghi? Where were you when Tammerain ground troops walked through my village and destroyed everything! You were out doing only the gods know what while our people burned! Fuck you! You're in no position to preach to me about your high and mighty morals! You and you’re..."

The Marines assaulting the bridge and stunning the crew interrupted the man.

"Prime Guardian, this is Lieutenant Carden. Bridge is secured. First Sergeant H'reanse reports finding a functional AM warhead in the main hold they were trying to hotwire. It's still in its original shipping crate. I'd say these idiots didn't think about us ever catching them and discovering who was giving them the toys they've been playing with."

"Well done, Carden. Please make sure the command crew is brought to the Command ship for interrogation. Is the warhead stable?" John asked.

"I think so, we've got one of the ordnance folks coming over from the ship to look after it. Sir, I think you should know that these people had top of the line weapons and armor. The same stuff they would issue to normal unenhanced ground troops. There are a few strange toys too; one of my techs says they look to be prototypes being developed by Ares Arms Corp. All the serial numbers have AACP before the numbers, which is the protocol for experimental weapons." The officer reported.

"Well done, Lieutenant. Please secure the ship for transport back to our base for forensic analysis. Please let your people know they've done very well," John replied.

"Will do Sir, Carden out."

John turned towards his office. "Tardeinne, take over. I'll pass all this along to our other teams so they know what to look out for. I think I might send a team to lock down Ares Arms as well."

"Yes John. Gerry is just starting to get reports in from the scouts we sent to the attacked worlds," the big Tammerain officer replied.

John nodded. "Let them know help is on the way."

Chapter 66

John had just finished telling Chloe and the others about what they'd discovered so far, when he ordered a unit sent to Ares Arms Corporation. While their corporate headquarters was on Centauri, they had manufacturing facilities in two other systems including a research facility at Xanadu. The Unit would split up, and lock down each of the facilities as well as detain the leadership and many of the employees. Once that was finished, the unit would begin investigating how the weapons found on the renegade ship had gotten there.

John also informed Mark of the action he was taking. To say Mark was pissed would be an understatement, and he ordered his guards to arrest four senators as well since those four had controlling interest in that company. John thanked him and let the unit know there were four other people to question in the Palace brig.

He was just about to return to the command deck when he was surprised by a communications request from the Empress herself.

Not one to refuse a national leader, John accepted the request.

Although he did not drop to one knee when her hologram appeared, he did bow to her. That was protocol since he was not one of her subjects.

"Empress, to what do I owe the honor of your call?" John asked.

"Thank you for accepting my call, Prime Guardian, I know you are busy. I have been briefed on your actions in our space. I wished to let you know that there are several of my own people that have been detained for the same reasons. We were lucky in that they had not gotten as far along in their planning as the humans had. Since this situation is so new, we have been at a loss as to what to do with them. So we have decided to remand them over to you.

She held up one furred hand. "Do not despair Prime Guardian, we are aware you do not have the facilities to deal with these miscreants either. I have not yet spoken to King Marcus, but I thought it would be fitting for these criminals to be placed on a world that is slightly hostile with orders to begin working to repair the planet. The planets I have in mind were severely damaged in the wars with your people and have only recently recovered enough to allow life back on the surfaces.

"I do not mean to argue with you, Empress, but these malcontents hate each other with an intensity that is almost pathological. They would do nothing more than fight once we placed them on this planet," John pointed out.

The Empress nodded her agreement. "That is understood and I do not doubt that would be the case if we put them all in the same place. No, what I had in mind was placing your people on one planet, and our people on another. My people would be placed on what you called Alpha Centauri four beta, while your people would be returned to you home planet." She smiled at the look on John's face. Nodding, she continued. "Our geologists and ecologists have informed us that both planets are still recovering, but that environmental levels have returned to acceptable levels for both planets. Conversely, I am told that both planets are also prime candidates for your terraforming technology to begin working on them as well. Earth, we would return to the Kingdom, while the once colony planet of Aphrodite is an open planet. Available to all races that are compatible with the natural ecology of the planet, that would include humans."

"That is very generous of you, Empress. I imagine you had some harsh words with the clans that held those planets," John replied.

"Actually, I was very surprised; the Clan leaders themselves offered this solution as partial restitution for their part in the war," The Empress explained. "I thought it was very understanding of them to make this offer, considering that those planets are only now beginning to return to a state that will support life."

"I am sure the offer of returning the planet will be well received, Empress. However, I do not know how well making Earth a penal colony will be accepted," John said thoughtfully.

"Well, I don't see it as so much as a penal colony as a way to sequester disruptive elements without killing them. By returning them to the planets I mentioned, they can live out their lives without their disruptive influence affecting others," the Empress replied. "As you know, we do not support the execution of the criminal as a means of punishment for a crime."

"I am aware of that, Empress. I have made sure that King Marcus is aware of it as well," John said. "I will do what I can to arrange this. A station will have to be placed near the two worlds in order to monitor the populations and to prevent them from being 'rescued' by sympathizers. There is a facility available for that use and I will have her relocate to that position to begin preparations for the dispatch of terraformers for the planets. Even if this use for them is not agreed upon, Empress, I will make sure that the planets receive assistance in their recoveries," John replied. "Are there any other worlds you are aware of that are in need of this type of assistance?"

"There are a few, Prime Guardian. However, not all of them are Earth type and they would require a different type of ecosystem to return them to normal. The Human race is not the only species that the Grays used us against. Those worlds should be healed as well. I was going to forward a request to the Prometheans to consider reseeding those worlds for life," she frowned. "There is much for us to atone for."

"I do not believe so, Empress. Had you known of the ruse and yet continued in the quest of eradicating the other races, then you would have been culpable. However, your race did not know of the deception and reacted accordingly once it was exposed. The destruction may have been by your hand, but you were not guiding it."

The Empress nodded. "Still, it is a difficult thing for us to accept. We feel responsible for the deaths of so many. In many of our cultures, guilt is a sign of responsibility. We knew the making of war was wrong, but yet we still followed the dictates of our Goddess. Many of our scholars believe that should have been our first warning things were not right; the Goddess would never order the deaths of others.

"Well, that is a discussion for another time, we have gotten off topic. I know you are very busy at the moment, Prime, so I will end this communication and endeavor to contact King Marcus. Perhaps between the two of us, we can work this issue out."

"I am certain the return of Earth will be appreciated no matter the circumstances, Empress. I do know that Marcus believes that the Tammerain are sincere in their quest for peace this time," John said referencing the last time peace was agreed on by the Tammerain.

"That is good, as this time, it really is us that are working for it," the Empress replied, bowing to him as her image faded.

John took a moment to compose his thoughts before returning to the command deck and the ongoing search for the other renegades.

Chapter 67

After parting ways on the tarmac, Chloe headed for the local office of MIIO. As she expected, she got a less than warm reception from the agents working in the office.

"Look guys," Chloe said addressing the crew of agents working in the office. "Just because I have a different employer now, by no means effects my duty to the Kingdom. I am still the soldier that has served the kingdom for hundreds of centuries. Even now, I am still serving the Kingdom and protecting our people. I don't know what all of you think is going on here, so let me make it abundantly clear; I am here to discover what happened to the crews of those Tammerain freighters, who did it and why. It is your duty to assist me in this. It's that simple. Now, I don't give a damn if you either don't believe me, or simply don't think I belong here. That's your problem, not mine.

"Nothing has changed here, guys. I am still Chloe Diamond; I'm just wearing a different uniform now. So, would any of you like to tell me just what the fuck the problem is?" she finished.

"You are not part of the Kingdom anymore. You have no business here because this is an internal Kingdom matter," one of the men said. "Many of us out here on the border worlds see your new position as a betrayal. We were here dying while your lot was someplace else. We depended on you for our protection and none of you showed up. We waited and waited; we watched our cities burn and friends and family blown to pieces by Tammerain troops, all the while we believed you were going to swoop in and stop them. You never did. You never sent word; at first, a lot of us thought you had been killed yourselves. Then came the withdrawal of the Tammerain and the news told us that you had somehow stopped the entire war. We were awed. The four of you, alone, managed to somehow defeat the Tammerain so badly that they recalled all of their forces.

"Then the news told us about the new Guardian organization you had agreed to form. How it was to be a multi-national, multi-racial police force. You were no longer our protectors, but the protectors of the very same people that murdered so many of our families! What the hell where you thinking? Did you honestly think we would just happily forgive and forget? You people were our heroes! We knew it all had to be a lie because you would never betray us like that. Well, it wasn't a lie. You really did accept the Tammerain into this new force. You really were protecting them too. Even after what they had done to us!" The man paused. "Even the King has gotten into bed with those murderers. All of you really have gotten too old to relate to us anymore. You have no business here and none of us wants or needs you any longer."

Chloe nodded. "Now that is an explanation I can understand. Thank you for telling me the truth, Citizen. Unfortunately, you are incorrect in at least one thing; I do have business here, as this was not an internal matter because it involved the citizens of another nation. Because of that, I have been given the duty of investigating the crime. I can only apologize to you on my own behalf for what you see as our betrayal. We honestly thought we were acting in your best interests by ending the war by any means possible. In order to do that, we had to agree to form this organization. Although, I personally agree with the reasoning behind it, I know none of you were ever told what those were."

Even though she was on a schedule and time was short, she sat all of them down and explained everything to them. She told them what had happened to them after they said good-bye to Will. She told them of the restrictions they had been operating under and the reasons for them. She related the theory of the Tammerain being used as pawns by another race and how the Guards had been heading there when they met the Promethean. She told them of the deal Malthis had offered them, and what it would cost them. She told them that none of them even hesitated because accepting the deal meant the end of the war.

"We know it is hard to separate the events here, but the Tammerain have never been the real enemy of humanity. It's always been the Grays that were trying to kill us off. They were only using the Tammerain like you would a weapon. We had to agree to accept the protection of the Tammerain as well as humanity in order to get access to the tools we needed to make sure humans stayed safe. We didn't betray any of you, although I suppose it could be seen as that. Instead, we did what we felt we had to do in order to make certain you were protected; not just from this war, but from any future wars that could be prevented."

"So how much of that is the truth? Why didn't the King simply tell us this when he told us what you'd done?" another man asked.

Chloe shrugged. "All of it's the truth. I have no idea why Marcus didn't tell everyone the whole story. Maybe he thought it was simply too soon to tell you. Remember, at that time, the Tammerain warships hadn't even gotten completely out of our space yet. There was still fighting going on in some places because not everyone got the word or if they did, they were still only trying to defend themselves against others that didn't want to stop fighting. Adjusting to this is going to take time, folks and it isn't going to be easy for any of us.

"I met someone a few weeks ago that really drove that home to me. One of the applicants that came to the base was none other than the commander of the force that I had faced about a hundred and fifty years ago. That commander was responsible for a lot of my teammates being killed, and for a long time I hated him. I mean I really hated him, and would have killed him on sight had we been in any other place than where we were. The fact that I didn't kill him made me realize that we really could live together."

"What happened to him? Did you accept him into the Guardians?" a woman asked.

One of the Guardians that had accompanied Chloe stepped forward and removed his helmet. It was an aged Tammerain. "Yes, I was accepted. I remembered that encounter myself. In fact, I had been having night terrors about it ever since. You see, my unit knew that we were facing one of the mythical human 'demons' that could not be killed and had magical abilities she could use to kill my people. We were all so frightened that we fought insanely. We were absolutely convinced that she was hiding around every corner, or she would come for us during our rest cycles. Because of that, we couldn't sleep. Most of us couldn't even eat because we knew she had poisoned our food supply. Many of my soldiers fell ill from a lack of sleep but we saw it as her magic." He paused for a moment. "What she didn't tell you was that when it was time for us to be relieved, we fired on our own troops because we were sure she was attacking us from a new direction. Because I was an officer, I was reassigned to a support unit, but my soldiers had to be sent home; to my knowledge, they are still seeing the demon in their dreams.

"I have never held ill feelings for your people, Citizens. To my knowledge, none of our people have. In point of fact, there is a great deal about you that is admirable. However, our goddess had decreed that you were an abomination on her universe and had to be removed. I was never high ranked enough to question my orders; I could only do what I was told. I did not like it, I did not agree with it, but I also did not have a choice. Failing the Goddess in our mission was grounds for termination of the clan." He looked down. "No one dared to argue that we were failing her by carrying out her orders. Which is something I have always believed to be true. Although we may not agree in all things, that is no reason to take up weapons and destroy one another. I have sworn an oath, one I would be happy to show all of you because I am very proud to have been allowed the opportunity to take it. It is an oath I can believe in fully, without reservation, because it embraces life. Not just Tammerain life or Human life, but all life. A future where our children do not have to worry about war, or where a terrified Cordoni Farmer's son has night terrors for the rest of his life," he looked at Chloe with admiration. "I have faced my demon and discovered she is not what we were told. In fact she's a commander I can believe in and follow her orders without doubt or regret. I am sorry for the deaths that have occurred in the last war. If I could bring even one of them back I would devote my life to that task. However, all I can do is work to ensure it never happens again. I have devoted my life to this task. I will breathe my last breath reciting the oath of the Guardians."

It was quiet in the room for a few minutes. "I think we need to read that charter you folks put out," one of the older men said quietly. "But, until then, we do have a job to do, folks. Let's get the Guardians the information they need."

Chapter 68


Because of the incidents of the renegades attacking civilians on both sides of the border, John instituted a new policy. One where Guardians now patrolled the border sectors in ships much like his old ship, the Flyer. They had many duties in addition to the primary one of keeping the peace. Chloe's report of the events during her investigation of that first incident noted the need to explain the details around the Guardian's history and new role, and he took it to heart. Guardians now had the duty to make sure the people understood the Guardians and what their duties really are.

For now, those 'Ranger' units matched the race of the people they were serving. However, over time, John fully intended to slowly swap out the rangers so the people got used to seeing Tammerain Guardians in the position of a Ranger. So far, the Rangers were well received after a short amount of initial tension. As for trouble, there hadn't been anything on the scale of the renegades, however, the Rangers did have to deal with the occasional local crime, or dispute.

The dissidents involved in the renegade attacks had been found guilty of terrorism and murder. The humans were released on the surface of the planet Earth with a minimal amount of tools and a limited amount of food. They could survive, but it would require them to work for it every day. The Tammerain criminals had been taken to the planet in the Alpha Centauri system and released in the same manner as the humans on Earth. However, the monitoring station had to evacuate the Tammerain criminals when a deadly plague infected them. The Promethean station cured the infection and returned the exiles to their new home.

A second group of humans were delivered to Earth once the investigations into the activities of Ares Arms Corporation was complete. Two hundred more humans were delivered to the surface; this time the group included two former senators, three corporate executives, and hundreds of minor executives and workers that had diverted the weapons used by the dissidents.

"Six attempts were made by various groups to rescue the exiles, but ended with them joining their friends on the surface of the planet as unwilling colonists.

Three full Battle fleets where assigned to patrol the border Tammerain shared with the Grays. The ships were painted in the new colors of the Guardians, and all carried mixed crews. The Grays tried to force the issue, but were quickly returned to their own systems. John himself delivered the message to them that they would no longer be allowed to influence any of the other nations to fight for them. Nor would they be allowed to make war on the Tammerain, and by request of the Promethean elders, the Guardians were to deny the Grays access to any Promethean technology they did not already have.

The Grays were not happy with the situation and told John that the situation was far from resolved. The Grays would seek new ways to carry out what they believed to be their destiny and end the human cancer on their Galaxy. John calmly replied that they had that freedom to believe whatever they wanted, but reminded them that not all the races of the galaxy would agree with them and departed, leaving the diminutive race to ponder their actions.

John looked up when a shadow fell over him where he relaxed on the deck chair. He and his family had taken the Remembrance to Party Cove with the rest of the village of Johnstown.

Bailey Saint smiled down at him as he handed John a fresh beer. "I brought you a cold beer, mind if I join you?"

"Thanks Bailey! Not at all, please," John replied indicating the empty deck chair beside him.

Bailey sighed as he sat down. "You know, sometimes all of this seems so strange."

"How so?" John asked.

"After everything that’s happened, we're back here having a party on Frisen. Almost like nothing at all has happened," Bailey replied.

John chuckled. "Bailey, when you lived as long as I have, you can actually see just how resilient a species we are. No matter how much bad happens, we will always find a way to party afterward. Of course, I think we need it in order to balance all the bad that we have to deal with."

"Yeah, I guess I can understand that. Do you ever regret becoming enhanced and living so long?" Bailey asked.

"I haven't yet, not really. I will admit there have been times that I've thought it's been too long, but those times never lasted very long." He glanced over to where Mary, Chloe and Gloria were playing with the new babies in the water. "But then something always comes along that makes me very glad I'm still here."

Bailey saw where John was looking and smiled. "Yeah, that part I can easily understand. I never thought I would have a Princess for a daughter and a Prince for a grandson. I mean, I always tried to treat Gloria as a Princess, but I never thought she would ever actually become one. Then there is Jacob; he's such a wonderful little bundle! I'm not even slightly ashamed to admit I have a bad case of proud grandpa syndrome!"

Their discussion was interrupted by the comm systems of all the watercraft equipped with them spontaneously activating. King Marcus' image filled the screen or looked from a hologram.

"Citizens, may I have your attention for a moment. I apologize for interrupting your day, but there is something of which I believe we all would like to be aware of. A long time ago, on a planet we are only now beginning to rediscover, a human male was born. Seventeen years later, to the day, he made a decision that is still having an effect on the lives of his people.

"Prime Guardian John Jacob Aster was born five thousand, six hundred and ninety-four years ago in a small farming community on a bright blue-white planet. The place where his hometown once stood is currently under a sheet of ice, but mankind has finally returned to that world thanks to the generosity of the Tammerain.

"I asked the Empress to conduct a survey of her people and although it took a very long time, the results are as official as we can get them. I even went so far as to speak to the leader of the Promethean. Because of the reality of their existence, they do not count the years since being placed in stasis as part of their age. So, it is my honor to announce that Johnathan Jacob Aster is officially the oldest known living being." He smiled. "I know my friend will probably be upset with me for reminding him of this, but I would like us all to take a moment to ponder on his life; for five thousand, six hundred and seventy-seven years, he has served as a protector of the human race. In that time he has known little more than constant warfare. Now, he has come to a place in his long life where there is the hope for a lasting peace. It is fitting that it was by his hand that this peace has come about. I say that because more than anyone else, his efforts have resulted in our current period of cooperation and non-hostility.

"I sincerely hope, as does the Tammerain Empress, that Prime Guardian Aster choses to remain with us for a long time yet to come. Now, I know that as a Kingdom, we have a lot of official Days of Remembrance for our fallen. However, under an agreement with the Empress of the Tammerain we would like to announce a National Holiday for both nations. A day to remember all that we have went through to get to this point in our life. Today, the birthday of John Jacob Aster will forever be known as the Day of the Guardian.

"On this day and from this day forward, no government office will be open for normal business and only emergency services will function in an official capacity. Now, my fellow citizens, if you will excuse me, I have a celebration to get to. John? Please tell Geoffry 'medium rare'." He winked. "And Happy Birthday my friend."

The End.

About the Author

Ben Winston (1965 - ?) was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota on the family dairy farm. Upon reaching adulthood, he joined the United States Army as a communications technician. Before getting out of the military, he decided to go to school for computer electronics.

Shortly after getting out of the military, and after getting a new job with an over-seas company, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. A month after beginning the new job, he was laid off due to budget over-runs on the project he was hired for. Upon returning to the United States, he had difficulty maintaining employment because of the chronic illness.

He began writing as a form of stress release, from being home bound and not being able to work, and found he liked writing erotica. Ben wrote a trilogy called the Talosian Chronicles (Currently in rewrite to remove the graphic sex and finalized his vision of the story). The first book, Star Dancer, won awards and was nominated for many others by the online communities where it was posted.

Ben Winston returned to school for literature, after completion, he began writing professionally. Being an avid fan of science fiction he focused on this genre. He was, and still is, influenced and inspired by Gene Roddenberry, Anne McCaffery, David Weber, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. Some of his favorite movies and TV shows are; Battlestar Galactica (both versions), Andromeda, Star Trek, Firefly, Star Wars, and many of the B-rated movies that were actually box-office bombs.

Connect with the author or Blue Space Publications, LLC.

Ben Winston


Blue Space Publications, LLC.






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Books Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.

by Ben Winston

Pollux Paradox

Tides of Mars

Tides of Mars (Omnibus)

Ascension – Book I

Conflict – Book II

Talosian Chronicles

Olympus – Book I

Star Dancer – Book II

Talosian Alliance – Book III

*Neptune’s Massif – Book IV (Upcoming)

Book of the Guardian

Home – Part One

Pest Control – Part Two

The Last Mission – Part Three

Resolution – Part Four


Temple of S.A.R.A.H.

Prototype – Episode I

Subroutines – Episode II

Base Functions – Episode III

*Hard Wired – Episode IV (Sept 2015)

by Michael McClain

Chronicles of Atlantis Series

Chronicles of Atlantis (Omnibus)

Atlantis Rising – Book I

Euthara – Book II

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