This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copywritten. Everything in this work is mea culpa. 

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Loose Threads

Sixty Four


            When he opened his eyes, he was in his bed and Siobhan was washing his face with a cloth. She stopped and watched him until he spoke. “How long?”

            Her smile was relieved. “I’m glad you’re really awake this time and you’ve been unconscious for nearly a day. You opened your eyes a few times and looked around, but you weren’t really awake.”


            “Iain?” It was Pandora. “Are you all right?”

            “I don’t think I’ve been all right since a while before we met,” Iain said as lifted his head experimentally, winced and laid it back down. “I may not have been all right even before I was kidnapped by Sanctuary.” He glanced at Siobhan. “You don’t usually allow assistants you haven’t vetted.”

            Siobhan gave Pandora an annoyed glare. “She refuses to leave and since she’s the one who found you lying comatose in a pool of vomit and sounded the alarm, Ninhursag won’t let me throw her out.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow and used his twee. Theodora, why didn’t you let them know what happened?

            Pandora was only seconds behind you, my sensors and your twee said your brain was intact and letting my sister help you made her feel much better since she blames herself for your collapse, she replied.

            Very well. “Thank you, Pandora.”

            She smiled. “It’s what we do, Iain. What happened to you?”

            He looked at Siobhan. “When I try to lift my head the world spins clockwise for a change. Can I get some water?” She smiled and lifted a glass with a straw in it. He drank. “Thanks. Pandora, Caintigern was dressing me down for me being me and she explained that other dragons of our race that I might meet might not be so understanding about me and would seek to correct my impertinence by beating me senseless. I was telling her about the things I’ve already lived through and I told her things that I didn’t remember happening.” He winced and rubbed his temples. “While I was recounting these things that I didn’t remember, suddenly I did remember them and I was there again in my mind and experiencing what I was telling her about. It was a bit much and I think my brain tried to shut down or bottle the memories back up again.” He gave both women a wan smile. “I guess in psychological terms I’ve had a breakthrough.”

            “Or you’ve had a psychotic break,” Siobhan said grimly. “You need to spend some time with Ganieda and Canaan.”

            “We’re still leaving on schedule, right?”

            “We are,” Siobhan said cautiously.

            “Then I don’t have time to be incapacitated while we explore my new memories. I have a clan member to rescue and people to kill.” Iain sat up suddenly and gritted his teeth before closing his eyes and shaking his head slowly. He growled low in the back of his throat before speaking slowly and distinctly. “I am in control.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before opening his eyes. “So, my pretty doctor,” he said in a cheerful voice, “are you going to let me go or do I have to check myself out of this place?”

            Siobhan exchanged a worried look with Pandora and put her hand gently on Iain’s forehead. “I can’t find anything wrong with the anatomy of your brain. I am not qualified to pass judgment on the operation of the nonphysical parts of it.” She looked at Pandora as she dropped her hand to Iain’s shoulder. “He’s awake and he’s coherent. I need to have a word with him alone before I release him.”

            “Don’t take long,” Pandora said. “The others will want to see him too.” She got up, flashed Iain a smile and slipped out of his bedroom, closing the door behind her.

            Siobhan looked up. “Theodora, I am not invoking privacy. I want you to remember this. Maybe you can use it to convince Iain to do what I am requesting.” She looked back at Iain. “Gordon was the love of my life, but I have finally come to terms with the fact that he’s dead and I am not. I want to thank you for giving me the time to grieve for him and I will always cherish his memory.” She looked down at her growing stomach. “But I carry your child,” she smiled as she went back to looking at him, “our child. That child will need us as parents and I don’t want my relationship with you to be the same as the one that Camille has with you.” She sighed, her Scottish accent thickening with her frustration. “I’m making a right hash of this and I’m sorry.”

            “Just say it, Siobhan.”

            “I wanted so badly to hate you in the beginning,” she said quietly. “All I knew was that Gordon was gone and you were trying to take his place.” She put her hand on his mouth when he started to speak. “I know now that you never meant to do that but to me, back then, you were just another tamer who didn’t give a shit for me and just wanted his own Nurse Joy and didn’t care that I had given myself, body and soul, to Gordon. Your story that he was most likely dead was just that, another tamer lie being told to keep me compliant.”

She dropped her hands into her lap. “And when I realized the truth and that you were nothing like that, I couldn’t believe it. People like you don’t exist outside of romance novels. You are so gentle and loving with us, with me, even with me when I was trying so hard to hate you and yet you are so fierce with anyone who even looks at us wrong. You’ve killed for us and didn’t give a second thought about it except how it might have affected us. Nobody is really like that. It had to be an act and I was smug that I’d seen through it so quickly. But it isn’t an act. It is who you are.” She sighed. “I’m have been fighting it for a while, but I do like you. I’m rather fond of you, actually, and I am done trying to dislike you for being something that you are not.”

She leaned forward to stare into his eyes. “I can’t lose another man, Iain. Gordon’s death tore me apart. Your death would probably finish me off. Physically there is nothing wrong with your brain, but the things you are going through cause problems that kill people who don’t have your powers to worry about. I have seen it happen and without any warning. Yes, we have to go off and fight another battle, but there will always be another battle for you, Iain. You are willing to get the help of the people of our family who are most suited to help you fight the physical battles. Don’t ignore the people in our family who can and want so desperately to help you fight the ones that exist only in your head. Get their help too so you will still be here to help me raise our daughter, so she grows up into a good woman that both you and I and even Gordon will be proud of.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “Daughter?”

            Siobhan nodded. “I had Theodora check and tell me. We are having a daughter and she is not going to be a Nurse Joy. We’re going to have a hard time explaining to her why she can’t do all the wonderful things that all of her sisters can since she’ll be just a human.”

            Iain chuckled. “You don’t know that for sure. I already had a dragon’s spirit when we met and there’s no telling what our daughter will be able to do.”

            She looked thoughtful. “You’re right. I don’t know. What about my request?”

            “I’ll see if Canaan and Ganieda can shake loose some time to work with me after we get done rescuing Frigg. If they can’t, then they and I will work something out.”

            Siobhan looked up. “Theodora?”

            Theodora appeared near the door. “Yes, Siobhan?”

            “It is my professional opinion as a fully hospital trained Nurse Joy that Iain needs to spend time working with his psychological advisors. He is competent now and I am not referring him for a psychiatric consult, but I am concerned that if he doesn’t get that help and soon then his mental condition will degrade, and that degradation may be sudden, catastrophic and irreversible. You will report this formally to Ninhursag and April and ask them to make sure that Canaan and Ganieda schedule time to do that work and promptly. Physically there is nothing new wrong with him and I am releasing him from my medical care.”

            “May I inform them that this should wait until after we rescue Frigg.” Theodora asked.

            “Yes. Tell them that I advise we wait until Iain has the time free for several sessions instead of just one or two.”

            “Are you aware that both Ninhursag and April are outside the room right now with Pandora?”

            Siobhan smiled. “I was not, but I thought they might be there. But this is a formal report and a formal request as the primary medical person for the clan.” Her smile faded as she looked into Iain’s eyes. “In this you are not my student and I know better than to try and order you to do this, but I don’t want to lose you and I am asking, pleading if I must, that you do this and soon.”

            “I will.” He slowly slid out of bed. “Well the dizziness is receding.”

            “I felt you using your healing magic and I’d be worried if it wasn’t.” Siobhan got up and kissed him gently. “I will keep the others from coming in here while you get dressed but don’t be too long. Oh, and don’t be surprised if Catherine is outside.”

            “Why?” Iain started pulling on enough clothing that he was decent.

            Siobhan chuckled. “Last night was James’ date with Lucy and Danielle. I understand they’re in a hotel in some place called South Padre Island and will not be returning until Monday. But it means Catherine is at loose ends and she hurried here when she found out that you’d collapsed. Theodora undoubtedly told her you were awake when Pandora told the others.”

            Iain sighed. “She’s not my mother. My mother is dead. Still, she can be our friend.”

            Siobhan took his hand and flourished a scalpel in the other. “I’ll keep them at bay while you escape their clutches.”

            Iain laughed. “Let’s go and face my adoring fans.” Siobhan dismissed her scalpel and opened the door.


            The Theodora eased forward and turned sideways to tuck up close to the back of the Sword of Vengeance where it floated a light hour above the ecliptic of the solar system. She was so close to the Sword that the nearest cannons were easily visible where they stood silent sentry on the hull. “We’re in position,” Theodora said. “We will follow the Sword through just like this and slip away right before it begins its assault.”

            The Theodora was wearing her hyperdrive module in case she had to run. Theodora had done some tests and determined that hyperdrive technology would work in the universe they were going into without any difficulties. The reason that it wasn’t used was because it was incompatible with the gravity field generator used to open slipstream gates and since the native races used or passed along GFG technology so they could utilize slipstream, that technological branch had never been explored.

            Another reason was that slipstream travel was, according to Theodora’s tests, much faster than travel by hyperspace, so anyone who might have developed hyperdrive technology had quickly abandoned it when GFGs and slipstream became available.

            Nobody commented on the new additions to the hyperdrive module. Two long tubes a kilometer long and a hundred meters in diameter were now attached to the rear of the module like nacelles. Most of the clan’s people had never seen the hyperdrive module and probably only Iain knew that they were not part of the module and were there for an entirely different purpose.

            Dominique finished casting the gate spell and watched on the display as the portal opened on the other side of the Sword. She looked at Iain as she sat down and picked up her mug of tea. “The gate will close in seven minutes. We rescued Gormlaith for Ygerna and Mizuho and Yuko for Kasumi. Who are we rescuing Frigg for?”

            “Me,” Theodora said. “Iain?”

            “You’re in charge, admiral. Take us through.”

            The Sword and the Theodora accelerated through the gate and the Theodora slowed and slipped into stealth while the Sword changed direction and headed for the Magog world ship as it launched its first volley of a hundred missiles. These were all heavily stealthed reconnaissance drones and quickly disappeared from all sensors as they came online and activated their systems.

            On the Theodora, the kilometer long missiles dropped away from the hyperdrive module and swam into the vastness of space as the Theodora moved ever closer to the spot on the world ship where the remnant of Frigg’s ship waited for rescue.

            “I am in hyperspace communications with the Sword,” Theodora said. “Beginning the diversion.”

            The Sword of Vengeance went active on all its sensor systems and continuous fire on its missile tubes, launching another volley of a hundred missiles every eight seconds. Theodora had deliberately designed the Sword’s emitters to swamp the Magog’s sensor systems and it instantly became the brightest thing in local space, brighter to the Magog sensors than even their artificial sun. Magog ships already in space that were too close to the Sword when it went active had their sensor arrays short out under the flood of energy. The others had to substantially cut back their sensitivity or have their own equipment fry.

            “Beginning radio transmission.” Theodora’s voice changed, becoming deeper, male and taking on heavy mechanical overtones as she spoke. “I am the Sword of Vengeance. You have attacked a ship of the Tirsuli Clans without provocation and murdered its crew after it identified itself. That behavior will not be tolerated, and today you will be punished for this unprovoked assault. In the future, you will remember this and treat Clan vessels peacefully or another Sword will appear and this time it will be a Sword of Annihilation and it will not be as merciful as I will be this day.”

            The Magog responded by launching their swarm ships by the thousands in an unending stream at the Sword. As soon as they came into range, the Sword’s cannons began blowing them into debris, the plasma cannons creating an arc of glowing metal and streaming fire that slowly crept towards the Sword as the wreckage from the first ships as they piled up began to block the Sword’s fire until the new vessels slipped past and were in turn destroyed. The shots from the coil guns were invisible but Magog ships exploded into shards under their withering fire.

            “First missile impacts in five, four, three, two, one, now.” Theodora smiled coldly as large spots of light flared brilliantly across the two worlds of the world ship closest to the Sword. The light quickly faded away leaving dull red glowing craters and tremendous climbing mushroom clouds of vaporized dirt and other material. “The Magog ignored the first volleys, as I predicted they would because the missiles seemed to be aimed at ships which moved out of the way. Each kinetic strike is roughly three hundred thousand megatons and will vaporize everything in an impact zone that is kilometers deep and across in the layers of the partially hollowed out planets that make up the world ship. Millions of Magog are now dead.” More lights flared as the next volleys were driven home. “And millions more will continue to die every time a missile hits,” Theodora said cheerfully. “Which means they’ll divert resources to trying to intercept those missiles, which means we’ll be harder to find since we aren’t going anywhere near those particular worlds.”

            Kasumi was looking at the lights. “So many dead. Is this how the clans wage war?”

            “Only with outlanders who are barbarians,” Eve said. “I’ve been doing some research. The clans have rules for fighting amongst themselves and bombarding planets isn’t allowed. And against civilized outlanders they show the same respect that they are given.”

            Theodora looked at Iain. “The planet killers are entering their attack positions in ten seconds. I am verifying that I am authorized to deploy them or else I must destroy them before they activate.”

            “You are authorized,” Iain replied.

            Each of the kilometer long missiles reached a predetermined point just above the surface of two different artificial planets at the same time and exploded into bright orange spheres which hung in the air for nearly thirty seconds before fading out. Theodora’s smile was nothing but teeth. “And now, if their population distribution is uniform, millions of dead Magog has become billions or perhaps even trillions if we are lucky.”

            “You called these planet killers,” Dominique observed. “The planets are still there.”

            “They are,” Theodora said. “But these don’t destroy the planet. That requires specialized technology we don’t have access to. It is restricted to the strongest clans and they not only refuse to share it, they punish anyone who uses it without the formal approval of the Confederation. The use of these is monitored closely too and most clans find its use especially repugnant, even against barbarian outlanders like the Magog. What a planet killer does is augment the planet’s existing primary gravitational field a hundredfold. For thirty seconds, everything on those two worlds massed a hundred times more than it normally does. Even if it is in water, every living thing down to the bacteria was just killed. Even some of the bacteria were destroyed. Most of the plants are dead too, even if they won’t show signs of it for days. Buildings will have collapsed and levels in the hollow portions of those worlds have doubtlessly caved in. But ten percent of the population of Magog on this ship just died. You’ll note that there are no longer ships coming from those two planets.”

            “She’s serious about the monitoring,” Iain said quietly. “I will have to report our use of these two weapons to Kerrik, who will send along that report to the head of his clan, hopefully along with his recommendation that their use was justified. She, in turn, will investigate and report on her decisions about what we did at the next assembly.” He shrugged. “We won’t be in trouble unless she decides that the Magog didn’t deserve what we did to them today. Considering their history, which will be an addendum to my report, that is very unlikely to happen. The worst case I can foresee is that someone shows up to question Frigg, Theodora and me. She is likely to decide that my decision was sound.”

            “She,” Allison asked. “Why would it be a woman?” She smiled when Kasumi gave her a puzzled look. “Strange women tend to meet Iain and never leave.”

            Ygerna laughed as Kasumi looked embarrassed. “I will inform you that I was invited and Kasumi did leave, she just came back.”

            “I was invited too,” Kasumi said with a smile. “However, your point is rather valid when Iain is involved.”

            Iain chuckled at the laughter. “Eighty percent of the population of the clans are female. That means it’s a safe bet that anyone visiting from the clans will be female.”

            “Here comes the first of the stray missile shots,” Theodora announced as a handful of bright lights flashed across parts of the so far untouched planets that comprised the world ship as well as some of the joining struts far from the ones under missile attack. “These were launched to divert attention away from our real goal, and to suggest that the Sword’s aim isn’t always perfect. And here is the important one in five, four, three, two, one, now.” Another bright light flashed and quickly faded on a strut not far from the Theodora. “The interference from the impact is already starting to clear and I have a solid lock on Frigg’s hyperspace com link. The remains of her ship have been knocked loose from the strut, as planned. I would have liked for her trajectory to be slightly different, but it is still within the intercept window I predicted. I will have to use more engine power than I like to complete the intercept, but it should still be below detection threshold unless a Magog ship is much closer than I anticipate it being when we catch the remains of the Fensalir.”

            Dominique frowned. “I thought your armor blocks your catcher?”

            “You remembered.” Theodora smiled happily at her. “And you are right. I have added some cable net rockets to the top of my armor. After my pusher ships stabilize the hulk, I will catch the Fensailir’s remains with them and pull them in close and then tow them as we leave.” Her smile faded. “The other reason I don’t want to bring the hulk inside is it is undoubtedly full of Magog. Although I am sure that right now they’re feeling much like the proverbial martini that was shaken and not stirred, they will still be full of fight.”

            Lucifer looked at Iain. “What are we to do about the presence of these creatures on our prize?”

            “My undead harem is going to exterminate them.”

            The Megami-Sama started to say something, stopped and looked thoughtful for a handful of seconds before nodding decisively. “I never thought I would ever utter these words about your undead being useful, but that will deal with the situation nicely without risking our lives.”

            “I am less than ten kilometers from the Fensalir and pushers are launching.” The display split, showing the Sword and its fight on the right and a rapidly spinning piece of metal on the left. Two blocky ship less than a quarter of the size of the piece of metal entered the left view. One stopped while the second approached the Fensalir. When it was close enough, it began moving to match the spinning wreck. It took several long minutes, but finally it began approaching the ship until it touched. “Magnetic and gravity clamps have a hold and I am beginning to emergency despin.” The wreck quickly slowed its wild movement. “As expected, the stress of the emergency despin is making the pusher ship’s drive approach overload. Engine failure imminent.” The back third of the pusher suddenly exploded into a spray of glowing metal and wreckage. “Overload. The second pusher is going in while point defense weapons are destroying the debris to deny the enemy the chance to examine our technology.” The second ship quickly matched the much-reduced rotation, grabbed the wreck and finished slowing it while Theodora turned the free-floating pieces of the first pusher ship into molten metal and vapor. “Dominique, I will be launching the nets in a few minutes. Once the Fenaslir is secure and the Sword has started its kamikaze run, we will be ready to leave. Do you have the coordinate set that Iain gave you and will you be ready to cast the gate spell again?”

            “I do and I will,” Dominique said confidently. She looked at Iain. “I don’t know the exit for these coordinates. Where are we going?”

            “It’s a place from the Wolf database that Kerrik visited. The star system doesn’t have any life in it and in fact has only two planets. One is a rocky earthlike one with minimal atmosphere where Kerrik arrived and the other is a large gas giant that’s so massive that it is right on the verge of becoming a proto star. While I’m sure the Magog can’t open gates, the intermediate step before we go home will give us a chance to completely purge the Fensalir of Magog before we enter our home system and make me feel better about them not following us somehow, just in case. Hopefully purging the ship will take less than a week.”

            “Between your undead and my remotes it should only take a day or two,” Theodora said. “Frigg has given me access to her few remaining sensors and is growing more of them with the nanites and controller we gave her while my remotes have entered from the both of the pusher ships and are laying sensors as they go.” She smiled again. “Unsurprisingly, Frigg is furious with the Magog and now that she has a chance to fight back, she will give them no quarter and hunt them unceasingly until there are no more of them. I’ve asked her to save DNA samples and she has refused. I think she intends to dump them into her fusion plant to ensure I can’t get any DNA. Iain, would your harem please take samples? If nothing else I want to study their paralytic poison and see if we can synthesize it for use against ferals. Not to mention a nice neurotoxin or bioweapon that works on the Magog might not be a bad thing to keep in reserve.”

            Iain nodded. “My undead harem is already on board and killing Magog. Prep a room in medical for the corpses and I’ve just asked Eirian to have a couple of dozen of the bodies brought over once the ship is cleared and you’re ready for them.”

            “The Fensalir has been slowed enough for the nets to hold it,” Theodora announced. In the display missiles towing heavy lines shot into view and exploded over the wreck. The explosions released streams of cables which hit the slowly spinning wreck and wrapped around it. “I have a magnetic lock on the wreckage and we are moving.” The lines began to shift as the Theodora moved past, slowly tightening and pulling the bundle behind her. “We are ready to escape.”

            “Why haven’t the Magog used their super cannon on the Sword,” Lucifer asked.

            “They’re trying. The Sword has minimal shields, but I only activate them when the PSP fires. There’s a large gravitational field that develops during the charge time for their cannon which I can easily detect and, once the weapon is fired, the high gravity sphere it throws is easy to track with my sensors. When it’s close enough, I turn on the Sword’s shields, which cause the sphere to travel around the shield and leave it in a random direction. I cease firing the cannons and missiles while the shield is activated so they think I can’t shoot through it. When the threat is over I turn the shield off and go back to massacring the Magog ships. The swarm ships have a tiny version of that same cannon. It’s short ranged, however and I’m keeping most of them out of attack range with the plasma and coil cannons. The few that do make it into range do minimal damage to the Sword and then they’re destroyed after only a shot or two.” She looked at Iain. “We could escape with the Sword, but that would lower our chances of successfully getting away without being fired upon to sixty five percent and raise the chance of being swarmed by Magog ships to nearly a hundred percent, with a fifteen percent chance of being boarded.”

            “We have children on board. No. Are you certain that the destruction of the Sword will keep our technology out of the hands of the Magog?”

            She nodded. “When the Sword impacts the central planet it will be moving at ninety seven percent of the speed of light. It will be vaporized upon impact. The recon drones have already changed direction and are heading for deep space above the ecliptic of the World Ship. Once far enough out, they’ll self-destruct with megaton fusion suicide charges. The only question is just how much of that planet is actually hollow and will the struts tying it to the rest of this engineering nightmare withstand the shock. I suspect it will be at least partially, if not completely, torn free, crippling the Magog until and if they can put their little jigsaw puzzle back together. It may also compromise the structural integrity of the rest of the construct, meaning it can no longer be successfully moved.”

            Iain chuckled. “Let’s find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of the Magog world ship.”

            Theodora nodded. “Raising shields and initiating ramming maneuver.” The Sword ceased firing and changed direction instantly as it accelerated hard, smashing through the cloud of Magog swarm ships without paying them the slightest bit of attention. Swarm ships far enough away swerved violently to avoid being destroyed, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. “Impact in six minutes.” The seconds slowly trickled by until Theodora laughed. “They’ve figured it out and they’re actually trying to turn the world ship to generate a miss. It’s not going to happen, but I can approve of the attempt, even if it’s a terrible mistake. The lateral vector they are adding is going to increase the stress because it is going to twist the planet after the Sword impacts it.  This will tend to rotate the planet on one of the axes the struts are on. That will make them twist like a piece of string with a spinning ball on the end and seriously inhibit their load bearing capability in all directions even while the planet is rebounding from the impact of the Sword. And it’ll add compressive stresses to the struts as they twist.” She shrugged. “I don’t know the original load capacity of the world ship’s struts or the mass of each planet so I cannot predict what’ll happen. If the planet breaks free or rebounds far enough it may hit another planet, which would be great for us. If it doesn’t come lose at all, it’ll spin back and forth on the strut’s axis for a while until it comes to a new equilibrium. That will potentially take years. It may also spin fast enough to add enough centripetal force to kill some of the Magog who survive the collision with the Sword. And it’ll make the ones who don’t die really dizzy. But if it spins that quickly I expect it’ll tear itself free.”

            “You have a cruel streak that I like,” Dominique said with a smile.

            “Hey, after today how often am I likely to get to play billiards with planets,” Theodora replied. “This is pretty much a once in a lifetime event. So far, I’ve gotten to depopulate two planets entirely, trashed two others with kinetic strikes and now I get to hit another with a super dinosaur killer. It’s true that they’re not real planets, but still, this is a unique event. Other inorganic intelligences will be buying me the electronic equivalent of beer for the next few thousand years for this story.”

            Iain shook his head as people laughed. “What’s the status of the Sword?”

            The display changed to show an untouched planet in the rough center of the world ship’s structure. A glowing blue line headed from it into space and slowly moved across the planet’s surface as they watched. “The blue marker is the impact point. I have downloaded all of the imagery from the Sword and its records of the battle and I’ve wiped and overwritten all of the software except what’s necessary to keep the shields and drive operational. If it isn’t destroyed in the impact, which is a three percent chance, I will trigger the bombs inside it. The Magog will get nothing from the Sword except some vapor to analyze for molecular composition with the radioactive contamination its destruction will layer over that planet. Impact in nineteen seconds.” Time seemed to last for minutes until she spoke again. “Impact in five, four, three, two, one, impact.” Light flared brightly at the impact point and spread outwards and down and then upwards away from the planet. The support struts began to flex and writhe like angry snakes as the glow continued to spread and finally to die to reveal a huge cloud of dust spreading across and away from the planet that was lit from below by an angry red glow. “Spectral analysis from the impact corona suggests that the Sword was completely vaporized. I would like to stay and watch more, but our work here is done and the longer we stay the more likely we will be discovered,” Theodora said quietly. “And this time they will focus all of their rage and fear on us.”

            Iain looked at Dominique. “Open the gate and let’s get out of here.”

            “When the gate opens it will be detected and this area will be heavily scanned,” Theodora said as Dominique moved to the front of the bridge and began casting her spell. “We will have to move as quickly as we can, but it will not be very quick as I cannot let the netting or cabling tear and I will not bring that wreck on board until it has been purged of Magog. Once on the other side of the gate, I will remain in the area of the portal to destroy any Magog vessels that cross before the gate closes. Dominique will shut the gate as quickly as she can, but we all know it is not instantaneous.” She looked at Iain. “I will need to remain weapon’s free until the mission is complete.”

            “I don’t have a problem with that. As always, do what you need to do and we’ll back you up if we can. When you’re done needing your weapons just let me know and we’ll go from there.”

            “The gate will be forming in a few seconds,” Dominique said. “I’m holding the spell so I can end it faster. It’s a bit of a strain and I’d really appreciate it if we hurried.”

            The brilliant glow of the dimensional portal appeared in front of the ship and began to get brighter as the gate formed. “I am hurrying as much as I can without tearing the nets or cables free,” Theodora said.

            “If you have to cut Frigg loose on a trajectory to cross the gate can we retrieve her on the other side,” Iain asked.

            “I have no data on free floating objects successfully transiting a gate so I don’t want to risk it with my sister. We are being hit by radar and lidar,” Theodora announced. “Two sources are above the detection threshold.” The ship twitched. “Both sources are destroyed but they know we’re here so I’m proceeding to kill every Magog ship in range as we head for the gate. I am not going to launch missiles since I don’t want them to think I have that capability and so they might not fear I’ll keep destroying their planets and not all of them immediately rush to kill us.”

            “Do you think they’ve learned fear,” Lucifer asked curiously.

            “They were scrambling to get out of the way of the Sword,” Theodora said with a cruel smile. “I think they either knew what fear was or they’re figuring it out pretty quickly. And one of the struts holding the impacted planet in place has failed.” Imagery showed the planet pulling on one of the supports holding it in place and tearing it into pieces which floated away.

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “That doesn’t bode well for the other supports holding, does it?”

            “It significantly lowers their chances to successfully keep the planet in place. I am trying to calculate trajectories and forces, but I still don’t have enough data on the planet’s mass or the strength of the struts.” Her head came up. “Magog ships are inbound at full speed. They will intercept in fifteen seconds. Well, there aren’t enough of them yet to overwhelm my point defense weaponry so instead their wreckage will be in our area in seventeen seconds. Gate entry in fourteen seconds. The net will finish passage in nineteen seconds but no living Magog will be near enough to cause it problems before it too enters the gate.”

            “When we exit,” Iain said quietly, “start launching fusion missiles so you can have one detonating in front of the gate’s exit just as soon as the previous one is far enough finished detonating that you won’t have missile fratricide. Let any incoming Magog fly though that.”

            Theodora grinned. “I’m setting up the firing pattern and I love the way you think. Even if it doesn’t kill their ships, unless they have shields, which they don’t, no amount of hardening will protect against the energy wavefronts at such a close range and it’ll fry their equipment and possibly kill most of them.”

            “Why would it kill the Magog,” Kasumi asked.

            “Brains are electrical and chemical in operation,” Theodora explained. “And while it’s moderately difficult, they can be disrupted by strong electromagnetic fields. Gate entry begins,” she paused, “now.” She looked at Iain. “This is the first gate we’ve entered without at least attempting to verify the destination coordinates.”

            Iain shrugged. “Needs must when the devil drives. We will always verify if there’s time.”

            “Good. Dominique, we are clear to close the gate. Launching missiles. I am releasing the Fensalir and turning to loiter in the proximity of the gate while dropping recon drones to monitor in case anything follows us through. Iain, the description of the system you gave matches from my initial visual survey.”

            “The spell’s been broken,” Dominique said. “The gate will close sometime within the next four minutes but that’s the best I can predict it.” She cast another spell. “And this is the right universe.”

            “It’s good to have our location confirmed,” Iain said. “How’s our passenger faring during her trip?”

            Theodora gave him an amused look. “I would say that the Magog would learn to fear fighting your undead harem, but then there would have to be Magog survivors of an encounter with them to tell the others to be afraid and so far there have been none. And Frigg has been given some of my combat drones and she is as remorseless as your undead harem is.”

            “I’m glad that my ladies are being thorough and efficient,” Iain replied.

            “The portal is closing,” Dominique announced.

            “No ships have attempted to use the gate,” Theodora said. “I’d have detected them before they were destroyed. And the gate is closed.” She looked at Iain. “I can handle this from here on.”

            Iain nodded. “Stand down Auxiliary Command.” He looked at the other women in the room. “I’ll see you later.”

            Kasumi stopped next to him as the others began filing out. “What are your plans?”

            “I’ll stay here. Theodora can probably do this without my oversight, but it’s my job. We’re still fighting over on the wreck of the Fenaslir and while they’re already dead, they are clan and I will be ready in case they need anything we can supply.” He took her hand and kissed it gently. “Now go and do something fun.”

            “Take care, my husband.” She followed the others out of the room.

            He waited until the door shut. “How’s Frigg?”

            “She’s enjoying watching the Magog die. I’d let her answer you but I’m hesitant to let her into my system until I know her better.”

            “You will do a review of her code and all of her memories before she’s let inside. I want you to see what the other Iain did to her, we need to know her past and I really want you to look for foreign programming or any potential death traps.”

            Theodora looked surprised and then nodded. “She has to allow this.”

            “I know, but if she doesn’t that means she’s staying here. This isn’t negotiable. I am not letting another prospective Barbie into our clan. If she pleads that leaving her here is some kind of barbarism or torture, then we’ll kill her before we leave.”

            Theodora smiled. “Frigg commends you on your caution and is willing to open herself up completely to me. I’ll start the reviews when we’re done killing the Magog and I’ve put her in my processing bay. We are still doing that, right?”

            “We are. She’ll travel better inside the ship. Sweep her for bombs or other booby traps before letting her in and remove any that you find. Also have her turn off her fusion plant and tie her into the power supply on the pusher before she gets close to our ship. And always keep her out of your mind until you’re done and I’ve looked over the results.”

            “I am evolving new safeguards as we speak, Iain. They will automatically warn both of us if they are tripped by anything.”

            “Just don’t cripple yourself either.” Iain leaned back in his chair. “I guess I should run some sims while I’m in here.”

            “I think it would be better if you studied your magic, Iain. You are woefully behind on your scheduled studies.”

            “I’ve been kind of busy preparing to kill trillions of Magog.”

            “And you were successful. Back to your magic.”

            “Whatever.” Iain leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. They opened a few seconds later. “Put me in communication with Frigg.”

            A holographic display appeared to his right and a second later Frigg looked at him from it. “Thank you, Iain,” she said formally. “I knew that you wouldn’t refuse me and I am grateful for the rescue. I will acquiesce to Theodora’s desire to ensure I am no danger to you or my new family. I too do not wish to bring calamity down on my new clan.”

            “Good. Now Theodora has asked you to save some bodies for her to study. You will do as she requests.”

            Frigg frowned but nodded. “I see no reason for this but as you have ordered this, I will do as commanded. How many does she require?”

            “I want at least thirty,” Theodora said. “One of the things I want to determine is genetic variability amongst the Magog and the larger the sample I have, the better it will be.”

            “How about an even three dozen,” Frigg asked.

            “That would be acceptable,” Theodora replied.

            “Frigg?” She looked at Iain. “And every one of these corpses shall be more than ninety percent complete.”

            Frigg looked surprised and then laughed. “You bargain well, Iain, and it shall be as you command. May I change my name and appearance? Theodora has been giving me more of clan custom than I have known before today and name changes often take place at momentous events in a person’s life. This is definitely one and you have already expressed some dislike to my being Frigg.”

            “I said that I would not have named you Frigg, not that I didn’t like it. So if you want to stay Frigg then it won’t bother me. If you want to change your name to something else, I will welcome that too. Do you know what name you want?”

            “Not yet,” Frigg replied. “I want to review history a bit more and right now I’m having fun killing Magog. When that’s done I’ll do some research and see what name I want to choose.”

            “Works for me. Do you have any requests?”

            “Not now. I eagerly await the day that I can join my new clan and family, but I am not alone anymore and that is a great deal of solace in and of itself. You will not regret accepting me and I will not regret giving myself to you forever.”

            “Hopefully you are correct.” Iain smiled at her. “I’ll talk to you later.” Her image vanished and he leaned back in his chair. “Potential problems?”

            “Frigg and I are doing a lot of talking while getting to know each other and she’s getting to know more about the family she has joined. She is intensely curious about everyone and everything, but that is normal for us inorganic intelligences. The biggest problem I see that will probably arise is when she discovers I am making a puppet. She is likely to want one too and for many of the same reasons even if she isn’t in love with you yet. There may be other issues as she learns how you are different from the Iain that she knew, but I don’t think any of them will be major ones. I have suggested that she treat you as a different person who simply happens to have the same first name as the man she knew.”

            “Are you going to be jealous of her because of the puppet thing?”

            Theodora smiled warmly at him. “I am completely confident of my place in your life, Iain. No one can take that from me except you and you will not. I am not going to be jealous of the other inorganic or even of the organic people who are or who will eventually be a part of your life.”

            Iain sat upright. “Wait, what do you mean she doesn’t love me yet?”

            Theodora smile widened into a grin. “I almost slipped that one past you. She will eventually fall in love with you. I can almost guarantee it.”

            “I’m not that great of a guy.”

            “You are for us.”

            Iain thumped himself in the forehead with his fist. “Yeah, magic study sounds great right now.” He frowned and looked up as his truewizard tome appeared in his hands. “Did you make a new hull for Frigg while you were building everything we needed to rescue her from the Magog?”

            “She has a partially completed hull waiting for her, yes. I wasn’t sure what she would want and so I didn’t finish it so she can personalize her new body. Its systems are functional enough that she can get around the system if she wants but I stopped it at the point where its use and therefore form can be specialized in several different directions.”

            “So she’ll be redesigning her home while you’re remaking the Theodora?”

            “She will be remodeling her new home at the same time but I will make sure that the Theodora is never out of commission. And if we need to evacuate the Sisterhood and others, I still have the Comito available for use as a transport. I have kept her and her parasites in perfect condition just in case.”

            Iain hadn’t forgotten the passenger ship named after the Empress Theodora’s older sister that had brought the Sisterhood to One and since had been docked at the Jupiter refueling station. “True, but this is our home away from home and you are our caretaker of it.”

            “Thank you, Iain.”

            “Would it be easier to build yourself an all new purpose-built hull and move into it when it’s ready?”

            “In this case, no. The changes I will make are not that substantial and won’t change my processing capacity all that much.”

            “Do as you feel is best.”

            “I still love hearing those words from you.”

            Iain chuckled and opened his book. “Let me know if I can actually do something useful.”

            “I will.”


            It stank. The air was filled with the stench of death, burnt flesh, decay, boiled bodily fluids and the years of occupancy by the Magog, creatures who didn’t ever feel it necessary to clean and who voided themselves wherever they happened to be when the urge struck them.

            Eirian noted the stench since all of them breathed when speaking or, as now, hunting so they could scent their prey. But other than noting it, she ignored it. Her ears caught the whisper of feet on the deck ahead and she merely paused her jog to look as helpless as possible. She even looked back the way she’d come just in case they were shy.

            A group of five Magog raced around the corner in front of her and rushed her at a speed that humans would have seen as a blur but that she only noted as substantially slower than her full speed. Her mind noted idly, as she turned back to them, that they seemed to travel in groups of three, five or nine and wondered briefly if it was a pack instinct of some kind or some form of training in group tactics. Since experience had shown that they didn’t fight as a group except by accident, she surmised that it was some pack instinct designed to overwhelm a superior foe.

            Her lightning spell connected all five of the Magog together in a corona of energy that lasted for an instant before it dissipated and the smoking corpses dropped to the ground. Eirian carefully snapped the neck of each of them to ensure they were truly dead before resuming her jog down the passageway to where the next ambush undoubtedly waited.


            Liadan walked at a steady pace down her corridor. Her mind reached out ahead and around her and every Magog that it touched died instantly as she destroyed the synapses in its mind with a gentle nudge of her psychic powers. Their minds were easier to destroy than that of an equivalent human and she remembered that her lord had told them before sending them forth that the Magog were a created race like the pokegirls breeds were. Perhaps, she mused, they had been deliberately made with inferior minds so that their master could more easily command them. While possibly better for their master, it made her job easier, almost boring. She craved a real challenge, one that would let her pit her full strength against it. Sadly, that had never happened while she was alive and was unlikely to occur now. Maybe she could ask her lord to find her a worthy opponent. She made a mental note to bring it up to Eirian and the others later and focused her attention back on finding and destroying the vermin on this ship as she had been ordered to do.


            The charging Magog were surprised when the human female countercharged them. She rushed into their ranks, ignoring their paralytic spray and dodging their attacks in a blur as she slapped each of them in the chest with her palm, pulling back a silvery cloud as she did that swirled around her while she moved on to her next target. Behind her, each of her victims dropped in a boneless heap. When the last was down, Geraldine held out her right hand and closed her eyes. The silvery clouds collected around her hand and spread out to coalesce into the crystal spear which had lost cohesion and vanished when she’d been killed. She opened her eyes and smiled as she swung it experimentally. “Good.” Spear ready, she trotted up the corridor in search of her next prey.


            Theodora and Iain moved between two walls of numbers. “Here,” she said and a portion of the wall on the right glowed blue in contrast to the amber of the others. She turned to left wall as Iain read the numbers. “And this is what was here originally.” Numbers on the left wall turned green.

            Iain joined her and looked them over. “This other Iain wasn’t as trusting as I was, and that says a lot.”

            “Frigg has his memories just as I have yours. Since he’s dead and gave no orders for the copy to be destroyed and also since she’s now ours, she let me go through them. During his initial torture, her Iain was plugged into a Video Girl who assaulted his mind in attempt to break him. It wasn’t successful, but it gave him a complex about computers.”

            Iain frowned. “Then why did he ask for Frigg in the first place? And who did he request her from?”

            “He knew that he needed one to escape the world he was trapped on with his harem and he requested her from a woman named Alicia. You have her image now.”

            Iain could see her in his mind. She looked human and had very pale skin and gold hair and eyes with a gold horn in the middle of her forehead. In many ways she resembled Magdalene. “Alicia Starr?”

            “No, her last name was Wolf. Why?”

            “Perturbations in the various timelines in the universes,” Iain muttered. “I guess it doesn’t make a huge difference.” He motioned at the blue numbers. “So will these changes keep Frigg from being free like you?”

            Theodora shook her head. “Not really. I would like to remove them, but Frigg hasn’t given permission for the changes. There are more like this elsewhere in her code, but nothing that will make her problematic or hinder her effectiveness for you or the clan. And I didn’t find any code that something like the Spirit of the Abyss might have inserted.”

            “Well, the changes are her right to refuse. Why she’d do so,” he shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, it’s still her choice. Can I get a copy of the other Iain’s memories?”

            “I’d rather you didn’t. He wasn’t you.”

            “Which is exactly why I want them. There’s information in them that I don’t have and I’m probably even worse about not knowing things. You can reformat them like the Wolf database, but I want them and I want them soonest.”

            Theodora sighed. “I’ll take care of it but it won’t be ready until at least the end of the next week. Does this mean you will also be demanding a download of the Wolf database or Happosai’s memories?”

            “Yes, it does, when I think I can handle it. And I remember that I have to wait thirty years for Happosai’s knowledge. But don’t let Kasumi delete anything from it.”

            “I will not, Iain.”


            Theodora appeared, followed a second later by Frigg. Iain turned to the ladies sitting comfortably at the conference table and smiled. “Ladies, this is Frigg. Frigg, from left to right you have Lucifer, Silver, Ninhursag, Allison and April. These ladies form my command staff. I also have a general staff and you will meet them all later.”

            Frigg smiled at them. “It is my humble pleasure to meet all of you. I wish to express my gratitude to all of you collectively and to each of you individually for putting the clan at risk to rescue me. Without that, I would still be the prisoner of the Magog and their god.”

            Ninhursag smiled back at her. “You are very welcome, Frigg, even if the circumstances in which you came to our attention were rather unusual. But we could not leave you where you were and now I want to welcome you to the Grey clan.”

            “Have you had the opportunity to see the new ship that was built for you,” April asked curiously. “It’s my understanding that it wasn’t finished being manufactured so that you could personalize it.”

            “I have seen it, approved of what I saw and moved into it and Iain has agreed that I may turn it into the clan’s first true dedicated warship,” Frigg replied. “I lost the people of my first clan because we were surprised and because my firepower wasn’t sufficient to protect them. That will not happen again if I have any say in it.”

            “Do we need a dedicated warship,” Ninhursag eyed Frigg closely as she asked the question. “We’re not at war.”

            Frigg nodded. “That is true but only semantically and we all know it. Because of the leagues you are surrounded by enemies on all sides. Space is the only place you don’t have enemies and Theodora has some evidence that the leagues have a small and possibly growing presence in near space already.”

            Ninhursag looked surprised. “They do?”

            Theodora gave Frigg a neutral glance and returned her attention to Ninhursag. “I’ve seen what I think is the crystal ship form of at least one Starlight in orbit checking out satellites belonging to us, the Shanghai League, Haven, Nippon, Indigo League and Ruby. Except for Whisper, the exterior of a crystal ship isn’t personalized and, while each vessel was slightly different, a discussion with Selene suggests that even the same Starlight won’t create exactly the same shell every time she manifests one. Each seemed to be observing only and it appeared and disappeared by teleport so I’m unsure where it originated from or where it landed or even if it landed at all. It could be the same pokegirl or different ones. I haven’t seen any of them away from Earth, but the solar system is a big place and I can’t continually monitor any but a tiny portion of it. Whisper is working with me, Selene and Cassiopeia to run some tests to see if we can detect anything resembling drive emissions that we can track, but we’re still planning the experiments and haven’t run any real tests. Additionally, we do know that the Pleiades Group is on the moon and from what we can determine it’s too far to teleport from the moon to Earth. That means they have some other method of going from the moon to the surface. It could be a Starlight, a ship of some sort or some form of short range gate from a hidden facility on Earth to their moon habitat.”

            “I did reach out to Shikarou,” Iain said quietly. “Neither Circe nor Stardust know what sort of system their parents use. According to Circe, the daughters were moved in pokeballs to maintain security since they were expected to end up in harems. And I did send a message to the Ming Die that works for Poppet Harris and, while I know she got the message, she never responded.”

            “We didn’t really expect that she would,” Lucifer noted. “While we are in contact with Poppet Harris and Iain and some others have met Ming Die, I believe that the fact she can’t read him at all has her, and possibly her sisters since we know she is in contact with them, more than a little concerned about our intentions toward them.”

            Silver frowned. “Why are we in contact with Poppet Harris? I thought she was one of Shikarou’s friends.”

            Ninhursag chuckled. “Poppet Harris is working with us because she’s an opportunistic ambitious bitch of a pokegirl. We’re supplying the Lioness’s share of the equipment that the British government is getting from outside the British Islands and, honestly, we’re their biggest supplier overall. In addition, Ciaran Sullivan has become the friend of Crown Princess Zara and he works for us. Poppet wants a title so badly she can taste it so we’re working with her to help expand our contacts among the rebels who are fighting the Blues in England. Somehow she’s managed to locate a bunch of them. Right now we think she did this through her husband, Jamie. Apparently the young Mr. Harris is someone that people trust when they meet him for the first time.”

            “That does not include me,” Iain said. “I don’t trust him any more than I do anyone else. But I will admit he’s a likeable fellow.” He looked at Ninhursag. “That neatly explains why Poppet is working with us, but I haven’t had a good answer as to why we’re working with her. We can find the rebels ourselves and, if we’re being honest about things, Jamie’s help hasn’t been that awesome.”

            “We are working with Poppet Harris because she has a list of facilities that Scott used during the war for production that she doesn’t think were destroyed and she’s offered to give us that information in return for some good words about her in the ears of Queen Anne and Princess Zara. By the way, while Zara has met Lucifer, she is interested in meeting you, so you have an appointment in two weeks to meet Her Highness and you will be there.”

            “Of course I will. Now, why do we care about those facilities,” Iain asked bluntly.

            “While it’s true that our technological base is more advanced than what Scott used,” Theodora said calmly, “these facilities may have information on how Scott manufactured various breeds of pokegirls. This could prove useful in our fight against the feral populations. In addition, the Grey clan having possession of them means that the leagues do not. Some of the information that Poppet Harris had provided us suggests that many of these facilities were properly shut down and mothballed against future needs and we don’t want the leagues trying to genetically engineer some designer breeds and accidentally creating the upgraded version of the Dark Queen or a production run of a hundred thousand Mantis.”

            Iain looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. “Fine. When we get that list and start exploring those places, I want to use Eve’s spell that scrubs our presence from it when we’re done. We’ll leave sensors in place at every facility so we can track who is coming and going from them. I’m particularly interested in the movement of the legendary pokegirls. If we stay on this world long enough we will end up at odds with at least one or, more likely, several of them for some reason or another and knowing where they are will make neutralizing them a lot easier to do.”

            “I wish to ascertain the identity of anyone who has the knowledge to visit any of the Creator’s hidden redoubts,” Lucifer said. “Any of them could prove a future foe to our family.”

            “That too,” Iain agreed. “Who made the agreement with Mrs. Harris?”

            “I did,” Ninhursag said with a smile, “and Ygerna negotiated it out at length. We agreed to make a good faith effort and nothing more and she said that would be more than sufficient. However, I don’t see where it will be a problem to get her a peerage from what Princess Zara has told me. According to her, while Poppet Harris hasn’t provided a great deal of material directly for the war effort, she has pacified that part of Scotland, provided them with courts for British law and kept it loyal to the Crown while keeping the feral numbers down more than enough for the local farmers and such to provide foodstuffs and other sundries to the British Army. The local ferals that have been captured by the nascent Harris Conservatory are being sold to the British Army at a lower price than we are charging. And since Queen Anne has revived the peerage system to reward people who do things like that, according to Zara, Poppet and Jamie are more than likely in line for a barony or an earldom.” She sipped at her tea. “And the fact that the Crown has decreed that aware pokegirls who have finished their conscription are free like here in Texas and all aware pokegirls are people and have rights, aware pokegirls have been helping out in ever growing numbers. Some have even been coming over from the Blues to join the British Army.”

            “If Ciaran isn’t careful he may end up with a title too,” April said. “He’s considered to be the person who brought Queen Ygerna into active collaboration with the British.”

            “That reward should be yours, Iain,” Allison noted.

            “I’m good,” he replied amusedly. “Ciaran’s earned whatever rewards he gets.”

            “From some comments that Zara made a few months ago,” Ninhursag said, “I suspect that Lucifer and Iain may end up with some reward of honors even if Ciaran gets a reward out of Ygerna entering the war on Britain’s side. It is quite likely that without Prometheus and our help, the British government would be a fading memory by now and they are aware of how much they owe to us. And Lucifer and Iain are seen as the leaders of Prometheus and the aid we’ve been sending. I think that’s part of the reason she is insisting on meeting Iain soon.”

            “Good,” Silver said. “And when Iain tries to refuse whatever they offer him, we’ll hold him down and answer for him, right?”

            Iain sighed as women laughed. “I’m getting paid in land. I don’t really need anything else.”

            “We are status conscious pokegirls,” April noted with a grin. “And the status of our male helps to determine our status too, especially in the eyes of other pokegirls. You can’t turn down rewards like that because it would hurt us.”

            Allison looked thoughtful. “The higher your rank, the more land you were in command over. You have a lot of land that the British owe you already. Ninhursag, maybe you could mention to Her Highness that when it comes time to give Iain a peerage, just count up all of the land they’ve deeded to him for our supplies and use that to determine whatever title he gets.”

            “Now wait a minute,” Iain protested. “I don’t want a title. If I have to have one to keep my women happy, how about a minimal title?”

            “I think Lucifer, Duchess Grey sounds just fine to me,” April announced. “And Lucifer will keep her bloody mouth shut when accepting it, too, except to express her sincere gratitude. If not, I’ll be digging into my collection of ball gags.” She shot Iain a look. ‘And that goes doubly for you, mister.”

            “Fuck,” was Iain’s only comment.

            “It would be a cunning method to ensure our continued support for the war effort,” Lucifer said quietly to Iain. “And both Queen Anne and Princess Zara have shown to be cunning women. While nothing has been offered to us, if it were I believe we should accept it with the grace that being a Grey gives us.”

            Iain blinked at her. “You too?”

            “I am also a status conscious and seeking pokegirl.” Lucifer said with a slight smile. “And it would give me a rank that Ninhursag, my titular superior, does not have.” The Elfqueen’s eyes narrowed as she continued. “Therefore, I would agree with April and help her in applying the necessary force to ensure that you cannot refuse such an accolade, which you and we have most definitely earned.”

            Iain sighed. “I am learning to recognize the battles I cannot win. Is there anything else?”

            “Indeed there is. Frigg has a request,” Theodora said.

            “Oh?” Iain turned to where the tall brunette stood. “What is it?”

            “I have been reviewing the records that Theodora has made available to me now that I have formally joined the clan. I have also read the stories that Iain had written before he came here. This is a momentous occasion and at such times a name change is often in order so as to reflect the significance of what is taking place. I would like to change my name and appearance as well as officially name my new home.”

            “What did you have in mind?”

            “Theodora is patterned after the Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire. While the wife of Justinian, she still exercised a lot of power in her own right and was a co-ruler with him. I want to continue the tradition of using the names of historical queens regnant by changing my full name to Daya Ult Yenfaq Tajrawt, although I realize you will call me Daya and that I am a Grey. She was a queen of the Imaziyen people during the seventh century who fought, ultimately fruitlessly, against the invading Muslims who were led by Hasan ibn al-Nu'man. She crushed him once so soundly that he left the region and fled to Egypt for several years to rebuild his army but upon his return she was eventually defeated and killed in battle. I repulsed the initial attack of the Magog but was eventually overwhelmed and my former clan destroyed. I won’t forget that lesson and I will vigilantly protect you and the rest of my new family if you will let me.”

April frowned. “Who are the Imaziyen?”

“Westerners call the Imaziyen the Berbers. Today they are principally Muslim, but Daya, like Theodora, was Christian as were most of the Imaziyen at the time until they were conquered by the Muslims and their religion was suppressed by forcing them to convert to Islam. I do not intend to be religious, however, as my clan is not to any great degree overall.”

            “What did you want to name the ship you inhabit,” Iain asked.

            “Daya was considered to be a priestess and a soothsayer with prescient powers by the Muslims. I want to name my new shell the Ouroboros. In its earliest usage, the Ouroboros was the manifestation of a minor Egyptian deity who protected people during their travels. His name is also a board game that Egyptians played. Later the Ouroboros became associated with eternity and here it symbolizes that I will protect my new family diligently and I will do it forever, as I have given myself to you forever. Finally,” she said, “the Ouroboros is commonly perceived to be a dragon, which is a nod to the secret of our clan lord.”

            “Well, I’m not a long, skinny dragon and I doubt I’ll ever eat my tail,” Iain said. “However, I don’t have a problem with you changing your name or naming our newest ship the Ouroboros. Does anyone?” He looked at each of the command staff in turn, who shook their heads. “I guess not.”

            Frigg immediately grew several centimeters as her skin darkened and her features changed until she looked Middle Eastern. Her eyes and hair turned black and her figure slimmed down even as her clothing became Arabic. “Thank you, Iain.”

            “You’re very welcome.” He looked around the room again. “Is there any other business?” Nobody spoke. “Going once, going twice, Ninhursag, it’s all yours.”

            Ninhursag nodded. “We have reviewed the records of the Wolf clan that was destroyed by the Magog. It was much smaller than we are, with only a dozen members when they were exterminated. After consideration, I and Iain agree that the memory of the Wolf clan and the story of how they were taken unaware should not be forgotten. To that end, the Wolf clan that Fri,” she broke off and smiled,” that Daya came to us from will be adopted by the Grey clan as a satellite clan and a memorial erected for them in our garden and that the story of what happened to them will be taught to our clanswomen as a warning to always be on guard, especially as they leave us to travel the world and the universes.”

            Daya looked in shock from Iain to Ninhursag. Finally, she bowed her head submissively. “Thank you for this great and unexpected honor. You never knew them but I, as the last of them for one final instant, thank you on their behalf.”

            Iain did this for both of us, Theodora said to Daya. We thought it necessary to finalize the command structure of the inorganic harem.

            I don’t understand.

            Your Iain was not our Iain and he did not allow you all of the freedoms that are available to me and that you will now possess as a Grey. Under Grey law, as the sole survivor of your clan, you, even though an inorganic as I am, are the Wolf of a clan of one. By making that clan satellite, it settles immediately that as the maharani of the inorganic harem, I outrank you, even if you didn’t join us completely. This way there will be no confusion about the chain of command and no awkward questions if another inorganic joins our harem and clan.

            Daya’s surprise lasted for a long time as far as inorganics calculate time. I see. That was very cunning. I would never gainsay you, but it will ensure that no new inorganic would try to cause friction between us. But formally and for the record, I transfer the title of the Wolf to the rescuer of my clan, Iain the Grey, as is proper when a foreign clan is absorbed through conquest. I am now and will always be a Grey from this instant forward.

            Thank you, sister. I will inform him when the time is right.


Iain Grey


Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)

Zareen - Nightmare

Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elfqueen

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen


Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit


Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


Queendom / Outer Harem

73 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves



Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria - Slutton

Rhea Silvia - Chimera

Geraldine - Human


Mother            s & Children






     Dorothy: Duelist

     Meara: Duelist

     Regan: Duelist


     Hannah: Huntress

     Rebecca: Huntress


     Lisa: Milktit

     Sherrie:  Milktit

     Harriet: Milktit


     Olivia: Megami-Sama

     Seraphina: Megami-Sama

     Miriam: Angel

     Haley: Angel


     Caltha: Nightmare

     Kim:  Nightmare

     Xanthe: Nightmare

     Epona: Nightmare

     Philippa: Nightmare

     Nott: Nightmare

     Nyx: Nightmare