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    Stellar
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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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Veil of Shadow - 6. ... I Will Find You

From nothing, the heavenly light exploded and the darkness was banished. All the terrible pain and inflicted injury became less than trivial, the emboldening warmth filling him. It was renewal and inspiration, fortitude and courage, and his body and spirit became completely whole once more. Cured, alive, aware, connected, redeemed ... raised up. Now, it was inevitable that he break free, for there were only two paths to walk: failure and death, or life and the complete unity of his purpose.

He was not dead, and therein lay their first and only error.

Mira.

He looked up, the divine expression of his name so compelling it could override anything. There it was, very close, but an illusion achingly far away. The figure was the same as ever. The emotional flush of deep hurt on Shay's face was an angry disparity to the rest of his appearance; slim, soft, his air of virtuous innocence crowned by rich chestnut and centred upon those sincere blue-green eyes.

It was this sight, and this alone, that truly focused Mira. Whatever other troubles that were to come were instantly deemed immaterial.

This situation was a repeat of Hartley's wounds and it could not be allowed to lie.

Leave none alive.

Burn it to the ground.

All who stand between us, kill them.

Find me.

The last line was the greatest, the objective that superceded everything. His own tribulations were meaningless, simply another trial to be done with, but the reflected pain that he saw in The Other was inexcusable. With all of his being, Mira spoke wordlessly to the boy he would do anything for, delivering his unbroken promise once more.

Then, the image before him finished and the wall of his prison dimmed to black. The fantastic ebullience of Shay's hidden sunlight was cut off, but it no longer mattered. Now, he had a chance. He had been given a great boon, a strength not unlike that of Aspira. He had been gifted with the power of freedom by his Shay, and he intended to use it for all it was worth.

Now, he would burn this place to the ground.

The restraints upon him were strong, built in anticipation of his potential. His captors had some inkling of the danger he could pose, but Mira knew their foresight was limited. Always would they misunderstand the true magnificence of the light within, and that was their greatest weakness. He had no mastery to push and pull the material world as a plaything, not the godlike strength that his beloved wielded. His power was physical, with his body as the channel for the light, and all he needed was contact.

Touch.

The chair beneath him, the restraints on his arms and legs, were the recipients; the celestial heat flowed into their structure, a flood of quantum power. The clothes he was wearing began to grow warm in sync with the metal, and then to smoke. With another push, a massive pulse of aqumi went through his skin, and then another. All his clothes ignited in a heartbeat and shrivelled to ash in mere seconds. A wave of violent heat was bursting from him, radiating outwards to crash into the walls of the cube. On his wrist restraints, the casing cracked beneath the intense temperature. Weakened enough, he jerked his arms free and then stood, the leg restraints buckling and popping, unable to withstand the stress and his amplified strength.

In seconds, Mira analysed the room. The perfect symmetry of the walls was without gap, but along one side he could feel the subtle beginnings of the control apparatus. There was a concentration of technology within the wall itself, a thickness of electronic pathways, and so this wall had to be the primary direction for escape. With his body filled with energy, his senses were more acute, and he could also hear the faint hiss of a gas being released into the cube.

Their intention was clear. It was either a sedating agent or a poison, designed to neutralise him without endangerment. Speed was essential here, and delicate half-measures were not going to be enough. Stepping from the melted charred wreck of the torture chair, Mira turned to face the wall. Channeling the light until his hands were blazing with it, he leaped across the room in a single bound, crashing right-fist first into the wall. His arm punched nearly nearly two feet in, and wrenching it free, he struck again with the left, and then finally with both.

When he stepped through the hole cleaved in the cube's wall, naked, fearless and flushed with cosmic awareness, the attack of the security detail was expected. His prison was adjacent to a corridor that extended to his left and right. Along the right branch his senses felt a room filled with technology but no people. To the left, arranged in a spread across the corridor's junction that led to the remaining rooms, there were four guards in wait. The momentary appraisal told him enough; these men had reflexive augments and bore modified weapons. The guns were enlarged, with a lower secondary muzzle and chamber for an alternate type of shot. As the hail sent to his position demonstrated, this alternative was a kind of glutinous polymer, a prime tool for stopping escapees.

Not today.

Though these men were quick, Mira's reactions were beyond sharp. He rolled beneath the opening volley, then was dashing into a wall-walk along the corridor to bypass the follow-up. Without breaking his movement, he twisted in the air, diving down towards the group, the targeted frontmost guard raising his rifle up to fend Mira off. Instead, the boy simply pushed himself with an expert tap on the guard's head, plucking the gun as he flipped past. The man went stumbling hastily forward, propelled forcefully into the wall, and Mira used the extra momentum to drop into the centre of their group.

His landing was interrupted by the second guard. These men were quicker than the unenhanced soldiers from Lucere, and this one succeeded in blocking the opening blow, and launched a counter hit. Mira absorbed it and switched it away one-handed, though his own return punch was uncounterable, slamming into the guard's stomach to send him crashing into a wall.

The third and fourth were further back, their weapons reorienting to keep with Mira's constantly changing position. Renewed gunshots rang, but only at empty air. The boy's evasion was on point, one step ahead of his opponents as always, and he was rolling again 'til he was between them. A sweeping kick was enough, with one guard jumping in a scramble to avoid it, but still too slow. They were tripped together, legs gone from beneath, and with inhuman speed while they were airborne, he finished them. Flicking the gun barrel from one to the other, Mira nailed them each with a single shot to the temple. Then, turning, he executed the first guard also, just as the man was recovering and bringing himself to bear.

The security was neutralised, but that was not the end.

More was needed.

Leave none alive.

The command echoed in his head, yet his desire gave it an emphasis beyond The Other's imperative. These men sought to raise themselves to the towering heights with thievery. They wished to take the secret fire, a Promethean longing that was dangerous and foolhardy. It was not simply a prize to be snatched by the strongest. It was much more than that. Shay had told him of human nature, had spoken of the expectation that some of Earth's inhabitants might be just as insidious as those from Lucere. He had warned against complacency and blind trust. Thus it was that Mira knew that all the conspirators needed to be to be eradicated and their knowledge buried. Every individual here had to die, for they were each a cog in the machine, and his assassin's compulsion knew what had to be done.

He found them, one by one, and eliminated them.

It did not take long to do so. He did not let their appearances fool him, for it was not just the enemy warrior who walked with evil intent. Curiously though, the locks and barriers and tricks to slow him were no longer in play. The system seemed to be failing somehow, and this made his task of finishing the remaining personnel much easier. It was done quickly, as painless as he could make it; there was no joy in death without combat. Here it was a cruel reckoning, but unquestionably necessary.

He did not take clothing nor protection from anything in the little branching collection of rooms. Nothing was terribly suitable, and in any case, nakedness was simplicity, ease and fluency. Mira was a hunter and a warrior in this form, and he skipped with the measured gait of a dancer back through the confluence, and towards the exit point. Those rooms now behind him, he emerged from the corridor into a sizeable antechamber, the passage continuing on the other side of it and out of sight around a corner. No sooner than when he reached the middle of the chamber, a barrier slammed closed with extraordinary speed across the passage ahead and another behind.

Just like that, the room was sealed off.

Mira had precisely three seconds to react, to decide his course of action. In the disproportionate slow motion of his perception, each corner of the ceiling popped out and away. Automated gun turrets dropped down, unfolding with lethal robotic precision. In the tenths of a second it took for them to acquire his position, he observed the cold elegance of the machine and used that time for all it was worth. The moment the barrels were fully aligned on where he stood, all four turrets opened fire and his choice was made.

Survive or die.

He stood, a golden statue, a slave to preservation. Withdrawn into himself, there was no emotion, no time, no pain or anger, no happiness or sadness. There was just focus; an utter concentration upon the surface of his skin. Mira could spare no will for movement nor thought, for all his being was required to live. This act was nearly impossibly difficult for him, a direct contrast with how simple it was for Shay at Aspira's control node. Every single part of him was required to maintain the diamond-hard coating from head to foot, and he could not let his control slip for even a fraction of a second. The bullets bounced away, a rain striking his head and shoulders, so close to deadly, yet ... not.

There was not even any space in his consciousness for the sound of the gunfire, nor the pattering of metallic sleet upon the floor. The unrelenting attack gave no respite nor space for response. It was just the strange serenity of that absolute knife-edge of survival as he was frozen in defence.

Survive.

He would stand, for as long as it would take.

Stand he did, and for what could have been minutes, but then, abruptly, the barrage stopped.

It was a moment or two before his senses recognised safety, dropping his protective skin. Sound flooded back in time to hear the last two of the four automated turrets succumbing to measured bursts of gunfire. The blast doors in front of him were forced halfway open, and there were men on the other side. Not trusting for a second that anyone he met was necessarily helpful, Mira leaped straight into action. Launching through the opening, he met one in a flying kick that threw the first man to the floor, and turning easily, slammed the second into the corridor's wall. His arm was rising in a vertical palm strike to break the neck, when the man spoke in the nick of time.

"Mira!"

The boy stopped, his hand halted a microsecond from the man's jaw. The helmet visor flicked open, and there was a dark-skinned face beneath it, breathing hard but not at all aggressive.

"We are here to find you. Please don't attack." He spoke quickly, but was quite serious, and the boy could detect no falsity in his temperament. "We want to help you, and your friend Shay."

Shay.

Slowly, he let the man go and stepped back. The one he kicked down was standing again, but his weapon was pointed down, non-threatening. A second later, two more men appeared around the corridor's bend at a jog, from the direction of the exit. They slowed, stopping a couple metres back by their comrade.

"I know you don't have any reason to, but please, trust us. I am Lindani, and these are my brothers," he nodded to the other men, who were watching the exchange. "If you come with us, we think we know where Shay is."

This was what Mira needed to hear. The last line of his beloved's tortuous message was still all-important.

Find me.

It did not matter where, he was going to find Shay.

-o-0-O-0-o-

They had stopped briefly a short distance from the smoking crater of the destroyed facility. After a brief liaison with another supporting group, Mira and two of the four men from their initial group had split off and swapped transports, while Lindani and the other left in the original vehicle, the 'hop-raven.' Mira's own urgency was echoed in the way these men were acting, though their hurry was driven by other concerns he did not yet know of, nor understand. There was still much about human language that was implied, and while he most often gained the meaning, parts of the comprehension were down to experience alone.

Their new transport was slightly smaller than the old, and very streamlined, resembling a jet-powered rocket more than the branching flatter shape of the 'hop-raven' lifter. It sealed airtight after liftoff, and no sooner than they gained very minimal altitude, the main thrusters jumped into high gear. The craft boosted away at a phenomenal speed, the desert below dissolving into a fast-forward palette of ochre. Though the speed was extreme, inertia was repressed by an internal force, so it was still easy to move around the craft's passenger compartment. It was small and spartan, only two rows of seats facing inwards; one on the cockpit side, the other aft, with a low table in between.

Ayize, who had identified himself as the one in command, had given him spare clothing; socks and sports shoes, undershorts and green-brown camouflage pants and a black wife-beater top. The pants were slightly too large and needed fastening at the waist, and while Mira did not bat an eyelid at his public nakedness, he accepted the need for dressing. Though, still, he would have been content to let his nudity continue, but it would only attract attention and that was not going to help their cause.

He sat in a seat near the starboard windows, not looking directly at anything. Mira was paying attention to their conversation with half an ear; Ayize and the other man, Rashid, had started a vigorous discussion once they were well underway. The former was the same dark-skinned type as Lindani only somewhat older, whereas the latter was another breed of human. He was the tallest and most muscular out of the four, approximately Konstantin's height though less bulky. Olive skinned with smooth wavy black hair cut short, Rashid had a long slighty curved nose and unreadable dark eyes, nearly black. His demeanour was serious and his speech terse, though the brevity seemed to be less emotion and more just the way his personality was.

"I'm having some trouble processing this, brother," Ayize was saying to him, the group's leader not understanding a conversational point. "You've told me twice now, and I'm not sure I get it. The hardpoints at B2 were still active? Ken said some of the interior defence was independent."

"Yeah, they were."

"Alright," the man nodded where he was sitting just across from Rashid on the aft side of the craft. "So, he's pinned at B2 and was being shot at?"

"No." Rashid shook his head. "He wasn't being shot at. He was being shot. Period."

Mira caught the look on the man's face as he glanced across. It was a disbelieving eyebrow raise, overlaid on Ayize's perpetual cheer. "Shot?"

"Yeah," responded Rashid coolly, his voice a soothing tenor, understated. "He was standing in the middle of it, in a trance. It was bouncing off him like water. Saw it myself."

"Fuck," Ayize mumbled. "Then there were the CS grunts and the RDA tech staff, dead before we got to them. The wall of that cell, too. All of it weaponless and naked? I can't believe this." He rubbed his forehead and sat back in amazement.

"Boss," the taller man went on, "he kicked me down like I was made of paper. Might have killed 'dani too if he didn't speak fast. Think maybe Andropov wasn't joking?"

Andropov? Mira's senses perked at this word. Mention of the big Russian was important. That man was a significant person to Shay and was the only other Mira would trust without question. The boy turned fully toward the two, and they both looked in his direction, finally registering his attention. Ayize stood, crossing the cabin to sit next to him and Rashid followed suit opposite.

"Listen, Mira, you're not much of a talker. That's cool with us." He flicked a hand to the bigger man. "My brother here isn't the biggest speechmaker either, so I get that."

Rashid shrugged casually. "It's true."

"But we need to know you understand what's going on," Ayize continued. "Your father, Konstantin, he gave me some strange advice and now I think I get it. I have to be honest, iqhawe; you may look like a half-grown boy, but there isn't a single human that could do what you just did and get away totally unscratched. Now, if you can pull that off, and your brother Shay is the 'priceless' one ... ? Well, let's just say we share an interest in making sure he's not a prisoner." Ayize's smile broadened a bit more, a hyper-grin, though Mira felt none of the vague patronisation from him that other adults so often employed as mental leverage. "In fact, I'd be willing to say you are damn special if not unique, and I've decided I'm not going to be the stooge that stands in your way. I want you to work with us, help us, rescue Shay. How 'bout that?"

This man's words were simplistic honesty. Perhaps there was a more devious side to him that Mira could not gauge, but right then he knew that Ayize had recognised him for what he was. He had shown respect for the secret fire, and more importantly, for the all-consuming desire to find Mira's beloved, the source of hidden sunlight.

That was enough.

Carefully, he nodded to Ayize, giving his assent.

"Boss," came Rashid's voice, slow and full of dragging uncertainty, "how wise do you think this is?"

"You believe the idea is dangerous?" He was looking sidelong at Rashid as he talked. "You're right, it's dangerous as hell. Too many variables for it to be any less than a rocky ride."

"Then," came the reply, as calm in tone as the words themselves weren't, "why in the fuck are we risking it?"

"We risk it," Ayize spoke, and in a turnaround of his manner, the smile vanished and he was utterly serious, his voice simultaneously picking up volume and edge, "because I don't want to see a world where MFM has decoded and patented whatever it is that makes him," he gestured to Mira, "the way he is. Brother, ask yourself this: where is the line?" His right hand smacked angrily into his left palm for emphasis as he asked the question. "They nuked a city of half a million as a distraction. Ask yourself: where is the line?" The hand smacked down again, in concert. "Yakutsk as collateral for Konstantin; an entire city to erase all trace of one person because he knew about these boys. Ask yourself: where ... is the line?" Smack! Hand into fist. "If they are prepared to hide Mira in an Australian bunker, what does it say when they smuggle Shay to another world?" His voice jumped another notch. "Brother! You have just seen the evidence that CS-Space have been trampling on federal law, right under the military's nose! If they are willing to risk that to take Shay to a place where there is no government, nothing to hold them accountable, then what is off limits? Do you understand that we must be willing to go to extremes also, to turn their inhumanity against them?"

"You want to send him like a weapon at the corporatists?" Rashid's eyes fixed on Mira momentarily, then were back to his officer once more. "A dangerous unpredictable human weapon we can't control?"

"We aren't going to control him, brother. We won't be standing in front of the barrel, we'll be guiding it to the corporatists. Oh, we definitely got their attention. You already know we're on the wavefront of events, that they're looking for us more than ever 'cause we learned about their dirty little secret and fucked over one half of their precious science experiment. We can't sit still now. We have to keep moving and adapting, but, there's more." His eyes glinted, narrowing. "Now .. we need to ruin the other half. Ken and my ubhuti have it easy. The tough part is on us, brother. It will take really risky shit to pull this off because it's that kind of thing, but it's by far more important than anything else we've done. I do mean anything too; Panama and Lagos aren't in this league."

Ayize turned back to Mira, having finished his soliloquy to a still very reluctant Rashid. The boy had been following the words with his normal observational astuteness, though the context remained uncertain in his mind. "I apologise, iqhawe. I don't mean to ignore you in our talk, but we all need to be singing the same chorus. You want to know where your brother is, of course. That's easy. Shay is on a desert world known as Berchande."

Berchande. Now Mira had a name, a destination to seek, though there was more he required on this subject.

The big man folded his arms across his chest and sat back. "So, how do you propose we break that same federal law and leave Earth unnoticed? Last I checked, realists aren't players in the space game. The Brotherhood doesn't have that kind of high-end tech free to use. Not like the government or the corporations."

"Oh, it won't be 'us' doing anything." Ayize's grin twisted slightly to an ironic smirk. "When Kenji recovered that treasure horde of data from the Tanami base, CorpSec basically handed us the tools we need, and they didn't even know it. They gave us a free pass and we're going to use it to steal one of their interstellar shuttles. A dozen or so are hidden all over the Earth for 'executive contingencies.' I think this qualifies as a contingency, don't you?" Not missing a beat, he plunged straight on into the rest of it. "I let Thessaloniki in on my intentions and he was really angry when he realised the shit CS are neck-deep in. So angry that he broke the rules and slipped us a one-time security key and a time guide to ghosting our jump so we don't get caught. The military types are always realist sympathisers at heart. Sometimes they just need a little push to get down off the moral high horse of political neutrality."

Rashid's look to him was one coloured with varying shades of 'are you totally fucking INSANE?!' mixed with respect. He started to say something, but then stopped himself, shaking his head. "Boss, this is too many types of crazy. Is there any point in telling you how dangerous it is to involve an actual commissioned military officer?"

"None," stated Ayize cheerily, his smile on full blast, "because I've already done it."

"Alright," Rashid sighed, wearily. "So let's cut to the end. We're flying due north, so this CS shuttle is somewhere in east Asia?"

"Japan. The target is in the Shikoku highlands, so we won't need an infil op near a city or anything." He shrugged, nonchalant. "Dash and grab should be enough. Still risky, but we gotta swing it, brother."

"And you brought me instead of Kenji, who is half Japanese and speaks the language?I"

"Relax, brother. We're going to pull this off. We've got an ace up our sleeves." Ayize sat back again, and nudged Mira with his elbow, before finishing his reply to Rashid. "Besides, Ken has an important job of his own. He needs to stay on Earth."

The boy looked at him, wordlessly neutral, still evaluating the conversation in his mind. Much of it was meaningless in terms of how it affected him directly, but now at least he had proper direction. Shay was on the world of Berchande. There was a shuttle that could travel there. They were bound for the part of Earth where it was kept.

These were the steps to finding Shay. He was a little closer, and the means to finish that journey lay ahead in this new land.

Japan.

-o-0-O-0-o-

It had been nothing but water for a while before the coast appeared. The visual blur reduced slightly as the aircraft decelerated to a less conspicuous cruising speed, the waterscape vanishing and replaced by fresh land. A sizeable city slid past to the right, eastward, with other smaller urban groupings scattered beneath and further along the coast both east and west. As quickly as they came, they were falling behind, the terrain climbing into rows of forested hills and small stunted mountains.

The Brotherhood's jet began to slow even more. Ayize had opened the cockpit door and was speaking to the pilot, Rashid leaning on the frame next to his boss to listen in. Mira could see the forward view between them, and they were gliding in lower and lower over the uneven carpet of sub-tropical forest.

"We're just a few klicks out," the pilot was saying, "should be safe for an on-site set down."

"It's been a smooth run," Ayize replied. "Maybe they still haven't connected the dots. Not even a poke along the way?"

"Nothing at all," the pilot confirmed. "Pacific was flawless. Only picked up a jitter past Kôchi, but that's not unheard of. You get that sometimes with urban centres."

As if teasing the pilot over his words, the jet began to vibrate, then judder slightly, as the altitude decreased further, the treeline skimming very close now.

"Like that?" Ayize quipped.

The pilot started replying then the floor gave a sudden jolt and the jet began to sway and shake in the air, the engine pitch ramping up in a stressful whine. "Whoa, that's not jitters. That's interference!"

"What?!"

"Ground disruption! Ion saturation, or something like that!" The pilot was shouting, and Mira grabbed onto the seat top for balance, the other two men holding on too as the plane pitched about. "Fuck! I have to land us, right now!"

There was no time for anyone to say more as the jet's nose dipped downward much faster than in a forced landing, even as the pilot fought to stabilise the systems. Then, they were below the treetops, the aircraft's structure jerking and bouncing as they crashed through the highest trees. Mira's concentration was switching rapidly between the steepening descent, and the pilot's inability to regain full control.

They were not going to land. They were about to crash and the jet was still moving distressingly fast.

In a split second, he made his decision. While the others were strapping down, trying to brace themselves, he stood up, throwing off the safety harness. Sliding on the badly tilted floor, channeling what aqumi he could into his fist, Mira bashed against the starboard emergency release. He could hear Ayize calling his name, shocked, as the seal broke and the side of the hull popped open. Not even hesitating, he gripped the frame and launched himself fearlessly out of the jet.

Free.

Whipping by in a blast of noise and air, the aircraft vanished from his perceptions as it careened away. Plunging, Mira flew between the upper limits of the trees, hardening his shoulder with aqumi just enough for a glancing bounce off a trunk before gravity overcame horizontal momentum. Swinging around in the air, he fell the remaining twenty-five metres to the forest floor, striking the ground with easy grace.

Barely moments later, there was the booming splintering sound of the aircraft smashing to earth. Mira could see it the signs of a path of destruction carved through the forest, and a pillar of smoke rising from the site a couple hundred metres away. Tearing forward, he dodged through the trees until he could see it properly.

Though it was a long thin shape and appeared fragile and ill-equipped for surviving a crash, the aircraft had done well under the circumstances. It had ripped a trail through the ground dozens of metres long. The cockpit and nose had buckled, and without needing to move closer Mira knew that the pilot had surely been killed on impact. The engines, attached on the rear of the fuselage, had not fared much better; the port-side had nearly torn off completely, while the starboard was mangled and twisted into the aircraft. Both were on fire, a sizzling electrical heat that was blackening the silver-grey. The design had held up though, as the passenger compartment seemed almost unaffected, left out of the crash's worst effects.

It was Mira's first instinct to run to the wreckage and locate Ayize and Rashid, as these men had come to his aid barely hours before, but a sound stopped him. In the background behind the crackle of fire, the pop of breaking equipment and the shrill of tearing metal, there was something else.

Vehicles.

Keeping out of sight, he waited only seconds before half a dozen ATVs came roaring through the woods. They pulled up behind the crashed jet, and the doors opened. Men poured out, all uniformed, all carrying guns. They fanned out, some taking spotter's positions on the aircraft's exits, while others set about forcing the doors. They were speaking loudly and aggressively to one another in a foreign language as they entered the craft, then shortly after emerged carrying two bodies.

Ayize and Rashid.

Mira could not tell if they were unconscious or dead, though they did not look badly wounded. From the distance he was at, it was not certain either way. The two were carried in front of another man, who wore a different uniform. He was a commanding officer of sorts, that much was clear. A brief conversation was held, and then the officer nodded to the cars. The men dragged away the two crash victims, while the officer stared at the wreckage, then ran his gaze over the trees. Shrinking down where he was, unwilling to be in a position yet again where he had to kill a large number of people just because they were in his way, Mira hid out of sight.

When he peeked out from behind the tree, the men were entering the vehicles again. Doors were slamming shut, and then engines starting. Backing up briefly, the convoy turned and was then departing through the trees, as quickly as they had come, leaving the boy to the burning mess of the aircraft on his own.

Dash and grab.

What to do?

He owed Ayize help, if nothing else. Though it went beyond any debt of gratitude. Practically, Ayize was the only person that could get him to Shay. He had told Mira the shuttle was near a place called Ôkawa, in the north of Kôchi Prefecture, whatever that was. He had the codes, the information, to get that shuttle from Earth to Berchande.

Mira needed Ayize.

He had to follow.

He set off at a run, skipping past the bits of the fuselage in his path as he followed the sound and signs of the vehicles through the woods. They couldn't travel full speed in this place, the trees altogether too close to allow it, and he kept a good pace. Though it wasn't far, maybe a half kilometre worth of running, before they branched onto a proper track, an auxiliary dirt path. The vehicles picked up speed and so did Mira, but he could not match them. The dirt trails became more faint, as did the sound, but he kept running. Then the dirt transformed into a properly sealed road. Mira did not let up, though his body was beginning to complain.

He had run kilometres in a row without stopping before, he would do it again.

For Shay.

The road was winding through the hills and the land remote. Probably it was very rarely used, though Mira still took care to run along the verge, not the centreline. This was not Lucere and there could be oncoming traffic. Until, finally, he came to an obstacle.

There was no longer any trace of the vehicles he was chasing, but he had followed the road, regardless. Mira came to a halt, chest heaving, as he was faced with a choice.

In front of him, the road diverged. One branch went left, the other right. A large sign sat above, with arrows indicating the two routes. It was covered by symbols and they were nothing that he recognised. It didn't even matter that it wasn't English, the language that Shay spoke; the one he had absorbed and learned because it was the tongue of his beloved and he had to know it.

It didn't matter because Mira couldn't read.

He did not know where either path led.

He could not guess where the vehicles had gone.

The trail was cold, and the men who taken Ayize and Rashid were simply ... gone.

Mira stared at the sign. He wished the light within could supply it with meaning, could decode it to tell him precisely what he had to know. It could not, and the symbols were just symbols. Knowledge could not be conjured from nothing. Walking to the edge of the road, he climbed off it and sat down out of sight in the lee of an ash tree.

For the first time in his human existence, there was no idea how to continue. He had been in difficult places before, with limited ways forward. Now, he was cut off from anything, anyone, that could offer help. Curling up, he hugged his knees to his chest and leaned against the tree trunk.

Lost and alone.

Shay's absence was a hole inside him, and the longer he was kept away, the worse it became. The emptiness of separation was a greater punishment than all the physical hurt that existed. It twisted his mind, and he was powerless before it. The unstoppable obsession with this beautiful angelic creature was his one true weakness, and now, when their union was so far away, Mira felt crushed.

Beaten.

Distraught, terrified that he was truly going to fail in his life's purpose, Mira curled up tighter, abandoning the material world. His eyes closed and he withdrew into his aching lonely heart, seeking solitude in the only thing that could offer comfort.

Memory.

-o-0-O-0-o-

After arriving through the gate from Lucere, they had been put into quarantine. The medical team had been unable to find anything wrong with any of them, though Konstantin was still rather weak and needed recuperation. They had been transferred as guests to the station's residential section, after the all-clear was given. The big Russian was placed in his own suite and given more time alone to heal. They would have put Shay in a single too, but he had asked to receive a double room so Mira could share. Their benefactors had agreed, rooming them together in shared quarters. Assurance was given to their privacy, security and provision; Earth's military would take care of them as the most honoured guests until the politics of their transfer to the surface could be finalised.

In Mira's mind, the military proved to be good hosts. They had kept their promise to the letter. Those few days before their departure for the surface and Russia were some of the happiest he had known.

While exploring their room and the modern amenities and conveniences it had, Shay was more excited than Mira had seen him. He knew it was because of, in part, the relief that Earth was not laid to waste by the Sharpe virus, but there was a lot more to it. The relief was central but Shay did not have to worry about anything while he was here. To Mira, he was carefree, unburdened by troubles, because everything was provided. Shay could just be himself and enjoy it, for once, without a shadow looming no matter where he turned. Perhaps the troubles were not gone for good, but right then they were too distant to fear.

Mira's own enjoyment came so much easier because of this, spurred vicariously by his beloved. After their initial settling in, Shay had dragged him to the lounge part of their suite and turned on the holo-projector. He had explained his love of holo-games from when he lived on Earth so long ago, though he was quick to point out that the capability of this system was very much improved, and the games library around fifty times larger.

Shay had loaded up an 'action-shooter' game and started it on 'regular' difficulty, setting Mira in control and telling him to try. Curious as to how this human form of technological amusement was supposed to work, he played along and learned the mechanics of it. The controls were dead simple, though the game seemed so easy that it was boring, and when he finished the stage with a perfect score, Shay reset it and started him again on the 'hardest' difficulty.

So, he repeated the perfect score, and made sure to get the record for the fastest time as well.

It really didn't seem much tougher.

Amazed, Shay told him that this title must be too easy, so he loaded a different game.

This time, Mira didn't just do a single stage. Now that he had some idea how the 'entertainment system' worked, he chose the hardest difficulty himself and played the entire thing through from start to finish, without dying once.

So, Shay loaded a third game.

Mira did it again.

Then, a fourth one.

"I shouldn't be surprised you're this good," he had said, "but I love watching you do it anyway." The fifth title was the hardest Shay could find, and it proved something of a challenge, actually testing his reflexes at certain points. Though, the only comment from his beloved, who was sitting next to him and giggling delightedly the whole way through, was that this 'mode' was meant for 'AI stress testing' and wasn't designed for a person.

Mira had no idea what that meant. Were these 'games' actually supposed to be a challenge?

They looked for something else to do after that. The next thing was cinema, and although there was a huge volume of 'holo-films', many of which were new to Shay, he wanted to watch 'super-old retro flat-field movies.' He claimed it was the best way to introduce someone to cinema, then dimmed the lights and gathered up a pile of blankets. Cuddling up together on the sumptuous comfort of a couch that was large enough to be a bed, they sat back and spent quite a number of hours watching 'the classics.'

Though there was a huge list to choose from, Mira's favourites were the twelve Star Wars movies. The later ones were good, though there was something special about the older earlier ones that was fascinating. The Jedi especially were interesting to him, although he thought Anakin was kind of stupid and easily led. Shay picked up on his interest too, and thereafter at any appropriate break in the action, he would whisper: "You know, you really are a Jedi. What happened to your lightsabre?" Which, he had to admit, was difficult to deny, because, well, he could do some of the things a Jedi could do, and he really truly did want a sword made out of energy.

A purple one, preferably.

Eventually their attention shifted to other things in the suite. The bedroom area had an attached walk-in wardrobe and mirrors. It was filled with clothing around their size and they had been informed they could keep anything they wanted. Shay had insisted they pick out clothes for each other, adding that: "I know what looks great on you, and I know you'll do the same for me, and won't choose anything that makes me seem like an adolescent girl."

While Mira had no clue about fashion, and clothing was always going to feel unnecessary to him, Shay's choice in it, though 200 years out of practice, was actually quite good. A lot of it wasn't that practical for the things he would want to do, and weren't what he would wear for anything strenuous, but as far as the insubstantial concept of 'visual style' went, it hit the target.

The flip side came when he chose Shay's outfit. There was no intention of anything remotely girlish, though the first couple pairs of pants Mira handed to Shay with a definite ulterior motive. As a form of karma for wearing Shay's boxers on Lucere, they were a size or two smaller than required. It was extremely enjoyable, because he got to amuse himself watching his beloved turn back and forth in front of the mirror, obliviously complaining about how tight the fit was; and also because, well, Shay's ass was fantastic and this gave him a spectacular view.

Mira was figured out by the third pair, and this resulted in a red-faced Shay and a pleading look of apology on his part, though secretly he wasn't really sorry at all and they both knew it.

However, by far the best part of the their time together as guests of the military had happened on their final day. After a long nap together, Shay had woken, gone to take a shower to freshen up, then came out of the bathroom sparkling clean. He had walked over and promptly sat down, straddling Mira's lap without hesitation, his hands coming to rest over Mira's shoulders, loosely behind his neck. Considering how shy the boy could be even in complete privacy, every time something this bold happened, it made Mira excited, and happy.

Though, this time, all Shay wanted to do was talk.

Mira put his hands on The Other's hips. The smell and touch of him so fresh and clean was incredibly alluring, and it took much self-control not to let his hands wander up Shay's sides, and even more not to slip them down further. Instead, he listened, and though he was entranced watching Shay's lips move, he still paid attention to every word.

The message was a reminder and a warning. There would be many people on Earth, and the majority of them would be harmless. This planet was nothing like Lucere and standards of behaviour would be totally different. Yet, it was going to be different again from Shay's memories of his childhood, and he made sure to drive home a simple fact. No matter how friendly other people appeared, it was only Konstantin they could ever rely on and trust.

Lucere had delivered many hard truths, but maybe the biggest one was that their own race was sometimes an equal to the most evil of alien foes.

Then Shay had finished, leaned forward and kissed him, the delicious slick texture of his lips as wonderful to touch as it had been to watch. He had pulled away, his face colouring. "You've been really patient," his voice shifted into an undertone, his eyes averting bashfully, dropping to where Mira's hands were, "and I know you want to, uh, play, so .. you can. If you want."

Oh, yes. He really did want.

The play involved gradually losing articles of clothing. The undressing happened piece by piece, and in quite creative ways as they rolled around the bed. Lots of kissing featured as interruption; it took some time, allowing Mira's hands - and mouth - to wander even more than he originally hoped, and then, finally ...

Finally ... Shay was on his lap again, this time position reversed, literally back to front.

This time ... naked.

That rounded soft warmth Mira adored so much was compressed between them. His treasured handhold was an erotic cushion that perfectly filled every square millimetre of his lap. They were made to fit together, and nothing felt more right than Shay's bare skin covering his from hip to hip. A soft heated tightness had enveloped him, and every little turn, every slight squeeze of pressure sent out ripples of indescribable pleasure. He could feel every tiny slip of movement, silky smooth, as the boy pressed down, grinding against him.

Their bodies shifted together, though it was slow and they scarcely were moving at all. He would push gently up, the boy's back arching, then Shay would push back; a ballet of perfect intimacy. Each time a faint whimpering huff would come from The Other; a sensual moan, the air forced out by the motion. Mira's heart would quicken when he heard that noise, the most sexual thing he could imagine.

The only thing that could cause an involuntary reaction.

His pulse was drumming and his breathing was heavy, both beyond his ability to control. There was no slowing the heart nor calming the breath, for his body refused to comply. Yet, Mira was unconcerned and he did not care to try. Shay's back brushed against his chest as he kissed his boy's shoulders, delicately licking the alabaster skin of the neck. His right arm hugged around the boy's torso, the fingers tweaking Shay's left nipple, playing with it. An amazing ribbed sliding sensation gripped him as Shay rose in time with his tender thrust, lifting with the tempo. Then as they fell, riding his lap down, a blissful sigh escaping as their bodies compacted together.

Joined this way, Mira could not fully see Shay's expression, though in the glimpses he took between worshipping the flawlessness of his beloved's body, he knew Shay's eyes were closed. The angelic face was flushed with happy embarrassment, which only ever served as an admission of just how much he loved what they were doing.

He pulled the boy closer, the sudden small jolt of movement enough to elicit a flustered squeak. Mira's free left hand slid from caressing the thigh to between the legs. Shay gave a surprised start, then immediately relaxed with a luxurious exhale as Mira's fingers grasped. Under his kneading hand, he felt the already-potent arousal thicken, lengthen more as he stroked. Their unclothed skin was rubbing together in so many places, oh-so-slightly damp and slick from sweat, and he continued his feverish affection on The Other's neck. Tasting the salty tang, a thousand kisses of possession were placed as he sucked the skin and bathed it with his tongue.

It was Shay's responses too that stoked his own desire. The boy's back curved gracefully, the narrow elfin waist arching. Then the hips and full curve of his rear were moving in a gyrating swirl. Shay's head rolled back and his body tensed, his breath quickening. The rapid tattoo of Mira's heartbeat and his own sheer pleasure from so many sensations, emotions, swept him away. Panting, trembling, he gave in to the release, his right arm pulling Shay tightly against him as they hit a crescendo together.

After, they stayed sitting as they were, their bodies melded together. A calm settled, and Shay relaxed into him, letting his full weight rest. His cheek lay against Mira's head, his hands clasping Mira's on the boy's stomach. Shay's breath came peacefully and contented, and he reveled in the closeness. Mira did not want to move, did not want that moment to end. He wished this pure togetherness was their life, for it to be the two of them always.

Alone and safe.

-o-0-O-0-o-

No more war, grief and despair.

A voice was calling him, and he realised it was his own. Blinking, he emerged from memory, letting go of his knees, rubbing the wetness from his face. It was his conscience, an inner guide he could not ignore.

You can have those days of peace. Shay will win. He will triumph over all the lies and darkness that assails him, but he needs you. Get up! Search! Fulfil your purpose and do not lose heart.

Find him.

He climbed to his feet, steadying against the ash. Mira had never given in to self-doubt, and he was not about to start now. He needed to remember his focus, the directives that kept him moving. It had served him well since those first waking moments on Lucere and he could not abandon it now.

This was not a time for despondency.

He steeled himself, reinforced his resolve.

No fear.

Stepping onto the road, Mira chose a direction. It was a fifty-fifty choice, and if this should prove disastrous, he could always return and search the other route. He would have to do so, because there was no failure.

So, he went left.

The road was narrow and winded down. Further up on the hills and around where the Brotherhood aircraft had crashed, the trees were taller straight evergreens; cedar, cypress and red pine. Closer to the river valley Mira could see as the path descended, the trees were lighter and smaller, though the rambling undergrowth and bushy natural garden had mostly shed and retreated for the winter.

Then, ahead, buildings.

On flats above the river bank, there was a village. It was the middle of the afternoon, and he slowed to a jog as he approached it. There were only a couple of streets, and though the place couldn't have been home to more than a few hundred people, maybe a thousand maximum, the main thoroughfare was near deserted. A couple of pedestrians and shopkeepers glanced his way, eyeing him as he certainly did not look like a native, but otherwise ignored him. The worst thing was, there was no sign of the men who had taken Ayize and Rashid.

"Are you okay?" The question came from behind him. Three girls were emerging out of the eatery he had just passed by. "You look kinda lost."

Two of them were natives of Japan, with the same black hair, flatter nose, yellowish skin and the slight slant to the eyes. The speaker, however, was not. Brown eyes, brown hair and lightly tanned colouring, she was taller than the others, though still several inches shorter than Mira. She had beautiful curves and a lovely friendly smile, and he could straight away feel the warmth of her personality. Though, different again from Ayize and Rashid, this girl was yet another breed of human.

"Pretty surprising to see anyone European out this way. I mean, I'm only here 'cause of the cultural exchange programme from Kôchi. Ah, man, what am I doing?" She held out her hand. Mira took it and they shook. "Sorry, I should have introduced myself. I'm Janaya." She nodded to the others. "That's Noriko and Sachi."

"Hellooo!" The girls chorused the greeting together, in heavily accented English. They darted forward to shake hands too, then rapidly retreated again. Hiding their eyes, they burst into giggles and began to whisper to one another in Japanese. Mira froze, unable to interpret the meaning of this bizarre social custom that he had no understanding of.

"God, Sachi, don't be rude." Janaya rolled her eyes and gave an apologetic grimace. "I'm so sorry. They're acting like twelve year olds, I swear. My Japanese still kinda sucks, but it's the whole 'cute blonde white boy' thing. They think you're hot."

He glanced at them, and they immediately averted their eyes and burst into giggles again.

Hot?

He didn't know how to deal with that and it was rather unnerving.

"Anyway, are you okay?" She hesitated a second then asked another question. "You do know English, right? Because if you only know like ... Spanish or German or something, then, um .. yeah."

He nodded.

"Okay, cool. Do you wanna talk?"

He shook his head, not knowing the best way to communicate what he wanted to know. Janaya seemed to pick up on this and she frowned. Turning to the other girls, she spoke a sentence to them in Japanese and the two girls replied, then began to walk off down the street. They waved to him before they departed, then scurrying away in an animated retreat, stealing backward glances as they did.

"Look, are you sure everything is okay? If you're in some kind of trouble, maybe I can help. Not that there's much going on in Ôkawa." Mira's senses jumped. This was Ôkawa?! The CorpSec shuttle was meant to be close by. "Though I did see a bunch of federal cops come through earlier. Noriko thought they were from Matsuyama, since you don't normally see them here."

Mira grabbed her arm, nodding decisively. "Wait, whoa there. Really? You're mixed up with the feds?" Janaya pulled her arm away. "What sort of nefarious crap are you part of? I'm not gonna get arrested."

He stared at her helplessly and she glared back, frowning. He needed to know where these men were. He needed this information. It was essential. There was only one thing for it. Swallowing, he cleared his throat and concentrated.

"Please," he murmured, "they took my friend."

She stared, shocked and dazed as if he had just hit her. He knew his voice struck a strange chord inside her mind, and she seemed disoriented by it, but filled with a measure of his honest truth.

She had to know he was worth helping.

"Um," Janaya managed, finding her voice again, "yeah. Okay. So, uh, they went up behind the town. I think I know where it goes. It's not far. I can show you if you like?"

Mira's expression was pleading and though she appeared uncertain over volunteering for something that was probably illegal and likely quite dangerous, she sighed and gave in. "I dunno why I'm doing this, but come on, let's go."

At the very least, she would have an interesting story for back in Kôchi.

-o-0-O-0-o-

The shuttle was in the open, in a secluded park reserve on a side-road not far behind Ôkawa village. A temporary police prefab had been hastily constructed next to it, presumably as a response to the Brotherhood's attempt to steal the shuttle. Mira's instinct had been to use stealth, but Janaya just kept on walking, forcing him to move with her.

"You wanted to sneak in?" She regarded the building curiously as they approached it. Only two vehicles were parked by, the others not present. "There's probably a bunch of them inside. What are you gonna do? Unless you're like a ... super ninja-spy ... or a Jedi or something."

Jedi? That was kinda true, wasn't it? He nodded sincerely to this statement.

Janaya laughed, and then when she saw his serious expression, sobered up instantly. "You're ... serious?" Her eyes widened. "For fucking real? So, you're gonna fight them off and stage a rescue?"

Mira shrugged and nodded again.

"Okay, well, I'm not gonna get in the middle of this, because I don't really like jail," she told him, "but I have an idea that'll help you out. Just play along."

No one was outside and they were able to walk up and inside without being stopped. The interior of the prefab office had a scattering of desks through it. A holo-projector was set up in one rear corner, and equipment was stacked in the other. Various knick-knacks and ornamental decoration were placed strategically on the walls and desks, the Japanese cultural desire to add a measure of spiritual harmony still present. There were ten police officers in the room and Rashid and Ayize were both held in suspension against the far wall, pinned by a restraining field. It did not seem that they had been interrogated. Almost as if the federal police were waiting for something.

The eyes of all the police in the room were on them from the moment they entered, everyone stopping what they were doing to watch. The same officer that Mira had observed at the crash site was standing behind the main desk. He stared at them, then spoke briskly in clipped English.

"Why are you here? This is federal property."

"We, um, have something to report."

"You can make report to regional Shikoku police." His gaze hardened. "You must leave now."

"What if it's about those guys?" Janaya pointed to the prisoners.

The officer blinked.

"He's the one you want to talk to," she indicated to Mira. "I'll just wait outside for him to be done." Before they could respond, she turned and slipped back out the door.

The officer stared at Mira. "You have something to say?"

He did not reply. He had been going over the room repeatedly in his mind. There were too many men here, too scattered about the room, and he had only his hands. Some wore guns, but most, including the officer, had shock-weapons, which presented their own type of challenge. Mira needed not only to thin their numbers, but a weapon of his own, or this was going to be a very short rescue attempt.

"I ask you a question." The accent was sharp, the enunciation stark. Mira could see the man's right hand casually drifting towards the baton at his hip, as he started to move around the desk.

Then, a scream from outside, and Janaya's voice, calling urgently for help, sounding like a life-threatening emergency.

Five of the police jumped into action. They streamed out past Mira, and suddenly, the number of opponents had halved. In the same moment, the boy's senses finished their repetitive scanning of the prefab, and came to rest on the ceremonial display hanging on the wall behind the officer's desk. Both his problems had been solved at once.

Perfect.

Every Jedi needs a sword.

Springing onto the desk, Mira pivoted nimbly, a foot smacking into the officer's face, stunning him. At the same time, his counterbalanced outstretched arm reached into the display. Whipping the katana from the scabbard and down in a single motion, he sliced straight through the man's neck, decapitating him.

His mental processes exploded with activity, his assassin's compulsion roaring in glee. The glorious slow-motion of aqumi became his oxygen, and he bounded from desk to desk, the elegant finery of tempered steel zipping from man to man, slicing a harvest of red. The sword was a masterful weapon and the room was cleared of personnel in under ten seconds.

Mira's gaze flicked back to the entrance. A light bloody mist had tinged his wife-beater shirt, flecking his face as he danced silently back to the entrance. It was almost a shame there were only five more to dispose of.

Almost.

-o-0-O-0-o-

The CorpSec interstellar shuttle popped into existence over Berchande. Rashid sat at the controls, Ayize next to him. Both had been very quiet during the departure from Earth. They had lifted off as soon as they had been able to get inside the craft and engage the activation sequence. Ayize had speculated that this particular Japanese branch of the feds was probably on the payroll of the MFM and were just acting as corporate proxies. This had worked to their advantage, as real incorrupt federal police would have taken such wanted 'criminals' to a city lockup to await sentencing and trial.

They had followed Thessaloniki's instructions to the letter, and were able to make their jump without being bothered by the military's space forces. Now, as they cruised down over this white-brown dustball, Mira meditated in the shuttle's rear compartment. Cross legged on the floor, the katana rested across his lap, while he sat with his eyes closed. His senses were stretched out as far as they were able through the sky, though covering an entire planet was an exercise in futility. Still, the moment he felt a hint of Shay's presence ...

"Boss," Rashid spoke, the first word since they had arrived. "We've reacquired the tracker signal. I have Shay's position."

"I see it. He's outside the CS base? A klick or three, by the looks." Ayize turned and called back to Mira. "Hey iqhawe, we've got your brother on scope."

Outside? Mira's eyes flicked open and he stood, striding back to the cockpit. Rashid was switching to a topographic view, and he magnified it. "There, on that raised area. Must have managed to escape all on his own?"

"You think that'd be hard for someone like him?" Ayize snorted. "I don't think so. You witnessed an insane samurai carve up a room full of cops in the blink of an eye. Which, by the way, validates my decision to not get in his way."

"Yeah, yeah," Rashid grumbled. "Whatever you say."

As they bantered, Mira was paying more attention to what he could detect outside the shuttle. Finally, he caught a hint of something as they descended over Shay's position. Straining, he tried to tell what it was. Then, with growing trepidation as the scent grew stronger and stronger, he realised.

The darkening void.

They had come.

They were here.

"Eight hundred metres and closing. We'll be within direct visual real soon."

Mira could feel it now. Not one but two dark spots on the compass of his ethereal vision. He could feel the beat of Shay's light, but weakened, under terrible pressure.

Ready to break.

He was out of time.

The shuttle was still descending. It was taking far too long.

He grabbed Ayize by the shoulder, forceful, urgent. The man turned to him, surprised, and Mira pointed directly at the shuttle's side egress hatch.

"What do you- .. oh, again?" The man was staring in fascination. "You sure, iqhawe? The atmosphere is damn thin and we're hundreds of metres abo-"

Mira's grip tightened and he pointed a second time, demanding.

"Ah, fuck it." Ayize turned to the auxiliary controls and hit the hatch release. "Good luck. Not that you need much luck."

The boy turned and punched the open button. The hatch scythed across ultra-fast and once more, Mira launched himself out into the open air.

Wind roared in his ears and far below, upon the rocky platform, two hideous black shapes were circling a tiny bubble of gold.

-o-0-O-0-o-

I was standing there for hours before I finally began to reach the end of my physical and mental ability. My strength was nearly exhausted, and it took so much energy simply to maintain the little shield around my body. The blade-hounds were circling me where I stood on the mesa top. They were ceaseless in their movements, stopping to tap a claw against the shield every few seconds.

Testing.

Preparing.

Waiting for when I was weakened to the point where it would fall.

Then I would die.

My lungs ached from breathing broken glass, my muscles weakened from the heat. I wasn't sure how I was able to stand. The shield had shrunk to less than a metre from me now, because I could not spare the upkeep for anything larger.

I did not know what I was waiting for, or why I was trying.

No one was coming.

No one knew I was here.

I was holding onto hope for no reason, and these creatures, sent by their masters from worlds away to destroy the boy who defied them, the boy who broke their curse, would finish the job.

My breath shuddered in the air and I stared at the blade-hound that was currently passing in front of me. The monstrous jaw opened and closed and it reached out with a paw the size of my head and tapped against the shield.

I felt the jolt and my concentration slipped for just a moment. The shield flickered and with frantic shove, I reasserted it once more.

Fuck.

The hounds jumped, as if stung. Together they rounded on me, and then there was a litany of strikes. With quick, powerful blows from the foreclaws, both of them began to bash against the shield, sensing my loss of control. My breath came quicker and quicker, the pounding like a mental hammer. I physically staggered, and the attack became a beating rhythm, until ...

My concentration vanished, and so did the shield.

No ...

I fell to my knees, looking up at the hound in front of me as it stepped within the radius of my vanquished protection. Unhurried, knowing I had no way out, it loomed above and the jaws opened with an impending finality.

This is it.

It stretched wide, my vision filled with oversized fangs, and then ...

BOOM.

A meteoric shockwave exploded in the rock right next to me. I was thrown onto my back, sliding along the stone. I looked up in time to see a figure standing from the shattered rock of the impact point. The right arm was extended, a thin Japanese sword in its grip. On the ground was a severed mandible, one half of the blade-hound's bifurcated lower jaw. The hound was still standing, its massive frame trembling in physical shock, and with his unnatural agility, Mira leaped across in front of it, slicing off the other half. Whirling, the sword rose and fell lightning fast, clipping through the neck spines and separating the head from the body.

He's here ... how?!

From behind where the shockwave had pushed it, the other hound howled in angry malevolence. It bounded past, leaping over me at where Mira was, by its dismembered comrade. He was dodging, rolling as it lunged forward, the huge forelimbs swiping at air, the jaws snapping. It slid around, cutting grooves in the stone as it spun to follow him and leaping himself, Mira skidded out of the way, barely keeping ahead of the giant predator.

It was driving him towards the edge of the mesa as he worked to evade it, and lastly, with no space left to move in, he was forced to combat it directly. The right paw swatted at him and he caught it with the blade, the metal somehow surviving against the strength of the beast. Flicking the marauding limb aside, he sidestepped just as the jaws lunged once more. Vaulting, Mira flipped onto the creature's head as it hove by. Upending the sword, he stabbed down, the blade going directly through the hound's skull. The neckband of spines stood on end, the monstrosity letting out a gurgling cry and it collapsed with a thump down onto the rock.

Dead.

I'm hallucinating.

It can't be real.

He was worlds away.

Mira jumped off the dead hound, alighting onto the rock a metre from me with that marvellous exquisite balance he had. I flopped back, too weak, too dehydrated, too drained to do anything other than lie still, and in a second, he was beside me. He was picking me up as if I weighed nothing. My face came to rest against his chest, and I could feel the motion of his breathing.

"You found me," I whispered.

His cheek pressed against my hair, and tears dripped onto my skin. His voice broke when he whispered back, unable to stop it.

"I found you."

Thank you.

Then, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

em>English, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!
So, in previous lives Mira was a Jedi, a ninja and a Japanese teen pop icon.
Just for the record, he also thinks Mace Windu was a kickass force for justice who didn't deserve betrayal, and that Anakin was a little bitch.
Hope you all enjoy the love. This is the limit of what I'm going to graphically depict, but I still wanted to show it!
I will soon be adding some basic description on the minor Veil of Shadow characters here, as a refresher for the audience. Please note that I have also created an update thread for the series, if you should miss any notifications. As always, I encourage everyone to like, review and comment!
Copyright © 2017 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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I believe we share a mutual dissatisfaction with corporate power and greed.

There's no rest for Shay and Mira, is there? At least now the boys are together at last.

 

Since the Arbiters found Shay on the desert planet, I wonder how long it will take

them to get to Earth? I imagine it will be sooner than expected, now that the

pesky humans killed those precious little hellpups, the man in black will be really

chapped!

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On 03/20/2014 07:25 AM, Stephen said:
I believe we share a mutual dissatisfaction with corporate power and greed.

There's no rest for Shay and Mira, is there? At least now the boys are together at last.

 

Since the Arbiters found Shay on the desert planet, I wonder how long it will take

them to get to Earth? I imagine it will be sooner than expected, now that the

pesky humans killed those precious little hellpups, the man in black will be really

chapped!

It is worth remembering that corporatism is only one of three principal forces in Hidden Sunlight's future political landscape. Since our protagonists have become aligned with Brotherhood realists (Ayize & co.) there is present an inbuilt narrative bias against the other two ideologies. This is not to suggest that the corporate and government behaviours will be fair, ethical or moral, but more that we are witnessing events through a specific lens.

 

With regarding to the arbiters reaching Earth: the alien enemy has *already* been there, however briefly. You may recall a mention in Chapter 3 during Ayize's conversation with Konstantin about Earth's political history: "We blew the scout away as soon as it appeared in orbit, trying to sneak in. They never sent anything more. No one knows why." This is in reference to a single alien ship jumping into our solar system, next to the Earth, and being promptly destroyed before it could do anything. The real mystery is why they have not tried to approach Earth for 214 years, long after the other colonies have been overrun and destroyed.

 

Lastly, while the blade-hounds were carved up, the arbiter itself is still out there on Berchande. The pets are gone, and the master can't be happy that it has to take matters in hand ...

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It's nice to see Shay and Mira back together again. :)

This was an interesting chapter, seeing so much from Mira's perspective. (Especially the sexy time between Shay and Mira--very nice!!) Also interesting seeing that Mira is not infallible, stumbling over something as simple as a road sign that he could not read. (Shay should teach Mira how to read--I bet he would do well at it). I like that Mira soldiered on anyway and hope the he doesn't let this bring him down, the same way he did when La Tigresse escaped him back on Lucere.

AND it seems like Mira has found a weapon that suits him…I wouldn't want to come across Mira with a katana in his hand :P

Glad as I am to see our favorite duo reunited again, I am curious about what is happening elsewhere, with Yugan, Nyx, Elia and Konstantin. Looking forward to the next chapter!!

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On 03/30/2014 01:59 PM, CassieQ said:

It's nice to see Shay and Mira back together again. :)

This was an interesting chapter, seeing so much from Mira's perspective. (Especially the sexy time between Shay and Mira--very nice!!) Also interesting seeing that Mira is not infallible, stumbling over something as simple as a road sign that he could not read. (Shay should teach Mira how to read--I bet he would do well at it). I like that Mira soldiered on anyway and hope the he doesn't let this bring him down, the same way he did when La Tigresse escaped him back on Lucere.

AND it seems like Mira has found a weapon that suits him…I wouldn't want to come across Mira with a katana in his hand :P

Glad as I am to see our favorite duo reunited again, I am curious about what is happening elsewhere, with Yugan, Nyx, Elia and Konstantin. Looking forward to the next chapter!!

Thank you :)

 

Mira's recollection of the time in orbit of Earth is his happiest so far, not least because of the lovemaking with Shay (their second time.) It isn't like him to be discouraged by *anything* either so it takes something unique and beyond his experience to force that. In this case, it's as simple as a road sign!

 

The katana is one hell of a weapon under normal circumstances. Given his proficiency with fists alone, the enemy should rightly be fucking terrified.

 

Chapter 7 will return to alternating between everyone. The rest of the cast hasn't been idle! :)

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On 03/30/2014 01:59 PM, CassieQ said:

It's nice to see Shay and Mira back together again. :)

This was an interesting chapter, seeing so much from Mira's perspective. (Especially the sexy time between Shay and Mira--very nice!!) Also interesting seeing that Mira is not infallible, stumbling over something as simple as a road sign that he could not read. (Shay should teach Mira how to read--I bet he would do well at it). I like that Mira soldiered on anyway and hope the he doesn't let this bring him down, the same way he did when La Tigresse escaped him back on Lucere.

AND it seems like Mira has found a weapon that suits him…I wouldn't want to come across Mira with a katana in his hand :P

Glad as I am to see our favorite duo reunited again, I am curious about what is happening elsewhere, with Yugan, Nyx, Elia and Konstantin. Looking forward to the next chapter!!

Thank you :)

 

Mira's recollection of the time in orbit of Earth is his happiest so far, not least because of the lovemaking with Shay (their second time.) It isn't like him to be discouraged by *anything* either so it takes something unique and beyond his experience to force that. In this case, it's as simple as a road sign!

 

The katana is one hell of a weapon under normal circumstances. Given his proficiency with fists alone, the enemy should rightly be fucking terrified.

 

Chapter 7 will return to alternating between everyone. The rest of the cast hasn't been idle! :)

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On 03/30/2014 01:59 PM, CassieQ said:

It's nice to see Shay and Mira back together again. :)

This was an interesting chapter, seeing so much from Mira's perspective. (Especially the sexy time between Shay and Mira--very nice!!) Also interesting seeing that Mira is not infallible, stumbling over something as simple as a road sign that he could not read. (Shay should teach Mira how to read--I bet he would do well at it). I like that Mira soldiered on anyway and hope the he doesn't let this bring him down, the same way he did when La Tigresse escaped him back on Lucere.

AND it seems like Mira has found a weapon that suits him…I wouldn't want to come across Mira with a katana in his hand :P

Glad as I am to see our favorite duo reunited again, I am curious about what is happening elsewhere, with Yugan, Nyx, Elia and Konstantin. Looking forward to the next chapter!!

Thank you :)

 

Mira's recollection of the time in orbit of Earth is his happiest so far, not least because of the lovemaking with Shay (their second time.) It isn't like him to be discouraged by *anything* either so it takes something unique and beyond his experience to force that. In this case, it's as simple as a road sign!

 

The katana is one hell of a weapon under normal circumstances. Given his proficiency with fists alone, the enemy should rightly be fucking terrified.

 

Chapter 7 will return to alternating between everyone. The rest of the cast hasn't been idle! :)

  • Like 2
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On 03/30/2014 01:59 PM, CassieQ said:

It's nice to see Shay and Mira back together again. :)

This was an interesting chapter, seeing so much from Mira's perspective. (Especially the sexy time between Shay and Mira--very nice!!) Also interesting seeing that Mira is not infallible, stumbling over something as simple as a road sign that he could not read. (Shay should teach Mira how to read--I bet he would do well at it). I like that Mira soldiered on anyway and hope the he doesn't let this bring him down, the same way he did when La Tigresse escaped him back on Lucere.

AND it seems like Mira has found a weapon that suits him…I wouldn't want to come across Mira with a katana in his hand :P

Glad as I am to see our favorite duo reunited again, I am curious about what is happening elsewhere, with Yugan, Nyx, Elia and Konstantin. Looking forward to the next chapter!!

Thank you :)

 

Mira's recollection of the time in orbit of Earth is his happiest so far, not least because of the lovemaking with Shay (their second time.) It isn't like him to be discouraged by *anything* either so it takes something unique and beyond his experience to force that. In this case, it's as simple as a road sign!

 

The katana is one hell of a weapon under normal circumstances. Given his proficiency with fists alone, the enemy should rightly be fucking terrified.

 

Chapter 7 will return to alternating between everyone. The rest of the cast hasn't been idle! :)

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As much as I criticized the last chapters, this one totally made up for any unpleasant thing you may have written. It was just so cool to have Mira do all those things and yeah, also kill those evil people. I don't have a single complaint, just want to read on now. :D

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On 11/20/2014 04:07 AM, Scary said:
As much as I criticized the last chapters, this one totally made up for any unpleasant thing you may have written. It was just so cool to have Mira do all those things and yeah, also kill those evil people. I don't have a single complaint, just want to read on now. :D
So far, chapter six probably remains as my favourite from Veil of Shadow. Mira is joyful to write because of how he is and his personality is the easy winner.
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Mira may be a... Jedi, but he shouldn't know what it is muchless agree with someone who asks him if he is.... Unless he and Shae watched the 20 or so episodes it'd be up to by then in some sort of Marethon during the whole Military guesting... he should have no idea what the girl is talking about :P

and yes Mira is beautiful beyond human words... so is Shae... but then they've been made perfect :P

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On 04/15/2015 12:45 PM, Celethiel said:
Mira may be a... Jedi, but he shouldn't know what it is muchless agree with someone who asks him if he is.... Unless he and Shae watched the 20 or so episodes it'd be up to by then in some sort of Marethon during the whole Military guesting... he should have no idea what the girl is talking about :P

and yes Mira is beautiful beyond human words... so is Shae... but then they've been made perfect :P

beauty is relative. I think they are beautiful to each other; but the outside observer is as always welcome to their own opinion.
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53 minutes ago, Forevermotion said:

Finally reunited. I'm wondering, will Yugan meet up with boys?

Finally indeed.

Yugan may wish to meet them, but the universe -- or even just the Milky Way -- is a big place. They would need a means to locate one another and cross whatever incomprehensibly vast gap lies in between.

Thankfully, this is science fiction, so you can bet on there being a method.

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55 minutes ago, Albert1434 said:

What can I say just perfect and there together again which I have to say I love thanks so much!

Perhaps my favourite part of this book because it's all just him -- though some of the later chapters are strong contenders too.

Nonetheless, Mira's solo journey has a lot of charm to it. What's not to love? 

Edited by Stellar
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Ah, that was a good one. I loved this chapter.

Mira is just fantastic, a true Jedi. But what happened to the bold girl, Janaya? I fear she has sacrificed herself for Mira. She should be honoured. Will we hear from her again?

With the blade-hounds gone, what will be the action of the arbiters? Can they act on their own or do they need some kind of "soldiers" to do the dirty work for them?

Many thanks for your writing! :worship: :2thumbs:

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1 hour ago, BarkingFrog said:

Ah, that was a good one. I loved this chapter.

Mira is just fantastic, a true Jedi. But what happened to the bold girl, Janaya? I fear she has sacrificed herself for Mira. She should be honoured. Will we hear from her again?

With the blade-hounds gone, what will be the action of the arbiters? Can they act on their own or do they need some kind of "soldiers" to do the dirty work for them?

Many thanks for your writing! :worship: :2thumbs:

A little trivia: Janaya was a real-life coworker of mine at the time this was written. She was the only one at my place of employment who knew I was an author, and asked if I could write her in. So, I did!

Canonically I hold that she didn't get in any trouble, mostly because Mira killed all the attending federal officers, allowing her to leave the site unnoticed and able to tell the weird story of how she once met a blond blue-eyed European boy in Japan who cut down a bunch of cops like a mythical supernatural ninja.

But ... who would believe a tale like that?

As for the arbiters, well ... they are perfectly capable of getting their claws bloody and doing the work themselves when needed. 

Thanks for reading.  :)

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