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A place for lost characters to frolic.

Torox - Dusa's Memory, Little Bird.
Torox looked out of eyes that were not his, felt hands flex that weren't his own and the cereal experience of an MIU, that he had never known, being connected with a third mechanical mind. For a moment he pondered whether or not Dusa's had the same experience as him when she connected her mind to a machine's body--not quite in charge but riding along in perfect unison as a passenger able to see out of their senses as clearly as you might your own.

For a brief moment he dug deeper into her memory and he could see the void through external sensors and feel the engine's fuel regulation flow, heat data and thrust velocity. His mind felt swamped and he decided not to push his curiosity any further.
Now, you will have a topic of conversation next time there is an awkward silence between you and Tech.

He felt Jastra's mind glow. He was riding in her mind and he could feel her sense of humour leaking into his thoughts. She was unconscious now--this was a shared dream of sorts.
Don't get too comfy sailor.

Was that a thought she had had in the memory or was she communicating? Did it matter?
A surge of violent turbulence ran through the whole cockpit as they jinked to a new heading and gunned the rockets to impact velocity. Hands flashed across the interface below him, he could feel them moving and knew what they were doing but she hadn't looked down so he couldn't see them, she was keying in activation codes for more than a dozen cryo-stasis pods. Assassins, and not just any, Eversors

Little Bird was a Shark Assault Boat, in his own mental facilities he conjured the image of two parallel assault berths each large enough to contain a leman russ and wondered what other horror's they contained, and in the view screen before them was the length of an ancient warship.

"Wakey wakey rise and shine, this is your captain speaking and I am happy to inform you the third class transit shuttle from the Officio Assassinorum to the Den of Treacherous Heretics is almost at an end. In a few moments we will begin our decent, engage the hull breach charges and release the assault doors."

Ghost images of skull faced creatures in skin-tight body suits ripping themselves out of metal coffins leek through. Torox, usually immune to such emotions, remembers what it is like to be very afraid. He finds himself shocked that even under such emotions the human was still making jokes--a coping mechanism perhaps.

"Please remain seated until the seat belt sign has been deactivated and refrain from tearing any holes in the hull until the Shark Assault Boat has come to a complete stop. I have been your Captain, Jastra Dusa, and I hope you have all enjoyed your flight on Elysian Airways. Please do not hesitate to fly with us again."

Like someone taking a run up and kicking him violently in the gut all of the air was forced from his, her, lungs. He had forgottem how boarding actions felt when you weren't super-human. Red lights filled the cabin and, after her ears recovered from the shockwave, gunfire and bestial growling echoed distantly from below her feet.

Unbuckling her harness she stood up, brushed herself off and turned around just in time to see several more black body suit figures silently exiting through the door between the bridge and assault bays eager to join the fight behind the Eversor's.
Vindicare? Callidus? Culexus?

The last made him shudder insider her mind. He decided he didn't want to know. He was not here to bring his own discomfort to her but to be a silent passenger in the memory. Briefly he wondered why they hadn't been shot at in their approach and as though reacting to his thoughts her mind conjured up a black suited woman trying to mimic the face and mannerisms of an Inquisitor.

A moment later he was sliding down a ladder into the assault berths. The noise of battle was growing ever more distant as, presumably, their deadly cargo was making its way deeper into the enemy warship.

Mortred - Tech's Future, The Emperor's Vigilance.

The inky blackness briefly gave way to blinding incandescent light as a shower of sparks burst from an overloaded conduit. A moment later more sparks, again and again as a figure in power armour worked at a console deep in engineering.

Whether or not the Librarian was receiving his communication was unsure. There was no reply, however, the Tech Marine continued both the maintenance work and his attempts to communicate.


Tech had learned the capitol lesson of Technocracy during his pilgrimage to Mars, no machine without organic fail-safes, yet now he had to choose between certain death or Tech-Heresy. There was a mind that could pilot The Emperor's Vigilance, a mind that's shadows still echoed within a dying body, but to download it as data into the ship's powerful data banks would be to create Artificial Intelligence and break every oath he had sworn--again.

Sparks followed him down the corridors as he ran--no longer electrical shorts but now the crackling warp lightning of freed and terrified psykers. Not yet having been trained, instructed or sanctioned in their craft the whelps and wretches were lashing out in a terrified frenzy as the howls of some unknown creature haunted and taunted them up and down the pitch black corridors. Somewhere in the dark an ancient Astartes Librarian, a Renegade Chaos Oracle and the monster that had attacked their ship, however, his concern was making it to the Interrogation Cells and recovering the body of an Imperial Hero.

Durinhaus/Jhyll - Joint Memories, Maccabeus Quintus
Skin - Ram-Rod - Major - Le Buch - Tick

Numb/Gambler - Sensible/Mentor - Affable/Old - Loyal/Backwater - Superstitious/Twitchy

It was frozen solid, a sheet of glass shining like a mirror surrounded by sand, but it was water. None of them had drunk all day and water cold enough to kill them in seconds seemed like paradise. Durinhaus took out his powersword, cutting a small hole in the ice, and dropped a grenade into it. The whole ice sheet lifted a few feet before cracking into tiny pieces, the water bubbled angrily at the center before swirling outwards, writhing for a few minutes before finally calming and settling as it lightly steamed.

Briefly they enjoyed a the waist deep warm water jacuzzi bath before Skin, a weak swimmer with broken ribs, was sucked under the water by some droning groan noise. A loud clunk, the flow stopped and then the groaning ceased leaving the group thrashing around in the water. It turns out the Maccabian Janissaries had retreated to the planets Aquifers, reinforcing their several entrances with double doored airlocks, and surviving the planets occupation holding out inside.

It didn't take the group long to the door searching under the sandy pool's floor and less than an hour after his disappearance the whole group had made it inside to join their lost comrade. The damage, however, was already done.

Above them, silently on leathern wings, Phantom glided in a haze of warm steamy air. To avoid their powerful winged assailants the last specs of resistance had crawled into the dirt and sand. Like ants they had built an underground nest.

Over the course of the next few days the Haunting sought out each and every Oasis and checked, as subtly as they could, for entrances to the underground tunnels. Geographical charts of the planet were sourced and an attempt to map the tunnels was made. Where they had once just haunted the skies picking off stragglers and forcing the survivors to dig in they were now going to cut into the nest and remove what was left of the resistance. All thanks to a small squad of off-worlders coming with naive intentions to help.


Upon being flushed, very much like a large toilet, out of the airlock the party had found themselves in a very tight tunnel filled with water, much cooler but not negative, that twisted and bent down into the planet thirty or forty feet. Most of them would have drowned had not a pair of Jannissaries in their distinct void sealed armour given them a breather and dragged through the pitch black water to the shore of a deep underground lake.

Once ashore the pair informed them that this was one of several entrances, each connected by thousands of miles of underground tunnels, and that each one had a sentry pair guarding the entrance that was rotated out every few days. There was no way to setup a powerful enough radio to transmit through the rock without it being detected from the surface and they didn't have enough cables to setup a hardline so they relied entirely on relaying messages in person.

Each entrance had their own base camp located deeper where the the sentries could rest and, it was said, tend to the fungal farms they had setup to supply them with a meager food allowance. Beyond towards the centre of the aquifer some sort of central command camp had been setup but neither of them, nor their fellow sentries, had apparently ventured far enough into the caves to see it and only rarely did they receive any visits from the Jannissaries responsible for it.

They took the opportunity to rest up a little and ate some of the offered food which, whist at least a variation, was not particularly better than their dried ration packs. Above them the monster known as Phantom was teaching itself how to swim--Jhyll had known, of-course, but the strange winged demon that now inhabited the body was having far more trouble. If not for the enhanced physiology of an Astartes it would most certainly have drowned despite its attempts being in barely a few feet of water. Cumbersome wings amplified the weight of the water and dense adamantium and ceraminte armour anchored it to the bottom as it thrashed ineffectually in the direction it wished to go. Eventually, its panicking brain came to the realization it could simply place its feet on the bottom and stand but this was not what it had hoped for.

Whilst the creature could effortlessly glide and soar on wings through the air it now faced the prospect of crawling and scrambling like a drowned bat through the sunken flooded tunnels below.

Torox - Dusa's Memory, REDACTED -- Formerly the Emperor's Vigilance.


For both Dusa, and her passenger, the corridors were eerily familiar. Despite the extensive iconography in dedication to its new patrons they still had all the familiar dimensions and layout. Dusa understood exactly, vaguely, why but Torox was briefly lost to confusion.
The Warp works in mysterious ways.
Not all of this was the warp...

They had been moving in complete silence now for almost twenty minutes, well outside of their joint mental conversation, following in the wake of their deadly cargo. The orchestra of distant combat echoed down otherwise silent corridors and occasionally they caught long distance glimpses of it as they traversed the larger thoroughfares.

For the most part the defenders, dead, were heretic mercenaries wearing various uniforms. Despite their ragged appearance they were well equipped with hell guns, bolters and carapace armour. Less common but still in abundance, considering the sheer amount of dead, were Heretic Astartes of the Iron Warriors, Night Lords and various independent members of renegade chapters.

Equally growing more common were the bodies, or atleast signs of their demise, of their deadly cargo. They had been forced to make two detours to avoid the volcanic remains of two corridor's that had clearly borne witness to an Eversor's deaththroes--and the inevitable suicide bomb that goes off under such circumstances. They had also passed the remains of a dead Vindicare who had been unfortunate enough to turn a courner and find themselves face to face with a, now dead, Oblitorator.

Jastra reached down and plucked the dead Vindicare's weapons from the corpse.
They are gene coded...
Don't worry, I knew her.

To her passengers dismay, surprise and shock. The powerful weapon recognized and accepted Jastra's genesign and activated to be used.


After almost half an hour the orchestra had become a quintet. Dusa had made it from their entry point all the way to the nerve centre of the ship where the Bridge meets with a number of strategy rooms. Before them five black suited figures fought with the targets they had come to eliminate.

The first was a writhing ball of wings and claws in what appeared to be the colours of the Night Lords. Another a tiny figure in black hazardous environment robes and a brilliant blue hood with respirator--her aura seemed familiar. The third was a hulking Iron Warrior Warpsmith in pre-heresy armour...

And the last, a blood drenched Barbarian Astartes with a cloak of scalps and blooded sawblade upon his pauldron, was Torox.

Mortred - Tech's Future, The Emperor's Vigilance.

As Tech rounded the last courner onto the main containment thoroughfare a perfectly placed las-bolt errupted from a waiting sniper at the other end. The stream of light had already begun materializing the centre of his helmets ceramite when the monster tumbled onto of him catching the shot mid beam.

He roared in his heavily modulated machine tone. His bolt pistol fired wildly and he lashed out with fists, mechadendrites and powerful servo arm at the momentarily stunned assailant atop of him.

A second shot streaked down the corridor, this time catching monster fully in the back, and there was a roar of fire as its jetback exploded into a violent explosion that separated them. Tech stood, blood and lubricant hemorrhaging from the various woulds its lightning claws had inflicted upon him, and sprinted down the corridor firing his bolt pistol behind him. Streaks of las fire from the unknown sniper, presumably aimed at the monster behind him, lit him in strobed snapshots as he did.

The beast was in full persuit: legs, claws and wings reaching out for anything to propel it forwards in the tight corridor as bolt and beam impacted with it only barely slowing it down. It made it to the door seconds after a figure in black and blue hazard gear and a very wounded Astartes fell inside and slammed it shut.

"Do it, she is the Key!"
He pointed the empty bolt pistol at the witch who had been his unexpected savior.

Between them, laying collapsed on the floor, was Brother Librarian Torox of the Flesh Tearers. Uninjured but unconscious.

"You don't remember but Destiny calls to you."
He didn't, nothing made sense. Claws, the length of great swords, began to tear through the door of the cell. The woman lifted her long-las, which for some reason he knew was Time Stopper, and began firing wildly through the door. Each shot, although seemingly unaimed, travelled perfectly through the tiny holes in the door and struck seems of the creatures armour.

Tech took the recovered woman's MIU and, ripping off some miscellaneous equipment from the mechanoid warden behind her, plugged her into it and thus directly into the ships various control sub-routines. To the background noise of shrieking metal, monster and continuous close range las fire he methodically deleted millions of terabits of data and made room to store her consciousness--he made sure to empty each and every cybernetics local memory that stored her muscle memory of piloting, perception patterns, fighting, shooting and even breathing. All the little things that made her who she was--every data log she had ever made and, since her cybernetics had learned her brain patterns to fully integrate, all the translation data they had compiled on exactly how her brain worked. It was tech-heresy but they needed a pilot.

Then, chambering a new magazine, he waited.

Durinhaus/Jhyll - Joint Memories, Maccabeus Quintus
Skin - Ram-Rod - Major - Le Buch - Tick

Numb/Gambler - Sensible/Mentor - Affable/Old - Loyal/Backwater - Superstitious/Twitchy

The once crystal clear and ice still waters of the underground caves bubbled and writhed dark crimson behind them. Gouts of steam roared upwards, from the claws of their assailant, behind them as they swam, sunk and tumbled down ever deeper into the pitch black below. It had all started with a deafening bang and a torrential flow of sand that swept them up and plunged them into the water and quickly followed by huge cumbersome power armoured warriors half digging and half swimming through sand, rock and water after them.

There was no sign of the Janissary. Between the five of them they had only managed to grab two breathers, although Durinhaus had cybernetic lungs and Ram-Rod had an independent air supply, so Le Buch and Tick were having to share one as they frantically swam, whist dragging the still injured Skin, from the enhanced super soldiers perusing them. If it hadn't been for the terrain it wouldn't have even been a close competition but instead they were keeping their distance with ease. Every narrow point of the tunnel had to be cut through with power weapons and each time they were activated huge rushes of instantly steamed water caught them and, whilst not physically threatening, forced them to continue blind.

The fact they were quicker, however, didn't matter. Eventually they would grow tired, find a dead end or simply run out of air. An hour or so later and they had crossed through two open air areas, in which their pursuer would make up considerable ground, and were heading down a vertical tunnel bored passage when they heard gunfire ahead. Heavy bolters. The tunnel opened into a huge pool of water and, like fish in a barrel, they could feel the explosive force of the bullets reverberating violently around it like someone playing a giant pair of symbols besides their head. Durinhaus waved Ram-Rod forward, his void sealed carapace hopefully proof against the deadly shock waves, to scout ahead.

What he saw was not what he expected: Single file a line of Janissaries calmly walked across the bottom of the pool floor, perhaps forty of fifty of them, as heavy bolter shells exploded on the surface above. He did his best to wave one down and pointed to the heavy bolter fire above who looked at him confused before using both hands to make a strange hand gesture--palms together and wiggling all fingers and thumbs together. Any attempt at vocal communications would have been pointless as the heavy bolter fire was deafening. The Janissary cocked his head, pointed at Ram-Rod and then pointed towards the direction the line was headed. Ram-Rod gave a thumbs up and swam back up towards where the other's were just in-time to see them swimming as fast as they could towards him.

Behind them, from the tunnel entrance they had dropped out of, thick black tentacles groped after them. Immediately the effects of the shockwaves became apparent as blood began to seep from the ears and eyes of the unprotected members of the group. Durinhaus, mostly cybernetics anyway, and Ram-Rod protected by his armour grabbed the other three and began to drag them towards the line of Janissaries. Between them they wrestled the whole party to a new tunnel, the teeth marks from the monsters that had dug them now apparent, and eventually to a distant beach. Behind them the heavy bolter's, that they later found out had been left firing with enough ammo for their journey, eventually ran dry and fell silent.

A few hours later Phantom found himself stood upon the beach analyzing the turrets that had been left behind. The water behind him was inky black and huge octopi bodies floated in bloody chunks on the surface. The resistance was greater than he had expected, and the octopus creatures had killed one of his Raptors, but these creature dug tunnels were much easier to navigate.

Torox - Dusa's Memory, REDACTED -- Formerly the Emperor's Vigilance.

Torox was forced to watch, horrified and confused, as his doppleganger fought the against a ghostly enemy with an elongated and distended head. Even Dusa, in her memory, was struggling to see the blurred figure due to its disruptive aura and she had no psychic abilities to speak of. Torox, having suffered Psyk-out grenades, was roaring insults and swinging wildly with his chainsaw and forcesword whilst barely managing to roll out of the way of the foes lethal head mounted weapon.

Behind him a second black suited enemy, some form of deathcultist, continually stabbed at him with her venom covered daggers but he was far too concerned with the first foe to spare any focus for her. Fortunately one of the others was--the woman in black and blue--who placed a perfectly aimed Las Bolt through her temple before returning to face her own foe. Dusa, who was rushing forward to assist against the closest enemy, turned just at the right moment to see a mortally wounded Eversor, who had run out of ammo, leap on her and strangle her to death with what was left of his gauntlet weapon.

She turned back to her target, the Night Lord monster, just as it swept across her head forcing her to roll. On its claws all the way left of the gristly pieces of another Vindicare. She drew the Vindicare Pistol, along with her own Las Gun, and fired a barrage of shots after it as it glided around and came back towards her claws outstretched. She took her only exit and dived into a conference room just in time to see another Eversor being crushed inside the servo arm of the Hulking Warpsmith. In one casual motion she dropped the borrowed pistol and drew the ancient Sollex-Aegis blade on her hip, activated it to release a blade of projected plasma and hacked off the Servo Arm at its base as though it was made of butter. Release the Eversor drew a melta bomb from its belt and mag clamped it onto its assailants back.

She ducked back out of the room as the floor behind her turned into molten lava. Only the Calexus remained, attempting to fight a foe on each side, both psyker's struggled in its aura and neither could use their gifts but both moved so fast that hitting either of them was almost impossible. Dusa knew her biggest asset was her archeotech blade but its fuel supply was fast running out. She let her las gun hang from its shoulder strap and drew her second blade: a dagger length broken powersword that was viciously sharpened and hummed with a very intense power field and strafed around the edge of their combat doing her best to get behind the non-flying target. Unfortunately the whole fight strafed with her, her ancient foes knowing better than to let themselves be stuck between two foes, and she was forced to simply engage to ease the burden on her only remaining ally.

That was when she heard the hydrolic whir from the corridor--a very distinctive whir of hydrolic legs depressing. She fell back instinctively as two pips on her commbead informed her that close support fire was locked and waiting for a clear line of sight. The Librarian's cloak of scalps set on fire, his armour glowing bright red and he was thrown sideways into a combat roll as the volley of multi-laser beams from the scout sentinel tore into him.
"Frank you... how... you sho."
"Not now Tink."

The Librarian had already stood up and was doing his best to recover but Night Lord was moving towards the new threat. Much easier to dispatch than a Null Assassin or the Inquisitor if flew directly towards the sentinel claws sparking arcs of lightning. Dusa had to make a decision, her friend, or the most sensible tactical decision. She turned and sprinted after the Night Lord and plunged both weapons into its back as it crouched ontop of the fallen sentinel clawing violently at the pilots seat. The relic blade cut through him like butter but ran out of fuel after the first stab and she was forced to improvise pushing a grenade into the burned hole in his armour. He was dead but so, inevitably, was Frank. No time to mourn.

Behind her Torox had killed his foe, clearly the assassin had expected them to gang up on the Flesh Tearer and over extended just as Dusa did exactly the opposite. Dusa drew the las gun and attempted to strafe around the sentinel and Night Lord corpse using it as a charge breaker whilst taking continual pot shots. She was an incredible markswoman and her foe had no ranged weapon to speak of but he was still an Astartes and despite her customizations it was only a las gun.

The Librarian was recovering out of the presence of the null field--winding up his mind to utilize his powers against her whilst also closing on her to use his vicious swords. She threw everything left on her grenade belt just to buy time Krak, Frag and even a Haywire grenade she forgot she had.
"Tink... run..."
"Run... Melta..."

She reached into the sentinel and grabbed her friend. Flesh ripped as she pulled and only the top half of Frank came with her as she ran towards the exit. A few heartbeats later a small sun went supernova behind her as the multiple Melta Bombs on the Night Lord's corpse activated and tore another huge hole in the ship. The various combat's must have damaged something important in the ship because a moment later Dusa found herself tumbling in space on a piece of bulkhead as the whole ship fell to pieces. Frank, the half of her she was carrying, died in her arms smiling at the firework display they had created. Dusa's tears were freezing on her face as she fell unconscious.

And then we found you.
Did you find Frank?
His hearts sank.

Torox & Tech - The Emperor's Vigilance, Bridge.

Torox had been silent since his communion with the recovered Inquisitor. It was uncharacteristic of the barbaric Librarian to vocalize his frustrations, of which there were many, or at-least take them out on the world around him. He stood unnervingly silently behind the Black Shield, so much so he found himself using his optical mechadendrites just to check he was still there, a not-uncharacteristic hostile glare quickly made him avert such spying.

This silence went on for the best part of an hour as the Emperor's Vigilance transitioned through the warp towards the last known location of The Door to Abundant Joy and its distress signal. Perhaps it was being in the warp, the geller field, something he had seen, fatigue, unease or simply just the Thirst that had soured his Leader's mood. Yet Tech had a nagging feeling that something other was wrong--so much so he eventually braved to ask.

Silence--it was unbearable. The creature he had grown to know as Torox could barely stand sentry without pacing, grunting and thumping the bulkheads.

There was a barely perceptible scrape. Ninety three point six percent probability that of an armoured hand clasp around the hilt of a sword. He decided it was best not to look.
"I, believe, you are deceiving me."

He felt, before he heard, the clink of a sword point resting neatly between two of his ceramic armour plates.

As if in answer the point grew in prominence.

A low growl.

"Do I kill you?"

There was a very long pause.

The vox helmet broke down into static and gurgles as an eldrich blade of fire gently pushed through the front of Tech's chestplate. It was cut off by the loud clang of ceremite hitting adamantium as his body toppled to the floor.

Thirty Five MC

History ... this feels awful to read. It also makes me anxious that I am inadvertently ripping of The Expanse by going into too much political detail

Earth, the Blue Marble. Our home. Two millennia ago the Roman Empire stretched to every shore of the Mediterranean. A millennia later the Mongol Empire exploded to become the largest land empire the world has ever seen. Almost a millennia later the British Empire, the largest of many, covered a quarter of the worlds surface. The Earth's first World War would decimate the world as its multiple empires fought for dominance. Two decades later a second and the birth of the Atom Bomb--it took just a few decades for the nations of Earth to amass enough weapons capable of wiping each other of the face of the world they each called home.

Since then the worlds two most powerful nations, previously locked in a Cold War, competed to be the first to space and then to be the first to the Moon. Cooperatively they built and maintain the International Space Station however little further progress was made. Over time a collection of smaller nations sought to launch mining operation on the moon and a billion dollar private company wanted to setup a colony on Mars.

A second expedition to the moon would test the viability of off-world colonies. A decade later Noah was launched to build a colony ready for humans to arrive two years later. Over the next three decades the world's governments were forced to step in and create laws that governed these new frontiers and rights to areas of the solar system quickly became the most contested commodities. Earth became the centre of a growing Empire--the Solar Empire.

Earth quickly became a massive space port where undesirable material was lifted on large space elevators to a number of satellites designed to build and maintain multi-use cargo rockets capable of taking it to the various other colonies and delivering their own goods in return.

The Moon became a mining colony owned and ran by the European Union with its own docking port. Open-pit mining machines were constructed that filtered the various valuable metal ores out of the surface, in the pits dome structures were erected and then buried again to create hospitable accommodation for the small population who would run the various processing plants required to extract the minerals from their ore to be shipped back to Earth.

Mars was initially colonized in the same way but with the intention of eventually terraforming the planet and creating a sustainable atmosphere. Over several decades the population grew exponentially as more people flooded to the Red Planet. However, as the population and demand for materials grew Earth, and the Moon, became less willing to sell their goods to this new hungry world and other solutions had to be found.

Ceres, a dwarf planetoid in the Asteroid Belt, was the solution to their problems. The mission to Ceres was planned and launched by Mars only two decades after they themselves had landed on Mars. By far the most rudimentary of the three colonoes Ceres was simply a collection of rockets landed on the planetoid and dug in deep enough to avoid any asteroid strikes. The rockets provided living accommodations for temporary crew to service and refuel various mining crafts that would collect nearby asteroids, bring them to the surface of Ceres and then extract the most valuable resources before repeating the process. Every two Martian years, four Earth years, Ceres and Mars would also be in alignment to ship these gathered resources back and forth and circulate the temporary crew.

Work in progress.

Jastra Dusa sat and looked on as her belongings were forklifted into the Sky Tether to be loaded onto her transport. In eight and a half hours she would be setting off on a rocketship towards another planet: the journey itself would take almost six months, the window in which they could leave was less than a month and it would be atleast two years minimum before she could come home. She wondered whether she had made the right decision.

No one had expected Paddy to live this long. A number of small tumors had been found nine months ago and despite multiple successful operations to remove them even the best predictions had suggested he would die due as a result of his advanced age and the stress of these operations. It had never been her plan to take him with her because Jastra had always expected her companion to die before she left but now the decision had already been made and there was no going back. Paddy, her cat, was going with her.

She had used almost all of her personal cargo on discretely repackaged catfood1 and the rest on various toys, trays with nothing more than a small suitcase for her uniform and a few sets of underwear. It wasn't ideal but needs must. Picking up the disguised carry case, with a sedated Paddy inside, she stood up and stepped onto the Sky Tether as the last crate was loaded and the doors began to close.

The Sky Tether is one of a number of huge elevators built during the early stage of space colonization to facilitate unprecedented tons of cargo being transferred into the heavens to be transferred back and forth between the Earth and the Moon, the first colony, but now a number had been built to deal with the quantity of cargo being moved. The journey would six hours and then another two hours to board and load their ship: the Hermes before finally setting off on the journey of a lifetime.

The Sky Tether was a large rectangular elevator cabin with a storage area taking up the central floor, the mechanism in the lower floor and a passengers seating and observation deck on the top floor. She ascended a service staircase and found herself in a fairly spacious room with five other passengers intended to board the same ship as herself.

The first, Martian Foreign Secretary, to board had been the two returning Martian representatives. Every two earth years a travel window opened in which the journey between Earth and Mars was achievable and representatives would be sent in each direction to relieve those sent previously. The first man she recognized as Ewen Scott who had traveled as a young boy with his parents aboard the second transport to Mars sixty eight years ago, briefly he had served as First Minister to Mars, he was in his early nineties and looked like he might drop dead at any moment.

The second representative, Martian Migration Officer, was a much younger man who she did not recognize. A brief internet search had revealed that he was Byron Gant and had traveled to Mars during the Labor Surge--he had served as a worker on various construction projects Martian Expansion projects, including Ceres, before elevating to Minister for Infrastructure. He lost this position due to some controversy over worker safety lead to a mid-window resignation. Popular opinion was that he had been sent to Earth as a representative in the hopes he would not return when his tenure expired: evidently he had decided otherwise.

More familiar to her were the Earther passengers of which there were, including herself, four.
The first was the outgoing Earth Diplomatic Representative to Mars, Vincent Wood, a personal acquaintance from when they served on the United Earth Law Committee together. She smiled but didn't approach him, they would be spending more than enough time in each other's company in the near future, as she took a seat by the narrow window overlooking the ever expanding horizon.
He himself was stooped to peer out of the, for him, relatively low window.

By this point the Sky Tether had already departed from their home on Earth and was rapidly, yet almost silently, ascending towards the nothingness of space. The only external viewing was a letterbox like window that stretched at eye level around three of the four walls with various tall seats spread out along its length.

Already sat on these seats were the last two of her fellow passengers: the tourists among the group. The first was a young woman with the type of briefcase only carried by people who wanted to be seen as the type of person who carries a briefcase. It was an old boxy maroon leather item with brass closings and made an odd hollow wobbling noise every time she fidgeted with it. Briefcase, she decided, was probably one of the various corporate agents sent between Mars and Earth each window to look for investment opportunities or negotiate mining contracts. It was hard to tell if she was an Earther who should know better or a Martian who had found what they believed to be a precious antique.

The last passenger, other than herself, was a young black man with a tablet and digi-pen. Unlike everyone else he wasn't wearing formal wear but instead jeans and a hoody and as they ascended he scribbled notes down on the tablet he was carrying. His face flashed through various emotional expressions as he witnessed the world flashing by below him and then screwed up in perturbation as he tried to put it into note form. She found herself staring as she realized she enjoyed watching someone else beholding the beautiful scene more than she actually enjoyed watching it herself briefly he caught her eye and she smiled authoritative, yet politely, until he looked away.

Recently they had reached cloud level and despite distant airplanes audible screaming in the distance there hadn't been much to see for the last ten minutes. All at once the clouds parted and they were looking down on a rolling sea of cotton wool stretching off to infinity on all sides. Above the sky was still a brilliant blue and in the distance several planes could be seen criss crossing the sky.

Dusa, to any of the other passengers who looked away from the view, was a middle aged woman with short blond spiked hair. She was short and stocky in build and wore the uniform of a United Nations Police with blue beret. Jastra Dusa was the outgoing Representative Police Commisionner of the United Earth to Mars and as, despite extensive devolution, Mars was still considered a member of the United Earth she would be the most senior officer of the law on the planet upon her arrival. It was a controversial subject for most Martian Citizens and the prospect of their planet being policed by someone the average citizen considered an alien, often literally, was growing less and less popular.

1 Ironically the recipe of which was only slightly different to the dried food preserve that most space transports fed their crew in the first place.


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