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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Hidden Sunlight - 14. Distant Touch

While Konstantin was looting the dead assassin's belongings for anything of value and moving the corpse to be buried, the rest of us went back to the house. The exception was Mira, who stayed behind to aid in this task. Though the Russian had asked his assistance, I had the impression that Mira wanted to be there. I didn't know whether it was a desire to see the finality of burial, an over-anxious vigilance that persisted even after this guy was dead, or something else I was unaware of. Once again though, it made me feel safe, deep inside, that he would take care of business when it arose and left nothing to chance.

Yet, something else was on my mind. Lily excused herself so she could get back to her study. I followed Carlos to his room. I needed to talk to him. More than anyone else he deserved that from me. Konstantin and Lily are one thing, but they're intelligent seasoned adults. It's not the same with Carlos.

"Did you need something?" He was leaning against the frame, the door half open, while I'd been lost in my own thoughts.

"I, uh, wanted to, um ... talk. To you," I managed. Smooth, Shay. Real smooth.

"Well, I didn't think you were here for the scenery." He motioned me inside, grinning at my obvious discomfort. I entered and we sat down on the bed. He probably already knows what I'm going to say. He's not stupid, though at times, it's tempting to think of him as childish and immature.

"Okay, what I want to say is ... I want to apologise," I told him, "for-"

"No." Carlos cut me off. "You don't owe me an apology for that."

"Yes, I do." I insisted.

"No," he repeated, flatly. "You were hurt and you were angry because everything and everyone was telling you he was dead, me included. If I were you, I would have hit me too." Then, he mused for a moment. "Probably hard enough for a knockout though. Sure, you're pretty like a girl, but you punch like one too."

Did he really just say that? My face was reddening with the conflicting feelings generated by flattery and insult together. Um, that was an odd backhanded compliment ... or a friendly jab, I don't know which. There was something about how he had repeated the 'pretty' line enough times now that made me pause. Maybe he actually believes it?

"Shut up," I hissed. Not letting the opportunity go I smacked Carlos on the shoulder fairly hard, which only made him produce a mock-surprise look and start laughing. "You're a jerk! I'm trying to say sorry and you're calling me a girl?!"

"It's too easy to tease you." He shrugged. "That shit aside though, I'm glad it happened. Just think, if you walked out that door without me in the way, you could have run right into that assassin before Mira found him. If he saw you carrying a gun, it would be shoot first and think later."

Holy shit. He's right.

Carlos continued. "Anyhow, I was wrong and Mira was alive. I should have known it would take more than a knife to stop him. Plus, if he's anything like you, then there's no surprise he came through it."

Like me? I wasn't sure what he was getting at. "What do you mean?"

He chuckled. "I don't really know about the science you three were talking about earlier, but I was following it. Think about it. You and Mira are pretty much the same. You didn't wonder about this already?" Without waiting for an answer either way, he plunged on, listing the similarities. "Both of you are immune to the disease. You resisted being drugged by my cousin and again when Konstantin tried to sedate you after the shit with Hartley. Mira resisted it too when my uncle broke in and drugged everyone, right? Both of you heal quickly also, you told us that yourself."

He's right, again. There was more to it than that, though. My breath caught as I considered where that train of thought went. "So, you think that Mira is ... "

"Immortal as well?" Carlos finished. "Yep. Why not? That force inside you causes all those things, so it must be in him too. I'm not the expert here but I think it would be stupid to say he's like you in all those ways but not this one."

Not an expert, sure, but that's waterproof logic right there. I wasn't sure whether I had properly grasped the idea myself, let alone the fact that both of us might be that way. It was around about then that the concept began to finally take hold. Immortality. I'm not getting older. It means I could live for centuries. Millennia? I had read quite enough fiction to know that the very notion bore as many negatives as positives. It meant that I would outlive everyone else I knew. I would see people I cared about grow old, become weak and sick, and then die.

Everyone except ... Mira?

I wasn't sure if the potential for eternal youth with the boy of my dreams was unimaginably romantic and attractive or a bizarre parody of the natural order that was more like a cliché.

"I still don't think I'm used to the idea," I told Carlos, shaking my head. "It's like something out of a bad fantasy-romance novel. Except Mira would be like, a vampire or something equally ridiculous, since they live forever, and I'd be, um, the awkward loner kid from Washington State that falls in love with him."

I glanced at him and he was giving me this look that was a mixture of 'you're such a geek' and ... admiration? "Well anyway," I mumbled, looking back down at my hands, "that's what my life feels like sometimes. Like, it's too strange to be real, and it's all just some messed up illusion."

The sound of him clearing his throat made me look up, and Carlos was regarding me seriously, unusually sober for him. "Shay, I wanted to ask," he paused, not sure whether to continue, the halting uncertainty a powerful thing. "Those two, they're really smart and they know a lot of things that most people around here don't. León made sure I was taught Spanish, English and some French, as well as how to survive, the practical things. This house? It has books and computers and all this history, copied down by people a long time ago, but it's just that. Records. No one knows what it used to be like."

Oh.

"Except for you." He was looking me dead in the eyes. "You saw everything before it was like this. You've been places, learned things, that nobody else on this planet has. Me and Sofia, when we weren't fighting about whatever, sometimes we would talk about how Lucere used to be in the old days. That's what I wanted to ask about. Here, and other places that people lived too, and ... Earth."

For a moment all I could do was stare, amazed at such a question from Carlos. I had never considered him a deep thinker at all. Then, saddened. A sudden, gripping sympathy formed, that he had never known more than the pettiness of this life. None of them have seen the countries and cultures of their origin. Spain or maybe Latin America, Russia, the United States. At least I think America is where Lily's family must have come from, I don't know for sure.

"Not sure I can tell you all that much about Lucere," I admitted. "I was only here for four days before my treatment started."

Carlos shrugged. "I don't care." He smiled. "That's four days more than anyone else."

"Well, I saw the planet from the air when we arrived. All I could really think about then was what was coming: the treatment for my sickness." I thought back, to the view out the shuttle window. There was a twinge of hurt as I remembered my father, once more, but I repressed it. Don't really want to let him see that. "It was beautiful, though. The clouds sorta glowed, sparkled in the sun. Like they do now, only from the air it was, well, you could see so much more. The land and sea looked so clean and untouched and Aspira was the same. I mean, it was a big city, as large as some of the largest on Earth, and as far as I know it was one of the first places to be colonised, but it was like a model city, almost. Everything was well-cared for, planned out, scrubbed down. I remember, my mother," I swallowed, taking a breath. "She- ... she loved the place. Talked about it a lot on the way west to Palatus. It was very metropolitan, very fashionable. She was saying how it ranked in the top five most desirable cities anywhere, next to places like Vienna, Zurich and Melbourne. I think she would have wanted to move here if it wasn't for my grandparents back home."

I felt Carlos shift on the bed next to me, realising then that he was paying rapt attention to what I was saying. "I've never heard of those places before." His voice was soft, the fascination apparent. "I feel like I should know them; that I should have learned about them."

"I wish you could have, too. I really mean that. Earth was like here, only, there's just more of everything. It's bigger. Well, I don't mean in size, it's just full of ... life. No matter where you go, there's history and culture and stuff to see in nature, as well as things people have made, built." How do I even begin describing what our home planet is like to someone who probably hasn't even seen a picture of it or anything from it? "The people! Ten times what Lucere had. So many people you'd probably never get used to it."

"Do you think you'll ever see it again?" His question was serious, and earnest.

That's ... something I can only dream of. I felt strange at the mention of actually revisiting it, of returning; an odd nostalgia filling me. Thoughts of my parents, our house, the streets of Seattle, the magnificent horizon of the Pacific extending outward from land's end. The truth is, I have no idea what I would find even if I could return. If Earth is perfectly fine, it'd look so different after two centuries. If it's not and my fears are true, then ...

Then, the human race is doomed, nowhere is safe, and it won't matter anyway.

"I want to." My voice sounded tired and much older than it should have. "I don't know if I will."

"You know," Carlos told me, "maybe once we're done emptying that magazine into Hartley's face?" He shrugged, giving me a lopsided smile. "Maybe then."

His kindness made me feel good inside, so different from his brash self-assurance. Makes me wonder about him, again. Why is he like this with me? Time to find out.

"I have a question for you too. Why did you track the Liberators down?"

Uncertain, he raised a brow at me. "Uh, what do you mean?"

"Why did you steal a bike and spend all that time finding us?" I pinned him with a determined look. Nerves be damned, just do it. "You didn't owe me anything, and I don't think you like Mira all that much. I don't even know why, he hasn't done anything to you, or to me for you to dislike him. That's why I think it's not because of who he is, but because he's so ... close ... to me."

"Shay-"

"Not just that," I cut him off, "but all the things you've said, including after I, um, hit you. The number of times you've called me 'pretty', I'm starting to think you weren't really joking at all, and that you- ... you mean it."

Carlos' face was beginning to redden and there was a mixture of what seemed to be anger and denial frozen on his expression. He didn't respond until I reached out and touched his arm, his muscles tensing instantly as soon as my hand made contact.

"Carlos ... "

Teeth gritted. "Don't make me say it."

Right then, there was a knock on the door. I withdrew my hand a moment before Konstantin's head poked through the gap. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he intoned in his cheerful tenor, seeming to completely miss the tension in the room, "but it's time for some fresh air."

"Uh, no, not interrupting anything." Hope my reply sounds more innocent than it is. I cleared my throat, Carlos letting go of his breath next to me. "Um, what are we doing?"

"Why, what any young man will find entertaining, of course. It's well past time you learned more about guns." He let out a boisterous full-throated laugh. "We are going to shoot at things."

-o-0-O-0-o-

The chosen venue for the lesson in firearms was an outcropping some distance over the estate's border, off the northern end past the garden. Rising maybe thirty feet high, it was a massive hummock of stone formed by some ancient geological upheaval. The sides were steep but graduated enough that it wasn't too troublesome to climb; springy moss and wiry grass grew in the shelves that served as handholds. Cresting the outcropping showed the top to be a little uneven but mostly flat and square, roughly as wide as it was high.

We followed Konstantin through the firs until we reached it, the big man lugging a blanket-wrapped bundle as cargo. He had apparently decided that all three of his teenage charges needed educating in the safe use of guns, because Mira had been included along with both me and Carlos. He followed Konstantin up the side as if it were nothing, then offered me a hand and practically pulled me up what was left. From the top, it was clear why Konstantin had chosen this location.

Back towards the estate and northwest, where our previous escapades had taken place, the view was largely cut off by trees. The evergreen forest continued across to the north of where we were and onwards to the northeast, a giant sprawling inundation of dark green that pressed against the cliffs. However, to the east of the estate, an area which I hadn't really seen much of at all, the forest had devolved into younger oaklets and sporadic clumps of deciduous foliage across clover meadows. Some of the native trees were a spindly breed with light mottled trunks and large flat leaves almost double the size and exact shape as two hands, palm down, touching along the thumbs. I wasn't sure if it was his intention, but they sure looked like they'd make pretty good target practice

Konstantin unwrapped the bundle, placing it onto the surface of our rocky mesa. Jankowski's assault rifle was there, along with the assassin's sniper rifle. He unholstered the Tokarev pistol, removed the cartridge and placed it next to the others.

"Right," he began. "Whatever lies ahead, we are all going to have to be proficient with guns. That means everyone." The Russian gave each of us a grave stare. "It means knowing how to load ammunition, aim and shoot. Also, the basics of disassembly and cleaning. Maintaining the gun should be just as important as using it; a well-tended-to weapon will be faithful to your actions. You may one day find yourself in the position where you wished you had paid attention to these words."

I don't doubt it. We watched as he took the Tokarev apart, followed by partially deconstructing the assault rifle. I recalled watching Jankowski himself cleaning it, though the Russian did not go into nearly as much detail attempting to reduce the larger gun into its components. More than likely he's just being careful so this thing doesn't end up being just a pile of useless parts because no one can put it back together. Carlos was given the pistol and the assault rifle to me.

"Now," Konstantin beamed, "put them back together."

So we did. It was actually far easier than it looked. Swapping guns, I did the same with the pistol and Carlos with the rifle. Mira simply watched, and although there was no real danger in him touching these weapons, I did wonder at Konstantin's method and why it seemed to exclude him.

"It is less common these days, but sometimes you will see revolvers and bolt action rifles on Lucere. These, however, are all cartridge based."

At least cartridges will be easier to load. "What's the advantage in that?"

"Speed, mostly." He handed a pistol cartridge to Carlos, who took it, seeming surprised that Konstantin would allow him to do this with the much-loved Tokarev. "Load it, Carlos." Then to me, as the other boy slid the cartridge into the chamber: "The pistol holds eight rounds and it has a kick to it. If you need to fire more than that, you are probably in serious trouble anyhow, though at least reloading will be fast."

I took the other cartridge Konstantin was holding, the rifle one. Looking to him, querying, he gave me back an encouraging nod and indicated the same. This is easily the most macho activity I've been involved in. Despite the fact that it was serious business, it almost made me want to start laughing. That wouldn't be polite, this is neither the time nor the place for spontaneous joking. I followed the steps I'd been told to ready the gun for firing. Insert the cartridge, lock in place and engage the safety.

"Very good! You two have a fine appreciation of guns, I am glad to see."

"I've never got to use one before." Carlos shrugged indifferently, though the care and attention he displayed in merely holding the pistol spoke to me another tale. He has a healthy respect for firearms and what they can do. "The only guns we owned had no ammo, so I never got to touch them anyway. I just had my bow for hunting, it's the closest thing I've had to a gun. Been shot at a couple of times though."

"That is what we must next discuss," rumbled Konstantin. "Hitting, and not missing. When faced by a human enemy, where do you aim? Assume that you intend to kill."

"Uh, the head?" Seems logical, but ...

He nodded to me. "Good guess, but you should only aim for a headshot if you're a precision shooter or at very close range. The head may be a guaranteed kill, but it is also a small target, and missing can give up the element of surprise or leave you vulnerable to return fire." Konstantin shook his head. "No, with guns such as these, aim for the torso of your enemy. Chest wounds are often extremely debilitating, if not completely fatal, and if you can manage more than one hit, your opponent will be in big trouble."

What about the ... other ... kind of enemy? "Um, so how good are guns against sharpelings?"

"Now that is an interesting subject." Konstantin took the Tokarev back off Carlos and aimed towards a nearby fir, using both hands. "On a person, the whole body is potentially a target. On a sharpeling, they are armoured from head to foot and have a naturally tough constitution. There are only a couple of weak spots, which are not places that are normally exposed to a shooter."

"The throat is one of them, I know that."

"Good, Carlos." The Russian nodded. "The throat is the largest spot. The other weaknesses are the pits of the arms and knees, and the eyes. All are unguarded soft-tissue entry points into the body. So, you are about to say to me: 'Well Mr Andropov, how the heck do I hurt one of these things with a gun then?' My response is, of course, simply to shoot it in the head as many times as possible." He grinned widely, his disconcerting statement hanging in the air. "The opposite of what I just told you about humans, I know, but the only way to ensure a sharpeling stops moving is to put a bullet into the brain and considering how thick the skull is, it could take several shots."

Well, that's not very comforting.

"I have special rounds for this though, my little beauty." He lofted the pistol in admiration. "Fyodor was quite the forward thinker when he stocked the property. He bought plenty of 25mm ammo for the pistol, but also a smaller number of anti-materiel rounds. Armour-piercing shots can kill a sharpeling in one hit, but I have only a limited number, so I use them sparingly."

"So, what are we going to use for practice?" I lifted the assault rifle and aimed down the scope towards the trees away east. "These leaves look like they're made for it."

"That is the Aurum Butterfly Elm you are so intent on vandalising." He steered the rifle barrel down and to the left somewhat. "Here, try this angle. I marked some targets earlier. See if you can hit them from this range."

"Where?" I scanned across the area that Konstantin had indicated. "I don't see anything."

"Two elm trees, close together. There will be several leaves marked with chalk."

Swinging the scope across the area, I sought to locate the place he was talking about. Then, I caught it. Twin trees, a number of the large flat leaves dusted with white. Okay, let's give this a shot. Literally. I clicked off the safety as Konstantin was speaking in an undertone next to me. "Squeeze the trigger, don't jerk it. Keep the butt against your shoulder and be wary. The gun will recoil after you fire."

Squeeze. Butt against shoulder. Careful about recoil. I kept these things in mind as I steadied my aim. A leaf on the lower branches was right in the sights, the curious butterfly shape moving slightly in the breeze.

This shouldn't be too hard.

A moment before I pulled the trigger, I saw something else that made me pause. Behind the leaf and the trees, a dozen yards away, there was a glimpse of something. Something blue.

Blue?

Pale blue. A shade or two lighter than the sky. Just there, a splash of colour through the natural hue of the surroundings. Then the material shifted and the leg stepped out of view.

Leg?

It's a person, in a uniform.

A blue uniform.

The Liberators weren't done with us yet.

Oh god.

"An easy shot. Your target is small and at some distance, but it is not moving. Take your time."

Rifle lowering, my hands were beginning to shake as I turned to Konstantin. He gave me an odd look, and my shock must have been evident. "Shay, are you okay? What's wrong?"

"I saw s-someone," I stuttered breathily. "A man, I think."

His eyes widened and hurriedly, he took the rifle from me, raising it up to look through the scope. A moment of focus and then he swore softly to himself as he too saw what I had seen. "Mother of mercy."

"Who is it?" Carlos questioned.

The Russian lowered the rifle and looked at all three of us. "I would recognise that colouring anywhere. The Liberators. It has not been a full day since the assassin died and that bastard Hartley has already sent more our way." I blinked at the language he used to describe the lieutenant, a rarity for Konstantin. His hands clenched into fists, his lips pressed into a hard line. He is angry, and with good reason.

"What are we going to do?" I asked him.

"We are going to deal with this." His voice was low and slow. "I saw two men. This isn't a lone infiltrator sent to assassinate, this is more like an assault group. There will be more than just two, I am guessing four to six men. No more would be needed for an operation such as this. Their heading is the house and they are as close as we are right now. Lily, she needs to be warned."

"I'll do it." Carlos' response was immediate. "Shay is safest if he sticks with you, and he," nodding towards Mira, "will go wherever Shay goes anyway, so that leaves me. I'm fast, I can get there quickly and without them seeing me."

"Yes. Go." The Russian nodded curtly and Carlos responded in kind. In seconds he was at the edge of the outcropping then disappearing down, and gone. Konstantin turned back to me, and his face was somber, but behind it was a roaring anger, a vindictive strain of emotion. He has had enough of this and I'm with him all the way. No more being pushed around. "This is what must happen. Mira will stay here. This is very important. One of the lessons I took from our meeting with Hartley at Volkov is that he considered Mira too dangerous to be left alive. The belief that your boy died is a massive advantage in our favour, and he must not let himself be seen until we can guarantee none of Hartley's men can report back to their commander. Understand?"

"I understand." Nodding, I tried to ignore the unease that was building over the urgency of the situation. I don't like the idea he'll be left out, but Konstantin is right. Mira is our secret weapon, quite literally. At least he'll be out of harm's way.

"You may do, but does he?" The big man looked at Mira, who met his gaze in return. Then, my miracle turned to me and there was a calm expression on his face that said: 'because he will keep you safe, and because you can do anything; that's why I agree to this.'

I'm really glad you understand. I smiled at him and caught that hidden glow of satisfaction, of connection, as his eyes met mine. Behind his mask, that faultless reinforcement, that inspiring empathy burned as strongly as it ever had. It was like a drug, that took the edge off the adrenalin, that cleared my head and focused my will power. Already feeling better, I looked back to Konstantin.

"He understands."

"Mmm." The big man nodded casually, then addressing Mira directly. "You will have a good view of what's going on from here. An excellent view, even. Do not forget this."

That's some consolation. At least Mira won't be unaware, blind to what's happening. "What about us though, what are we doing?"

Konstantin's hand came to my shoulder and gripped it. His voice was full of iron and resolve. "We are going to stop these men in their tracks."

Oh boy.

The crash course in guns was about to become a live-fire exercise.

-o-0-O-0-o-

Watching Konstantin stride off towards the confrontation, I balanced the rifle barrel across a branch, keeping the scope on where the men were. My vantage point was in a copse of elms, almost in a direct line between the rock outcropping we had just come from and where the two men now were, moving through the lighter tree cover before the open grass and the security fence. There were still no other men visible, but Konstantin had warned me again that any others would not be breaking cover until it was necessary.

I need to pay very careful attention. He told me that I'd know when to shoot, that the moment would present itself. I'm not going to let him down. The amount of trust and the power I'd been given was tremendous, and it scared the hell out of me. I was sure that the Liberators could smell the sweat, could hear the apprehensive thump of my pulse as I stared down the scope. I might have to shoot one of these guys.

Then again, there was an angry tempering there, a counterbalance that made it bearable. They're coming here to kill us. Fuck them. If I have to, I'd shoot a dozen people like this to save those I care about.

I don't want to, but I may not have a choice ...

The distance was hard to judge perfectly, but it was several dozen metres at least and finally I saw Konstantin emerge into view again, having circled round to give a false sense of the direction from which he was approaching. He appeared unarmed, though of course I knew this wasn't the case. Voice booming, he greeted the invaders jovially, as if welcoming them to the Andropov estate with open arms.

"Hello!" His walk was measured and unafraid, but not yet aggressive either. The men both started in surprise and immediately raised their weapons, training them on him. "You are approaching private property. Visitors are unwanted."

Oh hell. My heart was in my mouth. Konstantin, I hope you know what you're doing.

"Hands where I can see them." The man on the left, apparently the squad's officer, spoke. From where I was, I could only just hear him, but the air was still and the sound carried well.

Konstantin lifted his hands in submission, and the other soldier began to approach, rifle still raised, when the Russian interrupted, halting him where he was with the strength of his tone. "Stop there. I have said to you, this is private property. Your presence is not required."

"You aren't the judge of that," the officer responded coolly. "Where are the other three? Two youths and a woman."

The big man nodded his head tamely, hands still in the air. "They are at the house. I was tending the garden and I saw you and your friend walking through the trees." From here, I could hear the appeal in his voice, could see it on his face. He's stalling them, lulling them, but for what? "I am a man of science," Konstantin was pleading, "and I have no wish to begin a conflict. It is just me and my family trying to survive. Who would wish us harm? We have done no wrong."

"All three of them are at your house, up there?" Nodding towards the building, visible in the middle distance.

"Yes." Konstantin lowered his hands to his sides slowly, neither soldier objecting at this gesture. "Please, we just want you to leave in peace."

"See now, that," the officer spoke, punctuating the air with the emphasis on the word, "is a problem." He pursed his lips and gave a whistle. From the broad cluster of trees that they had been travelling through, three more men emerged, assault rifles all trained on the Russian. A fourth appeared by himself off to Konstantin's right, almost directly opposite where I was. "We're not here for a friendly talk."

Six men.

Ah, shit.

The officer lowered his weapon and walked up to Konstantin so he was almost in his face, the big man perfectly still, his expression unchanged and still not even slightly worried. "So, you must have done something to piss the CO off or we wouldn't be here to collect you." The smirk was unmistakable even at this distance. "Being reasonable don't count for shit. Whatever you did, I don't much care. I'm here to carry this out."

What do I do? I wanted to panic. The urge to simply run away or hide was very powerful, but I knew I couldn't. This is the moment that Konstantin was waiting for. They're all out in the open. Only, they're too spread out. The assault rifle could do bursts of fire or single shots, I'd been told, but ... out of the four soldiers standing behind the officer, I think I can shoot at two or maybe three before they could react. That will leave no time for the officer, or the other soldier off to the side, by himself.

"This is disappointing." Konstantin shook his head. "We will have to do this the hard way."

My breath was coming faster now. Oh fuck. Oh fuck, what do I do? Which one do I aim for? I scanned between them, the nervous tension driving me to nausea. Repressed it, ignored it. You have to think, Shay. The officer is right in front of Konstantin. You know he's really fast with his pistol. You remember how quickly he took out that Spanish guy at the GSPI way back? Worry about the others. Choose one and aim for him. The guy off the side is the furthest out. Him. I focused on the lone soldier, but widened the angle some so I could still see everyone.

Maybe I should just do it? Maybe the distraction is all Konstantin needs. What is he waiting for?

"The hard way?" The officer's face screwed up in amusement and amazement at the arrogance, seeming astounded at the temerity of this man debating his authority. "What the fu-"

BOOM!

There was a cacophonous crack of sound, a metallic thunderbolt of reverberation, and the two leftmost soldiers' heads exploded simultaneously, skull and brain splattering as a single shot scythed through both. Before the bodies had even fallen, there were two more booming shots, and the men beside them suffered the same fate. It was sickeningly fast, all four going from living to dead in barely two seconds, under the time it took for me to realise what had just happened. Once I realised, I knew I had to act.

Shoot!

I squeezed the trigger. The burst of fire was loud, the barrel recoiling and riding up as I held the trigger in for a second, the butt drilling into my shoulder. The volley struck the soldier in a line beginning at his shoulder, on through the neck and above, the final shots landing on his chin and jaw. His head snapped back from the impact, red spraying as he fell backwards, dead.

Holy shit!

Konstantin's pistol was in the officer's face, no slouch with his quick-draw. As I caught my breath, it all hit me at once. There's no way Konstantin shot them, not with his Tokarev and not from where he's standing. A sniper? The only sniper rifle we have, Konstantin left it at the outcropping with ... Mira?!

"Put the gun down." The big man's tenor was unrelenting, commanding, exuding authority.

The response was instant, fury and bewilderment. "What is thi-"

"Put the gun down -- now."

There was no refusing that statement. The officer crouched slowly, placing the rifle at his feet. Then, as he was straightening, a flash of movement and suddenly, the man's sidearm was out, lightning quick, the pistol trained on the Russian just as surely as the Tokarev was on him. I didn't see where he drew that pistol from. That was really fast. As fast as Konstantin is.

"Now you should call your boys off," rasped the officer, "or we can both bite it right here and now."

Call us off? Why would he do that? Then I thought: why hadn't Mira shot the officer anyway? The answer was obvious. He can't. They're too close to each other. A sniper shot from the rocks would go through both men from that angle. He can't do anything without risking a hit on Konstantin.

"There is no call for that." Konstantin was unyielding. "You can still walk away from this. No more lives need be lost."

Mira can't do anything. Konstantin can't either.

But I can.

"Like all that 'we just want to live in peace' bullshit you just told me?" The officer was sneering but he wasn't ready to give up. "Why should I trust anything you say?"

No more lives need be lost. I want answers from this guy.

Adjusting the scope, I narrowed the zoom as much as I could. The firing-mode tab made a faint click as I nudged it across with my finger, from burst back to single-shot. Precision is what's going to win this. Taking a deep breath, I shifted the crosshair as close as I could to my target.

The Russian's expression was grim. "The other option is death. Guaranteed death. An ending you will not escape from."

"Fuck that," snarled the officer, "and fuck you!"

His finger squeezed against the trigger ...

... and so did mine.

The placement of the shot was incredible, striking the barrel and ripping the weapon from his hand before it could discharge. In an instant Konstantin was forward, the Tokarev rising and smashing down, pistol-whipping the disarmed officer. He staggered, dazed, and fell to his knees. Then again, for good measure, and he was gone, out cold.

Wow.

I did it.

Dislodging myself from the trees, I walked out into the open, crossing to where Konstantin was. He was checking the officer, to make sure the man was fully unconscious. Four bodies were sprawled upon the grass as if they had all just fallen asleep, the perforated cranial mess the only proof that our guardian angel had made his presence felt. The fifth was off to the side, lying where I had shot him, in a pool of his own blood. It was all surreal, a feeling that had repeated itself too often now. This was a scene out of a movie, not real life. It was a Mexican stand-off from a western, or a war film.

So crazy. Not here. Not my life.

"Shay!" Konstantin was coming to me and he immediately wrapped me in a gigantic bear hug, squeezing me before letting me go and grasping my shoulders in that typical way of his. Personable and genuine, an honest reflection on my actions. "You did fantastic. I know it is ... " he paused for a second, trying for the right words, his voice softening, "horrible. None of this should be celebrated. Yet, you made the right decisions, you were smart and you did not let yourself scare. I am so proud of you right now." He blew out a breath. "That was a close situation, but we did deal with it."

We did. I can't believe what just happened, but we did. His arms felt good around me for that second, and once again they made me think of my dad, and there came that futile anger that I had been robbed of ever seeing him again. I wish I'd had a chance to at least say goodbye, but not even that. Can't go there now though. Save this for another time.

"I just did what you taught me." I smiled weakly at him. "I was terrified I would miss."

Konstantin shook his head, a smile appearing on his face and growing rapidly wider, in short order. "Miss? Shay, my dear boy, you shot a gun from a man's hand from that range! You saved my life and you provided us with a captive. That is nothing short of remarkable."

Should I tell him? I guess I should.

"Well, you see," I bit my lip, "I wasn't aiming for the gun. I was actually aiming for his hand."

He burst into laughter, a deep rich welcoming sound. "Hahaha! Even your mistakes are beneficial, eh? You know, I think sometimes, providence is following you around, just waiting to strike."

There was no arguing that. Whether it was providence or luck was just a matter of perspective. Not just providence though. One thing I did know for sure: despite the trouble I would get into, my miracle always came through for me, no matter what.

No matter what.

-o-0-O-0-o-

We all arrived at the terrace at the same moment. Carlos and Lily exited cautiously from the lounge and Mira was wandering through the garden. He was carrying the blanket, rifle and ammo bundled inside, under his arm; as innocent as if he were taking a stroll through the woods. Konstantin was bearing the unconscious soldier over his back, and he wasted no time in proceeding straight inside, eager to be done with his cargo.

"No one was hurt?" Lily looked at both me and Mira. "We heard shots."

"We're fine," I told her. "There are five dead soldiers down past the fence though. It was nearly six but we, uh, got lucky, and managed to take this guy alive. I think he's an officer."

"I hope Dimi can find out something useful from him. He won't get the same fair treatment that Federico got, I don't think." She shrugged. "Come in, Shay. Go wash up and have something to drink. I want to show you Hartley's data."

"Okay."

Carlos took the guns off both of us and went off to find Konstantin, while Mira followed me inside to the bathroom. As soon as we were alone, he pulled me by my shoulder and turned me around. Then, hands on my neck, his mouth on mine, sensual, soft, slippery. The kiss was brief and I shivered in delight as we drew apart, his forehead resting on mine. His eyes told me his thoughts and it was full of praise, bursting with pride; 'you were perfect, I knew you would be.'

"Me?" I whispered, licking my lips, the lingering feel of his touch denying me proper focus. "You take no credit. I didn't know you could shoot, but that? Wow."

The flippancy was there again, his attitude seeming to brush it away; 'it was nothing special, I did it for the payment.' Payment? Then he leaned in and planted another gentle kiss. Jeeze. "Mira," I giggled, breathless. "Lily will b-" Interrupted by another kiss. "-be waiting f-" Another kiss. "For us and-" Kiss. "We sh-" Kiss. "-ould go-" Kiss. "To her."

Kiss.

"Stop it!" I laughed, face flushed. "You know how distracting that is?"

He shrugged, accompanied by a 'I don't care, I've been waiting a couple hours to kiss you again' look.

"Come on." I dragged him across to the faucet so we could wash up, something he reluctantly allowed to occur. Despite the day's events, that kind of treatment made me feel so good, and it alleviated the unpleasantness of the whole situation. Right then, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face if I tried. I kinda wish we had more time to ourselves right now too, but ... later.

Lily was in her study and bade us sit as soon as we entered. She vacated the chair in front of the computer and I took it.

"What was on it?"

"Some rather interesting material." Her eyes gleamed. "It is mostly emails between Volkov staff and, well, you'll see. I'm not sure why they were communicating this way, but the content is enlightening."

"Enlightening?" I gave her a curious look.

"Just read it. All of it. Save your reactions for last."

My reactions? Let's see then. It was a series of five emails. I was about to discover they involved someone I remembered well.

So I began reading.

Date: Fri, 3 Jul 2099 10:15:46 -0100 (ACT)
From: Christopher Albans [chris.albans@primatel.net.luc]
Subject: congrats

Hey John!

Hope you're settling in at the VRF complex. I've heard a lot about that place and your boss has a reputation as an entrepreneur, so it's bound to be an exciting job for you. There's a couple of funny things about this though, and this is a heads up just so you know a little more about the situation -- he left public sector because he secured FGHI contracts for R&D medicine in Germany and Italy in '96 but then, less than a year later, he negotiated release, upped and came to Lucere for this. Those were lucrative federal agreements, worth a LOT of money.

Funny, right? Not something they mentioned when you applied for the job, was it?

I also found out that the provincial administration was fine allowing him to build the centre in Palatus, right where he wanted, until Aspira overruled it. They stalled Volkov's deadline then basically subsidised construction out in the country, where it is now. Don't know whether it was one of the premier's 'special projects' or if it's a LHC grant, but they all but threw money at him to build his medical centre where they wanted it.

So, the govt. is seriously invested in this, and I don't know why, yet. If I find out anything more, I'll let you know. Oh .. if you see Lucille Knight or Fyodor Andropov at the office, say hi. Great people, met both at conference in Galbraith in March. Lucille was a real sweetheart and Fyodor? That man can drink like you wouldn't believe, he was downing the stoli like it was water. Had an awesome time.

Send my love to Marian and Ben. If work isn't too hectic, I'll come see you all in August some time.

Love,
Chris.

Then the second email.

Date: Thu, 10 May 2102 14:41:25 -0100 (ACT)
From: C. J. Albans [c.albans@dod.gov.luc]
Subject: news for you

Hey brother

Thanks for the latest on the advanced cell restoration project. I can still review this stuff easily from the LHC, but your opinion counts for plenty and I trust your judgement on it. Plus, less red tape and messing around. I prefer the news from a source I know is playing it straight.

Good news! Your clearance has *finally* been upgraded. You're good for everything now. I know how long it's been since this first came up, and you've been really damn patient, so the very first thing I'm going to do is just send you a synopsis of the official classified brief. More to come later, I'll bring the full thing with me when I'm in Palatus next weekend.

Is the fishing on the estuary any good this time of year? Could do with a time out, work has been stressing me out recently.

Love,
Chris.

Attached Document: DoD C3A File0047589 AQUMI brief.doc

Then, the document itself:

***CLASSIFIED MATERIAL -- DO NOT DISTRIBUTE***
***Viewing without security credentials is a prosecutable offence***
***This is enforceable under Section 7 of the Planetary Security Act***

Extracted from:
AQUMI: The Transformative Nature of Reality.
By T. L. De Santis.

"In summary, the field is local to the planetary biosphere of Lucere and is not present on any other terrestrial location that has both an atmosphere and is capable of supporting macroscopic organisms.

It has three identifiable features; engineered intelligence in the form of a programmed subset of goals that are reproduced in the way it reacts, primarily with organic matter. Quantum unity; a manipulation of the paradigm of basic physical constants. This allows for a redistribution of matter and energy in ways that we do not yet understand, and for the final point to be enacted: biological meta-stasis. The preservation of certain organic and genetic types, based on the the first feature, the intelligent recognition of states of existence. This is predetermined by criteria that are also unknown at this present time.

There is no mechanism that allows for exploration of this in more detail until a method is reached that can affect and alter the unified quantum state. The popularly-described aemfid label is no more than a side-show that represents the expanded field in action. While the obvious artificial origin of this profound change in our perspective of the physical world gives us clues, we cannot yet describe this alien technological marvel in more distinct terms.

Until such time as further explanation is available, we will continue to reference it as aqumi; the autonomous quantum-unified morphogenic integrity field. It is my recommendation that this research be married with the coordinated efforts of the physics and biology academia on both Earth and Lucere. Only with this combination of minds will we be able to solve the staggering mystery that has been unearthed on this world."

Followed by a third:

Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2103 11:56:04 -0200 (AET)
From: John Albans [john.albans@vmc.org.luc]
Subject: checking in

Hey Chris

Just quickly checking in. Mikhail has pencilled in the first trials on human subjects for early next year, February or March. We have three potential candidates. The most promising is a 13. y.o boy from the United States. He has a very rare type-E genetic deficiency that generates physical characteristics similar to the Bolivian case study. It will be ideal for a trial treatment and I have very high hopes that our viral cure will work, specially if it is aided by aqumi.

Best case scenario, we got the right DNA activator sequence (microscopic chance of this, but you never know) and it will mesh with him. Worst case, the viral strain will do nothing. Either way, we'll try to get some useful data on interaction between it and the subject.

Marian sends her love. Ben misses you and would really like if you came by again. He loved Mersenne last time you took him. Apparently Uncle Chris is much cooler than dad. Who knew?

Catch ya later!
J.

Then a fourth:

Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2104 09:13:37 -0200 (AET)
From: John Albans [john.albans@vmc.org.luc]
Subject: no time

jesus .. chris what the fuck is going on??? the media won't say shit about palatus...... the military has taken over the quarantine and i still cant find out anything about ben and marian .. this is bad .. so bad. i dont know what the fcuk this disease is but its really serious.

dont have much time, miguel told me that the choppers and apcs are everywhere .. heading all over province including here. really really bad feeling about this ... im getting out of here as soon as ive sent this email .. but first ... i disabled the timer on the boys chamber so he wont wake yet. he was supposed to be up in the next couple hours but now he will snooze in there for maybe another week or so .... give him a fighting chance so some soldier doesnt shoot him the moment he surfaces. the hard data on aqumi and the vrf research is all encoded and stored. we are in the clear .. i didnt leave shit for the grunts to find.

brother if you can do anything about any of this .. PLEASE for the love of god and on the lives of my boy and my wife .... TRY. palatus may be going to hell from this so called sharpe virus .. but the rest of us dont have to. the rest of us can find a way past this .. and the secret is in the numbers.

please ... try.

all my love
john.

Then the last:

Date: Thu, 29 Feb 2104 02:04:19 -0100 (ACT)
From: C. J. Albans [c.albans@dod.gov.luc]
Subject: (no subject)

John

I pray that you're at a place where you can read this message.

I swear to god I did everything in my power -- EVERYTHING -- to get them out of Palatus. Anything at all to find them, to get them to safety .. but it didn't matter what I did, absolutely nothing would change their orders. The whole province is shut down. No exceptions. The city is a flaming wreck. It's still burning even now, I'm told. I watched the whole thing with the Secretary and the CINC Aurum, a general named Stanowicz. Every second of it, in horrible hi-def colour.

That was a week ago and I still feel sick to the stomach every time I think about it. Thousands of innocent people are dead. I didn't join the DoD for this, it was about defending the citizens of this planet against external threats.

Not bombing the shit out of civilian targets. Not destroying our own cities.

The worst thing ... two days after that, we were hearing of cases in Lorentz.

Even worse? Unconfirmed rumours this virus is in ARGENTUM. Yeah, you read that right. It's not even confined to Aurum any more. It's on another landmass.

Already.

John .. brother, I don't mind telling you this scares the hell out of me. I've never seen anything like it before. No disease in Earth's history comes close. It mutates us, turns us into beasts. I know it's early and we can still stop this, but this thing is going to spread like wildfire and it's already moving faster than we can react. I don't know where you are, but you need to get to Aspira. Whatever else goes down, you'll be protected here.

If anything happens to me, I've sent out a lot of the data on aqumi to an operative in military intelligence. He's 2IC for a mechanised division up north somewhere, goes by the name of James Hartley. The only thing I've left out is the location of the aqumi control node. Including all this together is too dangerous. It's with a different friend, another military guy, a surveyor from Mersenne, Charles Bainbridge.

John .. please, if you read this, contact me. We'll find a way through this.

All my love.
Chris.

Stunned.

"They're ... talking about me in there. John Albans, he was the doctor that I spoke to the day I went in for my treatment." I managed. Turning to stare at Lily, she gave me a sad look in return. "They knew about this force, the same force inside me now, before the Sharpe virus even happened."

"Yes," she replied softly, "they did. Now that force has a name: aqumi."

"Lily," I whispered. The horror of what Albans must have experienced. "He saved my life. The doctor. If he hadn't disabled the timer on my chamber, I'd have woken up in the middle of that. There's no way I'd have survived."

"It was a frightening time. I can't imagine what it was like to see the military turning on the civilian population to stop the virus spreading." She shook her head. "For thousands to die, but for it to be meaningless."

"It wasn't meaningless for the Albans brothers though." I touched the computer screen, on the last email. Charles Bainbridge, from Mersenne. "We know what Hartley wants now."

"Indeed we do," she hummed. "His ancestor inherited a lot of the information about aqumi, but not the location of this 'control node.' Whatever it is, we need to find it before he does."

"The soldier we captured, maybe he can be some help with that." I stood up and suddenly felt dizzy, swaying on my feet. In the blink of an eye, Mira was standing and steadying me.

"My goodness!" Lily was on her feet too. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

She pressed her hand to my forehead. "You're a little warm. Maybe fatigue or dehydration. I'm not the doctor here, but you need to take it easy."

"Lily, I-"

"No buts!" She scolded. "Go. Lie on your bed and cuddle with your boy. Take a few minutes." My face was turning red, although I didn't know why the association, the knowledge of me and Mira together, still made me feel awkward in company.

"Okay, okay!"

"Though for heaven's sakes, if you're going to do anything more than cuddling ... shut the door."

I'm fairly certain as Mira pulled me out of the room, my brain imploding from Lily's words, that my face was hot enough to cook a steak on.

Konstantin was right. She really IS impossible sometimes.

-o-0-O-0-o-

There was a lot going through my mind as we entered my room. Strangely, it wasn't about all the stuff that had happened today, or yesterday. The whirlwind of action and information was very intense and Lily was right. Despite having a good night's sleep, I did feel fatigued by it all. That wasn't what occupied my attention though.

For some reason, what Carlos said about me was sticking in my head. I knew he didn't mean anything by it, and it was just teasing. Yet, all the references to 'pretty' and being girlish? It got to me. Depressed me, even, though I wasn't sure why.

It must have been at the back of my mind for a while, because all of a sudden it just came tumbling out.

I look at Mira like he's a hero, I think of him as my knight in shining armour. The others .. they know that if someone does the rescuing, it's going to be him and I'll be the- ... the damsel in distress. I shuddered at the comparison. I can't even deny that he makes me feel ... feminine, sometimes. The way that he looks at me, touches me, protects me. I love all of it, but I can't say it isn't true, because it is. He is so masculine too. I've seen exactly how masculine he is, and there's no mistaking that.

So why does it bother me so much?

Because I'm a boy -- not a girl?

Feeling irritable, I sat down on my pillow, leaning against the headboard. Mira was closing the door, and as he came across to me, he immediately noticed something was different. He sat on the edge of the bed next to me, his head cocking to the side.

I tried to give him my least insecure smile. "You don't think of me as a girl, do you?" The rhetorical question sounded more pathetic than it was meant to. He gave me a long, slow stare, a wordless look that didn't really say anything much. Maybe he does think of himself as the masculine one and I'm the feminine one. It always seems that way when we're embracing.

Mind made up about whatever it was he was thinking, he climbed fully onto the bed next to me. Without a hint of what he was up to, he stripped off his pants, casting them onto the floor. What is he doing? Then, Mira climbed across me, straddling my body, and sat down on my lap.

Oh.

His hands took mine from my sides, lifting them and placing them on his hips, then sliding them down the back. Right under the boxer waistband, beneath the material and across bare skin to where his body was pressed into my lap. This is exactly the way he loves touching me- ... oh.

I squeezed, my pulse suddenly soaring in speed as I understood his fascination with this part of the body. It was squishy, soft, warm and so smooth, almost frictionless it seemed to me. As I kneaded him, one thing was very certain. It was turning me on, big time. Above me, Mira arched his back, pushing his hips into my hands.

Exactly like I do.

I looked up, to his face. He was gazing back down at me, his feel-good smile on full force, but there was something more. The cheeks were tinged pink, a blush of nervous happy excitement. If anyone had asked me before then what I considered 'sexy' to mean, I would have found it difficult to give a proper answer. Right then? That image was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen.

He's enjoying it. Masculine, feminine? Doesn't matter. Because it's me ... and him.

I continued my massage, staring up at him. The way his face changed, the subtle twinges of thrill as my hands moved, it all added an emotional joy to the sexual energy that was already there. His hands came down, sliding under the hem of my shirt, Mira's fingers and palms rubbing my chest and stomach in rhythm with his hips and my hands as they moved in my lap.

Then, out of nowhere we were kissing and it was all wet, tongues rubbing together lazily, slow, sensual and horny. For once, I showed some will power, and slowing down the fantasy before it played out, I gently forced us apart, breath short and body tingling, dangerously close from the pleasure of it.

I want this to be about him, for once.

"Mira," I whispered. "I'm going to make you happy. The same way you've made me."

Pulling upwards with my hands, his eyes were going wide as he rose obligingly off my lap until he was resting on his knees in front of me. The impressive tent of his attraction was straining against the buttons of his fly, my fingers still idly gripping and squeezing his backside. I looked up at him for confirmation, and he was smiling his Shay-only smile as he gave the smallest nod of agreement and anticipation.

It crossed my mind, as I brought my left hand around to undo that single button that stood between me and a new milestone in my life, that I was completely ready for this.

He's going to love it ... and so am I.

I know, I know! It's been a full month! Didn't put up a single chapter during November. I will say this: I'm not apologising. This story is *hard* to write and it takes a lot out of me, in time and energy. Ch. 15 will hopefully be quicker, but I will not make any promises approaching Christmas.
Shay! That button! Oh my! :blushing:
Reviews, comments and likes always appreciated. :thumbup:
Copyright © 2013 Stellar; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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  • Site Administrator

Of course you leave it there :P Great chapter.

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Phenomenal chapter on so many fronts! It is exciting learning more about what is known -- and not known -- about Lucere. Plus, I love the fact that the boys physical expression of their deep, abiding, soul-searing love is progressing: go Shay! It really is an incredible story and one that is so different from others that it is in a rare class that includes only a handful of other stories. As for the delay, the clear perfection of your writing comes through like messages from Mira to Shay, and such perfection cannot come easily. I can only imagine how much time, energy, and intense concentration must be required. So thanks again for your story! May your holidays be fabulous, and whenever the next chapter comes, it will be appreciated!

 

John

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I agree with Myr and hillj69! Two thumbs upthumbsupsmileyanim.gif and now you have planted the idea that maybe you can get a chapter ready in time for the holidays.........whistle.gif

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I'd just thought about this story the other day, and then this chapter

appears. So I'm calling it perfectly timed. Keep your own schedule, I'm

happy to see each chapter, whenever it comes. Lucere is a special place

in the universe, -an enigma. It seems that the more we find out, the

less we really know. There is the present turmoil, and now we are shown

a tiny bit of the story from two centuries before. This place is a template

for human trauma and suffering. Chaos caused by some sort of organized

grid, -what a freaky idea! Is this planet a giant board game?

I love this story.

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On 12/03/2012 02:00 AM, Myr said:
Of course you leave it there :P Great chapter.
My betas skewered me for the placement of that scene right at the chapter end. HAHA! I'm so not even sorry either :D
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On 12/03/2012 02:03 AM, hillj69 said:
Phenomenal chapter on so many fronts! It is exciting learning more about what is known -- and not known -- about Lucere. Plus, I love the fact that the boys physical expression of their deep, abiding, soul-searing love is progressing: go Shay! It really is an incredible story and one that is so different from others that it is in a rare class that includes only a handful of other stories. As for the delay, the clear perfection of your writing comes through like messages from Mira to Shay, and such perfection cannot come easily. I can only imagine how much time, energy, and intense concentration must be required. So thanks again for your story! May your holidays be fabulous, and whenever the next chapter comes, it will be appreciated!

 

John

Lucere's past will become better explored before this is all done. In fact, that's the place where the real answers will originate, in many senses, so it can't be totally forgotten!

 

Go Shay, indeed!

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On 12/03/2012 02:54 AM, Daddydavek said:
I agree with Myr and hillj69! Two thumbs upthumbsupsmileyanim.gif and now you have planted the idea that maybe you can get a chapter ready in time for the holidays.........whistle.gif
Thank you!

 

Though, the caveat of 'maybe' is my saviour in this instance. Escape clause FTW!

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On 12/03/2012 07:08 AM, Stephen said:
I'd just thought about this story the other day, and then this chapter

appears. So I'm calling it perfectly timed. Keep your own schedule, I'm

happy to see each chapter, whenever it comes. Lucere is a special place

in the universe, -an enigma. It seems that the more we find out, the

less we really know. There is the present turmoil, and now we are shown

a tiny bit of the story from two centuries before. This place is a template

for human trauma and suffering. Chaos caused by some sort of organized

grid, -what a freaky idea! Is this planet a giant board game?

I love this story.

Thank you :)

 

I know I am an expert at revealing information that only poses more questions. Lucere is indeed a place that is full of death and destruction.

 

A note on the aqumi grid. The grid itself didn't cause anything per se! It was the catalyst for a lot of human goings-on, but it was simply *there*. The real source of chaos is of course the Sharpe virus itself. The question I'd be asking if I was a reader is: where did this disease come from?

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For me, this was the best chapter so far - both in content and the flow of the story. Well done! worshippy.gifworshippy.gif

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On 12/03/2012 01:34 PM, Conner said:
For me, this was the best chapter so far - both in content and the flow of the story. Well done! worshippy.gifworshippy.gif
Really? :o I don't think of it as one of my best, in honesty. In fact, if anything I think it serves a purpose (as every chapter should) but it doesn't fit into the 'favourites' category. Thank you though!
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Another fantastic chapter. Your skills in slowly revealing your plotline are fantastic! Can't wait for more!

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On 12/17/2012 03:15 PM, nero said:
Another fantastic chapter. Your skills in slowly revealing your plotline are fantastic! Can't wait for more!
Thank you :) I trust you won't be disappointed with what comes next ;)
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You are so good at just leaking the information out just a bit at a time. And cliffhanger hours excellent at them. This one hinges all on a.........button.

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On 05/20/2013 02:49 PM, Daithi said:
You are so good at just leaking the information out just a bit at a time. And cliffhanger hours excellent at them. This one hinges all on a.........button.
That button! I think I'm with Shay on this one, I'd love to see behind that button. :wub:
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I lost track of the story and just found it again. A really great chapter, thank you.

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On 05/28/2013 12:37 AM, sandrewn said:
I lost track of the story and just found it again. A really great chapter, thank you.
Glad you're enjoying it :) Don't forget, you can choose to follow the story to get notifications of when it is updated, if you prefer. Also please don't forget to like any chapters you enjoyed!
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Another great and wonderful chapter just to perfect. I didn't see the shoot out coming and man that was powerful. And man the email so much comes out! And then more great Mira Time:yes::worship::worship::worship::thankyou:

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While some may have considered this a cliffie... It answers my question from the last chapter!

So, I have been wondering about this control node as well as where the transforming virus originated. I have a guess.

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47 minutes ago, Al Norris said:

While some may have considered this a cliffie... It answers my question from the last chapter!

Yes, that button is holding back an awful lot, both metaphorically and also very literally. 😏

48 minutes ago, Al Norris said:

So, I have been wondering about this control node as well as where the transforming virus originated. I have a guess.

I am sure your guess is well considered, though I would be surprised if it lands near the actual truth.

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8 minutes ago, Stellar said:

I am sure your guess is well considered, though I would be surprised if it lands near the actual truth.

Well, I'm not dumb enough to blurt it out. But I will be honest when the reveal is made.

Now, back to reading!

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