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Chapter Two: Planet Bound.

Edd navigated them further from the wreckage of the Morning Tide and soon as
they were far enough away Jak gave the command to enter near light; they followed
a course that skirted the surrounding provinces of either the Core Space, considered
the centre of the known universe, or the Heavenly Bodies such as Bhuvarloka.
Bearing towards a distant arc of the Territories they headed to the planet of
Dreydon, using a number of Jump Gates, these utilised stable worm holes, to
shorten the trip making sure they were under neutral jurisdiction and with a number
of hefty bribes to maintain they anonymity. Dreydon was where most of the crews
contracts came in, people in the know were well aware of being able to contract Jak
through this planet, those that weren’t in the know did not need to know as far as
Jak was concerned. Notoriety was a bonus in his job, but only to a point, eventually
someone would come looking for revenge and then it paid to be able to distance
himself from his contacts, which meant he had a rather extensive network of
available jobs throughout the entire galaxy.

Days after leaving the wreckage, they ventured in to the solar system that was
home to the planet Dreydon and a number of other planets though these were not
life supporting, Dreydon was a hub of stellar activity, even from the edge of the
system the viewers showed a multitude of ships, both star and planet based
blasting off in all directions. They left trails of rainbow colours that shifted and
swirled among the spectrums witnessed by the Eden’s Betrayal, invisible to the
naked eye, Edd was a silent spectator to the universe’s beautiful wonders. Crews
such as Jak’s rarely desired to see space in such a myriad of ways, being far too
concerned with the everyday monotony of their lives. Down in the depths of the
engine core, he shivered with isolated awe and Eden’s Betrayal responded by
shuddering in unison.

“This ship is going to shake apart one of these days Darius, I don’t know how you’ve
managed to keep us together all these years.” Triza said, hearing the ship creek as
it vibrated.

Darius bent over the tank where Edd sat looked up at her with knowing eyes though
all Triza saw was confidence, “Don’t you worry doc, this ship is stronger than you
think.” He turned back to the tank and leaned his hand down in to the jelly his
fingers closing around one of the many tubes that connected Edd to the rest of the
ship, steadying him as he shivered slightly.

“Yeah? Then how come, every so often the ship just shakes for no apparent
reason?” She stood there with her med scanner in hand checking Edd’s vitals, him
having the usual organs that kept any other human alive.
“Maybe Edd just loses track of what he’s doing.” Darius said both arms in jelly up to
his shoulders, his face so close to it that he could smell the faint tang of antiseptic.

Triza paused with her scanner, “It’s a good thing you’re only kidding Darius
otherwise I think the rest of the crew would not be impressed, hell, Jak would
probably come down here and shoot Edd himself. So how about you don’t say
something stupid like that again?” Slinging the scanner over one shoulder she bent
down to check Edd’s face, seeing if she could detect any strain on his face, Edd’s
unseeing eyes stared blankly at her, utterly unaware of her proximity. “Anyway, I
know you care for Edd but we both know full well that he cannot lose control of the
ship, he doesn’t have any awareness of anything else in this God forsaken universe.
Sometimes I’m jealous of such separation, such compulsory innocence.” She sighed
heavily, stepping back from the tank she gave Edd the last observatory once over
and stretched out, the muscles in her arms aching. Pushing her head to either side
she cracked the knuckles in her neck getting rid of some of the tension.

“Well you’re right, I mean if Edd did lose concentration of the ship then we’d all be
screwed.” Darius said, he looked up at Triza, seeing her furrowed face he continued,
“I mean if he lost concentration then there’s no way for us to get it back for him,
he’s a not a little dog you can wave a toy in front of. Embedded link with the ship
they’re placed in or they don’t, it’s a permanent thing, once it’s done it’s done. If
you take the Embedded from the ship you can’t link them back together, hell it’s
extremely unlikely that the Embedded will ever link to another ship once that
happens. They become comatose. So how about we hope that doesn’t happen?”
Darius said, repeating her own words back to her, the condescending tone obvious
in the warm air.

“Lets.” Triza retorted, spitefully, “He’s fine, no biological damage, maybe do with
some more vitamins in his system but easily remedied. Everything else is up to
you.” Turning away abruptly she marched up the steps the gantry above and Darius
could hear her footsteps echo along the walls.

“I wonder what would happen if you saw something so incredible that it would blow
your mind, would the ship tear itself apart feeling your emotions. Who am I kidding,
you’ve seen suns born and die, death and destruction all around you, you’ve flown
through worm holes, near light travel, seen planets of every variety. What could we
possibly show you that compares to the magnificence of the universe that you have
already witnessed.” Darius said out loud knowing Edd could probably hear him, but
would undoubtedly not react. The ship shuddered, but so slight that Darius did not
notice, still, it shuddered.

Taking the ship out of Edd’s capable command, which allowed Edd to concentrate
on the infinite miniscule events taking place around him from the birth of a star
light years away to the cacophony of colour of a planet ship entering orbit, Vogan
took the controls and began to plot their entry point. Darius and Triza were both in
the core of the ship keeping an eye on Edd ensuring the near light travel hadn’t
taxed him utterly unaware that Edd was far more concerned with the universe
around him than their attention to him; his awareness of his physical surroundings
were almost non-existent in reality. With Vogan at the helm the Eden’s Betrayal
began to edge towards the orbit of the planet waiting until the opportunity to dock
at one of the numerous space ports became available. It hung there in space, with
nothing nearby Vogan allowed it drift as it would, though there were very little in
the way of spatial currents for it to really more very far.

The crew waited patiently on the deck, every so often they could hear a dim thud as
micro meteors thudded into the ship’s hull, they were a common occurrence and
with the amount of armour plating that Darius had attached they were never a
danger, Darius thought that if anything it made the outer surface more realistic. The
Eden’s Betrayal was meant to be a beat up old haulage planet ship with some minor
interstellar travel capabilities, of course that was just on the surface, which thanks
to some micro meteors looked pitted and scarred with age. Since he’d won the ship
in a gambling stint on one of the Heavenly Bodies (he could never remember which,
probably best as the owner still had a grudge against him) he had improved the
ship and enhanced it with weapons, armour plating and had ended up with an
Embedded drive in his hold, very illegal in the majority of systems and other
systems will ignore the fact if they can though it’s disapproved of. Eden’s Betrayal
hung there, having been a haulage vessel before and still with that visage it was
long and broad to provide cargo space, its nose was short and blunt with a wide
viewing window for the flight deck. Along the roof of the ship was perched one of
three main thrusters, it extended from thick spurs that could retract the thrusters
when in near light speed as could the other two beneath the ship. They were set out
in a triangular fashion and when all three were utilised and in conjunction with Edd
they could attain near light speeds, along the outer edge were a number of bulbous
extrusions, they looked like jettison pods either for escape or get rid of cargo to lure
away would be attackers. In actuality they were either explosive canisters that
could be jettisoned and remote detonated, although heavily armoured to reduce
any risk of accidental explosions, the others were placed in a defensive formation
around the ship, within these were weapon turrets that could either be operated
with automatic targeting or the crew could manually aim them from beneath in the
weapon sim, a chair that entirely enclosed the operator and gave them a virtual
image of the weapon’s surroundings.

Another enhancement that Jak had made over the years was a force shield, he had
been tempted to get the high level sort that the Houses armadas favoured but
these were much more obvious if scanned and a ship like his was suspect if
authorities checked it over and found he had such high value military hardware. In
the end, Darius had suggested a medium level shield that would deflect minor
attacks and meteors that would normally had battered the hull enough to pierce it
but with one adjustment, which Jak was even now after a few years of it being
installed was uncertain of, Edd maintained the shield at low level. The reason for
this in Darius’ argument was that when required Edd could increase the force
shields power to that of medium to repel stronger bombardment and could jam
scanning signals, yet at the low level would be seen as simply a necessary aspect of
the ship, nearly all haulers had a low level shield anyway, unless they were
protected by House escorts. However, maintaining a medium shield required
constant vigilance that the crew could not provide, a shield was either on at full
power or off, however Edd could reduce and alter the ships shield to strengthen and
reduce it over certain areas. A benefit that the crew had been thankful for many
times over, of course it did mean that if Edd were incapacitated the shield would be
to, it was reliant on Edd, there was no possibility of a backup system. The Eden’s
Betrayal was a deceiving little bitch as Jak insulted her lovingly whenever he spoke
about her with Darius, she looked liked tempting meat for the other hunters and
scavengers in space or just one of the herd for haulers out in space, both of which
were the real prey for Jak and his crew, a beautiful decoy if ever he saw one. Also,
there was another piece of the puzzle which as yet he’d never had to used, if
warranted they could detach the ships thrusters section from the rest of the ship, in
this hold was where Edd’s engine core was based and they could fly this separately
from the rest of Eden’s Betrayal and escape, leaving the majority of the ship as a
giant time bomb that would explode as soon as the thrusters section was far
enough away. This would however, be the last stand of the Eden’s Betrayal, but he
who runs away gets to fight another day in Jak’s opinion, though he’d probably have
to be dragged to that point by the rest of the crew.

Vogan saw an entry point become available on his monitoring station, sending
through their fake acknowledgment codes that would document their details, crew
manifest, cargo and such; he received a green light from Dreydon’s port authorities.

“Ok, we’re all clear.” He said to Jak and Dominia, “They had no problem verifying
our ack-codes so we are ready to begin descent.” Tapping a couple of buttons on
his control panel he brought opened up ship-wide communications, “Boys and girls,
we are now ready to enter in to the illustrious atmosphere of the glorious planet
that is Dreydon, where all hopes and dreams can be bought for a price so please
make sure you’re seated and strapped in whilst we prepare to land, this is your pilot
speaking and I hope you’ve enjoyed your journey.” His voice came over haughty
through the speakers.

“Can we get on with it please, I’ve had enough of your voice for the day and would
actually like enjoy some time to myself planet side.” Dominia said, lounging in her
chair the other side of the main deck a knife in hand scraping along a whetstone.
Vogan giggled quietly, always pleased to get a rise out of Dominia.

“Captain?” He enquired.
“Let’s do it, take her down Vogan and don’t bring any attention to us this time. On
Tirell they nearly shot us down thanks to your stunt.” Jak murmured from the back
of the deck, feet up on the console next to him, his eyes closed and face shadowed,
smoke from cigar hanging from his mouth drifting up.

Vogan nodded, he pulled the flight controls towards him and began to ease the
ship in to the inbound vector, bobbing and shifting as it’s hulk was controlled by the
manoeuvring thrusters situated all over the ship, taking a hand off the controls he
punched in some numbers in to the console and plotted their course. Relaying their
status down to Edd, he retracted the bottom two thrusters so they sat tight against
the hull and extended the atmosphere wings that allowed the ship to actually fly
rather than fall like a rock in the planet’s sky, the ships primary computer would
account for the fact that the Eden’s Betrayal really had no justification in flying
through atmosphere, Edd was not really required other than to keep the shield
running at low level and maintain other more mundane processes.

The ship flew forward at tremendous speed, edging into the planets orbit the heat
began to build quickly as friction reddened the outer surface of the Eden’s Betrayal,
but very little of this heat was transferred inside and the crew never felt even a
single degree of increased temperature. Edd on the other hand felt the heat that
the ship experienced and he revelled in it, it was like slipping in to a hot bath for
him which of course he had never experienced and so could not compare the two,
but as sensations went this was one of those longed for. His physical body reacted
with a warm glow that even the doctor herself could never really explain or that she
really bothered to care about, it was not detrimental to Edd and if anything was
probably quite beneficial to his body. Edd knew not to react in such a way that he
would affect the ship whilst flying, it would no doubt send the crew in to panic and
so he kept control of his emotions leaving Vogan control of the ship entirely he
isolated himself from Eden’s Betrayal.

Once through the upper echelons of the planet, Vogan evened out the ship, using
the manoeuvring thrusters to stabilise them against the expected turbulence he
angled towards the space port. His face was jubilant; he loved flying so much that
after being earth bound for a while he always got the urge to feel metal beneath his
feet, viewing panel in front of him and a control pad in his hands. Right now he was
in his element and he was good, better trained than most House pilots he could fly
anything, anywhere. He’d won the Cortorran Solar Race a few times, big money and
even bigger celebrity status which never hurt. Eden’s Betrayal seemed to hang
precariously in the air as it flew through the air, without the thrusters to stabilise
the ship and the shield to maintain cohesion it would probably have been torn
apart, but as they came over the port, Vogan reduced speed and began to descend
vertically towards the flight deck, the thrusters powerful energy dropping them
slowly towards the ground. He punched a couple of keys into the panel next to him
and the landing struts lowered all along the bottom of the hull so that it looked
somewhat like a giant centipede Vogan thought, it was so that the cargo hold could
be completely detached and removed without affecting the rest of the ship. The
entire crew waited for the jarring touchdown as the ship shook hands with the
planet, once its greeting was finished and various pipes released their pent up
pressure and the hull settled into place, the crew made ready to leave.

Edd drew back his connection with the Eden’s Betrayal, he could feel the crew
around the ship, their breath in the air and their weight upon the veins and arteries
of the ship, he knew where Darius was, nearby still in the engine core but even he
was readying himself for departure. The other members were all making their way
to the exit, the gangway already on its course downwards, yet another connection
for Edd to consider. He felt Darius step over towards him, he could not see him, nor
physically feel him but he was aware of his proximity, out of all the crew he was
always aware of Darius, always monitoring and ensuring his well being, they had a
symbiotic relationship, more so than Edd had with the Eden’s Betrayal. He did not
hear his words as such, but he knew their meaning and Darius’ intention.

“Keep an eye on the ship Edd, make sure she’s ok, do any repairs that you can. I
have my wrist com on me, if there are any problems get the ship in touch with us. I
wonder what the crew would do if they knew you were the guardian and sentinel or
our precious ship and not some stupid computer program.” He reached down and
kissed his forehead softly. “I’ll be back soon, going to bring you back a present I
think.” He smiled contently almost wistful in happiness in that moment; he turned
and grabbed his pack, taking one last glance at Edd he hurried up the stairs and out
of the engine core.

“So what’s the plan?” Asked Triza to no one in particular, the crew were sat in a
haulers bar nearby to the port; it was a dark and dismal sort of place where no one
of any real worth was ever expected to set foot, unless they were looking for
something rather unscrupulous and probably illegal. They sat at a booth off to one
side which was quiet, there were few patrons at the moment as they had landed
early morning and haulers rarely got out of bed early and were even less likely to be
sober at this sort of time. Triza stared at the depths of her drink, not looking anyone
in the eye uncertain how this was going to play out, she didn’t know what the rest
of the crew had figured out or how much Jak had actually divulged. She doubted it
was a great deal in either case.

“Well I think we need to find out what the hell is going on here.” Said Vogan,
tapping his foot impatiently on the ground, he ran his hand through his hair,
rearranging the flow of it till it felt just right. “I mean...” He paused for a second, not
knowing how to breach the topic, “Captain you nearly died out there, we were all
expecting to make some nice easy money, a simple cargo steal from unsuspecting
and surprisingly lame smugglers.” He looked uncomfortable sat there, though his
clothes were exquisite, a smart suit which suggested wealth and upper class
demeanour, no flight dress for him now he was off ship. It was not too fancy, did not
want anyone thinking he was an easy mark, plus it fitted just perfect to hide the two
side arms he had underneath both armpits. He took a sip from his tall cocktail.

“Yeah, you just upped and disappeared without us on to that ship, next thing we
know it’s lighting the skies and you’re hurtling towards us in an escape pod.
Something go wrong up there Captain?” Asked Dominia, for once actually siding
with Vogan, a very rare occurrence that Jak noticed, she was obviously concerned;
there wasn’t a knife in sight though he knew full well that she would have at least a
dozen secreted around and beneath her brown thickened armour. Her constantly
kept scanning the nearby area, anyone that walked close was stopped short with
her stare, even the waitress kept clear and left them to it.

Jak took a deep breath, “Ok, here it is. We weren’t there to steal cargo, though I was
told there was some on board and whatever it was we kept as part payment.” He
looked at everyone again, the Doc had her head down, she knew all this so he
expected little response from her. Darius fidgeted but if anything looked bored as if
he wanted to be elsewhere, Vogan and Dominia actually seemed to be in unison on
this, unusual they never side with each other, unless their lives depended on it.
Maybe they did now, Jak thought. “It was an assassination, hired to kill someone
plain and simple, then take the cargo and be on our way. But the primary objective
was the killing part, this person had to die and the rest was whatever we chose.”

“If that’s the case, I’m guessing you didn’t blow the ship up then,” Piped up Darius,
entering the fray for the first time. He looked at Jak for a moment and then smiled.
“No, it was you. You just didn’t know they had Danic Cobalt onboard which of course
meant much more boom for your fireworks than you thought.”

“Exactly, there was no mention of that shit on board; I even checked the bloody
cargo to see what was down there. Everything I’d been told. So I went ahead with it,
found the guy I was looking for, beat him up a little to subdue him and checked him
with a gene patch, then killed him and ran for it. Expecting all the while for the
fireworks to disable the ship permanently and the crew to leg it off in escape pods.
Then come back over to you guys and we either strip it bare or we steal the whole
thing and tractor it out of there.” Jak said, taking a sip of the Dreydon Whiskey in
front of him, he could feel it’s burn as the liquid slid down his throat in to his belly
warming him nicely.

“I’m guessing someone is trying to kill us, either trying to get revenge or because
someone’s put a hit out on us, I intend to ask some questions and hopefully kill
someone soon.” Jak said.

Dominia stared at Jak, intense and with a dangerous look in her eyes, she did not
like being lied to or being kept out of the loop, “Who were we hired to kill?” She
spat out the ‘we’ obviously unhappy.
“No-one in particular, a minor noble of some description, wanted dead just to make
sure he didn’t cause an embarrassment to the family. Drug user, gambler or just
plain idiot I neither know nor care.” Jak replied, he glanced over at Triza but she was
studying her drink intently, satisfied she wasn’t going to comment, probably thanks
to her own involvement with the intended target, underneath the table his hand
slipped comfortably around his gun’s grip which was conveniently though not
mistakenly pointed at Dominia.

“Someone tries to kill us, someone tries to kill one of us and it takes you till now to
tell us?” Dominia said, her voice controlled but the anger was evident in the
tautness of her face. Jak couldn’t see either of her hands, which meant they were on
weapons.

“That’s about the gist of it Dominia, you’re my crew, I decide what information you
need and when you need it.” He looked her straight in the eye, his finger tensing
when he spoke next, which he knew would inevitably force her into action. “You
have a problem with that, you can walk away.” Jak knew Dominia could never walk
away from anything, she was either forced away or she ran head first into whatever
onslaught was coming at her. Although she was intelligent enough to recognise
what he was doing, her rage overtook the brain cells as they raced in response.

Her face contorted, she went from cold control to intense explosive vehemence in
the blink of an eye, he could see her muscles tense up underneath her armour, her
arms were bare and her veins stood out in contrast, mountains on a sandy shoreline
as they pulsated when the adrenaline kicked in, she lost all control, she couldn’t
think and didn’t care that this was what Jak wanted. She didn’t say anything, she
was beyond even that control over herself, the berserk rage took over. Her
movement was fluid as she stood up and she became poised to lunge at him. If she
got to him, she’d definitely draw blood, possibly even kill him, but all of this Jak had
calculated. He needed her controlled, aware of the information and not focused on
reparation; in his mind there was really only one way to accomplish this, make
himself a scarier target. If she was overly concerned with him keeping facts from
her that probably endangered her life she was useless to him, he needed her as a
weapon, not a weak link.

He squeezed the trigger lightly, almost caressing it closed. The short range pulse
weapon coughed sharply in the sudden quiet of the hauler’s bar, loud enough for
the barman’s head to shoot up in concern. From his point of view, he’d heard the
sound, a grating pop that every hauler could distinguish immediately having no
doubt needed to dissuade marauders, he’d seen an armoured woman standing at a
far booth with knives in both hands and then as the noise receded she was on the
floor howling in pain, though even the barman could tell that she still maintained a
grip on both knives. Instinctively he stepped closer to the bar and laid a hand on the
butt of an old thud rifle, doubtfully lethal at this range but it would certainly give
them pause. Taking the rifle in his hands he glanced back up at the table the
commotion was coming from and looked into the eyes of Jak D’nar, gulping down on
a suddenly dry mouth he attempted to hold that dead cold stare for a second.

It was his bar dammit! He looked away from D’nar, his eyes downcast he placed the
gun back upon the shelf but kept one hand close to the trigger, the other he
brought to his chin and leaned on his elbow. Bringing his eyes back up to the table
the next thing he saw was the end of a barrel, it’s dark expanse hiding the stun bolt
that sat waiting with the patience of rock. Shit. The bar keep brought his second
hand away from the gun and stepped back, now both hands raised in sincere
subjugation.

“Good boy, now how ‘bout you pour two glasses of that Adoration Whiskey and we
can drink a toast together.” Vogan said, his smile a jarring contrast to the weapon
he held in his hand.

“Uh, Adoration Whiskey is illegal across all House planets so I wouldn’t have any to
hand.” He watched as Vogan clicked the setting down a notch. “But I’m sure I could
find something similar down in the cellar, maybe a nice bottle of Jaxan Wine?” Click,
another notch. He looked up at Vogan’s face, if D’nar had been cold stone dead
then this guy was a breezy summer day that warmed the heart, the bar keep was
not sure if that scared him even more.

“So Adoration Whiskey it is then.” The bar keep said, pulling a plain bottle from
beneath the bar and pouring a measure in to a small glass.

“Don’t forget yourself now, a man drinking alone is such a waste of life’s
experiences don’t you think.” Vogan shook the end of the gun at the man before
him. “You can put it on Jak’s tab.” The bar keep hurried to pour himself a small
measure of the whiskey, then thought twice about it and poured himself a large, he
decided he needed it right about now.

Jak stared at the man tending bar, he let his eyes rest on him cooling down
whatever intentions the bar keep had with that rifle, watched him gulp a little and
back down timidly. Too timidly in Jak’s mind; Jak motioned to Vogan and nodded
towards the bar. Careful to stay out of Dominia’s way Vogan strode to the bar once
the man looked away to hide the gun. Jak brought his concentration back to
Dominia lying on the floor, her fists clenched around those damn knives.

“Drop them Dominia or the next shot won’t be so painful, it’ll just be a flash of
bright light for you.” She looked up at him with such utter rage and hatred that any
other man would have blanched at talking to her like that. Jak had seen worse,
usually in the mirror. A succession of clicks that hung in the air seemed to convince
her of his intentions.
Could I? Dominia thought to herself, one quick throw and he’d be dead, even if he
shot at me I’d be rolling to the side and he might even miss. I could kill this bastard,
no one puts my life in danger, I’m not fucking cannon fodder!! She screamed in her
own head, but could feel the muscles of her face twist with anger, but hearing the
power gauge clicking up was just a little too close for comfort. She jammed the two
knives into the ground on either side of her body, one hissed and sizzled as it came
into contact with the floor.

“Now what, Captain?” The last word she spat out with disgust and derision.

“Get the fuck up off the floor, you’re scaring the alcoholists.” He pulled his arm back
and holstered his weapon and slouched back in to the seat both arms resting above
his shoulders on the back of the booth. Dominia slowly eased herself up to her feet,
careful not to take her eyes off Jak for a second, damn arrogant bastard, she
thought.

“Pick up your knives, don’t want them doing too much damage to the floor now do
we.” Give her back her weapons and make her feel in control of herself and the
situation, even if she’s not.

The two of them looked at the doctor and Darius sat by them on the booth, the
doctor looked stunned at the sudden violence that had erupted around her. Darius
was picking his nose. Dominia turned as she heard Vogan’s footsteps echoing
towards them, her hands clinging on to the knife handles, must be more shaken up
by the attempt than I thought, maybe she’s hiding more than I thought Jak said to
himself as he watched her.

Vogan grinned as he sat down, crossing his legs he smiled with that annoying
Cheshire cat grin that he wore whenever he felt like he’d accomplished something.
Turning to Jak he, “Cheers for the drink boss.”

“Ah damn Vogan, forgot my wallet, guess you’ll be buying the drinks this time
round.” Jak said pointedly. Vogan’s mouth opened as if he was about to protest,
instead he muttered “Ah fuck, it was worth it.”

“Uh, so what is the plan then, we’ve all got things about us that means any of us
could be the, um, target of this event,” Triza said, obviously unnerved, “but how do
we find out who it is they’re after and what we, as a crew, do about it.” Her eyes
kept darting between Jak and Dominia as if any second they might pick up where
they left off and actually kill each other. After seeing Dominia she decided she was
not entirely certain who would win in such a fight.

“As a crew? What makes you so certain that once we find out which one of us is the
target of assassination we’ll band together in a heroic gesture, one for all and all for
one unless it’s one of you in which case I want to know how much your hide is worth
and whether or not I can make money from it.” Vogan said, no grin on his face this
time around. Even Triza noticed his hands were suddenly alot closer to his weapons
with his hands folded beneath his arms like they were.

“Have I got to shoot you as well Vogan?” Again those two seem to be on similar
terms in all this, thought Jak as glanced between Dominia and Vogan.

“No Sir, one for all is me right now. Poking a little fun at the Doctor here who I hope
will accept my deepest apologies. Just not the sort of thing one jokes about is it,
death, blood and nasty people running after us.” His face returned back to the
charming visage he wore more often than not.

The group sat there in silence, each pondering on those last few words wondering if
their own demons and dark pasts were coming back to haunt them and also asking
themselves that question, if they’re not after me what would I do, look out for
myself or the crew. Seeing the looks in the each other’s eyes around the booth they
all knew that had different answers to that question.

“We stick together, I’ve saved your asses numerous times and as far as I’m
concerned I pretty much own all your asses till I say otherwise. Any objections to
that and I’ll remove some kneecaps.” He looked around the table, pointedly at
Dominia who was massaging her aching leg, the pain would dissipate within a
couple of hours, till then it would ache like fuck which pleased Jak no end. If
anything, Dominia was a little deeper in his grasp now. If she could ever actually
think for herself and stop being so paranoid or desperate to kill him then he would
really have to worry but he’d be unlikely to get the chance because she would have
probably killed him by then.

“D, you need to get Edd ready for a long jump we’re going to the Core Systems and
we’re not going the long way round.” Darius knew this meant they were going by
the legitimate routes which meant hiding Edd as much as possible, Embedded were
either illegal or highly sought after by the Houses. “Make sure weapons and fuel are
all stocked up, probably gonna be a bumpy ride.”

“Doc, get supplies and whatever else you might need to make the trip more
enjoyable.” She looked aghast at his comment, fearing that her vices were being
broadcast for the rest of the crew though in her heart she realised they probably
already knew anyway, it was a small ship with a small crew and little stayed secret.
It did not stop the cold shiver down her spine though, which slowly grew to heat as
shame warmed her face. “Don’t go too far in to town, we may be making a quick
exit.”

“Dominia” Jak looked at her intently, wondering if what he was doing was really a
good idea, give the dog a bone after beating it and it will love you for the beating,
so true were those old painful words, now it was Dominia’s turn, “You’ll be coming
with me, I need your help with something.” Vogan glanced at her enquiringly, but
her eyes never strayed in his direction, they were fixed on Jak, they were still full of
malice even now.

“Vogan, stay on track if you don’t mind.” Vogan’s face turned casually to face Jak,
calm and serene as if he’d just looked out the window for a second, not stared at
Dominia when Jak said he needed her help. Gods alive, please don’t tell me those
two are at it? “I need you to check with your contacts, the usual places that you like
to spend your quality time and hard earned money at, see if the girls know of
anything happening.”

The comment about Vogan’s love of Comfort Mansions flowed over Vogan without
any visible effect, “Want me to ask about anything in particular, House ambitions
and stuff like that?” He asked.

House ambitions? What makes him think they’re involved? “Yeah do that, but also
ask about the Colleges. Anything big from them and I want to know about it.
Dominia and I will be off to the Temple to talk to my contact, see if we can’t gather
some information on what the hell happened to us out there. They’re either
involved or they’ve been used, whatever the case they know something.”

“Colleges? What would the Colleges have to do with any of this Jak?” Darius piped
up, asking the question that everyone was asking in their heads.

Dominia stepped out into the street, the blood still drying on one of her blades
which she wiped off with a torn piece of the man’s clothing, no one walking passed
noticed as she slid the knife back in to the sheath strapped to her bicep. The black
sheath stood out starkly against her pale skin, especially in this sunshine, she never
did tan even under a baking sun like this one. She turned to look at Jak as he
stepped out of the doorway, he was tanned, but on him it made him look more like
a man carved from an ancient tree gnarled and battered as he was.

Jak flexed his fists and cracked his knuckles, punching hurt more than it used to, he
was getting old he decided. A few years ago he would never have felt like the years
were catching up with him, people still feared him; Death kept its distance at least
for him, but was now starting to make its own plans for his departure he thought.
He wiped a streak of blood from the back of his hand, he still enjoyed it though, felt
good to feel bone break beneath his own strength, been a long time since that, a
very long time. Something he tended to want to forget, but even in those dark days
were times of joy, usually at the expense of someone else and definitely not what
people would call conventional happiness. Staring into the glaring sun he shaded his
eyes for a moment, letting them adjust to the sudden brightness.
“So what next Captain or am I not privy to that information?” She said, not looking
in his direction but scouting the streets seeing who was walking nearby.

“Next we’re off to meet my contact.” He said, his fist still aching from punching the
man whom was now more than likely slowly dying in the house behind them, the
ache made him ignore the snide remark.

“And him? What was all that about, you tell me to give him a couple of quick cuts in
not so pleasant places and then you pound his face to pulp, want to fill me in at
all?” She asked, her fingers subconsciously stroking one of her knives. Jak wasn’t
sure if that was a nervous tick or just that she liked them far too much.

“On the way, we need to get to the Temple, I’m starting to feel like we’re being
followed or someone is watching us.” His eyes roamed across the buildings,
alleyways, darkened shadows. He saw a few people walking about, they seemed
utterly inconspicuous. An old man walked by, his gait showing his frailty, back bent
and wrinkles scrunching up his features. Women giggled to one side, ladies from the
look though in this area they were no doubt more of the comforting kind than
aristocracy, they cast a couple of furtive glances in his direction, they seemed
interested but he’d fallen for that ploy before and it had been a costly mistake,
though one he enjoyed immensely at the time.

“Getting paranoid Captain? No one around here that’s likely to be trouble for us.”
Her own gazed skimmed over the few people in the area; her disdain was evident,
problem to even to them.

They began to stride up the narrow road, passing various buildings that ranged from
tech shops selling body implants and holographic imagers to weapon stores that
advertised two for one sales and the ‘greatest guns on planet or your money back’,
Jak thought it ironic that in any real situation where he needed the heavy artillery
they were displaying in the window if they didn’t do as advertised he doubt he’d be
back to get the money, he’d probably be dead. But then, big guns always do sell
well, people tend to think that bigger is better, usually gets people killed.

Everything was a uniform grey, the homes as well as the shops though the shops
had more of the luminescent projections that buzzed and blinked into existence as
you stepped passed the sensors. It was coming up to midday so there was plenty of
light shining, even on this planet which was further from its sun than most of the
humanly occupied but within those heavy confines of the streets that narrowed
more and more as they got deeper into the Heavenly Zone where the temples were
housed the oppressive feeling of claustrophobia increased in jarring moments. They
turned a corner blind from most approaches and suddenly stepped into an open
courtyard that blinded them for a moment, the sudden space if anything seemed
even more daunting for its contrast, as if they’d stepped into a blatant trap and
were totally unawares. Jak always had that feeling when he came here, that first
sight of the monolithic temple that jutted out higher than any other structure on the
planet was a sight very few had not seen.

Within the courtyard, dark grey metallic walls jutted about them in a random
alignment, no wall was flat or smooth, each was at a slightly different angle to the
next and it was utterly disconcerting to look at, the eyes constantly wanted to shift
and spread across the surface trying to find some pattern, some normalcy to the
design. Monks from the Temple were said to discover the divine pattern once they
had attained true enlightenment within the confines of their beliefs. Jak preferred
the commoners version that whoever created the entrance courtyard to the Temple
was either blind or an idiot, likely both, a surprising similarity to the acolytes of the
Upper Level.

Deep within the recesses and folds of the material before them, the shadows veiled
more than darkness, the Temple was never blind, if anything the illusion that is was
gave it greater power than the commoners could ever imagine. Ignorance is bliss,
but within the Temple, knowledge was the path to greet Gods.

Jak and Dominia stepped forward beyond those hidden gazes that perused them,
those that slotted and situated data fragments along ordered paths to their rightful
place, these two visitors above all others would not be entering unnoticed,
preparation was paramount. Deep inside the massive structure an old man knocked
on a terracrete door that led to a modest living quarter. The sound of his fist echoed
along the corridors, that were sparse and hollow, decoration was considered a
distraction and so with nothing to dampen the sound the ziggurat sang almost
constantly with a cacophony of deep vibrations. The old man enjoyed that sound; it
made him feel a part of something greater as though he was a cog within the
machine, or living within the veins that led towards the very heart and its beating
rhythm. The Gods could not help but hear the sound that was their follower’s
heartbeat. He stood transfixed until he heard the shuffle of footsteps from with the
chambers before him. He stepped back reverently with his head bowed slightly.
Scrapes and thunks were followed by the door pulling open, a young man stepped
out quickly, hastily as if over eager in everything he did. The young always move so
quickly, scared to miss anything and by that very act that experience almost
nothing in such haste, thought the old man. He must not have controlled his face
however, as the young man coughed and allowed a moment to pass waiting for the
old man before him to speak first.

“They are on their way, they should be here shortly Superior.” Said the old man, his
face looking down, showing respect.

“Excellent, please have them escorted to the Diamond Tower, I shall attend to them
promptly.” Said the young man.

“Your politeness is a gift that lightens my heart Superior. I shall do as you


command.” The old man kept his face down and did not see the young man’s
sudden fearful visage as he stressed the last word, although anyone within the
vicinity would probably have missed its brief existence as the Superior recovered
immediately.

“Promptly.” The Superior responded, tersely.

Bowing his head a further fraction the old man gathered up his drab cloak from
beneath his feet and shuffled away. The Superior, though much younger than the
man who now shambled away bent over with age, mentally berated himself, damn
it, I am the Superior, bloody act like it. Today or never again.

Triza wandered the streets nearby the dock, she enjoyed this private time to
herself, it was usually rare that she had time alone and especially when planet
bound like she was. Though she never felt utterly safe, here when the rest of the
crew were all close by she could at least relax her defences somewhat. She saw her
reflection in a window as she walked passed, there were no holo-neon projections
jumping out at her so it must be one of those ‘natural is better’ type of places, or
just poor. Either way she never even noticed what was being sold in the window,
her appearance shocked her too much for that sort of consideration. Looking old
and haggard her doppelganger before her ran wrinkled fingers over a lined face
whose cheeks sagged with age and mistreatment. The mirror cried a few tears over
the years that had been lost, the shine that had leaked from luscious hair. It gulped
a turkey neck in sudden realisation. Drugs, they were almost certainly the cause,
she’d been using now for years as far as she could remember, losing the will to live
more so with each passing month, day or even moment. Such escapism had its toll
and she had paid dearly for it, beyond anything which she had expected. Being a
doctor she knew exactly what the effects were going to be, had seen it many times
in the faces of those she had previously treated but as all doctors inevitably are,
she was the worst of patients. Always assuming she was above what others
idiotically let themselves exist through and yet a jump through the years and here
was the hypocrite as proof. She’d make amends she decided, I will not become a
prisoner to this addiction, she thought. Yet as she stared at herself in the mirror
which was far too enlightening for its own good she could feel the gnawing
sensation within the pit of her stomach, the ache of guilt and depression that she
had so long ago battled away with the very thing that now produced a hideous
facsimile of what she was. She would make amends, but first she needed greater
courage to do so.

Smoothing down her top and straightening her hair, though neither of these things
really accomplished much other than putting her in a slightly better mood she set
off for the shop that she commonly visited on this planet for such intoxications, not
surprisingly in her mind the shop posed as an infant and baby store, such things as
children certainly required drugs to make life easier in her opinion. Her step
quickened with renewed enthusiasm or so she thought, in reality it was expectation
of future states of existence that ate up the distance.

Intent as she was, the man following her eased away from the wall and followed her
with blatancy to the shop, he stood to one side whilst she was inside buying her
goods. He was tall, with a surprisingly likeable face that spoke more of friendship
than the brutal murder which it was certainly more experienced with. Once she
stepped outside he expected her to walk back down the street towards him and on
to the medical centres located nearby the dock so she could gather more
universally accepted drugs and supplies. He was disturbed to find that when she
stepped outside this was not the case, not at all. The doctor looked in both
directions, noticing him for a second though obviously deciding not to pay him too
much attention she quickly trotted down a tight alleyway and disappeared into
darkness of twists and turns. The man stood there for a moment longer and walked
up the main high street, he knew where those tiny little alleyways led and rather
than sneak towards the place he strode purposefully there out in the open. Unlike
the doctor he had no reason to hide his direction. Both of them headed deeper into
the urban district, further and further away from the ship docks.

“She’s not going back in the direction of the ship” the man spoke in to his wrist-
com, he waited patiently for the response. “No, on the contrary she seems to be
walking straight towards you.” Nodding as he received his instructions he uttered a
sound in understanding and eased himself into the same shadowed alleyways that
the doctor had previously entered, falling in some distance behind her and seeing
her movement flicker in and out of his vision intermittently, sometimes with her
head looking back as though she suspected he was following her, unlikely, he
thought to himself. However, seeing her head throwing furtive glances behind her
made himself cautious so he pulled the gun from his suit jacket, checking the
magazine and chamber he increased his pace and slowly gained on her, no more
than a shadow sliding from darkened corners.

Triza glanced behind herself quickly, damn I’m paranoid, she thought, so desperate
to be alone right now that she kept a close eye out behind her. Not that she thought
she was being followed or anything, the people that were after her did not tend to
wait for opportunities to arise, they forced them to occur and even when such
chance and luck came in to being that they did have an opportunity present itself
like cattle for slaughter, well, they were the ones who did the slaughtering.
Preoccupied as she was, she her head facing in completely the wrong direction her
quickened pace was brought to a sudden halt by a wall that towered above much
like all the others that hemmed in the tight and narrow alleys that she had been
hurrying through. Her faced grazed the wall as she collided with it and tore skin
away from her cheek just below her eye.
“Fuck, ah that stings.” She moaned, ironic for a doctor to be whining about a
scratch. She licked her fingers and rubbed them over the graze which if anything
stung a little more. A noise above her startled her, jerking her head upwards
towards the heaven she caught an old woman drawing back her head in from over
the edge of the building. She heard the old woman cackling away and the noise
echoed along the walls.

Annoyed with herself she forced away the ache she now felt on her cheek and
checking yet again down along the alleyways, seeing nothing she gathered herself
together and resumed her hurried flight through the sandy walled maze.

The man following her held himself back, waiting for the old crone to disappear from
the top of the building he walked casually over to the wall with the darkened smear
now apparent. He reached into his suit pocket, placing his gun back in its co-vel
holster he pulled out a little empty glass vial and began pulling the stopper off, this
had a suction tip that he scraped along the worn stone walls where the doctor had
grazed her face. The small tip flashed red for a few moments then just as the man
was losing any hope the light blinked in to an enthusiastic green. Smiling far too
broadly for such a thin face, giving his countenance an insane visage, he stepped
into a shadowed corner and placed the stopper back on the vial, a small droplet of
iridescent liquid cascaded down the sides till it came to rest at the bottom of the
vial. He pondered the small material moment and watched as it vibrated across its
surface. Putting the vial back in to his suit pocket he gathered his weapon into his
hands, he released the ammunition cartridge and ejected the chambered round
thumbing it back into the previous magazine and placed this amongst his clothing,
he slammed a new magazine into the gun with the slap of his hand and cocked the
weapon. With a wolfish grin he resumed his chase after the woman, no longer
content to just kill her.

“Well, what was that all about?” Dominia asked, still waiting for Jak to tell her about
the man they’d left behind.

“Not so loud, these walls definitely have ears, would surprise me if they were
biologically implanted all around us. Temples give me the creeps.” Jak said, his eyes
roaming across his peripheral vision.

“Wow, something that phases Jak D’nar. Religion. I’d never imagined Captain.
Anyway, tell me what that was about.” She said, her footsteps echoing along the
corridor.
“He was just an old buddy of mine, back in the day he owed me money and never
paid up. Thought with the interest over the years a good beating was about the
right sort of amount for him.” His face was passive and cold.

“That’s it, some guy owes you money and we pretty much murder the guy?
Because after those knife cuts I can tell you without a doctor soon he’s a dead man
walking.”

Jak shrugged nonchalantly, he obviously had no loyalty to his old buddies in


Dominia’s eyes. Not that she could truly relate to the concept anyway, the only
friends she’d ever had were dead and rightly so in her mind.

“When were you buddies? Childhood or did you guys used to work together?” She
tried to slip it into the conversation, anxious to learn one of Jak’s many hidden
secrets, when he didn’t answer and saw his face she caught on quick that he didn’t
want to reveal those very secrets to her.

“My contacts higher up in the Temple, we’d better get moving.” He said.

Soon they’d reached the correct level, Dominia knew that if she had to get out of
this place quick she’d be in serious trouble, they’d taken so many turns and flights
of stairs both upwards and down that she hadn’t a clue what level they were on, let
alone which sector of the temple. Either Jak liked to keep his contact’s whereabouts
hidden or this guy liked to live far out of the way. When it came to the Temples that
meant he was probably someone high up, definitely no low-life for Jak D’nar.

Jak strode along the corridor to a door that looked just like every other door in the
Temple as far as Dominia could tell, nothing more than a massive terracrete door
with rivets. But Jak knew the one and stepped straight up to it and banged his fist
against it, three heavy knocks that reverberated along the corridors.

“Have your knives ready at all times, but hidden.” Jak whispered as his own hand
sat on his gun strapped to his leg.

“You don’t trust a god dam soul do you.” Dominia muttered.

“Why do you think I’m still alive?” He replied rhetorically. Muffled sounds emanated
from within, and next the door creaked open to reveal a young many inside, his face
haughty. His robes were pristine white with no colour other than his badge of office
that adorned his left shoulder, three jagged red stripes.

“Superior” Jak’s head nodded minutely.

“Come inside, comforting silence waits.” He motioned for them both to enter.

Jak smiled, his heart a little lighter, breathing easier “Thank you, patience is an
evasive mistress.”
Strange things to say, Dominia thought to herself, maybe some sort of secret code
or religious greeting, but I doubt very much if Jak believes in the powers that be.

They both walked through the doorway, Jak went straight to the nearest of two
chairs and sat down, the Superior proceeded to do the same the other side of a
worn and sparse metal table. Neither waited for Dominia to sit so she leant back
against the curved wall and looked about, what she saw belied the architecture of
the Temple, outside it was chaotic and rigid, straight lines that broke off without
meaning, seen from a distance the outside of the Temple was a simple shape, a
giant block of stone, seen close up everything appeared like the tunnel they’d
stepped through.

However, the room they sat in now was yet again immensely different, still sparse
and empty of any trappings, it was unnervingly beautiful. The room soared high
above them the curved walls reaching up to a coned ceiling, the entire space was
shaped like a massive bullet, but as she gazed for longer she noticed that the walls
did not travel straight up, but rather they spiralled up to the apex. Niches were
staggered throughout the wall and these seemed even less certain in their position
as they shifted in her vision. They seemed to be turning. Hypnotically she gazed
upwards, struggling to pull her eyes away. The roof appeared to be getting further
and further away.

“Is this room moving?” She blurted out, not considering decorum or manners
though neither the Superior nor Jak had started talking yet.

“Yes. All the rooms are moving, the entire Temple is moving as is the planet on
which we live. Even the entire universe is in motion. There is nothing static that
exists in all of creation. Even in the depths of space where man considers himself
outside the influence of anything else, he is unaware that even when they are
completely static without motion, they are in fact still moving.” The Superior said,
his tone slick and slimy in Dominia’s mind as if here were explaining some easily
understood notion that everyone knew to an imbecile that could not grasp the
concept.

“Firstly, I meant, is this room physically moving right now without any relation to
the bloody universe or whatever.” She spat back.

“Yes, this room is moving at odds with the motion of life. The entire Temple is
always moving, adjusting and becoming something else.” He replied, turning his
head away.

“That’s why it took so long to get here, the route’s never the same, but damn does
it make talking secrets difficult to hear about.” Piped up Jak from the chair as way of
explanation and probably trying to cool her temper.
“Fine, well that was almost an easy explanation. Now secondly, what are you talking
about being static in space. If you’re not moving, how can you still be moving? That
makes no sense, but then what would I expect from a religious sect.” She said, not
wanting to let the subject go.

Smiling and taking a sigh, “It is because the only way to stay static in space is to
compare your movements within other points in space, those things we can actually
see and know to be moving. But they are always moving in a way that we don’t take
into account, the universe is expanding, from a single point, from many points,
possibly even from all points. Therefore, child, even if you think you are still in
motion, you are still moving because the entire universe and everything it
encompasses is expanding out.”

Dominia stood there looking at his smug face, wondering if she could make a retort
that would take that look away, it was really starting to get on her nerves. Then she
wondered if it wouldn’t be easier just to cut his face away and then how could he
laugh ever again. She hated smug intellectual people that thought themselves
above her, better than her. A knife scraped out of it’s sheath into her hand easily
and yet the Superior’s face never changed. Either he’s brave, stupid or he’s a
veteran of some sort.

“What have you heard Superior, anything in the wires about someone coming after
me?” asked Jak having heard the same sound as everyone else and thinking it best
to get on with the conversation and block Dominia from carving the man up.

“To be entirely honest, someone is always after you, or at least saying they are.
This much you know so you are fully aware that sifting through the detritus is
somewhat difficult.” He replied his nose still high up in the air and his eyes looking
down on Jak.

“Come on, anything that caught your eye, something that seems more genuine
than usual?” Jak leant forward on the table, the cold metal beneath making his
elbows ache.

The Superior leant back; disgust crossed his face at the temerity of Jak to invade his
space. Remember, you are the Superior, act like it!

“Well there are a couple of names that were repeated amongst my sources,
recurrences that were most unexpected. The Houses are making strides throughout
their territories, enforcing some very unusual practices which have resulted in riots
and almost civil war on some worlds.” He flicked away a mote of dust that had
landed on his white robes making it worse and into a smear, he scowled in
response.

“What do you mean, ‘unusual practices’?” Dominia asked her interest now suddenly
piqued.
He looked her up and down with undisguised disgust, his mouth twitched as though
experiencing a bad taste.

Dominia eased herself off the wall. “I asked you a question, suggest you answer it
otherwise I’m gonna jump over that table and cut your fucking tongue out.” She
replied, another knife leaving it’s sheath in audible accompaniment.

“Calm down Dominia, the Temple has a no female policy, right now he’d happily
have you executed for even entering their vicinity.” Said Jak, his hand now lying on
the weapon strapped to his leg.

Leaning forward to asserting himself the Superior continued. “The practice is


related to the first born son of the military families. It is unusual in that the sons are
gathered from their homes and families and supposedly conscripted into the House
forces, be it either the Minors or the Greats. No family is left alone.” He replied, a
hint of smile at the corners of his mouth.

It was Jak’s turn to lean forward.

“What do you mean, supposedly?” His voice was soft, so much so that Dominia
barely heard it, though obviously the Superior had. The smile had certainly left his
mouth though not his eyes in her opinion.

“There are no reports of their ranks increasing; this may be because they are all
being trained on some far off distant world I suppose, however, that seems unlikely.
They appear to simply vanish, taken from their homes and never to be heard of
again. Rumours abound of course, but no assets are allocated to any new ventures,
no training force has been despatched by any of the Houses.” His eyes peered at
Jak over interlaced fingers as he leant on his elbows ignoring the cold that seeped
up from the metal. The smile was still a glimmer in his eyes. “There are no reports
of any increased battles and it looks like if anything, the in-fighting between the
Houses as actually declined. For all intents and purposes it appears that the Houses
are for once working in unison.”

Unison?! It’s not possible, there has always been fighting within the Houses, civil
war is a part of their god forsaken politics. It’s practically unheard of. Dominia
thought to herself, worry creasing her brow.

“How exactly does this relate to me?” Jak growled.

“Ah, now curiously, your name has been heard a number of times when this
information has been relayed to me.” The Superior’s face remained relatively
neutral. “There have been suggestions that you are a part of this scheme and are
working for the Houses in stealing away peoples children. Though that is conjecture,
it is certainly a excellent reason as to why someone may want you dead.” His eyes
were still focused on Jak; they both watched each other for a moment before Jak
asked the inevitable question.
“Why is my name being spread around with this rumour, people know I don’t run for
the Houses, not in any fucking way. So, tell me Superior why my name is being
spread with this shit.” He asked through clenched jaws.

Dominia could feel the tension in the room rise, so much that she calculated the
distance between her, the Superior and Jak, ready in case the situation escalated.

“Here is the really interesting part and why you use my sources to such the extent
that you do. I don’t believe it is your name that has been heard.” The smile reached
his mouth and broke out in to a haughty look of superiority. Jak stared back, all of
his muscles tensing across his face, anyone else would have cowered before the
demonic aura that emanated from him. Continuing on regardless of Jak, “No, I think
my sources simply assumed it was your name because you are so famous and as
whispering tales go, the truth altered with what people expected to hear. No, my
dear friend Jak D’nar, it was not your name that has been uttered around the
Houses, but that of Jace D’nar.” His eyes lit up with a triumphant gleam that
matched his grin.

Jak lost all semblance of control; he howled out his rage with such presence that the
entire room shook with his effort. The twisting momentum of the room shuddered
for a second under such fury. His face twisted and contorted as he howled upwards
towards the sky, the heavens and any Gods that would dare listen to him as he
poured every hatred, every vengeance and promise of destruction in to that raw
display of power and above all pain from the depths of his aching heart. His fists
clenched together so tight that he dug his nails into his palms and with the small
blood offering that trickled between his fingers he damned the souls of those he
would bring retribution upon.

Dominia stepped forward, not knowing if he would attack the Superior and shred
him to pieces, both knives in her hands ready to kill the Superior or even Jak if she
needed to protect herself. As she took a second step towards the two men sat at
the desk, hands held her back away from Jak the chair opposite him now empty.
She was stunned to realise the Superior had moved faster than her eye from the
table to behind her with both his hands clasped around her forearms with relentless
strength, holding her knives at bay. Jak seethed before them both, raging and
howling as his soul twisted inside him, he was oblivious to the pair of them in his
moment of rage. She struggled to move with no avail, his hands would not be
moved, her entire body would not move, she tried to kick out with her feet but they
would not respond, paralysed she realised for the very first time in her life that she
was powerless to protect herself and she became terrified.

“Do not fear child of Katar, for you are young yet in the Way. Control your emotions
first, only then can you control your body.” She heard the Superior’s voice
whispering into her ear, but it sounded different, no longer smug, higher pitched.
“He will soon lose his temper, it had to be so, he must retaliate with the strength of
Hell as it is written by the Gods.”

Even though he still held her within his iron grip and though she longed to struggle
against him she forced herself to relax, he knew she was Katari. Others always
assumed she was, being a warrior, but none ever called her a child of Katar, only
those that had experienced the Katar knew it was an entity. Who was this man?
She thought to herself. Is this the same person that was sat before us only
moments ago?

“Who is Jace D’nar?” She asked quietly as Jak continued to howl with rage though
she could tell he was beginning to lose strength, despair was consuming him faster
than the rage could escape.

“Ah, you are intuitive, well the rest of the rumours are quite accurate I’m afraid. The
first born of the military families such as Jak’s are disappearing, being taken from
their families but the Gods and our enemies alone know the reason.” He whispered
to her, knowing she’d soon realise the import.

“You mean, Jace is Jak’s son?” Her strength left her and she no longer struggled
against the Superior’s grip.

“Yes. Jace is one of two children that Jak had. He thought his son safe, obviously
that was not quite correct. He was taken for conscription no more than a fortnight
ago. Though, whether he is involved in these acts I do not know.” Sympathy
seemed to flow from the Superior, so different from what he seemed a few
moments ago as he incited Jak to his current rage.

“What of the other child?” She asked.

“That is something you must never ask, forget that I mentioned two children. By
Katar, if you ever ask him you will die for it.” The words came out strongly behind
her as Dominia felt the hands loosen on her wrists, as she looked down she could
see horrendous bruises across both arms where he’d held her which such strength
that the blood pulled beneath the surface.

“Dominia, within darkness there is movement, there is more there than all the
universe put together. In every shadow you see, movement, within the recesses of
your mind and the black pit contained in every human soul, there lies more than
you could possibly imagine. Remember, in darkness is everything. When you finally
see into that chasm, when you see the shapes starting to move from that which
nothing should emerge, run. RUN!”

Suddenly a loud beeping could be heard, Dominia looked at her wrist comm which
was a twisted mangled shape and realised it was utterly useless now, she saw Jak
coming round out of delirious anger and despair to focus on the sound. It was the
ship’s alarm, only Darius would be calling from the ship at this time which meant
something bad.

Jak struggled to control himself, tides of anger flowed through him and threatened
to engulf him again, but with the sound of the wrist comm alarm he forced himself
through the deluge. Tapping the comm button he growled, “What?!”

A squealing rattling sound came through the frequency, but everyone in the spiral
chamber heard what came next clearly. A gun shot rang through clearly and Jak’s
pain and anger dissipated quickly.

“D?! What’s happening, what’s going on?”

“We’re under attack! Fuck knows who they are, mercs like us possibly, all I know is
that they have some heavy firepower and we’re skittering about airborne right now.
Vogan’s keeping us from dying for the moment, the Doc’s still somewhere on the
ground; she’s in the fucking Urb...” Crackle came through for a second as they lost
contact. Jak tapped the comm again trying to get connection back. He turned to
look at Dominia and the Superior, seeing the man standing next to her he nodded in
the Superior’s direction.

Now all three of them could hear a ruckus outside of the walls, and each realised
that whatever was happening on the comm was happening right above their heads.

“Vogan’s come to get us so we need to get to the roof, right now Captain.” Dominia
said, both knives already back in their sheaths.

“Syman, you need to get us topside on the double.” Jak pleaded to the Superior.

Dominia looked at the Superior next to her, he seemed changed, altered. No smug
look on his face, he seemed aged and if anything more serene.

“Consider it done old friend, my apologies for earlier.” The Superior stepped away
and placed his hand over a section of the wall, lights flared and a biometric hand
scanner appeared within the wall. As he placed his palm against it the room began
to shake as it began to rotate against the momentum of earlier. Shuddering and
scraping the entire picked up speed as it began to spin faster and faster in the
opposite direction, the roof no longer appearing to get further away but now getting
much closer.

The Superior turned to look at Dominia as the roof opened up above them, sections
of the roof parting as the room twisted and pushed out into open air.

“Remember Child, never ask and consider always that nothing is still.” He said as
the room came to a halt.
Dominia looked out across the roof of the Temple, she could see the majority of the
city-scape before her, the architecture an ensemble of a different cultures. Above
this, three ships were dancing across the sky, weapons thundering out over the
population below, every so often a building would get hit by a stray shot before its
own limit was reached, chunks of stone and metal exploding across their view.

“...flyby!! We’re gonna try the scoop up trick so get ready!” They all heard Vogan
shouting through the comm over the ship’s firing.

“The ‘what’ trick?” Said Dominia staring at Jak.

He turned to look at her and smiled, “Time to see if this is the day we die. See you
around Syman, get rid of this jack-ass.”

Syman, his hands folded together looked solemn and peaceful on top of the roof.
“Don’t worry, it will be a tragic event that may even further the cause of the
Temple. The God’s do like to provide us with amusing benefits.”

Dominia stood there wondering what the hell was going on, “Dammit, you’re gonna
die if you stay up here Priest!” She screamed out. “And what the fuck is this trick
that Vogan’s going to try?!”

Jak pointed at the edge of the roof, to which they were stood very closely to.
Dominia turned and looked out, their own ship having now disappeared, the two
others had altered course and were now hurtling towards the temple, turning her
head in exasperation, “Well?”

Jak smiled as he heard the comm beep erratically, he grabbed hold of her arms and
pushed them both forward off the edge.