The group had left the training area when Constans' comm device went off. He looked at it, pressed a private receive button and listened to what only he could hear.
He sighed and put the device back on his belt. "I have news," he said in a whisper, turning to look at the group with Joel. "Your Dragon's Nest has just come under attack, and there are casualties."
"Who?" Joel asked, his voice dry.
Constans closed his eyes, "A child called Benjamin Tasker, seven years old; and Joshua Chasez-Do..."
He never got to finish. Timmy and Ricky shifted into war-paint mode for a second time that morning, causing Joel and Kevin to do so as well. As their skin shifted, the two small boys gave out a bone-chilling screech that caused every person who understood eagle to feel a chill going up and down their spines - war had been declared, and there was to be no quarter given.
JJ and Adam started cursing up a storm and fighting with their tears, while Juan seemed surprisingly cool.
"If the only way back up there to help," he said, his voice icy, "is to go down, then we go. Now."
Constans touched his comm quickly a second time. "More reports," he said as he listened for a moment more. He swallowed, "Antony Parnell has been killed... I'm sorry..."
Bullets and phaser blasts flew in many directions, and the knowledge of who was attacking was not yet known to any save Buck; and he was in a rage.
The volume of the forces against the Dragon Division was large, and even for him it would take some time to kill or subdue them all.
Around his feet as he thudded toward a new group, mist started to coil.
The chill of the early morning deepened.
From the north came the oddest sound of all - the sound of mist whinnying... and stampeding.
The mist grew deeper, thicker... higher.
In answer to the desperation of mankind's oldest blood, one side of the Three-Fold-Alliance answered.
But those in the Valley did not know that there even was an Alliance... but the Alanakon did, and they remembered even if the Celoi on the surface of the world did not and even if the Vol'Kier were powerless...
... and they would not allow invaders to kill the descendants of their Celoi friends in what remained of their territory!
Long ago, when Ga'Nathu was changed and the rest of the Five Hundred Voth with him, two other 'new beings' appeared. One was alone, unique amongst her kind. Just as the Voth were changed to a six limbed Middle Race, so was she. Yet she was an animal. Sentient as far as animals went, but the first of 'Lower Kind' to ascend to this level.
Alone. So very alone. The changed Voth befriended her, and in much later years, the children of men, the Celoi, did as well.
But it is not she that became part of the Three-Fold-Alliance with mankind, the Celoi.
It was the Alanakon.
They appeared at this time also, the second of 'Lower Kind', but numerous unlike the Solitary One. Ephemeral as reality, solid as a dream. Six limbed and lethal, yet resounding in beauty and innocence. Intelligent beyond ken, yet still animals of the world of their birth. None like them had yet arise - mammals of such power and size. Nothing close to them would arrive for millions of years.
On wings of power, or on legs of strength, they shifted through the paths of the world, interacting at will with the Solitary One and the Voth... then, to their delight... men.
The Celoi, the first tribe and nation of Man, met the Alanakon and marvelled at them. Marvelled as much at them, the masters of mist and wonder and hope as at the Voth, the masters of Justice and honour and fortitude.
The Three-Fold-Alliance took form at the start of the War of Pawns.
At the conclusion of the War, the Alanakon seemed to Vanish into the ether. If they remained on Earth, none knew. Did they ride the solar winds to distant planets, or did they remain in hidden areas where the Mists forever held sway? None living now knew.
What remained, however, were legends; two legends, specifically.
One was of a winged creature of beauty that certain peoples attributed to the act of a god. The other was of a being of such purity that only the most innocent of heart could come nigh unto it. It was a pity that mankind choose to veil their past in myth and legend...
... as both were right; for the Alanakon were.
Buck could not believe what he was seeing. Mist was everywhere, and roamed free as thought. Where it passed, enemies were slain. Not all, but those that remained were left unconscious.
Only four of these there were, for he and his friends had already bitten into the attackers hard by this point.
He tied them up and brought them down to the Valley floor for questioning.
In his mind, however, he still saw the bodies of the slain.
Holes slammed through their skulls or their chests. His scanners read that these were caused by something six to eight inches long, pointed and cone-shaped, with a base of no more than an inch in diameter.
What could have caused it? The Mist?
From that dissipating Mist, the Alanakon watched. In their blood they felt the time growing short. The Vol'Kier must be set free. The Celoi of this time must awaken, for only in their conscious minds could they place the true mantle of that title upon all of Mankind and renew the Alliance.
From the Mists, the Lord of the Alanakon watched, and all of his herd with him...
"Juan is right," Joel whispered, tears beginning to run down his face as his heart, at the same time, broke and turned to ice in his fear for his brothers. "We need to go down. Show the way..."
One of the Vifer who had not yet spoke stepped forward, "We can only show you to the beginning of the Quiver, the Way to our Parents. How you navigate it to its midpoint, Olen Kass, is unknown, for it is in flux. We have not been that far in a thousand years."
Constans nodded, "Ulri is correct. Only you can navigate the Quiver, Winglord."
"To tread the path from Upper Kora, 'midst darkest night and flaming heat, shall Winglord see with sight unseeing, and find the Arrow at Zeus' feet..."
Kevin looked at Joel. "What was that? Why did you say that?"
"I don't know... I think... I think we'll find out," replied the grieving Vulcan. He wiped his eyes and turned to the rest of his brothers and friends. "Hold your tears for now. Now is not the time to cry. Now is the time to fight. In every age a few are chosen. We are some of that few. These Vifer are others. More we shall find, more we yet know. In Empire's Heart our brothers already fight. In the Lost Valley of Silver, some have died. Across the world, now, Destiny marches. This is what you, Nine, spoke of - the Forge point of Earth. Stand in eternal light, or to fall into endless night... but we will not fall without a fight..."
JJ reined in his language with difficulty. "You're sounding more and more like the Guardian than ever, Joel."
"I am," Joel shrugged. "Constans. Lead us as far as you can and will. We'll have to go on alone."
"You can't all..."
"We are all going," Joel stated simply. "Now please; show us the way..."
The last of the attackers had been neutralized, but not without cost. On top of the three already named as dead, two more had been added to the list, and more than 40 injured, some seriously. Most had been Vulcans, and all adults. Only two children lay still, never to rise again.
And Jason grieved over them both, but over Antony most of all. Not even a year had passed since they had met and become fast friends, and now - after all they had been through - Antony was dead, and he had to live on without him.
The burden of leadership weighed heavy on him at that moment. Once before they had 'lost' a close loved one, his own son Oliver. But providence, or Levi, stepped in and casually passed a miracle. Now it did not seem possible. In the cool of the morning air, surrounded by armed guards and VSO operatives, Jason knelt at the side of the five that had died, and allowed his emotions to run free. How was he to tell Commander Dodds that his husband was dead? Or Justy, his Poppa? Or the Twin Terrors? What of Telez, a friend met only hours after first meeting Antony, that his Bonded had passed? Their kids? What of the mother of Benjamin, a boy that was not even part of the VSO? He was a local boy who would come over and play with the other kids here at the Base, and had stayed the night. What was Jason supposed to tell her?
Not being callous, Jason wasn't as worried or stressed about the final two who had passed, for they were both Vulcan and their families fully knew the risks... Oh but Antony was going to be the hardest. His mother, Mary, had only him as a blood-son...
Jason's thoughts were running everywhere. In most cases, a Lead One of a VSO division would be classed as emotionally incapacitated at this point if he or she acted or emoted this way, but not so Jason. He knew that he had to let these emotions out right away, when he was safe to do so, and then...
Movement. A hand on his shoulder. "Commander, we have the first report," a Vulcan Major said softly.
Jason stood up, his face still and eyes now dry. "Continue, Major," he said stoically. His eyes were rapidly loosing all vestiges of emotions as he locked down his 'human side' utterly, and threw himself fully into Vulcan mode.
"English battalion, supposed to be on training out of a base near Cardiff. Four survivors, but we are unable to meld with them. We are not sure why."
"Leave them to me," Jason said.
The Major pointed the way, and the Welsh Patriarch started in that direction. Buck followed along behind.
Funnily enough, no-one thought to try and stop him.
Well, I'm sure some of the Vulcans thought about it, but... logic dictated that a boy with a gun capable of blowing a 300 foot hole into the side of a mountain was not a person to be restrained from following whomever he damned well pleased.
"We are all going," Joel stated simply. "Now please; show us the way..."
The door that opened onto the 'maze' of tunnels that he and the rest had traversed earlier was at the far end of the room, and Joel's children were between him and that door when it burst open. Constans turned and stared in shock as British Army soldiers piled into the room firing SA80a2 Modified Phaser/Ballistic rifles at the group of Clan and Vifers.
The closest to this assault were Joel's kids, including Timmy, which turned out to be a good thing. Red was one smart cookie... (let me rephrase that before Joel eats him)... one smart Phasenmorph, and seriously more than capable to repel a sudden strike such as this. He was also capable of snapping his shield effect to surround those there without their own 'morph.
Rafe yelped and ducked for cover as Timmy, Ricky and the rest of Joel's kids started running towards the soldiers! Juan and Nine were with them within seconds, as were the Vifer.
"Don't kill them all!" Joel yelled out as the group running towards the soldiers opened up with their morphs or phasers or bow, in Juan's case.
There was a shocked silence as the area of effect attacks from everyone with a 'morph did precisely nothing to the enemy group, and the arrows Juan had shot bounced harmlessly off of the soldier's personal shields.
Constans narrowed his eyes. Nothing he knew of could be that resistant to so many phasenmorph blasts landing at the same time. "Blades!" he yelled as he and the other Vifer sped up and ploughed into the humans.
When Juan and the three Adam Casey clones got there they combined with the Vifer and things started to go more as expected. What wasn't quite as expected was Jules deciding to try for an interesting 'take down' by running fast, entering one of the soldier's bodies through his anus and emerge through his chest, with his heart in his pointy little teeth.
Sue and Brian, not to be outdone, decided to try a wishbone attack. They grabbed one of the soldiers by a leg each, then ran in opposite directions.
Lee leapt to the shoulders of another and casually ripped his head off, while Verne, Aslan and Shere-Khan took another apart with the claws and teeth.
Timmy and Ricky formed short swords with their 'morphs and kept low, stabbing at various groins - the 'Matty-tactic'.
As casually as if out on a Sunday stroll, Nine walked into the thickest part of the enemy group and lashed out fast and furious with his nano-tubes from his hand. Those struck fell to the floor, writhing about as the nano-probes started to convert them to Borg. Those that his scanners decided would not make 'adequate' Borg were brained with a heavy blow to their foreheads - blood and worse spilling from their eyes and ears.
During this, Kevin and Levi picked and chose their targets carefully to beat down, while JJ - fore-going any form of tactics - waded in cursing up a storm. Adam, however, hung back as memories of the last battle he'd been in froze at his heart. It was only when JJ was knocked to the ground and about to be skewered by a bayonet that he acted - he brought his hands together sharply, forming a broadsword with his dual-phasenmorphs, and ran as fast as his Vifer legs could carry him... which was fast. He slammed it to the hilt through JJ's attacker, roared in the dying man's face, spat out curses as he ripped the sword upwards... then he got really pissy.
Joel decided to watch and keep Rafe safe. The only thing was is that Rafe, in ducking for cover, had decided to go running out of the room towards the phasenmorph pools. Only when Joel looked around to find him did he realise this... and it was just as Rafe, tears of pain in his eyes, ran back into the room and straight into the brawl near the entrance. Without training it did not look like he had much of a chance at getting his newly minted juvenile morph - for it was a relative baby that had picked him in his desperation - to do more than simply protect him from stray bullets or phaser blasts. But he had been there watching as the others had been trained, and so managed a fairly interesting 'spiked glove' effect over his phasenmorphed right arm. This was used much the same way as Timmy and Ricky - now joined by the Des Moines tripple twins - were using theirs.
It was only a few minutes more before the fighting had stopped. The screaming and dying was continuing, but the fighting was over. Constans muttered darkly as he turned and picked his way past the bodies - grabbing a gore covered Jules with one hand - and headed for the nearest wash-room. All that could be picked up by the others was mutterings about 'Matty' and 'Agreeing with Nyo' and 'Bloody Clan Copycats Scaring The Shit Outta...', etc.
The base was now at a heightened state of alert, of course, and more and more Vifer were appearing from the various ways into this large room. Most were between 'five' and 'seven' by appearance.
Timmy and Ricky found themselves, with the help of William and Duke, helping the triple twins through their post-battle debriefing. William and Duke handled the healing of the boy's minds, while Timmy and Ricky provided much-needed cuddles to the six boys.
Juan, Cain, Seth and Abel were high-fiving each other - which was about as close as you could get to a Unit 'wind-down' from a small skirmish... or as close as you'd get in these four boys' cases at any rate.
Zhaan watched them for a second then rolled his eyes. He turned and assessed the five that had been hit by the Borg-boy's nano-tubes, interested in the rapid changes that were coming over the weakly struggling forms. He smiled up at Nine and asked, "Can you give me a full explanation of this effect later, please?"
"It would be our pleasure," Nine replied... as did four of the semi-Borg at their feet. The last one, however, was beginning to go into a seizure or something, and was clutching at his chest and head alternatively. Nine narrowed his eyes and looked inward at the Borg-link and the readings. Then he picked up the body at his feet, turned and hurled him through the open door the soldiers had come through. "EVERYONE GET D..."
Fire raced through the door, but got no further, for Adam had used his dual 'morphs to put a solid shield in a bowl shape around the entrance.
Joel came over, picking Rafe up and cuddling him carefully. "What happened?" he asked, his mist-eyes searching Nine's.
"We do not know," the collective Borg said as one as the four remaining 'once-human' soldiers got to their feet, their faces blank. "We shall endeavour to link with Buck and debate this. We shall remain here as you progress further, Sa'ren of Vulcan. We shall remain in contact with the Song."
Joel thought for a moment, then nodded. At the back of his mind he really could hear a Song, now. The Song of the Collective. Buck, Nine, himself, Kataui and now these four others. He glanced around and then settled his eyes on Zhaan, "Will you secure this entrance now?"
"Sure thing. I don't know how they got here when I couldn't without your help - we've not lowered the defences since we got here."
Joel tilted his head. "Logic would dictate that they have outside help... maybe these z'Kath."
"Troubling," one of the other Vifer said, her six year old sounding voice at odds with the tone used.
"Constans?" Joel called.
"Yes, Winglord?" came the voice of the Vifer's leader, with indignant squeaks from Jules as he was obviously being sprayed down in the nearby wash room.
"I will leave my children here. Please have Rafe trained with his morph. Timmy? You're in charge with Lee."
Timmy gave him the thumbs up, while Lee silently giggled and signed, 'Power! I have the Power!'
"Everyone else, with me," Joel finished.
Kevin came up to him. "Why the change of heart?"
"It feels different, as if the kids had done what they were here to do."
Galli nodded, his eyes serious. "I agree."
Zhaan looked at him sharply, "I noticed you were conspicuous by your absence in the fight."
The Doctor nodded. "I carry no weapon. I do not fight that way..."
"He is the Doctor," Joel added, his eyes elsewhere it seemed. "He raises up warriors from his allies and brings together those that can achieve the greatest good, but unless enraged does not fight. When he does, Time itself trembles..."
"Besides," Timmy added, "Unca Kyle says that the high guys ain't allowed to kill guys unless they gotta to make the time 'paghetti work right!"
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, then jerked his thumb at the red-head: "What he said."
"Ah... the Code of the Ancients," Zhaan murmured. He looked over at Levi with a question in his eyes.
Levi poked his tongue out at him then hefted a chair leg from the fight earlier when the Clan kids had been 'tested' by the Vifer. "I bonked them good!"
"Yeah you did; we're gonna have to talk about forming a baseball team!" JJ quipped as Adam was trying to hug the life out of him.
Cain looked at Joel, his eyes wary, "I hope you don't expect me and my brothers to stay with the kids, do you?"
"Nope," Joel quipped back. "Not like you three would listen."
"I would," Abel smiled.
"That's 'cos you're a suck-up," Seth giggled, elbowing his brother in the ribs.
"Of course! That way I get more of Dad's cookies!"
Cain rolled his eyes.
Timmy looked at the triple twins. "You guys are in charge of watchin' out for Poppa Joel," he stated firmly looking at Kurt, his tone daring anyone to argue with him.
Constans re-entered the room at this point, carrying a large towel that obviously contained an irate, chattering Jules who was angrily attempting to chew his way out of it. He tossed the Ferret boy at Lee, who caught him deftly, before joining Joel. "Zhaan, train up Raphael. The rest coming with Joel, follow me."
Jules finally managed to escape the towel, then shook himself off. Some soap bubbles were still clinging to his fur. He started hissing and spitting curses at the big Vifer, but then stopped as Zhaan handed him the shiniest gemstone he'd seen since the Wedding in London. He and Verne were suddenly captivated, which saved the rest of those there from having to endure a swearing Ferret.
"Cor, we have a problem!" Sean called out urgently.
"What else could go wrong?" the Clan Patriarch yelled over from the monitor he was looking at with Spock and the Queen.
"Jace's base has been attacked!"
"English forces. And... oh... oh shit," Sean finished with a whisper as he looked at the screen he was by. He glanced around, checking for Justy or the Double Js. They were out of the meeting room in the hall with some of the others. "Hon, five have died..."
Cory followed his gaze and his eyes found those whom Sean had looked at. "Who was it?" he asked sickly.
"Two Vulcan officers; a civilian boy from the town next to the base who was visiting, Benjamin Tasker. Only seven. Ah... T...Tony. Antony Evans, Cor. Jace is breaking his heart... and... and..." he looked again out of the door before whispering, "Uncle Josh..."
"Grandma, Uncle Spock? Family Clan Short is hereby at war," Cory managed to say. He moved over to Sean. "Take care of our brothers, babe; as much as I hate to go through this again, I'm gonna make those sonovabitches pay for attacking my family."
The Queen came over, "I know you have tech that can transport you out of here, child, so I just want to warn you not to use matter-energy conversion style. The shielding will prevent it."
Sean held Cory close as the Patriarch nodded. He whispered, "Shall... shall I tell Justy and the twins that their Pop has..." He didn't want to say it. Almost couldn't.
"Not yet." Cory stated. "They'll get themselves killed trying to avenge it."
"I agree, waiting until a more suitable situation arises would be logical," Spock added. "At this moment, the emotional support they would require is not available without putting many others at risk."
Cory tapped his sub-vocal, "Ark. Can you take me to Dragon's Nest please?"
Silence. No response.
"Ark?" Cory asked again, tapping his Clan communicator this time.
Still nothing. He looked at Sean who immediately started checking the monitor before him. "Everything reads normally, hon," he said after a moment or so.
Cory looked over at the Queen. "Set Condition Red, Sean. All members prepare for imminent hostilities. Lethal force is authorized; we ain't gonna get surprised like Montana again."
Kyle came running into the room, looking more than a little petrified. "Cor?! Cor! The Clan's trying to call to us. You name it, they're trying it, but we can't answer. Not telepathy, nor anything..."
"Crap." Cory exclaimed. He then motioned for Kyle to join him. As he pulled Kyle into a hug, he whispered "I ain't gonna let anything happen to you guys if I can stop it. You remember how we were talking about you and your kids? I know that you said that you guys ain't gonna kill unless you have to because it ain't right to play superman. I'm really hoping you don't have to break that decision, but if you feel comfortable helping me with finding ways to shield our family from these assholes I think both of us will be happier. Between all of the guys here, I think we will find a way pretty soon to let the Clan know we are okay... I just pray that Joel and Timmy and the rest of the guys are okay as well."
"Cor," Kyle said, his voice muffled as his face was pressed to Cory's chest, "There's more. We can't answer, but someone else is! Whomever it is sounds like us. The Clan outside of London don't know we can't talk to them, can't know if we're in danger, which I think we're going to be soon. The AI's don't know anything is wrong except for the marshal law and the dampening field over London, which is how it should be in what they think is a civil unrest issue! Cory, someone out there is way more powerful than me and he's using MY VOICE TO TALK TO PETER! Bryce, Ezra and Dilly are here and safe, but I lost track of Levi when he went down under the Nest's basement, that old Vifer base."
"Remember Levi's 'friend'?" Cory said softly. "There is a reason I bet that Levi is where he is; and I bet he's gonna have help making sure nothing bad happens. You and Ty made an Angel when you had him; I'd be willing to bet he is able to undo anything that is being done here with deceiving our family back home."
"But what if he doesn't know? And who could be doing this, Cor... Cor? Why are there Dragons in your mind?"
Cory froze. The Vol'Kier. It had to be... but the impulse to not think of them was more or less gone from his mind. "Oh my God..."
"The zKath!" Sean exclaimed. The memories from Forever World the night before the weddings yesterday were flooding back into his mind as well. "It has to be, Cor. But they're..."
"Middle Race, but Levi's Friend said that that was no tell on their power... oh God, we're in trouble if it's them."
Kyle was looking at Cory's left arm, where the grey bracelet was. Looking at it as if he could see it clearly. Only one gem was lit, but it was humming, which had drawn the Mikyvis' attention. "What's this, big bro?" he asked, touching it.
That was a mistake, and if he had been human he'd have been killed when he was thrown backwards faster than eyes could follow. However, had he been human, that reaction would not have happened. From the floor where he lay, with Teri, Sean, Cory and the others racing over to him, he saw images flash before his eyes. Tears of sadness and joy poured from them as he recognised yet couldn't make out what everything was before him. Enemies gathered, friends died, a brother dead, another alive due to a sacrifice, and a third standing o'er the wrecks of time and space with a choice to make. Groggily he tried to sit up, then he turned fast and threw up.
Even as he was being sick he knew that something was very, very wrong.
At the gate to the Palace, the Lieutenant commanding the watch of the Coldstream Guard was arguing with an army Colonel.
"Are you refusing the direct order of a superior officer, Lieutenant?" the colonel demanded. "Not to mention that of the Prime Minister?"
"No, I am not refusing an order of a superior officer, Colonel," the Lieutenant responded calmly, his phaser adapted rifle held firmly but apparently loosely at his side. "You are not one to me. As for the honourable Prime Minister, he has no authority over the Guard. Now, step back. The Palace is sealed."
The Colonel did step back, only to motion the soldiers he had with him to come forward. "Open that gate," he ordered as he turned his back on the Guard Lieutenant and began to walk away. The soldiers obeyed their orders and ran forward, all across the front of the gate and fencing. Those guards inside the grounds seemed to have the disadvantage in forces and lack of cover.
"Bad move," the Lieutenant murmured as he raised his rifle and stunned the Colonel in the back. "Incoming!" he yelled as the soldiers responded by opening fire on him and the others on the grounds.
The perimeter shielding held. In fact, the ballistics of the regular weapons did not even register as energy loss.
Those who fired first were stunned before they could fire again. The rest were stunned seconds later by the mounted phasers on the support walls along the front of the Palace fencing.
"They never learn," a private said with a brief smile. "How often are the regulars told that we stand apart, sir?"
"Often enough," the Lieutenant answered as he gazed around carefully. The normally busy front was more or less empty due to the riots and resulting marshal law in effect, so no tourists were even witness to this event. "Okay, all clear," he said after receiving a nod from one of his subordinates who was holding a tricorder-like item. "Go and arrest the sleeping beauties."
Of the four captured attackers, three were unharmed. The fourth had a wound through his shoulder much like the strange ones on some of the dead. All of them had on their person a strange device that, on further study, brought up some of the worst memories in Jason; a telepathic inhibitor.
"Did they really think that carrying these would have stopped us entirely?" Jason asked rhetorically.
The Vulcan major who had first approached him responded anyway, "I have never fully been able to understand why a Human does some things. Present company included. Sir."
Under normal situations Jason would have laughed. What with the losses they had incurred, he did not even smile, only grunt. "I can read three of them easily, but this other one is hard to fathom. Can you try a meld now, please?" he asked, pointing to the wounded officer.
The Major nodded and proceeded with the meld. After a few minutes he reported, "Nothing out of the ordinary, Commander. He was given secure and coded orders from London to attack a terrorist base that was hidden in this valley. It is obvious that there is something amiss in London."
Tapping the communicator at his neck, Jason said, "Voice to Patriarch Short."
"Receiving. What's up?"
Jason narrowed his eyes. It sounded like Cory, but he was sure Cory would have known about this attack by now. In fact, it was strange that Cory had not tried to contact him or even come over in person already. Guardedly, Jason asked, "Is everything okay with you?"
"Fine, Jace. We're all okay. How is our Fire-headed son doing?"
"Good, Cor. Just checking. Keep your head down, Voice out."
The Vulcan Major's eyebrow was raised. "I have only studied the Patriarch by our records, but that did not sound like him."
Jason's eyes were closed for a moment. "He feels happy. Alive. Not at all what he would feel like with the riots in London, nor the events here." He opened his eyes and looked at the time. It was just past half past ten. He looked over at the monitors on the wall and pressed a button. All around the UK, British army forces were fighting each other. Seemingly it was the English forces suppressing a Celtic uprising, but he knew better from VSO reports. He made a decision he had hoped to never make.
"Ark, Draco. Patch me in to all Clan leadership communications and broadcast. Only those who are able to action my following commands. Say when ready."
Not even a second after requesting it, Ark replied, <All Clan systems receiving.>
"This is Patriarch Jason Evans. First, as of ten thirty three, UK time, I am declaring a Clan Wide Emergency; I have reason to believe further attacks against Clan Holdings may soon begin. Second, due to an unexplained occurrence within a conversation with Patriarch Cory Short, I am hereby superseding his command authority over the Clan and within the Vulcan High Command until I can verify the veracity of his person. All command codes are hereby transferred to myself. All communication with Cory Short by anything other than telepathy is hereby blocked. Those able to communicate through telepathy are to do so on a limited bases. No order from Cory is to be followed as I cannot determine if it is really him that spoke to me just now, or if he was doing so under some form of coercion. The VSO is now on top alert, and our first priority is the location and security of the Patriarch. All Unit forces not already engaged in live combat zones are to follow pre-existing orders for such a situation."
A few seconds after finishing, the comm beeped. "Seth reporting. CIC and Clan Short Orlando at full alert. Camp Little Eagle on Lock Down."
Next response was from Des Moines Division. "Voice, this is Ghost Three responding for the Director. Des Moines Compound is going into lock-down. Find him."
"Will do, Benny. Make sure Julio doesn't try coming over looking for Cory, will you? I know they're close."
"It's why I'm responding, Jace. I'm sitting on his head to stop him going anywhere!"
Before Jason could say anything more, another division responded. "This is Kaleo at Pacific Rim Division, Jace. We're already at red alert. There's a weenie roast at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki that we were invited to."
"Yeah, thanks bro. I knew. How's Prez?"
"Better than he would have been without the medical crap we have going for us."
"Cool. Give him a hug when he's feeling up to it for me."
Suddenly, in his mind, he heard a rather upset sounding John Hundser. 'Jace? What's happened to Cory?'
'Try and stay calm, John. I don't know if anything has happened, but something is odd about the communication I had from him and with what I'm feeling from him right now. It doesn't match with the Cory I know.'
A pause. Then, 'Jace, I don't know if this helps, but I had a flash of... something... when I heard your voice. I... something about a red, white and green flag and it came alive. I'm a little nervous, bro...'
His eyes wide, Jason nodded. 'Keep strong, lil'bro.'
Then another beep called Jason's attention from the mind chat.
"Lieutenant Steven Mercer reporting Alligator Alley Intel Compound on alert and standing by to assist as needed. We're a new sub-division and you might not..."
Jason rolled his eyes. When would Seth know that nothing he did would get by him. "I know, Lieutenant. I'm the all knowing, all powerful, all cute Voice of the Dragon and..." He paused. Dragon? The Welsh flag! That is what John had seen. "Sorry, Steve... Keep your head down, but if you think you guys can help directly, just do it. Voice out."
Before he could even recover from that one, a nervous fourteen year old's voice came over the comm. "Um, this is Jackie in Louisiana. Um... we are, ummm.... we are also standing by and ready to assist."
Jason smiled at the image in he had in his mind of a sleep tousled teen, suddenly thrown into the deep end, doing his best in this situation. "Calm it down, boyo. Breathe and calm your heart-beat. I can see from the monitors here that you're scared, but don't be. I have a three teams in your area looking over you already, and Jer and Ty with you know me and mine. I'll contact you if I need your help, and I already know your capabilities... and... stand..." he trailed off. In his mind's eye he saw something similar to what John had described, the Welsh Flag coming to life, only with this flash he saw it alight over two boys that were somehow linked to Jackie in Louisiana. "Jackie, you're about to get some help. Don't ask how, but I think you're in for a surprise in... a few hours."
Seth's voice came back over the comm. "While you were chatting with the newbies, Jace, I took the confirmations from North East, Las Vagas, Unit Command and Oceanic. They're all at Condition Red and gearing up."
Then one of the more unexpected, but very welcomed, responses came in. A subspace communication.
"Jason, this is Tar-Min at the Headquarters Annex on Rigel VII. Interplanetary alert to all remote Clan installations has been sent and acknowledged. Standing by for orders."
With a smile and a nod, Jason answered, "Good to hear from you Tar-Min. How's your butt?"
"How did you...?" A pause, then, "You VSO guys... you're everywhere!"
"I know. Don't you just love it?"
"What do you need us to do?"
"Well, unless you have access to some of the Rigal Defence Fleet and can bring them over, I'm not sure. But now I know you're listening in I can use any and all the intel and help you can muster."
"I'll work on the fleet, give me ten of your minutes." Tar-Min replied seriously. "Intel will be coming in using Emergency Protocol Alpha Fourteen."
With a parting farewell, Jason closed the comm. Then he looked over at the Major, "Well... we have some work to do."
Then his comm went off again.
It was Telez.
Jason closed his eyes, and prayed. Now he had to tell his Andorian brother that his husband had been killed...
"Mikey! Get down here!" Cory yelled as he cradled Kyle close to him on the floor. He was kneeling in his little brother's vomit, and the smell was not doing much for his own stomach, but he'd not seen Kyle like this ever. Not before he became Mikyvis and especially not afterwards. He shook his head to clear the thrumming that seemed to press at his ears.
The boy's face was changing colour, from red to pale to near green, as if he was hot, cold and sick to his stomach all at once. His eyes were bloodshot, and his breath ragged. "C...Coorrrryyyy..." he managed to get out breathlessly. His fingers clawing at the ground in the direction of Tyler.
The boy in question shook off Sean's comforting cuddle and squirrelled up close, scanning his husband at the same time. His own face went pale. "You're human... I think..." he whispered.
"MIKEY GET DOWN HERE!" Cory yelled again.
Nothing was his answer.
Sean looked at the scene before him, then glanced at Teri. "Either Mikey is unable to get to us, or not allowed... I would think the latter, because I don't know what could stop an angel."
With a cough that brought up bright red blood, Kyle spat, "Vae'Za... must be..."
The thrumming grew louder until Cory could not ignore it a moment longer. He glanced at the bracelet with the seven gems. All but one were now lit up. Only the centre remained dim, lifeless. He glanced at the Queen. Behind her, from the doorway, came the druids and he saw that all of the gems on their bracelets were glowing. Five a piece.
The Queen nodded. "It is time, Cory. We will look after Kyle. Go to the room I showed you."
His mind filled with the thrumming music of the gems, Cory passed Kyle's shaking body off to Tyler and stood. He felt Sean's hand grasp his arm, but did not pay him heed. He heard his lover's voice, but listened not. He moved without thinking, now caught up in a tide of Destiny greater than himself.
Pulled from room to hall to stair through door, on and on he went, the music growing, the darkness of fate closing, the weight of history pushing and the hand of Providence guiding. He left behind all sense of self, and heard the voices of all who had come before him, shouting him onward.
The voices of gods and kings and men, the battle-cries of nations and kingdoms and tribes, the triumphant shouts of clans and creeds and faiths.
He passed through the doorway that stood unseen to all but thirteen in that palace, and out of the sight of his oldest friend, dearest lover and steadfast brother.
Sean cried his grief and shock as Cory passed, it seemed, through a stone wall...
And all that remained were words burned in golden fire where his form had passed...
Rex quondam, Rexque futurus...
King Once... and King in the Future!
"There are no reports of the Eryradain around Mars, Commander."
"Where have they gone?"
"Unknown. There are two of their ships in orbit of the Earth, but none other within the system. The fleet is now moving slowly this way, laying the designed mines. If the Eryradain fleet returns, it will be destroyed."
"Good. I was impressed at the report from our Friends, but their solutions supplied are neater than ours would have been in dealing with them."
"What is their anger about to these interlopers?"
"An Eryradain ship went to help the Enterprise on Tuesday. They offended our Masters, so their world will burn soon."
"Oh. Interesting. Reports from the Refki and the Selei. Both are ready for the softening blows against the United States."
"They do know that theirs is a suicide mission, do they not?"
"Of course. Those older battleships are susceptible to the technology the League has in their militarys. As for the Birds of Prey, they are cannon fodder until the Fleet arrives."
"And then our Masters will show themselves... and we shall reveal ourselves... and this world shall burn."
He was in the Bell Tower of Parliament, and had no clue as to how he had gotten there. He had entered that room that only he and a few others could see, and lightning had shot through him, sending him here. Before him hung Big Ben, the bell of the tower. He had never seen it before. Not many actually had, or at least not how he could now see it.
It was covered in symbols; symbols he could read and understand. In a language long vanished from the Earth, in pictographs that defied understanding; yet he could understand. Many times in the past twelve thousand years had members of the First Celoi tribe, the Celoi themselves, visited their own people, own tribe. Most had returned to the world of the sun seven thousand years ago, splitting into two groups. One to remain on this island, and the other to head south. Those that had remained hidden visited the descendants of their tribe had done so to design and build massive structures.
Westminster was one.
And the one at the top? That picture that seemed faded?
Wait, something pressed on the teen's mind. Something he was remembering? Or forgetting? Or knowing without knowing?
Ring the Bell.
Ring the Bell or all shall fall.
Ring to awaken the Lord of Oaths and his Broken Soul.
Ring to awaken the Sleeping King, to start the Trial of Blood and Shadow.
Ring to give omen to the day that had come - the last day of the last empire... or to give hope to the first day of the new Earth.
Ring to return the Threefold Alliance.
He looked and saw new pictures, of horses that were not horses.
He found the club, though none other on Earth would have. He hefted it in his hands, and smote the Bell; though none heard it ring... save those in Buckingham.
As more lightning flashed around him, Cory thought, "Winged unicorns... Timmy will freak."
Then he was gone.
The Queen looked up as a single, sweet-toned chime rang out from Big Ben. Her shocked look was clear to all around her.
It was at this moment that a tearful Sean returned to the room and collapsed in the doorway. "He's gone! He walked through a fucking wall, and he's gone! I can't feel him!" he bawled as his mother rushed to him.
"What do you mean?" Teri asked with concern.
"Cory, Mom! He walked to the basement and then... then... vanished into a wall!" he wept as Teri took her son into her arms.
Kyle was still trying to get himself back together, but his stomach was still in knots. Tyler fussing over him like a mother-hen wasn't helping much, either; but both of them stopped struggling when they heard that. "Cory? Sean! Where was this?" Tyler asked as he sprang to his feet.
"A place that only we can see," said one of the strangely dressed figures just to the side of Sean and Teri. "He is the Key and he has been turned."
Teri felt Tyler's temper raising, and warned him "Control, kiddo. We need that roof."
Tyler tried, he really did, but no matter how angry he was, and he was very angry right now, he couldn't make things explode. And that scared him. His face paled from red anger to white fear in an instant. The rest there saw the change, but did not know the reason.
"Turned?" Teri said softly, her eyes hard as she looked at the woman in the robe next to her. "As in..."
The woman cocked her head to the side, and her eyes, mostly shadowed in the robe's hood, seemed to be seeing something that only she and the other druids could. "No, Teri. Not a child of the night, although he now faces the Lord of Shadows himself. He is the Key, and you turn a Key. He has been turned. What comes next is for the fates to decide."
"Mom... my powers don't work..." Tyler whimpered suddenly.
Kyle, still frightened himself about being human again, went even paler. "Did... is it because I changed back? Mom? Mom?!" he cried out loudly.
Justy and his twin brothers heard Kyle from the hallway, and ran in. They had seen Cory and Sean run off earlier and then Sean come back looking frightened and worried, but Prince Philip had been going over a number of technical issues with the three of them. Teri would handle whatever it was, they had quickly reasoned in full Vulcan mode. However, the screamed question made them forget any form of 'Vulcan mode' and they dived into the room, demanding to know what was going on.
At the same moment, a huge mastiff with a jeweled collar, two mostly nude young boys of about six or seven, and three Gallifreyan robed figures appeared via a strange thrumming transporter-like pattern in the air near the window.
"K-9 has made it. K-9 is a good dog!"
"This is getting out of control," Elizabeth said to no-one in particular. "And who are you six?"
The two young bare-chested boys smiled at her before looking at each other and speaking rapidly in a high pitched language that defied everyone's attempt at understanding. They seemed to reach an agreement, looked at the larger of the three robed figures with them, received a nod, before grinning at the Queen. "We are Daleks!" exclaimed one, his eyes twinkling and the flesh like ropes around his chest seemed to wiggle slightly.
"And we have come to EXTERMINATE!" smiled the other... then added quickly, "... your enemies. Oh, these three are Timetouched, and K-9 is the Doctor's Dog. We have been sent to aid you."
While they both said this, the larger of the three robed figures moved over to lay a hand on Sean's forehead. Then he, or she, walked over to Kyle and Tyler and started checking them with what looked like a sonic device of some form. "Interesting," came a remarkably familiar voice from underneath the hood. It was definitely a woman. "He... has solidified," she murmured, scanning Kyle all the more.
K-9 padded up and sniffed at the still prone young Mikyvis. "Smells human. Smells of Time and Space and Love. Smells like Mikyvis. Smells like... Time Lord."
"What.... what's happening to my Kyle now?!" Tyler raged, slapping at the woman's hand and knocking the sonic device away from his husband. "TELL ME WHAT'S GOING ON!"
The Dalek boy with the flesh-coloured ropes said, "He has become solid, much as Time Lords, Archnanians and Daleks are. Please excused K-9, his speaking is much as I-Cheya when he is excited."
"Explain," Teri said curtly.
"That's so strange," the other bare-chested boy said, an odd look in his eyes. His sunlight shimmering hair waved as if in a breeze, although there was none there to cause it. As Teri turned her attention on him, he nodded and said, "We can explain what we know, but there is some that we do not know. Only the Doctor can... maybe."
"I'll call God Himself if you don't give some answers, at least those that you can," Teri stated, the only reason her temper was under control being the fact these were boys and not adults.
"Kari, I will explain," said the robed woman as she lowered her robe.
Everyone gasped, and Teri's eyes widened alarmingly.
The new woman was also Teri. She smiled at her Alpha-Prime self and said, "Things are a little stranger than you know, Lady of Vulcan."
Cory was in the dark, quite literally. There was nothing he could see in this large space he was now in. It felt large, and cool, and damp. A cave, he would guess. He moved his foot slightly. Stone, moss, loose rocks. Certainly a cave. He turned around slowly, trying to see if there was a source of light somewhere, anywhere. Nothing. He raised his arm and started a phasenmorph induced light. He saw it, but as quickly as the light spilled forth it vanished.
He patted Bluebeard softly, then tried again. Nothing. However, he also knew that his 'morph was making a light, and a strong one at that. Why, then, could he not see it?
He blinked and rubbed at his eyes. Still nothing. With careful steps he began to move, keeping his arms outstretched and moving around himself in order to find the wall. As he was about to make his fourth step something seemed to stop him. He put his foot back and turned slightly before moving again. It was as if he could sense a drop there, or more, see it without seeing it. It was as if he was seeing, but part of his mind wasn't registering it. Maybe. What it did tell him, though, was that someone was playing a very nasty game.
"Is anyone there?" he called out, deciding he wasn't going to play along.
He remained where he was and waited.
'Move or die.'
It was a whisper in his ear, close as his breath, yet far away as the moon. He started violently, but managed to regain his balance. It was as if part of his mind was telling him he was in danger of falling on nearly all sides. Luck and the training he had received from the Vulcans on emotional control kept him from doing something fatal.
"Who are you?" Cory croaked around the sudden fear in his chest. The darkness around him pressed in on him. This was not what he had expected, not even close. "Who are you?" he repeated, softer and now in a little more control.
'Me. Now move, or you will be found wanting...'
"Mikey, if you can hear me, now would be a very good time for you to help," Cory whispered, eyes squeezed tight.
'Move, son of Celoi. Prove yourself to me, or stand wanting...'
Threat ebbed and flowed in the air, and Cory knew that he had no choice. He started to move. His heart was in his mouth with every step, praying all the while that he would find footing and not a drop into... he had no idea, and he did not want to know either.
At the front of his thoughts, though, was...
Where was Mikey?
"M... Mom?" Sean managed as he looked between his mother holding him... and his mother standing by Kyle and Tyler.
"Yes?" both Teris answered in unison.
"I feel ill," the Queen murmured. "I had heard of such, but..."
"It is disquieting," Spock put in as he also looked between his wife and this new 'Teri'. He addressed the newcomer, "I gather you are from another universe or timeline?"
"Correct," Teri-2 nodded. "As are... well..." she pointed at the other two robed figures who then lowered their hoods.
Another Cory and Sean. This Cory was hugged tight behind the new Sean, but otherwise both looked and seemed as the Alpha-Prime pair did. There was a note of sadness and hurt hovering around them, as well as around the new Teri, but mostly, they felt to those who could sense such just the same.
"What the hell?" Sean moaned.
The two Daleks, Kari and Skaro, were ignoring all of this and talking rapidly to each other in their unique language, all the while running their hands - and in Skaro's case, the four long tentacle like feelers that the ropes around his chest revealed themselves to be - over Kyle and over Tyler.
Sean-2 smiled at the resident Sean and said, "We were sent by the Doctor... yesterday? I don't quite get that one... to help here and now. He is currently with the Shaper and cannot assist, nor can he - or anyone - get to you through the Shield that has covered this city."
"I'll make sure to give him a hug of thanks after I get done kicking his butt over seventeen different universes," Sean stated. "Does that mean you can help Kyle?"
Sean-2 looked over his shoulder at Cory-2 and both shrugged. Cory-2 trembled at Sean, "Can I help you get over puberty?"
"I think Cory would be kinda pissed if he found out that he helped me through that while he wasn't around," Sean stated factually.
Cory half smiled shyly, "I meant, can I cure puberty? It is a natural change that all must go through... at least all Young Racers. This with Kyle... it is a natural change... yes, brought forward by contact with the relic of the Three-Fold-Alliance, but still natural."
The focus of this discussion was correctly giggling along with his still 'normal' Mikyvis hubby as Skaro's feelers were digging under their clothing to study every inch, it seemed, of their bodies. However, his mind was working at levels beyond what his current predicament belied - he, still giggling, looked directly at the new Sean, "Wait!... hehehhee... if no-one can get in... hehehehhahahahahaah!... here, how did.... that's Ty-hehehehehehe-lers!.... you get here?"
"Does this mean I get to take another nap with my hubby and wake up better?" Tyler asked hopefully, his own mind on the other issue.
Kari looked at Skaro and both stopped speaking in Dalek. He said in English, "They are both still thinking beyond human norm. What are you doing with your Third, Skaro?!"
"Exploring," Skaro grinned evilly.
Tyler was blushing.
"I would be annoyed... but my hand is elsewhere too..." Kari giggled.
Kyle was blushing.
"They seem normal," Skaro stated after a second's worth of hyper-fast giggling. He straightened up and his feelers retracted and wrapped themselves back around his torso. Kari did the same and turned to hug his obvious partner quickly. They then both addressed the group in unison. "We will answer what we can, in the order we chose. Please be seated."
It was not a request. An odd lilt to the two boys' voices was a carrier for a level of 'otherness' that made all feel like doing as they were told.
As those who were standing simply sank into seats, or to the floor - including the new Teri, Sean and Cory - Kari noted softly to Skaro, "Now I really know what the Doctor meant by 'the Remembrance of the Daleks'... we have to be careful with our Voice."
Teri-2 looked over at Teri and both rolled their eyes. Then they both said, in full 'Mom-Mode', "Explain!"
Teri's voice was full of concern and irritation. Teri-2's was full of exasperation and amusement. Both brooked no disobedience.
Skaro's eyebrows shot up. "They have the Voice too! We had better comply."
"You are eldest and Alpha, you do so," Kari grinned before parking his cute body next to Kyle on the floor and helped Tyler to cuddle the boy. Kyle thought that he was an excellent cuddler.
With another roll of his eyes, Skaro started, "We were told to come to assist you, however there are no normal means of entry into... Longon, was it?"
"London," Spock offered.
"Thank you. London. There is no way in bar walking, and any who try it in either direction become lost and disoriented within the Mists of the Shield. You are now bubbled and apart from the World, and things are yet getting worse. Since we could not gain entry from the present, we went to the past..."
"Twenty five years, to be exact," Cory-2 smiled shyly.
"... and gave to a servant of this place a gift for the family. A plate," Kari took up.
"This one," Skaro grinned, pointing at a normal looking plate on the table by the chair the Queen had been using an hour or so ago. "It has a tracking molecule embedded in it. We used it to transport to you down through time, which is something that the zKath... yes, it's the zKath... cannot work against. However, it is something only one High Race has ever been able to do..."
"Which is why the Doctor set it into motion for us," Cory-2 said. "Technically, we have been coming here for 25 years... didn't take that long, surprisingly."
"I can blink longer than that," Kyle giggled, felling a little closer to his normal self.
"That about explains how we got here," Skaro smiled, looking down at the Prince of the Mikyvis, "and as for why, it is for you. The Doctor can NOW feel you getting upset, and so tomorrow... not yesterday, Sean! You numpty!... tomorrow he sent us to the past to come to the present to help you, only he came himself to yesterday to send us to the past to come to today... and forget it... I'll get the headache pills," he gave up, giggling.
"It makes perfect sense to me," Tyler and Kyle chorused.
"Me too," Justy added.
Crowing for joy, Skaro bounced on his heels for a moment before recovering control and continuing. "All we know, Kyle, is that... well, you and the Mikyvis are an aberration in what should be. All High Races that have ever been have been pure energy, unbound in form. All have a default, original form, but as you've seen with Q and Quint, they can simply become an amorphous blob of energy... all High Races, ALL, bar three were like this. Only the Time Lords, their genetically created offspring, us Daleks, and the Archnanians are different. We retain our mortal, Young Race appearance and lifestyle, but with our... well, DNA?... altered to contain the anti-power needed to be High Race."
"You, little dude," Cory-2 smiled softly, looking over at Kyle from his comfy perch of Sean-2's lap, "are strange. You are completely energy, but locked into a permanent form. You can age that form, recolour it, whatever. But cannot make yourself a Horta, for example. You are neither like all the old High Races that were, or the Q that are; nor are you like the Three Young Race looking High Races. You are, or were... wrong... It feels wrong in Time, and Time will always find a way."
"Wait! The Doctor said that we were Locked Form High Races and that it was..." Kyle started in shock, then his eyes opened in understanding, then he became a little angry, then he calmed. Then he quoted, "'The Doctor lies...'... and I understand why... I'm thinking quicker than normal... I don't like this... but the Doctor needed to lie, for if he'd told me I would change again, then I'd have really freaked out big style, and I wouldn't have made the progress that I have done... Oh, you bratty big brother, I'm going to kiss you, then hug you, then pull your dick off... gently... fourteen times... one for each of your lives..." he finished with a wane smile.
"Uh, explain?" Sean and Tyler asked weakly.
"I'll tell you in a minute," Kyle huffed as he wiggled his toes, then his fingers. He got up from the floor carefully and stretched out his arms. "I feel human... more or less... but why do I have two hearts?!" he yelled, touching his chest.
"Your left is for your body, your right is for your power, both carry your blood, but no Young Race looking High Race can have less than two hearts," Teri-2 said simply. "Gallifreyans originally had two, so they never noticed a difference, but Daleks were designed with one, and then had two after they changed."
"Besides, you have so much love you need too hearts to hold it, little bro," Sean added as he got up and ran over to give Kyle a test cuddle.
"I love you too, bro," Kyle mumbled from the hug, a tear beginning to form in his visible eye as his face was smushed against Sean's chest.
Skaro bounced lightly on his heels again as he waited for the family bonding to calm down, then once all had regained their seats, said, "We also have word about what we can tell you about your missing Patriarch. He is the King that Was and the King to Come and the King to Reign o'er Avalon forever. He is now being tested by the First of the Children of the Night, and if Time Wills, he will loose the God Who Is Not Yet, after the Winglord unlocks the Sword..."
"Oh great, Guardian wannabes!" Sean stated, his grin showing he was joking.
Kari grinned at him, but Kyle looked up from his place next to Sean. "But who is this First he was talking about?" He looked over at Skaro. "Can you tell us, little bro?" he asked, immediately attaching the Dalek race to the Clan in that statement.
Skaro nodded seriously. "The Master of Blood; the Second to Change... Victus Moroi, the oldest remaining and now the most powerful of the Vampires... known in the Realms of Darkness as..."
"'The Lord of Shadows'," Sean finished for him, thinking about all the stories of Brant's people. "The father of all Vampires... but how can that be? We were told that it was another 'Moroi' that was...?"
"Time shall reveal its own mysteries," Kari smiled mysteriously.
Prime Minister Tony Blair was looking out of the window of the Cabinet Room in Number 10, waiting for the other to arrive. With him was a strange looking alien.
"My Commander," the Reman said softly. "Are you sure you wish me to be present for this?"
"Yes," the Prime Minister stated softly.
Not long later, after them both standing in silence, a shimmering in the air behind them caused them to turn. The rasping sound of scales over fire alerted them. There, filling that side of the room, was a faintly humanoid figure with a long neck, long tail and wings. Its scales were sickly white, and its eyes burned with malevolent fire. "K'Tan, are you and the other Reavers ready?" it asked the Prime Minister.
It looked at the Reman. "Are you ready to face this world's sword-master?"
The Reman nodded, not speaking a word.
"It was for thus that I bound you to me. He, this Takamura, could spell doom if he speaks with the Last Empress. Joseph foresaw it. You will slay him."
"I can do so easily," the Reman stated, his skin shimmering as the power of this bestial being echoed with the bonded power within him.
"Good... K'Tan. Send the word to your fleet to make for Earth. Those meddlesome Eryradain have been diverted with a false signal. We shall attend to them once this world burns. The ships already here can prepare themselves. We appear in a few hours, and this London shall be Hammerfall for the Earth..."
Then it vanished with another shimmer.
Tony Blair, or K'Tan, smiled at his Reman ally. He rubbed at his neck briefly, before reaching for his Romulan comm. "It's about time..." was all he murmured as a chilling smile played over his face.
The tunnels went on and on.
"How far is it?" Juan asked, his bow held firm in his hand with an arrow notched and ready to be pulled back at a seconds notice. "Seems like we've been going for ages."
"We have been, about an hour or so anyway," Constans replied. "It is a long way from Upper Kora to the Quiver, or the Gateway, and that is the limit we can get to any more. But the Lock in place has made it difficult getting that far. We haven't come this way in many a year, now, for none can find the way. I'm following Winglord now."
"And I'm following that baby," Joel said with a shrug.
Kevin blinked at him, then looked off down the darkened tunnel they were trekking down. "What baby?"
"There, don't you see her? She's gone left..." the little Vulcan pointed, his glowing blue eyes bright.
Kent and Kurt looked at one another, then with the other two sets of twins stated, "We don't see no baby, Joel."
Joel looked at them all, and all shook their heads at him. He shrugged. "Ah well... anyway, it's that way. Follow the arrow, guys, follow the... no way!"
Reece started. "Arrow? Our Arrow? She can't crawl! And how is she here?!"
Joel shook his head to try and clear it. "I didn't say it was Arrow, only that we're following an arrow... but now I said it... 'Find the Arrow in the Quiver'... but why her? She's just a baby?"
"We won't find out by standing around like spare pricks at a wedding," Juan said simply, about as tactful as ever. "You can see the baby, Elf, so lead on."
And lead on he did. Right, right, straight on, left, down some more, right, left and left and... open space. Dark and foreboding. Massive as the Colosseum in Rome, and filled with statues. The floor was stepped downward to the centre in concentric circles, and at the centre of this massive room stood seven statues in a ring, with a light glinting from the floor at the exact centre of them all.
"This is it," Constans said softly. "The Gateway, heart of the Quiver, but that light's new."
"Come on," Joel whispered as he made his way slowly down. Those closest behind him were surprisingly the triple twins from Des Moines; Reece, Riley, Kent, Kurt, Bobby and Bruce. Close behind were Levi, Kevin and Juan, followed by the rest. The only ones that stayed by the doorway in were Constans, I-Cheya and Blackie.
It took a while to get to the centre with the seven statues, for all of them were doing so very carefully in the shadows and the dark. When they got there they could all now see what Joel had been following. There, bathed in light, was a baby girl in just a diaper lying in a space circled by the seven statues that, now on closer inspection, looked to be about ten foot in circumference.
The only reason they knew it was a girl was due to knowing the baby in question; Arrow the adopted sister of Julio from Des Moines that had been with them at the weddings yesterday. "Arrow!" Kent exclaimed as he reached for her, but Joel quickly pulled him back. "Hey! Whatcha do that for?!"
"Do not touch the light," Sa'ren and Joel said together, their voices choral. "Please wait. Nine is sending to us..."
They all watched Joel in silence, but the triple twins were all moving around the seven statues. Nine foot tall, just as the others in the huge room, some men, some women. All but one called out to them, all but one seemed to draw them. Each boy to a particular statue. One looked Native American, another like a Viking. Different places from the Earth in each of the seven; in each but the last, that attracted none of them. The last was dressed in a way that tugged at memory but also felt wholly unknown to them all.
"Nine reports that the one who died when he was being assimilated was a Romulan in disguise," Sa'ren and Joel said together, breaking the silence.
"What?" Adam hissed, as JJ muttered in Klingon.
The boy was beyond pissed, and Juan, who knew formal Klingon, could make out the Blood-Oath of Clans being said, and shook his head. This would have meant all out war between the Klingon and Romulan Empires, had there existed any link between Clan Short and the Klingons that wasn't tainted by dishonour, as Koth and Korris' were.
"Our mother is sending him details required to negate this discovery," Sa'ren said softly. "Nine believes, and our mother agrees, that the one Bio-Phase Chip that had been stolen from Vulcan long ago was taken by Romulans. They have updated and built upon it. It works very well, just not when mixed with Borg Tech. That is, of course, understandable as none here know of the Borg."
"Done," Joel then said, "she has given Nine the means to cancel out the chip's interference."
"Sa'r? How will that help? How many Romulans are on Earth right now?" Kevin asked.
"Unknown," Joel replied with a faint smile. "Nine is talking with Buck on the surface. They will attempt to get Ark and the other AIs to help. Most of them have started that CSNIC network we developed on Monday on Archnania. That plus Ark should be able to do this... now... for this light," he added as he turned to look again at the baby and the light around her. "It's... can you see it? There? In the light?" Joel asked them all in wonder.
"See what?" Juan asked. "Just the baby, Joel."
"That sword..." Joel answered as he started to reach out his hand.
'You shall make a choice, and it shall free us. But free us to what?'
Joel blinked and pulled back his hand. He glanced at the others, but they didn't seem to have heard anything. He looked at the Sword in the light. It felt... familiar.
But Choice? What choice?
Then a voice...
\One Edge to Defend, One Edge to Defeat - In Britannia was I forged to fit the Hand of He who is Destined to Rule\
They all heard that!
"Thank God Timmy's not here! It'd probably pick him!" JJ semi-joked.
"My choice... our choice..." Joel and Sa'ren said at once. His fingers flexed. "But... is it us? We are from old blood... kingly blood... ancient blood... but not of Earth... or are we?..."
JJ's smile started to fall as Joel reached in and grasped at what only he could see. As soon as he had done so, however, they could all see... something. A thing of fire. Vaguely in the shape of a sword.
"Holy Shit!" the group exclaimed, almost in unison.
The Vulcan started to tremble violently. His blind eyes saw more than anyone else's. He suddenly knew his bloodline. His heritage. Who and what he was. His ultimate Vulcan ancestor, S'harien? He knew who He was. His human lineage... stretching back to the time of Celoi... and beneath that, who and what he truly was. Then it was gone, with only the faintest hints at memory to tug at his mind. His hand was locked in place around the hilt of the Sword, and it filled him with revulsion. Like and yet unlike to the Sa'ren Sword. This Sword, too, was part Guardian; but NOT Forever!
Yet it felt so right? So much a part of him as to make him weep at the reunion that never was.
It could only mean that this Sword was from the only OTHER Guardian. Vae'Za. His Opposite. His Equal.
No wonder he felt so at home with it. Yet his memory tugged at him at what had been suddenly gained and lost. Pain, fear, longing, resignation... it all poured through him.
Then the choice.
Take this Blade unto himself to contain its evil, or to surrender it to the one who was Destined to Wield it.
He knew who that was. He knew, then, who the true Champion of the other Guardian would be, was, and had always been.
Could he surrender it? The choice was not yet, so there was time. He had until Moonrise over the Emerald Isle. But could he? Should he attempt to Change Destiny, to spare one whom his heart loved from becoming his enemy? For as much as he, Sa'ren, was the Champion of Forever, so too would this other be the Champion of the Guardian-Father of this Sword...
Could he do that? Should he do that?
Wait... there was something else.
The Sword! It was the focal point of...
He pulled it free from the light, and hell erupted with it.
Ark was listening to Nine and Buck's report with interest. Meaning 0.000000125% of its processing power was being used to do so. That was a lot, considering. Draco, Daileass and the others were all on a light link up via the CSNIC network, uniting their new Trinary hardware and software to attain a higher degree of power, and all were paying rapt attention to what was now on the table.
So it was with great surprise that, seconds after Nine and Buck had finished their report, 3.57% of Ark's processing power suddenly became aware of a massive shift in the tectonic activity of the Earth. The relays from the moon suddenly sounded, pulling another 2.1553% of its power, for the moon's orbit suddenly showed a slight variance in response to the activity inside the Earth.
Now, these numbers might seem low to us poor, thick humans, but to Ark? Brown Trousers time! This was Grade A serious.
Within so short a time that I cannot even begin to relate it to something you or I would understand, Ark had pieced together what was happening, then seen that it had all stopped, and had also ran the numbers on Nine's report and had found over one hundred and fifty thousand Romulans and Remans on the planet, all hidden behind this Romulan adapted Bio-Phase Chip technology.
Now, as for the fact of the Earth and Moon going nuts and then it all stopping, in order to save its sanity on attempting to work out that conundrum, Ark laid it aside. As for the problem with the Romulans and such on Earth, along with a vast supply of munitions the like of which would cause most American rednecks to salivate until they drowned, Ark had two choices:
One, inform Tyne, and argue for thirty two hours about going along with Ark's new plan;
Or two, simply putting the plan into motion and asking for Tyne's forgiveness later, once the Earth and all her inhabitance had been saved.
Ark opted for the second choice.
It would take approximately forty five minutes to do what it had planned, though. But then, it had more software to retrofit than Daileass or the other Earth side AIs. Draco would understand, but luckily for Draco, he had been adaptable to CSNIC from the get-go, being such as it had been partly based on his ability to transfer his life-consciousness between his Earth core and his ship's. For Ark, it would have to change its entire Trinary system over to the new one developed on Archnania. So yes, about forty five minute. Well, forty three minutes and twenty two and a half seconds, with one minute and thirty seconds left for trial testing, with a further seven and a half seconds left over for self congratulations at a cunning plan well executed.
And so, after telling all those on the CSNIC Network to prepare for its arrival and to start working on co-opting all of Earth's satellites for emergency broadcasts on a subspacial, metaphasing frequency, Ark started to rewrite its own software...
Javik, once this started, a) shit his pants and b) looked on with rapt attention.
Many things happened once Joel removed the Sword from where it was.
He erupted in fire hotter than the sun, and screamed.
The others erupted in fire hotter than the sun, and also screamed.
The three sets of twins were suddenly locked to the individual statues that they had been studying - silent and unthinking.
Constans, up by the entrance they had all come through, was blasted backward down the tunnel by a force to rival a supernova.
I-Cheya and Black Feet bowed their heads and vanished.
The floor of the circle within the seven statues, dead centre of this huge round space, and upon which all were standing, covered in fire, dropped away.
The Sword he held vanished.
The fire vanished.
All those left, except for the six boys stuck to the statues, fell into darkness and heat below.
All except for the baby, that somehow hovered there in that light she had been found in.
She looked around at her triple twin 'nephews'... and smiled. She then looked to a being that only she could see. "Guardian of Forever," she said. No-one there could hear her, for her 'nephews' were still blanked out; but even if they had heard her, none would ever have been able to describe the sound of that voice. No child as young as her had ever spoken in the history of the Earth, so there was nothing to compare it to. "Guardian," she repeated, "I have done as thou hast requested. Canst thou now return me beyond the field of energy so that I might return to my new parents?"
//Yes, little Quiver, I shall...//
"But I still don't know why I wanted them to call me Arrow, though," she pouted as the being of white light walked across empty air to pick her up from the nothing she was floating on.
//Because it is amusing. And all you Q like to be amused// came the reply from the ageless being, before both vanished.
As they did so, the floor reappeared, but not the Clan members who had been there.
The six still ridged and unknowing boys remained thus, but the room now had another waking presence. The seventh statue, the one none of the six had been attracted to, the one in armour that had tugged on their memories yet had eluded them, changed hue and moved.
At nine feet tall, this man in armour was a sight to behold. In his hands he held what could only be called a lightning bolt. He smiled.
Finally, awake. After so long, awake again in the world. He looked around at his six fellow statues who were also now changing. Then around at the many, many more in the Quiver.
The one to his left, a woman, looked at him, "My lord King," she said, holding a near comatose Reece, "by what name are you to be known this time?" Her smile was such that it could be assumed that the man, this King, had many names he went by.
He smiled at her. "My lady Kateq'qui, it is time. The wind of death that has plagued our world since the age of Gold is to be finally fought to the end," he intoned. "My final Heir has arrived, and shall be named for the first of his line - Arturus; and the Winglord has finally come. If the unliving god wakes, we shall truly know, but I will not hide behind 'Zeus' or any other name hereafter."
The others in the huge room, all four hundred and ninty nine of them, looked at him with smiles of joy and eyes alight with battle fever.
"I am once again who I once was. The the first Dragon Son. The First Golden King, the Lord of Avalon... and I shall usher in my Heir's ascension to power.
"I am Taranis, the Master of Lightning, once more!"